In today’s society Religion still plays a large role in most people lives. But what about people who aren’t religious? The truth is people believing in no religion, either agnostic or atheist (called “nones”), are the U.S.A’s second largest religious group of people with similar belief, only topped by Christianity. They make up almost a quarter of the population! Many other countries like Australia and the U.K have large secular populations. In fact, it is likely that the U.K and Australia will soon loose the majority of the population being Christian due to the growing number of secular people.
Not believing in a religion can mean a lot of different things to different people. There are different terms given to people who aren’t religious. The most common of which are: atheist, agnostic, secular, and non-religious. Although these all describe someone who isn’t religious some of them have slightly different meaning and connotations. Non-religious is self-explanatory. Secular is the one that most people don’t know the exact definition of. Secular, according to dictionary.com, is an adjective which describes nouns to be separate from religion. Secular has been used for a while, and doesn’t have any interesting connotations. However, the other two word are much more interesting.
Agnostic. What does it mean? In a religious context, it describes someone who is unsure about the existence of god. Being agnostic is mostly politically accepted. The main reason for this is that when someone claims that they are agnostic, it doesn’t imply that they don’t like religion, or that they may oppose the belief in god, but rather it means that they don’t know what to believe. Only the extremists of religions really find agnosticism to be an issue, since many of them believe it is necessary to believe the way they do in order to please their god or supreme being. This is very different from atheism, which is often associated with having a negative connotation due to the history of religion in the world.
Atheism. What is it? The only thing it means to be atheist is that you do not believe there is a god or supreme being. The definition demonstrates a bit more confidence in the absence of a god than the term agnostic and that’s where it runs into issues. There is nothing wrong with current atheism or atheists. However due to the history of what being an “atheist” meant in the past, it can be though of as negative by people who are religious. Being an atheist used to, and still does for some people, have the negative connotation of being something people claim to be just so that they can go and sin, meaning due drugs, and other bad things that are normally considered sins in major religions. This may have been true in the past but currently is not. Many atheists are pretty chill about their beliefs and in fact there are multiple kinds of atheists and theists based on slight differences in belief. In today’s society it is more politically OK to be an atheist since it isn’t frowned upon as much as it used to be. Although, it is important to not boast about being atheist in front of very religious people.
The graphic above shows that there are 2 main different types of atheists and theists. This graphic also suggests that someone can be agnostic and theist or atheist at the same time, which is hard for some people to understand. As the graphic says, being an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist is different from being Gnostic, since it suggests that the person described doesn’t have complete confidence that their belief is true. Gnostic theists and atheists claim to know that their belief, that god is real or fake, is set in stone true. This is a more accurate, yet simple, portrayal of the spectrum in which people believe, or don’t believe, in gods. Religious beliefs can be immensely complex so there is much left to consider, but I’ll leave the extra research up to you.
Sources: (National geographic article: The World’s Newest Major Religion, No Religion.) https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160422-atheism-agnostic-secular-nones-rising-religion/
Definitions from Dictionary.com