The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

Agnostics are atheists

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/10/2015 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 805 times Debate No: 75086
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




Note: This debate is related another debate:

Resolution: Agnostics are atheists

Round 1: Acceptance only

Voters: ELO minimum of 2000 to vote.


I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


Basic Argument:

P1: Any person who believes that the existence of any god cannot be known is an agnostic.

P2: Any person who believes that the existence of any god cannot be known does not believe in any god.

C1: Agnostics do not believe in any god.

P3: Any person who does not believe in any god is an atheist.

P4 / C1: Agnostics do not believe in any god.

C2: Agnostics are atheists.

These arguments are valid. If P1, P2, and P3 are true, then C1 and C2 are also true. I assert the truth of P1, P2, and P3. However, in order to avoid debating factual assertions which both my opponent and myself agree are true, I will support only those premises which my opponent disputes in this round.


P2 is totally and utterly untrue.

Agnostic Theism is a very real thing.[1]

P4 is therefore also untrue.

The existence of gnostic atheism[2] in addition to agnostic Theism (as was already mentioned) mean that not only are people who think God's existence cannot be known capable of being both Theistic and atheistic but furthermore people who either believe, or don't believe, in god are capable of admitting that their belief does not equate to knowledge and is an opinion they hold as opposed to an objective fact.

Before I continue on that line of thinking, I want to point out that Pro completely ignored the existence of Deism.[3] Deism is the view that God exists as a creator of all things but not as a moral guide. Therefore, Deism is neither Theism nor atheism[4] and, just like Theism and atheism, has both gnostic and agnostic variants of it.

I'm now going to display an image and then expand on what it conveys:

This image explains the four ways that one can lean regarding belief in God (ignoring the Deistic god being a viable option as well).

So, let's take atheism to be North, Gnosticism to be East, so on and so forth. What we find is that if you have a compass and it points North, it is not necessarily pointing East or West of North. While it isn't directly comparable to a compass (as we as dealing with digital variants as opposed to analogue ones), it certainly is a good analogy to take on the matter. Think of it as more of a Y-axis and X-axis, one does not have any impact on the other but both are necessary to pinpoint where one lies on the spectrum.

I will now go into Dawkins' scale of belief[5][6]. On Dawkins' scales there are even variants in between the gnostic and agnostic variants of Theism and atheism. According to Dawkins there even exist a middle variant which one may call "pure agnosticism"that leans neither to Theism nor atheism (hence there being 7 possible results on his scale, as opposed to an even number which would be half Theism and half atheism).

If we combine all this knowledge and reread Pro's debate what we find it this:

P1: Any person who believes that the existence of any god cannot be known is an agnostic.
P2: Any person who believes that the existence of any god cannot be known does not believe in any god. can either believe in a god, not believe in a god or be totally impartial.
C1: Agnostics do not believe in any god. P3: Only 3 out of 7 results on Dawkins' scale involve an agnostic not believing in any god.
P3: Any person who does not believe in any god is an atheist. P4: A person who does not believe in any god is either an agnostic atheist, a gnostic atheist or a totally impartial agnostic.
P4 / C1: Some gnostics and some agnostics do not believe in any god while others do.
C2: Some agnostics happen to be atheists and some atheists happen to be agnostics but there are certainly exceptions to agnostic atheists (and they are in the majority).

Debate Round No. 2


Support for P2 -

P2 asserts a relationship between belief and knowledge. I wanted to avoid definitions, but they seem to be unavoidable.


What it means to believe in a god –

If someone believes in a god, then he or she accepts or regards that respective god’s existence as true. [8][10][11][12] Someone who believes merely that a god might exist or harbors doubts does not accept nor regard that respective god’s existence as true, and therefore does not believe in that god. Most people who believe in a god haven’t formed their belief by evidence or reason. Rather, they’ve set aside their doubts with a leap of faith and chosen to believe that a god exists.

