The Instigator
jar2187
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
wjmelements
Con (against)
Winning
16 Points

All Agnostics are also Atheists

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
wjmelements
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/12/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,610 times Debate No: 16424
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (3)
Votes (4)

 

jar2187

Pro

I will argue that all agnostics are actually, in fact, atheists (and not the other way around)...

My argument:
There's a difference between "knowledge" and "belief". For example: I can know that a black cat has four legs. I can have this knowledge despite any other beliefs I might have. I can believe that 1) This black cat will land on his feet if scooted off the table, and 2) This black cat is bad luck because it is black. And we can have many more beliefs about the cat despite the knowledge of it we have.

An agnostic is one who does not know if a god can or does exist (a = without, gnostic = belief). No one knows for certain of a god's existence (especially for the way god is defined), which makes us all agnostic. However, you can still have a belief about something, despite the knowledge (or lack thereof) that you have of it. An atheist is one who does not believe in a god (a = without, theist = god-centered belief).

Now, of course, there seems to be no logical contradiction between 'belief' and 'knowledge'. Thus, it would appear that one can believe and not know that there is a god, and know yet not believe in a god. Yet, I counter that one cannot believe in something which one has no knowledge of. That is, if one does not know if there is a god, then it seems inconsistent to say that one can believe in a god. How can one be sure that there is a god to believe in? Which god is it that we should believe in yet we do not know anything about? And if it is a specific god, how can we know this much about it? The 'god's name' may be non-sequitor concerning when determining whether or not existence can actually pertain to it. It is just a name, not a tip off to an actual god...That is, one will surely fall for the fallacy of ignorance if they do not know if a god can exist yet believe that there is one. Therefore, all agnostics are atheist.
wjmelements

Con

I thank my opponent for this interesting topic.

I'd like to start by countering my opponent's definitions.

As he stated himself, agnostic is the negation of the root "gnostic," which means belief. As he distinguished himself, there is a difference between knowledge and belief, but he then defines agnostic as "one who does not know if a god can or does exist." This equivocates knowledge and belief, a mistake my opponent himself condemns. A sourced definition holds that an agnostic is "a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as god, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable" (http://dictionary.reference.com...). Therefore, an agnostic is one who believes the state of the existence of god is unknowable.

Next, an atheist is not someone "who does not believe in a god"; rather, it is "a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings" (http://dictionary.reference.com...). The difference is that while my opponent's definition includes both disbelief and unbelief, the correct definition only concerns disbelief. Disbelief constitutes an active denial of the existence of god, while unbelief here simply means not believing in god (http://dictionary.reference.com...).

My opponent's case can be rejected as an abuse of definitions.

Belief regarding religion can be classified as three disjoint events. First, there is the person who actively believes that there is a god or many gods. This person is theist (http://dictionary.reference.com...). Second, there is the person who believes that there is no god. This person is atheist. Lastly, there is the person who neither believes nor disbelieves in god and gods. This person is agnostic. Here is a visual: http://i52.tinypic.com...

Because the characteristics agnostic and atheist are disjoint, no agnostics are atheists. The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 1
jar2187

Pro

I thank my opponent graciously for participating in this debate and arguing honestly during his brillant exchange.

Honesty is the best policy. I will slightly revise a typo that I’ve made above. Gnosticism = knowledge. This more accurately, coherently and more honestly reflects my previous position…

As I’ve said, an atheist is one who does not believe[1][2][3][4][5][6]. And agnostic is one who does not know[7][8]. But if you do not know X, you don’t believe in it. You wouldn’t know what to believe in this case.

“…an atheist…is "a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings"”
First, my opponent has arbitrarily distinguished between disbelief and unbelief. The prefixes “dis-” and “un-” are synonymous[9][10]. They both signify ‘not’. Nothing exists to suggest that one is active and the other not. Second, my opponent has equivocated ‘deny’ and ‘disbelief’. Denial is necessarily active[11], disbelief is not[9]. Third, my opponent fails to see that there can be two types of atheists. Even his own definition states: “denies or disbelieves”. This implies the disjunctive (“or’) as used in the weak inclusive sense. Thus, the commonality to being an atheist is that one does not believe, which I have stated.

My opponent, however, has actually abused far more definitions in supporting his case.

“…there is the person who believes that there is no god. This person is atheist.”
In the narrow sense, this person would also be considered atheist. But as I have shown, it is much broader than this…

“…there is the person who neither believes nor disbelieves in god and gods.”
Irrelevant. Either you believe or not. Knowing or (not knowing) does not interfere nor exclude one from this dichotomy. This disjoint is to be rejected due to incoherence. Thank you and I thank my opponent for his rebuttals.

Sources:
[1] Atheism: http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] Groiler’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge: Atheism
[3] Kai Nielsen: Atheism
[4] Paul Edwards: Atheism
[5] Williams L. Rowe: Atheism
[6] Austin Cline: Buddha and Atheism: http://atheism.about.com...
[7] Agnosticism: http://en.wikipedia.org...
[8] Groiler’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge: Agnosticism
[9] Dis- prefix: http://dictionary.reference.com...-
[10] Uni prefix: http://dictionary.reference.com...-
[11] Deny: http://dictionary.reference.com...
wjmelements

Con

I thank my opponent for his response.

For the purpose of avoiding a purely semantic debate, I accept the following definitions:

atheist- one who does not believe a deity exists or deities exist
agnostic- one who holds the existence of a deity or deities is unknowable

These new definitions mean that the characteristics of atheism and agnosticism are no longer explicitly disjoint, but have an overlap. Over the course of this round, I will assert that this overlap does not fully encompass agnosticism.

The counterexample I will give is of the agnostic theist. This agnostic theist [1] believes both that the existence of god is unknowable and that god exists. Because knowledge is a justified true belief [2], the agnostic theist holds that he can not confirm the truth of his belief, and thus is agnostic, while still believing god exists. I hold a modified position of this, and I know many other theists that do as well.

My opponent's Round 1 argument - that we cannot believe in something when we can not know if it exists - is flawed in that it asserts that the aspect held unknowable is the definition. The definition of agnosticism provided by my opponent [3], however, only concerns the belief of the truth value of claims. Claims have definition. A theist may believe a defined claim but hold that his or her belief can not be justified or known to be true.

My opponent references the two types of atheism, but does not define them. They are the strong (positive) atheist and the weak (negative) atheist [4]. While the positive atheist believes "there are no gods," the negative atheist simply does not believe that there are gods. While the negative atheist may be agnostic, to assert that all agnostics are negative atheists affirms the consequent [5] and ignores the case of the agnostic theist.

The following is a visual, updated to the new definitions: http://i55.tinypic.com...

In conclusion, knowledge is not a prerequisite of belief, but knowledge requires belief. Therefore, someone that does not belief their belief to be knowable may still hold that belief, providing a counterexample to the resolution. The resolution asserts that all agnostics are also atheists, but this is not the case, as proven by the example of the agnostic theist. The resolution is negated. Thank you.

==Sources==
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[5] http://fallacyfiles.org...
Debate Round No. 2
jar2187

Pro

I thank my opponent for his argument. He has shown a brilliant use of categories in this debate.

“atheist- one who does not believe a deity exists or deities exist
agnostic- one who holds the existence of a deity or deities is unknowable”
These definitions aren’t new to these debate, so I don’t want my opponent to get the impression that they are.

“This agnostic theist believes both that the existence of god is unknowable and that god exists.”
Yet every belief is held to be true. So then how does he know that it is true that god exist if he believes that it is true the existence of god is unknowable? He/she can’t. This distinction of agnostic theist doesn’t exist, in the same way that the analytical a posteriori doesn’t exist.

“Because knowledge is a justified true belief, the agnostic theist holds that he can not confirm the truth of his belief, and thus is agnostic, while still believing god exists.”
All theists are agnostics in this sense, since no theist can confirm the truth of their belief.

“My opponent's Round 1 argument - that we cannot believe in something when we can not know if it exists - is flawed in that it asserts that the aspect held unknowable is the definition.”
Can my opponent please clarify this statement?

