Assuming that:
agnosticism = belief that there is no way to verify if god/s exist or not.
gnosticism = belief that there is a way to verify if god/s exist or not.

atheism = disbelief in the existence of god/s.
theism = belief in the existence of god/s.

Then what is the correct way to define the position of "I don't know if gods exist or not" and the position of "I don't know if we can verify whether gods exist or not" ?

  • I've always been fond of the position that involves a (almost!) complete disregard for any of the above cited positions; namely, you can disregard all of them because they have no 'instrumental' value what so ever. Meaning- they are all 'merely' intellectual. May 3, 2015 at 5:42
  • 1
    As a minor twist on the attempt to find a neutral, "atheism" in the modern vernacular is creeping into the region of "uncommitted." It's clearly not a meaning which fits with its Greek etymology, but it's becoming a popular way of defining the words. I don't know why... I always figured it was because agnostic was too hard of a word to spell or something.
    – Cort Ammon
    May 3, 2015 at 5:43
  • Some skepticism?
    – Drux
    May 3, 2015 at 5:47
  • 1
    How strong is the "not knowing" here? There is a reading on which what you're proposing is just a kind of humility - that you just personally lack evidence. That's not really a theological position in itself, but more of an attitude towards certain theological positions.
    – Paul Ross
    May 3, 2015 at 14:40
  • Few people use that definition of agnostic. Usually they just mean it is a perfectly acceptable position not to know, and that more certainty is not necessary. The Wikipedia entry uses the phrase 'unknown and perhaps unknowable'. Those who do add some intensifier like 'absolute' or 'determined'.
    – user9166
    May 3, 2015 at 15:49

1 Answer 1


The position in question has been called weak agnosticism (also "soft", "open", "empirical", or "temporal agnosticism"). Here are the relevant definitions from Wikipedia.

Strong agnosticism (also called "hard", "closed", "strict", or "permanent agnosticism") The view that the question of the existence or nonexistence of a deity or deities, and the nature of ultimate reality is unknowable by reason of our natural inability to verify any experience with anything but another subjective experience. A strong agnostic would say, "I cannot know whether a deity exists or not, and neither can you."
Weak agnosticism (also called "soft", "open", "empirical", or "temporal agnosticism") The view that the existence or nonexistence of any deities is currently unknown but is not necessarily unknowable; therefore, one will withhold judgment until evidence, if any, becomes available. A weak agnostic would say, "I don't know whether any deities exist or not, but maybe one day, if there is evidence, we can find something out."

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .