Jan 29, 2010

Agnosticism - Is it a form of belief?

Recently, I have been accused of being an atheist because my belief system does not conform to mainstream religious practice and is not absolute with respect to the bible and such.  Of course, life and belief is not that cut and dried.  There are many forms of belief, many views, many levels.  I admit that I am not a Sunday church goer, and there are many reasons for that, but that is my business.  As my friend DB over at Vagabond Journeys wrote:
  • "I will remain on the steps and not enter the temple because I've been inside and I know it is a magnificent and beautiful chamber of hypocrisy. Inside is preached the negation of life, the removal of the vital forces of existence, the degrading of the innocent, the veil that covers true holiness,. The great door of the temple is an invitation to enter the sanctum of false security, to relax into the arms of unreason, to join in the celebration of a paradigm of delivery to an unknown source and to emerge cleansed and purged of the need to affirm any responsibility for ignorance and wrong doing."

This caused me to do some thinking, and below are some salient points paraphrased from several websites.

Atheism can be the rejection of theism, or the position that deities do not exist. In the broadest sense, it is the absence of belief in the existence of deities.  Atheists tend to lean towards skepticism regarding supernatural claims, citing a lack of empirical evidence. Common rationales include the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, and the argument from nonbelief.

Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of certain claims—especially claims about the existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable.  Agnosticism can be defined in various ways, and is sometimes used to indicate doubt or a skeptical approach to questions. In some senses, agnosticism is a stance about the differences between belief and knowledge, rather than about any specific claim or belief.

An agnostic is a person who believes that the existence of a greater power, such as a god, cannot be proven or disproved; therefore an agnostic wallows in the complexity of the existence of higher beings. An agnostic uses a more scientific approach to their belief system. An agnostic knows that just because there is no physical proof of the existence of a higher being, it does not automatically mean that one does not exist. An agnostic views an atheist on the same plane as a religious zealot; often because the belief that human beings are the pinnacle of intelligence and there are few things that we do not or have the potential to understand.

An agnostic is often thought of as not committing to any beliefs. However, an agnostic can have faith in a god and still maintain that we can not know whether or not said god exists. These people then would be termed agnostic theists. There are also those who believe that we can not know if god exists and believe that he does not exist. These people would be termed agnostic atheists.

Agnostic views can also be termed as strong or weak. Strong agnostics believe that due to our nature we are unable to know the answers to spiritual questions of god's existence. Weak agnostics, on the other hand, believe that we do not currently know whether god exists but that it is possible we may know in the future.

I am a weak agnostic theist.  I practice my beliefs, and I do have them, in the privacy of my mind and my home.  That is my choice, and I do not believe anyone has the right to judge me.  If I have offended you with this entry, I acknowledge that possibility, but make no apologies. 


  1. i feel that my classroom is my church and that is where i serve the greatest good for the greatest number of people. i subscribe to a very pragmatic approach to many things in life and have studied a little kant. i really like how he explained free will and the idea of a moral imperative. i believe mankind is intelligent enough to know and understand what the moral imperative is without the guidance of a higher authority or power. we only have to have to courage and the foresight to do the right thing when called upon to do so.

    i believe in doing the right thing because it's what is right, not because it is what pleases or appeases the supreme being/power. i think that would put me in the strong agnostic atheist category.

    i think my break came around 9-10 years old. i tried to reclaim the belief in my early years of high school and i just couldnt do it, couldnt rationalize it out.

    i cant believe in a god that allows children to suffer and be abused, or that tells me i have to forgive people that did these things to me in order to ascend to the kingdom, or that my abusers can ascend too if they ask for forgiveness from a higher power, especially when they have flat out lied/ denied about the abuse in the plane of our regular existence.

    ps i love when you do these posts, they really make me think in the same way beth's political entries too. thanks for a lively discourse.


  2. Great post, Ken! I'm an agnostic. I've tried to be Christian in the past, but the simple fact is that it's not in me. I can't see how the existence of god can be *known* at this time. Like you, however, I cannot guess the future.. and whenever I've tried, I've largely failed, and so I can't say that we'll never know. But I can say with reasonable certainty that we won't know until we do!