What it means to know something –

The definition of knowledge has been debated extensively by philosophers and is not universally agreed upon. However, the traditional philosophical definition of knowledge is justified true beliefs. [2] To “know” something, a belief must be held, the belief must be true, and the belief must be justified. This definition is workable for purposes of this debate. Problematic exceptions (e.g. “Gettier” exceptions [4]) are not evident here. The meaning of “belief” within the philosophical definition of knowledge is described rather well here: [13]

Contemporary analytic philosophers of mind generally use the term “belief” to refer to the attitude we have, roughly, whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true. To believe something, in this sense, needn't involve actively reflecting on it: Of the vast number of things ordinary adults believe, only a few can be at the fore of the mind at any single time. Nor does the term “belief”, in standard philosophical usage, imply any uncertainty or any extended reflection about the matter in question (as it sometimes does in ordinary English usage). Many of the things we believe, in the relevant sense, are quite mundane: that we have heads, that it's the 21st century, that a coffee mug is on the desk.


P2 is true because there is a relationship between belief and knowledge which precludes the possibility of believing that a proposition is true while simultaneously believing that the truth of a proposition cannot be known.

Beliefs are not naked, formed arbitrarily or without a reason. Beliefs are formed in a process called belief formation. [14][15] Every belief has at least one subjective basis, be it good or bad. (e.g. I believe that I have five digits on each hand because I can see them, I can feel them, my memories indicate this, among other reasons.) Whenever a belief is formed, a subjective evaluation of certain things occurs and a conclusion is drawn based upon them. (e.g. I may form the belief that the front door is open based on direct observation.) The conclusion is the belief, and the evaluated things are the subjective basis. A person who forms a belief believes not only that the belief is true, but also that the subjective basis justifies his or her belief. In this respect, to believe something means to believe that you believe it; believe that it is true; and believe that your belief is justified – When one believes something one believes that one holds a justified true belief (i.e. knowledge). Belief is subjectively indistinguishable from knowledge. [16] In other words, we can’t tell the difference between what we think we know and what we actually know.

Relating this notion back to P2 - The claim of P2 is that “[a]ny person who believes that the existence of any god cannot be known does not believe in any god.” The logical conflict should be apparent –

If belief, then belief of knowledge

Not belief of knowledge, therefore not belief


If B, then Bk

Not Bk

Therefore, not B

Rebuttal –

My opponent asserts that agnostic theism and gnostic atheism disprove P2 by counterexample. My opponent also asserts that my argument ignores deism.

My responses are simple:

Agnostic theists do not exist. It’s a self-contradictory and logically impossible position. My opponent has pictures and an article to support their existence, but this is not convincing. His article ( ) by Mr. Cline states, pertinently, that “[b]ecause atheism and theism deal with belief and agnosticism deals with knowledge, they are actually independent concepts.” No, I’m afraid that Mr. Cline is in error. Belief and knowledge are very much related, and knowledge is contingent upon belief.

My opponent also presents a photo describing the position of an alleged agnostic theist. The person says “I believe there is a god! But I’m not really sure. It might just be some silly stories.” This person doesn’t believe there is a god. He doubts the existence of god.

Gnostic atheism does not disprove P2. P2 essentially says that agnostics can’t believe in god. A gnostic atheist is, by definition, not an agnostic. P2 says nothing about what gnostics can or can’t do. Gnostic atheism is therefore not a satisfactory counterexample.

My opponent also alleges that my argument ignores deism. It doesn’t. My argument intentionally was broadly worded to encompass the majority of religions. My argument says “any god”. It does not say “God”, as referring to the judeo-christian god. My argument encompasses deism because the deity of that religion satisfies the definition of a god.

Sources –

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MY ROUND 2 SOURCES MISFORMATTED! Correct formatting found here:

While Pro wastes 4 sources on some pointless definition of belief in god meaning one assumes god exists, Pro forgets to address my case and his rebuttals are too weak to affect it.

Pro states that to know something, you must first believe in it and have that belief proven to be true via justification of some kind. This is correct as those who know something must also believe in it. That is why gnostic Theists both know and believe in god's existence while gnostic atheists know and believe in there being no god in this reality. What Pro fails to see is that while one must believe in something to know it, one can believe in something that they do not know.

