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"Knowledge - Acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation (Def. 1)" - Dictionary.com


"Belief - Confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof. (Def. 2)" - Dictionary.com


What you claim to KNOW and what you claim to BELIEVE are two separate questions. You can have a different answer for one question than you would have for the other. These questions are not dependent on each other, they are independent from each other. Here's an example of how these questions can be answered":


Question 1: "Do you BELIEVE a God exists?"


Theistic - Yes

Agnostic - Undetermined

Atheistic – NO



Question 2: "Do you KNOW a God exists?"


Theistic - Yes

Agnostic - Undetermined

Atheistic - NO



If you would answer Yes to "BELIEVE, question 1" and Yes to "KNOW, question 2" that would put you in the category of a "Strong Theist". If you would answer No to both "KNOW and "BELIEVE" that would put you in the category of a "Strong Atheist". But, you could also answer No for question 2, and answer Yes for question 1, and quite happily call yourself an atheist. Just as you can answer Yes to question 1 and No to question 2, and quite happily call yourself a theist. A true agnostic would answer both questions with Undetermined.


Although some people claim to KNOW that God exists, and some claim to KNOW that God does not exist, I think both of these positions are difficult to defend. Both of these positions make a claim to KNOW something when there doesn't seem to be any objective evidence to point to. When you ask how they can make such a claim they will always point to some subjective form of evidence.


I think the most reasonable positions to hold are the ones that would answer No or an Agnostic Undetermined, to the question "Do you KNOW a God exists". I believe these positions to be reasonable because the question of knowledge is in agreement with objective science and the question of belief is purely a personal stance.



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Good thoughts.  I fall under the No and No since I am very strong in my atheistic beliefs. Many have questioned how I KNOW a deity does not exist, and for me, the definition used is what I tear apart. As you say, belief is a purely personal stance, not a scientific one. Knowledge on the other hand is all about definition. I have yet found someone who would give me definition of a deity that doesn't fall under an alien categorization. If something is unknown, or alien, to me, that does not qualify as a god. Essentially, in my mind, NOTHING can qualify as a deity because it is a being that is alien to us.

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I find the Strong Atheist/Strong Theist positions the hardest to argue, but certainly people are comfortable defending those positions. And, I see nothing wrong with that. Also, I completely agree that the definition of knowledge is muddy and that you'll get a different answer depending on who you ask. You make a good point, and that's something to think about.


I wrote this post in an attempt to make myself clearer to people. After my last post, my wife told me that she was surprised I was now an Agnostic. I told her that I am an Atheist, but that I'm agnostic to whether a God could exist. I'm certain I'll still have people misunderstanding me, but I am attempting to be clear.
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My gut reaction is that you have mis-characterized the agnostic postion to an extent.


I consider myself to be agnostic. I believe (in that it is my opinion) that it is not possible to either prove or dis-prove that the concept of "God" or "gods" is valid. With that in mind, I would easily answer "no" to question 1, and also to question 2. I think that to assert the strong atheist position you must ask this question: Do you know that "God" does not exist?


A person who answers "yes" to that would fall in the strong atheist realm.


You might also ask this question: Do you believe that "God" does not exist? A "yes" answer here would also be atheist.


The agnostic position is one that says it is not known, and therefore it is impossible to answer any of the above questions in either the affirmative or negative. "Maybe" is not a valid answer. Instead, in my opinion, the agnostic answer is "indeterminate" since being agnostic I would have to answer "no" to both the affirmative form or the questions you presented, and also to the negative forms that I gave.


That is, I neither know or believe that there is a "God", and I neither know or believe that there is no "God".

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I don't know if I fully see the difference between asking "Do you Know a God exists?" and receiveing a No answer, and rephrasing the question to "Do you Know that a God does not exist?" and receiving a Yes answer. But, that being said, I think I would have been better off saying that the Agnostic answer is "Undetermined" to make myself clearer. I think phrasing the agnostic answer as "maybe" is a little confusing. So, i'll retract that. Also, I'd like to retract "mutally exclusive" since I've learned that the term would mean "in opposition to" when what i intended was more that the questions are independent, but not necessarily in opposition. 

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Yeah, it was mostly the "maybe" in there that I disagreed with. The word "maybe" carried a connotation that didn't seem correct to me.


To simplify the example, the questions "Do you know that God exists?" and "Do you know that God does not exist?" are indeed in opposition in that one can not give an affirmative answer to both, but it is quite reasonable for one to answer in the negative to both (i.e. agnostic.) An answer of "no" to the first question does not logically imply or require an answer of "yes" to the second.


To take it further, in reference to only "God" an answer of "yes" to the second does not even imply atheism since one could adhere to a different religion and answer in such a manner.


Your point that definitions matter is important. They must be clear, and complete, for meaningful dialogue to take place.

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Yeah, I see what you mean. Your right, that the agnostic and the atheist could both answer "Do you know that God exists?" with No, while the strong theist is the one whould say Yes. And, with the question, "Do you know that God does not exists" the agnostic and the theist could answer No, while the strong atheist would answer Yes. I still prefer to use "undetermind" for the agnostic answer just for clarity sake.


I don't know if I accept that an answer of Yes to the quesiton, "Do you know that God does Not exist?" wouldn't imply atheism. My understanding of the term "atheism" is that it is soley rooted in the God question. So, if a person would say, "I know there is no God", but adheres to some religion that is absent of a God, I would still consider that person an atheist. My understanding could be flawed, but as of now that's how I see it.

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My understanding, or definition if you prefer, is that an atheist either believes or knows that there are no gods at all. Any form of a "higher power" or "powers" is a null concept. That is not to say that one might not change their mind given sufficient proof.


Theism can take many forms besides that of "God" as described in the OT, NT or Koran.

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