“The definition of agnosticism provided by my opponent, however, only concerns the belief of the truth value of claims.”
This is all that my opponent is concerned about, anyways. I would need him to clarify what he means…

“Claims have definition. A theist may believe a defined claim but hold that his or her belief can not be justified or known to be true.”
A theist may believe and thus hold a defined claim true, but this claim cannot be known to be true. Thus he/she say it is true? But this is absurd. Therefore, the concept of agnostic theist doesn’t exist.

“My opponent references the two types of atheism, but does not define them. They are the strong (positive) atheist and the weak (negative) atheist.”
Actually, my opponent is adamant in distinguishing between atheists. Still, the debate isn’t about the different types of atheists, just the thing the thing that makes them atheist: their unbelief.

“While the positive atheist believes "there are no gods," the negative atheist simply does not believe that there are gods.”
By my opponent’s definition, if a positive atheist believes that there are no gods, then the positive atheist still doesn’t believe in any god. And therefore my opponent’s distinction between positive and negative atheism is irrelevant by his own distinction…

“While the negative atheist may be agnostic…”
…and they aren’t…

“…to assert that all agnostics are negative atheists affirms the consequent and ignores the case of the agnostic theist.”
Then again, the ‘agnostic theist’ is a dead category.

What has my opponent concluded? That all theists are agnostics, and all agnostics are atheists.

I thank my opponent for his brilliant use of introducing categories, even though they were irrelevant, and his brilliant (but irrelevant) categorical visual. Thank you.


wjmelements

Con

I thank my opponent for his response. I will begin my half of the round with clarification. If my opponent has further questions of clarification, I recommend they be asked in the comments section, as to not clutter the round.

==Clarifications==
I never asserted the definitions I listed in Round 2 were new; I was only accepting my opponents'. In order to make this explicit, I even stated "I accept the following definitions" "for the purpose of avoiding a purely semantic debate."

Nowhere did I assert "all theists are agnostics"; rather, I asserted the categorical existence of theists that were agnostic.

The difference between negative and positive atheism is that a negative atheist simply lacks a belief in god while positive atheism asserts no god exists. The positive atheist is called positive because it maintains an assertion, while the negative atheist does not hold an assertion. The negative atheist neither believes there is a god nor that there isn't. A toddler would be a negative atheist, as would an agnostic atheist, while Stephen Hawking would be a positive atheist. For further clarification of positive and negative atheism, see the fourth source of my second round.

==Refutation==
My opponent argues that agnostic atheism cannot exist because a belief must be held to be true, while the agnostic believes that the belief cannot be known to be true. However, belief does not require knowledge of truth. Many people believe dark matter exists, but hold at least the weak agnostic idea that it is presently unknowable. The philosophical definition of knowledge [1] requires that the knower believes the knowledge, that the knowledge is true, and that the knower's belief is justified. An agnostic theist still believes that a god exists, but doesn't believe he or she knows god exists. This could either be because the agnostic theist believes that he or she can never justify his or her belief or that he or she can never know the belief to be true. Truth is a requirement of knowledge, but knowledge extends beyond the criterion of "true belief" [1].

==Conclusion==
A person who believes the existence of god to be unknowable, but believes that god exists, is an agnostic atheist, and a negating counterexample to the resolution.

==Source==
[1] http://plato.stanford.edu...
Debate Round No. 3
jar2187

Pro

I thank my opponent for this debate, his interesting use of categorical definitions, and his rebuttals.

“If my opponent has further questions of clarification, I recommend they be asked in the comments section, as to not clutter the round.”
His recommendation would result in a lack of integrity and debating conduct on behalf of both of us. Besides, clarification about the debate terms is what the debate is for. It would get confusing if we were to clarify elsewhere. We have to keep it on the record, in the debate. Therefore, if either of us will have any clarifications about this debate, it is our responsibility to clarify them - in the debate. And we will.

“Nowhere did I assert "all theists are agnostics"; rather, I asserted the categorical existence of theists that were agnostic.”
Which, by virtue of knowledge, would make all theists agnostic by virtue.

