How to properly define the "neutral" position between Theism/Atheism and Agnosticism/Gnosticism?


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" ?


Posted 2015-05-03T04:12:15.997

Reputation: 85

Gnosticism is not the opposite of agnosticism. – rus9384 – 2018-04-09T19:42:42.687

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. – jimpliciter – 2015-05-03T05:42:16.557

1As 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 – 2015-05-03T05:43:09.450

Some skepticism? – Drux – 2015-05-03T05:47:12.923

1How 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 – 2015-05-03T14:40:55.617

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'. – None – 2015-05-03T15:49:46.663

Also, it is a lot more common to discuss religious Gnosticism (a faith in certain forms of revealed knowledge that tends to reflect poorly upon God personally) than to discuss 'gnosticism' as you define it. Using your word might get you in trouble. – None – 2015-05-03T15:56:22.830



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."

Ram Tobolski

Posted 2015-05-03T04:12:15.997

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