I call myself a skeptical atheist by which I mean I do not believe in god because I have never found any evidence presented to prove his existence to be convincing even in the slightest. However, at the same time I call myself an agnostic because I cannot know for sure whether or not a god exists. This is not a contradiction or a paradox though, on its face, it may seem to be one. To explain lets start with the definition of each:
- Atheist: a person who does not believe in god.
- Agnostic: a person who does not know whether god exists
Note the difference. Atheism is a statement of belief while agnosticism is a statement of knowledge. There is a somewhat nuanced difference between these two terms. The difference lies in the degree of certainty we apply to each. We generally say believe when we are less than certain about the truth of an issue because we lack the evidence to really be sure we are correct. Knowledge on the other hand generally refers to ideas that are supported by so much evidence that we feel absolutely sure they are true.
Take Santa Cause for example. I do not believe in Santa Clause and most adults would say that they do not believe in Santa clause. On the other hand most children do believe in Santa Clause. But can we say that we know Santa is not real? Some people might say yes because Santa is obviously a fictional human invention. I would disagree. Despite the fact that the modern version of Santa as a Jolly old white bearded man living at the north pole was an invention of fiction this does not mean he does not exist...