Want to know what really pisses me off? Self-proclaimed "agnostics". Want to know why? Because you've got no idea what it means.
Being gnostic/agnostic describes how much a person knows, generally with regards to theistic claims.
Gnostic: Claims to possess knowledge relating to theistic matters.
Agnostic: Does not claim to possess knowledge relating to theistic matters. In other words, is not a gnostic.
These two words, while useful, give no indication or description of your stance on religious beliefs.
Being theist/atheist describes your position with regards to religious beliefs and concepts.
Thiest: Believes in the existance of a God or Gods.
Atheist: Does not accept theistic claims. In other words, is not a theist.
The common misconception is that "atheist" means "gnostic atheist", which isn't always the case. Being atheist doesn't mean "I know that God doesn't exist and you're stupid if you believe it does". Being atheist means you don't accept theistic claims as fact. So everyone who claims to be "agnostic", is in fact an agnostic atheist. You either believe in a God or you don't, there is no in-between. If you can't say, with 100% confidence, that you believe in a God, you're an atheist. Sure, you can be agnostic all you want, I don't care, but you're still an atheist.
Given two binary choices, this produces four possible outcomes:
- Gnostic theist: Believes in the existance of God(s), and claims to be able to prove their beliefs are fact. These are the "Bible is fact and are proof of God's existance" theists.
- Agnostic thiest: Believes in the existance of God(s), but does not claim to be able to prove their beliefs are fact. These are the "I know I can't prove my beliefs are true, but I have a feeling that they are" theists.
- Gnostic atheist: Rejects the claims made by theists, and claims to be able to show that theistic claims are impossible. These are the "God isn't real and I can prove it" atheists.
- Agnostic atheist: Rejects the claims made by theists, typically due to lack of evidence to support theistic claims, but does not claim to be able to show that theistic claims are impossible. These are the "I don't think God(s) are real, because there is no evidence to suggest that they are" atheists.
When it comes to your stance on religion, you're one of these four. So "agnostics", which one will it be?