Knowledge involves certainty and clear experience of something being true.[1] On the other hand belief is an assumed truth taken on faith and conviction.[1][2] If one believes in god, or a an absence of god, but does not have any proof or justification for the opposite viewpoint being untrue, they are considered agnostic especially if they admit to it.

Agnosticism, in short, is the view that the existence of God is impossible to be known or proven.[3] Consequently, since even Pro himself admits that proof is essential to knowledge and that belief is not knowledge itself, Pro concedes that belief without proof is a belief without knowledge and that belief can exist without one having knowledge of its truth or fallacy.

If I state 'I do not know if god exists or not but I place faith and conviction in the idea that the god of my religion does exist' I am an agnostic Theist.[4] If I state 'I know for certain that evidence and reasoning lead to the conclusion that there is undoubtedly not a god in existence within this reality' then I am a gnostic atheist which is very different from agnostic atheism.[5]

Pro states that agnostic Theists do not exist because the position is self-contradictory. Pro goes on to say that knowledge is contingent (which means dependent on[6]) belief. What Pro fails to realize is that while knowledge depend son belief, belief does not depend on knowledge at all. This is why agnostic Theism is a very plausible outlook for one to have and is not self-contradictory at all.

Pro states that the person doubts the existence of god because they accept that they may be wrong. This is utterly false and Pro never explained why this would be true. One accepting oneself to be possibly wrong is not the same as one admitting that one is certainly wrong. Doubt of the doubt is the very reason that the agnostic atheism and agnostic Theist exist in the first place and is something that Pro failed to address entirely.

Pro states that gnostic atheism is self-contradictory but didn't give a single argument or justification in support of this allegation so, in the words of a gnostic atheist, Mr. Hitchens himself, that which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.[7] Thus, I shall dismiss Pro's claim that gnostic atheism is self-contradictory as Pro never bothered to give any evidence or proof to justify the claim.

Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by bluesteel 3 years ago
>Reported vote: BblackkBbirdd // Moderator action: Removed<

5 points to Con (arguments, sources). Reasons for voting decision: A fair amount of pro's sources were just links so definitions, so con gets sources. I also thought con's arguments were stronger.

[*Reason for removal*] A mere statement *that* Con had better arguments is not an explanation for *why,* which is what is required in a "reason for decision" (RFD).
Posted by Chaosism 3 years ago
A man stands in a dark room and cannot move. He tosses a rock and hears a metallic noise that suggests that the rock landed in a bucket. He then believes that a bucket exists, though it may not necessarily have been a bucket, per se. However, these beliefs cannot be *justified*, as he cannot see the bucket to verify this belief in order to make it knowledge. This situation can equally well apply to the theistic situation: a theist may have reasons to believe in the existence of God (the bucket), but also believe that no one can know it (cannot see the bucket to justify the belief).
Posted by Chaosism 3 years ago
--Expanded RFD--
As per the resolution of the debate, the validity of an agnostic theistic position, which is proposed by Con, would logically refute it. Gnostic atheism is irrelevant to the resolution by logical means of: all agnostics are atheist but not all atheists are agnostic. This then boils down to the difference between belief and knowledge. Pro provides a lot of definitions for "Belief", four of which are simple references, whereas, one is a philosophical reference, but the failing point lies in the presented definition of "knowledge" being defined as "justified true beliefs". Although Pro establishes that there is essentially only a quantitative difference between the two, his very definitions brought to my mind an example that goes against him (see following Comment), which parallels Con's arguments in Round #3.
Ultimately, I take from this debate that there is a significant enough difference between the two terms (degree of confidence) to justify two distinct notions. Arguments to Con.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Chaosism 3 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct and Spelling and Grammar were even. Arguments to Con (See expanded RFD in Comments). Both participants provide ample sources, and are generally reliable, but most of Pro's sources are definition references and do not directly support the resolution arguments. Sources to Con.