“The difference between negative and positive atheism is that a negative atheist simply lacks a belief in god while positive atheism asserts no god exists.”
All that is needed is that a negative atheist does not assert that “no gods exists”. Under this dead-category, an agnostic atheist could still assert that “I don’t believe in God”…

“The positive atheist is called positive because it maintains an assertion, while the negative atheist does not hold an assertion.”
Under my opponent’s definition of “negative atheist”, one could hold the assertion that even the “positive atheist” holds: “I don’t believe in God”. Thus, they both can maintain an assertion. The distinction is still arbitrary.

“The negative atheist neither believes there is a god nor that there isn't.”
You either believe or not. There is no middle ground (Law of Excluded Middle). Thus, “agnostic-atheist” is a dead-category.

“Many people believe dark matter exists, but hold at least the weak agnostic idea that it is presently unknowable.”
Actually, dark matter is a theory (an explanation based on scientific study and reasoning) supported by evidence that is inferred to exist from gravitational effects on visible matter and background radiation [1]. That is, scientists see an effect and infer this effect to be dark matter. It would be incoherent for scientist to say that dark matter is “unknowable”, but yet they know this about it. And because they know that it exists, they can believe it to be true.

“However, belief does not require knowledge of truth.”
“The philosophical definition of knowledge requires that the knower believes the knowledge, that the knowledge is true, and that the knower's belief is justified.”
“Truth is a requirement of knowledge, but knowledge extends beyond the criterion of "true belief".
In fact, in some cases Belief is Knowledge [2]. Also, Knowledge as Justified True Belief has been challenged over the past fifty years [3][4]. The traditional philosophical definition of knowledge is JTB, but now it is challenged that justified true belief depends on no false premises. In order to know whether or not a premise is false requires knowledge.

“A person who believes the existence of god to be unknowable, but believes that god exists, is an agnostic atheist, and a negating counterexample to the resolution.”
There is no agnostic atheist, and no negative counterexample to the resolution. Thank you and I thank my opponent.

Sources:
[1] Dark Matter: http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] Truth in Contrast to Knowlegde and Belief: http://www.av8n.com...
[3] The Gettier Problem: http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] Is Justified True Blief Knowledge: http://www.ditext.com...
wjmelements

Con

I thank my opponent for yet another round.

I will begin by clarifying that my statement, “A person who believes the existence of god to be unknowable, but believes that god exists, is an agnostic atheist, and a negating counterexample to the resolution,” should concern agnostic theism, rather than agnostic atheism, and that my opponent's response, "There is no agnostic atheist," while hilarious in the context of his postion on the resolution, should read "There is no agnostic theist."

I will next bring forth, again, the agreed-upon definition of agnostic:

agnostic- one who holds the existence of a deity or deities is unknowable

Holding the existence of a deity unknowable is different from not knowing the exitence of a deity. The agnostic theist, therefore, acknowledges his or her unknowingness, while people whom someone else, such as my opponent, judges to be unknowing of the existence of god, are not agnostic theists.

CON: Nowhere did I assert "all theists are agnostics"; rather, I asserted the categorical existence of theists that were agnostic.
PRO: Which, by virtue of knowledge, would make all theists agnostic by virtue.

My opponent essentially makes the argument that if there exists the categorical existence of theists that are agnostic, then all theists are agnostic. This non sequitur confounds the definition of agnostic with the definition of uncertain. My distinction between theists who believe they know a god exists, such as Bob Thrower [1], and theists who do not believe they know a god exists, such as myself.

Because the definition of knowledge is debated, as my opponent has sourced [2][3], there can be no objective judgment as to the true agnosticism of an individual; belief regarding the extent of one's knowledge is subjective to what that person believes to be the definition of knowledge. An individual is agnostic or not agnostic according to their own judgment of their knowledge regarding the existence of god, as defined in the resolution.

Further, the Gettier problem [2][3] does not challenge truth or belief as prerequisites of knowledge; it merely brings forth scenarios where justified true belief are not enough to denote knowledge.

