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Agnostic atheism, also called atheistic agnosticism, is a philosophical position that encompasses both atheism and agnosticism. Agnostic atheists are atheistic because they do not hold a belief in the existence of any deity and agnostic because they claim that the existence of a deity is either unknowable in principle or currently unknown in fact. The agnostic atheist may be contrasted with the agnostic theist, who believes that one or more deities exist but claims that the existence or nonexistence of such is unknown or cannot be known.
One of the earliest definitions of agnostic atheism is that of Robert Flint, in his Croall Lecture of 1887–1888 (published in 1903 under the title Agnosticism).
The atheist may however be, and not unfrequently is, an agnostic. There is an agnostic atheism or atheistic agnosticism, and the combination of atheism with agnosticism which may be so named is not an uncommon one.
If a man has failed to find any good reason for believing that there is a God, it is perfectly natural and rational that he should not believe that there is a God; and if so, he is an atheist... if he goes farther, and, after an investigation into the nature and reach of human knowledge, ending in the conclusion that the existence of God is incapable of proof, cease to believe in it on the ground that he cannot know it to be true, he is an agnostic and also an atheist – an agnostic-atheist – an atheist because an agnostic... while, then, it is erroneous to identify agnosticism and atheism, it is equally erroneous so to separate them as if the one were exclusive of the other...
- Harrison, Alexander James (1894). The Ascent of Faith: or, the Grounds of Certainty in Science and Religion. London: Hodder and Stroughton. p. 21. OCLC 7234849. OL 21834002M.
Let Agnostic Theism stand for that kind of Agnosticism which admits a Divine existence; Agnostic Atheism for that kind of Agnosticism which thinks it does not.
- Smith, George H (1979). Atheism: The Case Against God. p. 10-11.
Properly considered, agnosticism is not a third alternative to theism and atheism because it is concerned with a different aspect of religious belief. Theism and atheism refer to the presence or absence of belief in a god; agnosticism refers to the impossibility of knowledge with regard to a god or supernatural being. The term "agnostic" does not, in itself, indicate whether or not one believes in a god. Agnosticism can be either theistic or atheistic.
- Barker, Dan (2008). Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists. New York: Ulysses Press. p. 96. ISBN 9781569756775. OL 24313839M.
People are invariably surprised to hear me say I am both an atheist and an agnostic, as if this somehow weakens my certainty. I usually reply with a question like, “Well, are you a Republican or an American?” The two words serve different concepts and are not mutually exclusive. Agnosticism addresses knowledge; atheism addresses belief. The agnostic says, “I don't have a knowledge that God exists.” The atheist says, “I don't have a belief that God exists.” You can say both things at the same time. Some agnostics are atheistic and some are theistic.
- Flint, Robert (1903). Agnosticism: The Croall Lecture for 1887–88. William Blackwood and Sons. pp. 49–51. OL 7193167M.
- Howe, Frederic R. Challenge and Response. Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1982. ISBN 0-310-45070-5
- Martin, Michael. Theism. MSN Encarta, 2000. Microsoft Corporation.
- Martin, Michael. Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1992. ISBN 0-87722-943-0
- Smith, George H. Atheism: The Case Against God. 1st ed. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1980. ISBN 0-87975-124-X
- Stein, Gordon. The Encyclopedia of Unbelief. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1985. ISBN 0-87975-307-2