Difference between Atheist and Agnostic

Key Difference: An atheist is someone who disbelieves or denies the existence of a supreme being or beings. He rejects the notion of existence of any divine deities or gods. On the other hand, an agnostic is a person who doubts the existence or non-existence of a god or gods. He believes that men cannot confirm the existence of a god, and therefore god may or may not exist.

Atheist believes that there is no god that exists. The reason of such denial can be based on various reasons like deliberate choice or due to an inherent inability to believe in god. People could be atheist due to various reasons like - they are apprehensive about the insufficient evidence to believe in any religion. They might also think that religion has no associated sensible meaning, and many more. It is often associated with a disbelief in religion. Atheist is an antonym for Theist (one who believes in the existence of God or divine beings). Atheism and theism are often contrasted on the grounds of philosophies, concepts and beliefs.

Agnostic is a person who doubts the existence of God. He believes that man cannot confirm the existence of god, and therefore god may or may not exist. Agnostics are different from atheists as they do not discard the notion of the existence of God completely. An agnostic attitude can be summed up by saying- ‘do not know if god exists or not.’ Agnosticism is generally based on the notion that characteristics of gods are beyond the understanding of man’s mind. The word "agnostic" was coined in 1869 by T. H. Huxley. Agnostic and Agnosticism, first  appeared in the January 29, 1870 issue of The Spectator in print with some associated meanings. Agnosticism is not a formally organized concept. However, it can be considered as a mental attitude shared by many throughout the world.

Comparison between Atheist and Agnostic:





An atheist is someone who denies the existence of any God or gods.

An agnostic is a person who doubts the existence of God. He believes that man cannot confirm the existence of god and therefore god may or may not exist.

Broadly categorized under

According to George H. Smith (1979, p. 13-18), atheism can be divided into two broad categories – Implicit and explicit atheism.

  • Implicit atheism - It refers to the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it.
  • Explicit Atheism - This type of atheism contends that the belief in god is irrational and should therefore be rejected.
  • Strong agnosticism - Considers that man is not capable to know about the existence or non existence of God.
  • Mild agnosticism – Believes that the condition is not necessarily unknowable.
  • Pragmatic agnosticism – No proof of either view.
  • Apathetic agnosticism – God may exist but appears unconcerned for the universe.
  • Agnostic theism - Do not claim to know of the existence of God or gods, but still believe in such an existence.
  • Agnostic atheism - Claim not to know of the existence or non-existence of God or gods, but do not believe in them.
  • Ignosticism - Believes that a coherent definition of god is required before addressing the related issues.


From French athéiste (16c.), from Greek atheos "without god, denying the gods; abandoned of the gods; godless, ungodly," from a- "without" + theos "a god".

Coined by T.H. Huxley (1825-1895), supposedly in September 1869, from Greek agnostos "unknown, unknowable," from a- "not" + gnostos "(to be) known" .

Belief in religion

Generally, not closely related to religion.

Generally, skeptical of religion.

Image Courtesy: my.opera.com, thisculturalchristian.blogspot.com

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