Agnostic people need to pick a side. I think they’re all secretly either atheist or spiritual.
Let’s start with the atheist ones. Why don’t they just call themselves atheist?
Agnostic people like to say “I’m agnostic because I’m not sure whether God exists. I’m open to the possibility.”
Okay. But by that logic, you’re agnostic about way more things than just God.
To take a classic and oft-cited example, it’s possible that the tooth fairy exists. If a live Tooth Fairy appeared in front of me, and other people they could see and hear her too, I might start to believe in her.
However, I don’t go around telling people I’m agnostic about the tooth fairy. We can just assume she doesn’t exist.
Likewise, there is no need for me to say I’m agnostic about God (or Santa, the Easter bunny, etc.), even though I would consider believing in him if there were any evidence.
Perhaps agnostics-who-are-actually-atheist think “agnostic” sounds less offensive to religious people. This was, in fact, the main reason why the word “agnostic” came about.
According to Tom Wolfe in The Kingdom of Speech (chapter two), biologist and early Darwin supporter Thomas Huxley coined the term:
“No one dared flaunt such a loaded term [as ‘atheist’], of course. Huxley said he was not an atheist but an agnostic. He made up the word. An agnostic, he said, was the opposite of a gnostic. Gnostics held an early Christian and even pre-Christian belief that people should separate knowledge of the material world from the only true knowledge: the spiritual. An agnostic like him wasn’t even sure there was a God.”
And sure, that made sense back then, in Victorian England. But now that atheism no longer dooms you to being a social outcast, there’s no reason to stick to the watered-down label “agnostic.”
Why not embrace what you really are?
The other type of agnostic is someone who’s actually spiritual. These people think, or hope (and let hope delude them into believing) that something God-like exists. They just don’t want to say so.
Why won’t they state their beliefs outright?
Perhaps agnostics-who-are-actually-spiritual can sense I’m an atheist, so they tell me they’re agnostic while telling their religious/spiritual friends they’re spiritual. That way they can avoid being judged by anyone—or so they think. (The religious people and I will both be judgmental anyway.)
Conclusion Agnostic people are most likely either atheist and confused, or spiritual and in the closet about it.
Update—Aug. 13, 2022: My original words (crossed out above) are too harsh—my apologies. As a friend pointed out, agnostic people aren’t necessarily duplicitious; their position on God is best summarized as “Ya, maybe, I dunno.” Lots of them just haven’t thought about it much. (I don’t get how—if there was a god, wouldn’t that be kind of important??—but oh well. Live and let live.)
Because I was raised Christian, “God” is the one I’m most accustomed to questioning. I went with capital-g God in this post because I’m referring to the singular Abrahamic God.
My atheistic reasoning applies equally to all religions, of course. To quote Richard Dawkins, “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”