Ignosticism or igtheism is the idea that the question of the existence of God is meaningless because the term god has no coherent and unambiguous definition. It may also be described as the theological position that every other theological position (including agnosticism) assumes too much about the concept of god and many other theological concepts.

Some philosophers have seen ignosticism as a variation of agnosticism or atheism,[1] while others have considered it to be distinct. An ignostic maintains that they cannot even say whether he/she is a theist or an atheist until a better definition of theism is put forth.

Relationship to other views about God

Ignosticism and theological noncognitivism are generally synonymous,[2] but the relationship of ignosticism to other nontheistic views is less clear. While Paul Kurtz finds the view to be compatible with both weak atheism and agnosticism,[3] other philosophers consider ignosticism to be distinct.

In a chapter of his 1936 book Language, Truth, and Logic, A. J. Ayer argued that one could not speak of God's existence, or even the probability of God's existence, since the concept itself was unverifiable and thus nonsensical.[4] Ayer wrote that this ruled out atheism and agnosticism as well as theism because all three positions assume that the sentence "God exists" is meaningful.[5] Given the meaninglessness of theistic claims, Ayer opined that there was "no logical ground for antagonism between religion and natural science",[6] as theism alone does not entail any propositions which the scientific method can falsify.

Like Ayer, Theodore Drange sees atheism and agnosticism as positions that accept "God exists" as a meaningful proposition; atheists judge it to be "false or probably false" and agnostics consider it to be inconclusive until further evidence is met.[7] If Drange's definitions are accepted, ignostics are neither atheists nor agnostics. A simplified maxim on the subject states "An atheist would say, 'I don't believe God exists'; an agnostic would say, 'I don't know whether or not God exists'; and an ignostic would say, 'I don't know what you mean when you say, "God exists" '."

Ignosticism is not to be confused with apatheism, a position of apathy toward the existence of God. An apatheist may see the statement "God exists" as meaningless, yet they may also see it as meaningful, and perhaps even true.[8]

Dependence on a particular view concerning the word God

Drange emphasizes that any stance on "Does God exist?" is made with respect to a particular concept of what one claims to consider "God" to represent:

Since the word "God" has many different meanings, it is possible for the sentence "God exists" to express many different propositions. What we need to do is to focus on each proposition separately. … For each different sense of the term "God," there will be theists, atheists, and agnostics relative to that concept of God.[7]

As God means very different things to different people, when the word is spoken, an ignostic may seek to determine if something like a child's definition of a god is meant or if a theologian's is intended instead. A theistic child's concept generally has a simple and coherent meaning, based on an anthropomorphic conception of God.[9] Many philosophers and theologians have rejected this conception of God while affirming belief in another conception of God, including St. Augustine, Maimonides, St. Thomas Aquinas, Baruch Spinoza, and Søren Kierkegaard

See also


  1. "The Argument From Non-Cognitivism". http://www.strongatheism.net/library/atheology/argument_from_noncognitivism/. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  2. Conifer, Theological Noncognitivism: "Theological noncognitivism is usually taken to be the view that the sentence 'God exists' is cognitively meaningless."
  3. Kurtz, New Skepticism, 220: "Both [atheism and agnosticism] are consistent with igtheism, which finds the belief in a metaphysical, transcendent being basically incoherent and unintelligible."
  4. Ayer, Language, 115: "There can be no way of proving that the existence of a god … is even probable. … For if the existence of such a god were probable, then the proposition that he existed would be an empirical hypothesis. And in that case it would be possible to deduce from it, and other empirical hypotheses, certain experimental propositions which were not deducible from those other hypotheses alone. But in fact this is not possible."
  5. Ayer, Language, 115–16
  6. Ayer, Language, 117
  7. 7.0 7.1 Drange, Atheism
  8. Rauch, Let It Be: "… many apatheists are believers. … Even regular churchgoers can, and often do, rank quite high on the apatheism scale."
  9. Hanisch, Drawings


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