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{{distinguish|Gnosticism}}{{short description|view that the existence of any deity is unknown or unknowable}}{{Over-quotation}}{{good article}}{{use mdy dates|date=June 2014}}{{Irreligion sidebar |agnosticism}}{{Certainty}}Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable.ENCYCLOPEDIA, Agnosticism, Ronald W., Hepburn, MacMillan Reference USA (Gale), Donald M. Borchert, 1967, 2005, 2nd, Encyclopedia of Philosophy, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1, 92, 0-02-865780-2, In the most general use of the term, agnosticism is the view that we do not know whether there is a God or not., (page 56 in 1967 edition)ENCYCLOPEDIA,weblink Agnosticism, William L., Rowe, William L. Rowe, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 978-0-415-07310-3, Taylor & Francis, 1998, Edward Craig, In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in God, whereas an atheist disbelieves in God. In the strict sense, however, agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist. In so far as one holds that our beliefs are rational only if they are sufficiently supported by human reason, the person who accepts the philosophical position of agnosticism will hold that neither the belief that God exists nor the belief that God does not exist is rational., DICTIONARY, OED Online, 3rd ed., agnostic, agnosticism, Oxford University Press, September 2012, agnostic. : A. n[oun]. :# A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of immaterial things, especially of the existence or nature of God. :# In extended use: a person who is not persuaded by or committed to a particular point of view; a sceptic. Also: person of indeterminate ideology or conviction; an equivocator. : B. adj[ective]. :# Of or relating to the belief that the existence of anything beyond and behind material phenomena is unknown and (as far as can be judged) unknowable. Also: holding this belief. :# a. In extended use: not committed to or persuaded by a particular point of view; sceptical. Also: politically or ideologically unaligned; non-partisan, equivocal. agnosticism n. The doctrine or tenets of agnostics with regard to the existence of anything beyond and behind material phenomena or to knowledge of a First Cause or God., Another definition provided is the view that "human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist."The English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley coined the word agnostic in 1869, and said "It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe."Earlier thinkers, however, had written works that promoted agnostic points of view, such as Sanjaya Belatthaputta, a 5th-century BCE Indian philosopher who expressed agnosticism about any afterlife;WEB,weblink Samaññaphala Sutta: The Fruits of the Contemplative Life, a part of the Digha Nikaya translated in 1997 by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, If you ask me if there exists another world (after death), ... I don't think so. I don't think in that way. I don't think otherwise. I don't think not. I don't think not not.,weblink" title="">weblink February 9, 2014, no, mdy, Bhaskar (1972).BOOK, Lloyd Ridgeon, Major World Religions: From Their Origins To The Present,weblink March 13, 2003, Taylor & Francis, 978-0-203-42313-4, 63–, and Protagoras, a 5th-century BCE Greek philosopher who expressed agnosticism about the existence of "the gods".ENCYCLOPEDIA,weblink The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy â€“ Protagoras (c. 490 â€“ c. 420 BCE), July 22, 2013,weblink" title="">weblink February 10, 2014, While the pious might wish to look to the gods to provide absolute moral guidance in the relativistic universe of the Sophistic Enlightenment, that certainty also was cast into doubt by philosophic and sophistic thinkers, who pointed out the absurdity and immorality of the conventional epic accounts of the gods. Protagoras' prose treatise about the gods began "Concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not or of what sort they may be. Many things prevent knowledge including the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life.", no, mdy, WEB,weblink Progress of Atheism in India: A Historical Perspective, Atheist Centre 1940–1990 Golden Jubilee, February 1990, June 29, 2014, Patri, Umesh and Prativa Devi,weblink" title="">weblink September 25, 2013, yes, mdy, BOOK, Trevor Treharne, How to Prove God Does Not Exist: The Complete Guide to Validating Atheism,weblink 2012, Universal-Publishers, 978-1-61233-118-8, 34 ff, BOOK, Helmut Schwab, Essential Writings: A Journey Through Time: A Modern "De Rerum Natura",weblink December 10, 2012, iUniverse, 978-1-4759-6026-6, 77 ff, Agnosticism is the doctrine or (wikt:tenet|tenet) of agnostics with regard to the existence of anything beyond and behind material phenomena or to knowledge of a First Cause or God,{{OED|agnosticism}} and is not a religion.{{TOC limit|4}}

