Agnosticism

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'''Agnosticism''' is one of two states.  Positivist agnosticism is a [[philosophical]] position stating that there can be no [[proof]] either way that a [[god]] does exist or does not exist (see also, [[skepticism]]).  Positivist agnostics believe that there may be a god, but that he/she is unknown or inherently unknowable.
  
'''Agnosticism''' is a [[philosophical]] position stating that there can be no [[proof]] either way that [[God]] exists or doesn't exist.  Agnostics believe that there may be a god, but that he/she is ultimately unknowable.
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Non-positivist agnosticism is the state of holding no particular convictions with regard to the existence of god(s).  This second form of agnosticism overlaps with [[weak atheism]].
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==Interpretations==
  
 
Agnosticism has two general meanings.
 
Agnosticism has two general meanings.
  
One is that knowledge of the divine is impossible. This definition is not to be mistaken with an alternative to atheism. Atheism and theism deal with belief, agnosticism and gnosticism deal with the basis for such belief. For example, agnostic atheism holds that knowledge of the divine is impossible(or currently unobtained) and thus belief in God is unjustified and illogical. On the other hand, agnostic theism is also perfectly valid. Any theist who says ‘just have faith’ is holding such a position, as they are admitting that they have no knowledge of whether a god or gods exist, and yet still believe despite of that. Gnostic atheism and theism are pretty much self-explanatory given that the definition of Gnostic to be ‘believing that knowledge of the existence or nonexistence of the divine is possible or currently held’. A gnostic atheist claims that he knows that god does not exist(or thinks one day such knowledge will be obtained), and thus believes that there is no god. A gnostic theist, on the other hand, believes in god because he claims to know the existence of god.
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# '''Knowledge of the divine is impossible.'''
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#: This definition is not to be taken as an alternative to [[strong atheism]]. Strong Atheism and [[theism]] deal with [[belief]], while agnosticism and [[gnosticism]] deal with the ''basis'' for such belief — in particular, [[knowledge]]. For example, [[agnostic atheism]] holds that knowledge of the divine is impossible (or currently lacking) and thus belief in any gods is unjustified and [[illogical]]. On the other hand, [[agnostic theism]] is also perfectly valid. Any theist who says ‘just have [[faith]]’ is holding such a position, as they are admitting that they have no knowledge of whether a god or gods exist and yet still believe. [[Gnostic atheism]] and [[gnostic theism]] are pretty much self-explanatory given that the definition of "gnostic" is ‘believing that knowledge of the existence or nonexistence of the divine is possible or currently held’. A gnostic atheist claims that he or she knows that a god does not exist (or thinks that one day such knowledge will be obtained), and thus believes that there is no god. A gnostic theist, on the other hand, believes in a god because he or she claims to know that the god exists.
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# '''Not believing in something without support.'''
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#: One can be agnostic about the existence of invisible immaterial pink leprechauns inside computers making them work (for example), because there is no evidence whatsoever that they exist. Assuming they ''do'' exist would be delusional. The logical default position must be that they don't exist unless evidence is found that they do. This is because the number of things we have no evidence of is essentially infinite: anyone could easily come up with hundreds of fantastical examples similar to the one above. In addition, there would remain an unending supply of ideas that no one has thought of yet. Believing in any particular such thing may not be illogical, but one simply cannot believe in ''everything'' until proven otherwise. Therefore, the default position is to not believe in anything, including gods, until or unless presented with sufficient evidence to cause one to believe. In the absence of such evidence, non-belief is the necessary default position. (The problem in this scheme is, of course, the definition of "sufficient evidence", which will differ from person to person.)
  
On the other hand, Agnosticism can be also used in a general sense: not believing in something without evidence. For example, agnosticism about the existence of invisible immaterial pink leprechauns inside computers, making it work. There is no evidence that they do not exist, yet assuming they do exist is almost delusional. As there is no evidence for them, the logical answer is that they don’t exist. The amount of things towards which we are agnostic about is infinite, including the infinite possibilities of extraneous things yes unthought of. Yet believing in such things is not illogical. Thus too, is belief in a god bounded. Unless strict and clear evidence is provided, non-belief is not illogical, in fact, it is the default logical choice.
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Often, people claim that they are agnostic because they lack conviction in a god and lack conviction in the idea that god does not exist. This is a correct usage of the term, and identical to the [[weak atheist]] state.  
  
