I was having a conversation with a friend who expressed his belief to me sometime back that he did not believe the Bible to be literal. We have had conversations several times since. I thought we were on the same page and slowly revealing to each other our atheism. I finally told him I was atheist and he was shocked. After some discussion, I concluded he had settled on being a deist with no clear definition of what or who god was.
Our most recent conversation began with him asking “Are you an atheist or agnostic?”
I told him it depended on with what frame of reference he was considering the answer I was about to give him. I went on to explain it depends on what definition you give to each word, what dictionary you use, and how you understand the words.
If you believe that an atheist says “There is no god!” and understand an atheist to mean there is no possibility of the existence of god. Then I am not an atheist, I am an agnostic in that view. I do not “believe” or “disbelieve” there is a god. I simply see no evidence that any concept that anyone has presented as god truly exists. However, if I was presented with evidence for a god that was convincing then I would accept the existence of that god.
I added. If you understand an atheist to be someone who does not believe in a god then I am an atheist. He seemed confused by the difference.
I explained it this way:
ME: Do you believe in god?
Me: Do you believe that Zeus is that god?
Him: No, of course not.
Me: You do know that many people really believed in the existence of Zeus, right? You do know that there were many writings about Zeus? And are you aware that there are still people today who genuinely believe that Zeus exists and is a god?
Him: Yeah I knew that, but I didn’t really know people still believe that. It seems odd.
Me: Let me ask you this, can you prove that Zeus does not exist? Can you tell me why he cannot be god?
Him: (looking quite surprised and a bit confused) actually no I cannot.
Me: Well then are you a Zeus agnostic? or a Zeus atheist?
Him: I don’t know
Me: I suspect you are a Zeus atheist.
Him: I may be a zeus agnostic.
Me: I am fine with that, but here is how I see it. In day to day living I find no reason or evidence to believe that Zeus is god. I live as though he is not. I am a Zeus atheist in my real day-to-day life regardless of how you view the technical definition of the terms “atheist” and “agnostic”. I feel the same way to every other god I have studied as I do Zeus.
Me: I will tell you this, I would gladly accept the existence of a god should there be real, convincing evidence for one. I truly have no disposition against god.
I think he may be rethinking his view on god and agnosticism.