Regarding dark matter, for one to know dark matter exists, the existence of dark matter must be true. A weak agnostic [4][5] position would hold that there is not enough information as of yet to know the condition of the existence of dark matter. While scientists may hold justified belief regarding dark matter, they cannot know as of yet, and must take a weak agnostic perspective. One can believe something but not believe one knows that that something.

While both the positive atheist and negative atheist lack a belief in the existence of god, the agnostic position regards the knowledge of the existence of god. As my opponent stated, there is no middle ground; an agnostic either believes in god or does not. He who believes god exists but that he does not know this is an agnostic theist, whereas he who believes god does not exists but that he does not know this is an agnostic atheist. Agnosticism, therefore, does not lie entirely within atheism, as they are positions regarding different subjects: existence of god and knowledge of existence of god.

Because the agnostic theist is agnostic but not atheist, the resolution is negated by counterexample. Thank you.

==Sources==
[1] http://hop.netadvent.org...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[3] http://www.ditext.com...
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[5] http://www.infidels.org...

Debate Round No. 4
jar2187

Pro

I thank my opponent for sticking it through to the last round…

I will state that my opponent has shown that there are no true theists, there are no true agnostic-theists, there are no true agnostics, there are no true agnostic-atheists, and there are no atheist who know that there are no gods. Only atheists who do not believe in any god, simply because they do not know any.

“Holding the existence of a deity unknowable is different from not knowing the exitence of a deity. The agnostic theist, therefore, acknowledges his or her unknowingness, while people whom someone else, such as my opponent, judges to be unknowing of the existence of god, are not agnostic theists.”
Even if I am unknowing of the existence of any god, I can also acknowledge my “unknowingness”. This would make me both an agnostic-theist and not an agnostic-theist, which is a contradiction on my opponent’s part. The categories are easily blurred this way, because the distinction is arbitrary.

“My opponent essentially makes the argument that if there exists the categorical existence of theists that are agnostic, then all theists are agnostic…”
That is because there are no theists in the true sense.

“My distinction between theists who believe they know a god exists, such as Bob Thrower, and theists who do not believe they know a god exists, such as myself.”
But what does this belief rest on, if not knowledge? Thus, Bob Thrower is really agnostic. My opponent too, is also agnostic. None are theist by this sense of the definition.

“…belief regarding the extent of one's knowledge is subjective to what that person believes to be the definition of knowledge. An individual is agnostic or not agnostic according to their own judgment of their knowledge regarding the existence of god…"
And not the belief of their knowledge as my opponent once held?

“A weak agnostic position would hold that there is not enough information as of yet to know the condition of the existence of dark matter.”
But as my opponent stated above, a weak agnostic is one who doesn’t know that they don’t know – which is incoherent.

“One can believe something but not believe one knows that that something.”
Which is slightly incoherent. This belief rest on the knowledge about what one believes, which means that one knows something about what one doesn’t believe – which is incoherent.

“While both the positive atheist and negative atheist lack a belief in the existence of god, the agnostic position regards the knowledge of the existence of god.”
Which theists and atheists do not have. Both do not have the knowledge nor the belief in the existence of God.

I thank my opponent for this debate. Thank you.

Source:
Dark Matter: http://en.wikipedia.org......
Truth in Contrast to Knowlegde and Belief: http://www.av8n.com......
Atheism: http://en.wikipedia.org......
Groiler’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge: Atheism
Kai Nielsen: Atheism
Paul Edwards: Atheism
Williams L. Rowe: Atheism
Austin Cline: Buddha and Atheism: http://atheism.about.com......
Agnosticism: http://en.wikipedia.org......
Groiler’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge: Agnosticism
wjmelements

Con

I thank my opponent for the debate.

Ladies and gentlemen, my opponent has misconstrued the definition of agnostic so extremely that he has portrayed all theists as agnostics. This is, once again, not the case. An agnostic is one who holds, or believes, that the existence of god is unknowable. My opponent has tried to make an agnostic one who does not know the state of the existence of god. The difference between these definitions is clear: the former is a state of belief, while the latter is a state of knowledge. Because my opponent himself has made knowledge and belief distinct, his position is unsustainable. My opponent has shown that one person can both not know something and believe they don't know something, but this is irrelevent because these states are not disjoint, but different. For a metal, the qualities red and hot are different, but not disjoint.

