One of the most commonly held debates between non-believers is that of whether someone is agnostic or atheist. The problem is that both terms have, in addition to their various, actual definitions, a number of associations that go along with them, and this generally injects confusion into the discussions.
What I wanted to do then was build a simple argument for why most agnostics should in fact consider themselves atheists. It goes like so:
- The definition of atheism is someone who does not believe in a God or gods.1 [OAD, see below]
- You don’t believe in God or gods. [Your own claim]
- Therefore, you are an atheist. [Deduction]
Or, in a simpler form: “If you don’t actively believe in God/gods, then you’re an atheist.” It doesn’t matter if you’re not sure about them NOT existing, but if you yourself don’t believe then you’re an atheist according to this argument.
Keep in mind that this argument, while strictly valid for this definition is not necessarily sound because there are multiple definitions for atheist. This makes the argument valid but unsound for other definitions which give a strong form, such as “The belief that there are no Gods.”
In short, if the definition of atheism entails a lack of belief, most agnostics are atheists. If it entails a belief in the lack of God/gods, then they aren’t.
Also, this argument doesn’t account for whether one would want to be considered an atheist — apart from whether they actually are one — as that’s something completely separate. ::
1The Oxford American Dictionary lists as its only definition of atheism, the “disbelief in the existence of God or gods.” Disbelief is defined by The Oxford American Dictionary as, “inability or refusal to accept that something is true or real.”