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Difference Between Agnostic and Atheist

atheism-symbolMan did not start out as a creature mentally advanced enough to question where he came from, or for that matter, why the sky turned dark and bright and dark again as the days went by and his hair grew long and grey. For the early man, it was all about the search for his next meal and surviving in general. But as groups formed societies and rituals and traditions combined into cultures, people gradually started approaching the question of where it all started from. In fact, such has been the fundamental nature of the question that nearly everyone since has indulged in this dialogue at some point or the other in their lives. Although it cannot be said for sure if the quality in general of options has got better with time, in any such discussion, one is likely to find a multitude of views, counter views, counter-counter views and so on. Depending on their views and beliefs, people can be divided into various schools of thought. The Agnostics and the Atheists are two such groups. According to the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, an agnostic is a person who believes that nothing can be known concerning the existence of God. An atheist, on the other hand is a person who believes that God does not exist altogether.

An agnostic, thus, in a way, does not completely trash the idea of the existence of a god or a ‘higher power’, but simply says that a search for the same is a futile exercise, one that will yield no results whatsoever. They say it’s very much like finding the absolute basic building block of all matter. Science has allowed us to advance from the notion of atoms being the most fundamental particles of matter, to giving us proof of the existence of much smaller, even more fundamental particles like quarks, leptons etc. But can these particles be made up of something still more fundamental? If yes, then when will it end? This is exactly what the agnostic has to say- we may never know or reach to the absolute base.

An atheist on the other hand disbands the very notion of god. He does not believe in the existence of a higher power, plain and simple. Often, such people will say they reject the idea of god as perceived by people in general. An atheist can thus, in a way, be said to harbour a more hard-line view on the entire dialogue.

An important point to note is that both types of views might have something in common- a lack of credible evidence supporting the presence of a higher power.

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