Often, people claim that they are ‘Agnostic’. This is a misnomer, caused by a misunderstanding of Agnosticism, causing its use as a softened version of atheism, rather than its true meaning. What such people mean to claim, is that they are weak atheists, or negative atheists, who lack belief in god. Such a description applies to babies, and so on, people who have never heard of the idea of a god. Some would argue that agnostic better applies to people who simply don’t know what they believe yet than atheism. However, not knowing implies a lack of conviction. A belief is a conviction in something’s truth. If that conviction in the existence of god is lacking, at least implicit atheism describes such beliefs. Furthermore, that claim of simply lacking a belief in a god does not take somewhat of a middle ground. The fact that they lack belief in all gods they know of, means that they have rejected all the gods possible, which is a position of strong atheism, or disbelief, at least of all gods they know of. Therefore, all people who have no specific belief in god are strong atheists, at least towards the deities they know of. Thus, the only people who are complete weak atheists are babies, or people with no knowledge of any supposed deities.
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Such a description applies to people who have never heard of the idea of a god — e.g. babies, isolated tribes of people, etc, as well.  
  
The problem with this misunderstanding of Agnosticism is mainly due to this common scenario. Somebody asks ‘do you believe in god?’ and receives the answer ‘I’m agnostic’, meant ‘I don’t know’. However, the original question was not about knowledge, but about belief. However, as to the question ‘is there a god?’ I can logically remain agnostic, as this question deals with knowledge. To the infinitely many possible gods, however, implicit atheism is the only option, as strong atheism requires a specific disbelief in the possible deity, which in return requires specific characteristics for the deity be explained. In reference to a specific god, the position of strong atheism is perfectly valid, and possibly even gnostic atheism.
 
  
Also see: [[Atheist vs. agnostic]]
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==See also==
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*[[Atheist vs. agnostic]]
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{{Atheism}}
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[[Category:Philosophy]]

Revision as of 11:38, 23 July 2012

Agnosticism is one of two states. Positivist agnosticism is a philosophical position stating that there can be no proof either way that a god does exist or does not exist (see also, skepticism). Positivist agnostics believe that there may be a god, but that he/she is unknown or inherently unknowable.

Non-positivist agnosticism is the state of holding no particular convictions with regard to the existence of god(s). This second form of agnosticism overlaps with weak atheism.

Interpretations

Agnosticism has two general meanings.

  1. Knowledge of the divine is impossible.
    This definition is not to be taken as an alternative to strong atheism. Strong Atheism and theism deal with belief, while agnosticism and gnosticism deal with the basis for such belief — in particular, knowledge. For example, agnostic atheism holds that knowledge of the divine is impossible (or currently lacking) and thus belief in any gods is unjustified and illogical. On the other hand, agnostic theism is also perfectly valid. Any theist who says ‘just have faith’ is holding such a position, as they are admitting that they have no knowledge of whether a god or gods exist and yet still believe. Gnostic atheism and gnostic theism are pretty much self-explanatory given that the definition of "gnostic" is ‘believing that knowledge of the existence or nonexistence of the divine is possible or currently held’. A gnostic atheist claims that he or she knows that a god does not exist (or thinks that one day such knowledge will be obtained), and thus believes that there is no god. A gnostic theist, on the other hand, believes in a god because he or she claims to know that the god exists.
  2. Not believing in something without support.
    One can be agnostic about the existence of invisible immaterial pink leprechauns inside computers making them work (for example), because there is no evidence whatsoever that they exist. Assuming they do exist would be delusional. The logical default position must be that they don't exist unless evidence is found that they do. This is because the number of things we have no evidence of is essentially infinite: anyone could easily come up with hundreds of fantastical examples similar to the one above. In addition, there would remain an unending supply of ideas that no one has thought of yet. Believing in any particular such thing may not be illogical, but one simply cannot believe in everything until proven otherwise. Therefore, the default position is to not believe in anything, including gods, until or unless presented with sufficient evidence to cause one to believe. In the absence of such evidence, non-belief is the necessary default position. (The problem in this scheme is, of course, the definition of "sufficient evidence", which will differ from person to person.)

Often, people claim that they are agnostic because they lack conviction in a god and lack conviction in the idea that god does not exist. This is a correct usage of the term, and identical to the weak atheist state.

Such a description applies to people who have never heard of the idea of a god — e.g. babies, isolated tribes of people, etc, as well.


See also


v · d Atheism
Terminology   Etymology of the word atheist · Weak atheism · Strong atheism · Agnosticism · Atheist vs. agnostic · Tenets and dogma
Contemporary literature   The End of Faith · The God Delusion · God: The Failed Hypothesis · Letter to a Christian Nation · God Is Not Great · Irreligion · 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God
Classic literature   Why I Am Not a Christian
Atheist and secular groups   Atheist groups · Secular charities · How American Non-Atheists view Atheists
Contemporary authors   Richard Dawkins · Daniel Dennett · A. C. Grayling · Sam Harris · Guy P. Harrison · John Allen Paulos · James Randi · Victor Stenger
Internet non-believers   Reginald Vaughn Finley · PZ Myers
Writers and philosophers   David Hume · Robert Ingersoll · Friedrich Nietzsche · Bertrand Russell · Carl Sagan
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