What do people mean when they say they are “Agnostic”? Is it a bona fide philosophical position, or just a term used to describe atheism without all the negative connotations of that word?

According to dictionary.com, an agnostic is…

  1. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.
  2. One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.

It seems to me that skepticism about the existence of God is a facet of “true atheism”. Coming outright and saying “God doesn’t exist” is no different than saying “God does exist”. Neither position can really be proven. You may think differently, and if so leave a comment.
I would be accurately described as a “weak atheist”. From Introduction to Atheism:

Weak atheism is the sceptical “default position” to take; it asserts nothing.

That sounds to me like what definitions #1 and #2 are advocating. Now I’m not calling agnostics a bunch of liars and wimps for not coming out as atheists. Sometimes it’s better if you really are just a weak atheist to call yourself agnostic. In some parts of America the “a-word” has extremely negative connotations.

I, however, will continue to call myself an atheist.