My opponent has stated that there can be no theists "in the true sense," but a theist is merely one who believes in god [1], not one who knows god exists. While my opponent may assert that knowledge of god is impossible, belief in god is possible, so theists exist.

But what does this belief rest on, if not knowledge?
...belief rest[s] on the knowledge about what one believes...
First, a person is not agnostic according to their knowledge, but their beliefs of their knowledge. Second, an agnostic can hold a belief in god on the basis of faith, believing that god exists without evidence or knowledge. Third, because belief is a prerequisite of knowledge (as my opponent has conceded), belief cannot require knowledge. The situation, that I am not in belief without knowledge and that I am not in knowledge without being in belief, is ridiculous.

CON: An individual is agnostic or not agnostic according to their own judgment of their knowledge regarding the existence of god...
PRO: And not the belief of their knowledge as my opponent once held?
The statements I made are equivalent; someone is agnostic or not according to their own belief, or judgment, of their knowledge, as given by the agreed definition.

CON: A weak agnostic position would hold that there is not enough information as of yet to know the condition of the existence of dark matter.
PRO: But as my opponent stated above, a weak agnostic is one who doesn’t know that they don’t know – which is incoherent.
If my opponent was confused regarding weak agnosticism, he could have referred to my source [3]. Instead, he tries to construe it to a more complicated belief than it is. Weak agnosticism is simply a combination of belief of present unknowledge and belief in future knowledge. A weak agnostic holds that while the existence of god is presently unknowable, it will be knowable in the future, following the development of further evidence.

CON: While both the positive atheist and negative atheist lack a belief in the existence of god, the agnostic position regards the knowledge of the existence of god.
PRO: Which theists and atheists do not have [sic]. Both do not have the knowledge nor [sic] the belief in the existence of God.
Once again, the agnosticism of a person is not related to their knowledge, but their position regarding their knowledge.

Before I conclude, I would like to note that the sources listed in my opponent's fifth round of debate were unused in the round. He simply copied them directly into his round from previous rounds. As they were unused in round 5, I ask voters not to count them twice.

A person doesn't believe they know whether or not god exists. This person is agnostic. Because of the law of the excluded middle, that person believes either that god exists or god doesn't exist. My opponent has taken the position that this agnostic cannot hold a theistic position on the grounds that the agnostic does not believe he knows the existence of god; however, belief does not require knowledge, so such a position as agnostic theism is consistent and existent, providing a counterexample to the resolution. Because of the case of the agnostic theist, not all agnostics are atheist, and the resolution is negated. Thank you.

==Sources==
[1] http://dictionary.reference.com...
[2] http://dictionary.reference.com...; (Definition 2 fits my usage; the others are irrelevant to the context.)
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 5
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by wjmelements 6 years ago
wjmelements
"These definitions aren't new to these debate, so I don't want my opponent to get the impression that they are."

I said I accepted them. That implies they'd already been given.
Posted by jar2187 6 years ago
jar2187
Sure. Anything you want for it to take to win.
Posted by wjmelements 6 years ago
wjmelements
Am I allowed to challenge your definitions?
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by seraine 5 years ago
seraine
jar2187wjmelementsTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: No belief does not equal disbelief. Also, why did it have to be five rounds?
Vote Placed by Dimmitri.C 6 years ago
Dimmitri.C
jar2187wjmelementsTied
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Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: An agnostic and atheist, by definition, are two positions which make two different ontological and epistemological claims.
Vote Placed by Procrastarian 6 years ago
Procrastarian
jar2187wjmelementsTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro seemed to misunderstand the difference between belief and knowledge, and this led him to call incoherent perfectly reasonable statements and drop important arguments.
Vote Placed by detachment345 6 years ago
detachment345
jar2187wjmelementsTied
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Reasons for voting decision: since both sides agreed that the def of agnostic was, one who believes the existence of a deity was unknowable, then there can be people who are agnostics, claim that the existence of a deity is unknowable, but still believe in one