Atheists: agnostic = "weak", gnostic = "strong"? Not so sure...

I'm aware of the difference between a "weak" atheist (does not believe there is a god) and a "strong" atheist (believes there is no god), and I also know the meanings of the terms "agnostic" and "gnostic" as they relate to atheism. I have read and been told many times that the two spectra are equal and parallel, as in an "agnostic atheist" is essentially a "weak atheist", and same for the other terms. However I'm not sure that this is right. If agnosticism is the view that the absolute truth / existence of god(s) is inherently unknowable, doesn't that leave room for an agnostic to also be a strong atheist? Even though it seems irrational in print to hold beliefs about what I believe is unknowable, I simply can't help the fact that I believe no gods or any supernatural entities have ever existed, yet also believe it's something that we can never be certain of. So my question is, are these spectra in fact NOT parallel, or is it a contradiction to call myself an "agnostic strong atheist"? Thanks, godless gurus!
Atheist Answer: 

Good question. After reading up on this I reckon I've stuffed it up at least once. I think I need to bring in yet another division to make good sense of it all: implicit and explicit atheism.

An implicit atheist is what I previously thought of as a weak atheist (my main mistake): someone who has not even thought about belief in gods. Very young children, some mentally challenged people and possibly some remote tribespeople would be implicit atheists.

An explicit atheist has thought about it, and has taken a position. That makes every self-identified atheist of any kind an explicit atheist (obvious also from the basic definition of "explicit").

A strong atheist is one who positively believes that there are no gods. A weak atheist is any atheist who is not a strong atheist, including implicit atheists. That means anyone who leaves room for the possibility of gods is a weak atheist.

A gnostic atheist believes it's possible to know whether gods exist, and obviously has decided that none do. Every gnostic atheist is plainly a strong atheist. However, not every strong atheist is a gnostic atheist.

An agnostic atheist accepts that we do not know, and possibly can never know, whether gods exist, but does not believe that they do. By contrast an agnostic theist or agnostic spiritualist does believe in something supernatural but accepts that it is unproven and unidentified. "Agnostic strong atheist" is not necessarily an oxymoron, because you can believe there are no gods despite accepting that you can never know for sure. This is no worse than believing in God in the absence of decent evidence. Congratulations, your preferred label is valid.

(To show you how confusing this can get, I'll admit that the last two paragraphs are a second draft. First time around, I came to the opposite conclusion! It was because I wrongly assumed that all strongs are gnostic just because all gnostics are strong.)

Take me for another example. While you are explicit, agnostic and strong, I'm explicit, agnostic and weak. I don't think it's impossible to know whether gods exist, but I don't think we currently do know. I'm not prepared to believe that there are no gods, although that's my opinion, but I certainly won't believe in any until substantive evidence becomes available. I'm open to God, gods or no gods, but I know which seems most likely.

So when a theist asks me, "How can you believe absolutely that there is no God without any evidence?" I can truthfully say, "I don't." (You, Goodnight, might have to think a bit more if asked the same question. As an exercise, would you please tell us how you would answer? I'm curious now.)

I call myself an agnostic atheist. I don't add "weak", frankly because nobody wants to be a weak anything. I find "agnostic" captures most of the same meaning anyway. Near enough is good enough.

- SmartLX

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