    Gnosticism is the assertion that the existence of a god can be known. I've known a few people whose entire argument for the existence of a god revolves around them claiming to *know* god exists. Enter Douglas Adams (of Hitch-hiker's Guide fame) asserting, reasonably, that proof DENIES faith, and without faith god can't exist.. ergo "god vanishes in a puff of logic" :o)

    Of course, this doesn't mean that I don't WANT there to be a god, come the end. If there is anything after this life, then I do hope I'm allowed to watch at least one individual cast into the fiery pit of hell! ;o)

    Your beliefs are yours, Ken. I respect them all, and in broad terms I think I probably share most of them. And if/when we deviate significantly in our core beliefs, I will nevertheless respect you, and I will always want to hear what you have to say, because my experience is that you think and that you rationalise, and what you have to say is invariably well qualified. :)

  3. Anyone who says they can be sure there is a God is a liar. It is unprovable--ergo a matter of "faith." One may believe, but one cannot know. The certainty with some religious people operate is one of mankind's worst toxins.
    Equally, anyone who says they can disprove the existence of God is a liar. It is unprovable.
    Personally, I believe the idea that there is a God is a sliver more believable (or slightly less ridiculous) than the idea that there is no God at all. I've founnd you can drive a truck through that sliver of doubt.

  4. Wow! Thank you for this thoughtful post on a very complex and controversial topic.

  5. Ken - you address an issue I haven't tried to argue for many years. I have always been a non-believer and have been calling myself an atheist. The atheist vs agnostic vs "you are going to hell" theme has played itself out (in my mind) 60 years ago in my college days. Back then it was always fun to bait each other into philosophical arguments. Especially those who were of the "born again" variety. After all these years, I realise that nobody is going to change anybody's mind.

    What I really should call myself is ant-religious. What I really cannot stand is hypocrits - all the holier-than-thou people judging me and telling me how to live and think. I believe that you and I, and all the people who have commented (so far) are very good, honest, and christian people. Note the small c christian. One can live a good christian style life, respecting people and treating them as Christ has taught (common sense), without being a Christian (cap c). I believe in live, and let live, and mind your own business.

    Whether or not there is a god, or God, I do not know, nor do I care. If I have been wrong all my life, I am sure the "master entity" will know I have been at least intellectually honest.

    Throughout the history of the human race, religion has been very destructive and evil, in spite of its claim to the opposite. And it is still going on, especially in the mideast. And they are trying to bring it here.

    Yet, I repect everyone elses right to believe what they want - as long as they leave me out of it.

    Ken and other commenters - good blog and responses. I agree with all of you.

  6. Hi Ken,
    Interesting post. There's a real paradox here -- that an agnostic can have faith in God but still question God's existence. But maybe that's the most people can hope for these days unless they're willing to suspend disbelief.

  7. Atheism and Agnosticism are interesting philosophies to attempt to define. I consider myself both. I am agnostic about everything. Absolutely everything. It is my position that it is impossible for us to truly know anything at all. I don't know that the sun is going to come up tomorrow. I do, however, accept it as fact that it is. My acceptance of the prediction (that the sun will rise tomorrow) is based upon multiple different modes of exploration, including, but not restricted to an understanding of the current models of physics and celestial mechanics, and my own personal experience. The sun has come up every day of my life so far, and no one has offered any cogent reason why tomorrow will be any different. Likewise, gravity. If I hold a pen at arms length, and let go, I am certain it will drop to the floor. I cannot know with absolute certainty that it will, but based on all I understand about the way the world works, I am confident in predicting that it will fall. I feel the same way about the concept of a god. I cannot know whether or not one exists, but based upon my understanding of the world, and my understanding of religious thought, theology, and dogma, I am quite confident in my prediction that when I die, that'll be all she wrote, folks.

  8. I normally don't touch the subject of Religion. I was born and raised a Catholic. I'm not a church goer anymore for my personal reasons.

    I've had my disbeliefs and my beliefs.

    Everyone has their choice when it comes to Religion.

    Hugs, Rose

  9. Hi Ken, great post! You know I'm n out of the box thinker. I'm a strong Atheist, with elements of Wicca, Buddhism, and humanism thrown in for good measure.

    I think Agnosticism should be a part of any healthy spiritual path. None of us should pretend we could know such things. Even if we did think we knew it all, we still couldn't be sure that was everything. I'll stick with science any day, over any established religion.


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