Defining agnosticism

Wikisource has the full text of the article (:Wikisource: Essays upon some Controverted Questions/IX|here.)
BOOK, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion,weblink January 16, 2008, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 978-0-547-34866-7, 72–, |Thomas Henry Huxley}}Being a scientist, above all else, Huxley presented agnosticism as a form of demarcation. A hypothesis with no supporting, objective, testable evidence is not an objective, scientific claim. As such, there would be no way to test said hypotheses, leaving the results inconclusive. His agnosticism was not compatible with forming a belief as to the truth, or falsehood, of the claim at hand. Karl Popper would also describe himself as an agnostic.Edward Zerin: Karl Popper On God: The Lost Interview. Skeptic 6:2 (1998) According to philosopher William L. Rowe, in this strict sense, agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist.George H. Smith, while admitting that the narrow definition of atheist was the common usage definition of that word,George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God, pg. 9 and admitting that the broad definition of agnostic was the common usage definition of that word,George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God, pg. 12 promoted broadening the definition of atheist and narrowing the definition of agnostic. Smith rejects agnosticism as a third alternative to theism and atheism and promotes terms such as agnostic atheism (the view of those who do not believe in the existence of any deity, but do not claim to know if a deity does or does not exist) and agnostic theism (the view of those who do not claim to know of the existence of any deity, but still believe in such an existence).BOOK,weblink Atheism: The Case Against God, George H, Smith, George H. Smith, 10–11, Properly considered, agnosticism is not a third alternative to theism and atheism because it is concerned with a different aspect of religious belief. Theism and atheism refer to the presence or absence of belief in a god; agnosticism refers to the impossibility of knowledge with regard to a god or supernatural being. The term agnostic does not, in itself, indicate whether or not one believes in a god. Agnosticism can be either theistic or atheistic., 1979, 978-0-87975-124-1, BOOK, The Ascent of Faith: or, the Grounds of Certainty in Science and Religion, 1894, Alexander James, Harrison, Hodder and Stroughton, London, 21, 7234849, 21834002M,weblink Let Agnostic Theism stand for that kind of Agnosticism which admits a Divine existence; Agnostic Atheism for that kind of Agnosticism which thinks it does not., BOOK, Barker, Dan, Dan Barker, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists, 2008, New York, Ulysses Press, 978-1-56975-677-5, 24313839M, 96,weblink People are invariably surprised to hear me say I am both an atheist and an agnostic, as if this somehow weakens my certainty. I usually reply with a question like, "Well, are you a Republican or an American?" The two words serve different concepts and are not mutually exclusive. Agnosticism addresses knowledge; atheism addresses belief. The agnostic says, "I don't have a knowledge that God exists." The atheist says, "I don't have a belief that God exists." You can say both things at the same time. Some agnostics are atheistic and some are theistic.,


Agnostic ({{ety|grc|ἀ- (a-)|without||(wikt:γνῶσις|γνῶσις) (gnōsis)|knowledge}}) was used by Thomas Henry Huxley in a speech at a meeting of the Metaphysical Society in 1869 to describe his philosophy, which rejects all claims of spiritual or mystical knowledge.BOOK, Dixon, Thomas, Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2008, Oxford, 63, 978-0-19-929551-7, ENCYCLOPEDIA, Antony, Flew, Agnosticism,weblink Encyclopædia Britannica, December 15, 2011, Early Christian church leaders used the Greek word gnosis (knowledge) to describe "spiritual knowledge". Agnosticism is not to be confused with religious views opposing the ancient religious movement of Gnosticism in particular; Huxley used the term in a broader, more abstract sense.WEB, ag·nos·tic, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011,weblink November 15, 2013, Huxley identified agnosticism not as a creed but rather as a method of skeptical, evidence-based inquiry.BOOK,weblink Aphorisms and Reflections, Henrietta A., Huxley, Kessinger Publishing, 2004, reprint, 41–42, 978-1-4191-0730-6, In recent years, scientific literature dealing with neuroscience and psychology has used the word to mean "not knowable".Oxford English Dictionary, Additions Series, 1993In technical and marketing literature, "agnostic" can also mean independence from some parameters—for example, "platform agnostic"WEB
, What Does Platform Agnostic Mean?
, Levy
, Sophie Woodrooffe and Dan
, Sparksheet
, September 9, 2012
, November 15, 2013
,weblink" title="">weblink
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, or "hardware agnostic".WEB, Datacenter Dynamics, EMC AND NETAPP â€“ A SOFTWARE-DEFINED STORAGE BATTLE: Interoperability no longer matter of choice for big storage vendors,weblink Yevgeniy Sverdlik, July 31, 2013, November 15, 2013,weblink" title="">weblink June 20, 2014, yes, mdy,

Qualifying agnosticism

Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume contended that meaningful statements about the universe are always qualified by some degree of doubt. He asserted that the fallibility of human beings means that they cannot obtain absolute certainty except in trivial cases where a statement is true by definition (e.g. tautologies such as "all bachelors are unmarried" or "all triangles have three corners").Hume, David, "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" (1748)


Strong agnosticism (also called "hard", "closed", "strict", or "permanent agnosticism"): The view that the question of the existence or nonexistence of a deity or deities, and the nature of ultimate reality is unknowable by reason of our natural inability to verify any experience with anything but another subjective experience. A strong agnostic would say, "I cannot know whether a deity exists or not, and neither can you."BOOK, Oppy, Graham, Arguing about Gods,weblink September 4, 2006, Cambridge University Press, 978-1-139-45889-4, 15–,
BOOK, Michael H. Barnes, In The Presence of Mystery: An Introduction To The Story Of Human Religiousness,weblink 2003, Twenty-Third Publications, 978-1-58595-259-5, 3–, BOOK, Robin Le Poidevin, Agnosticism: A Very Short Introduction,weblink October 28, 2010, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-161454-5, 32–,
Weak agnosticism (also called "soft", "open", "empirical", or "temporal agnosticism"): The view that the existence or nonexistence of any deities is currently unknown but is not necessarily unknowable; therefore, one will withhold judgment until evidence, if any, becomes available. A weak agnostic would say, "I don't know whether any deities exist or not, but maybe one day, if there is evidence, we can find something out."
Apathetic agnosticism: The view that no amount of debate can prove or disprove the existence of one or more deities, and if one or more deities exist, they do not appear to be concerned about the fate of humans. Therefore, their existence has little to no impact on personal human affairs and should be of little interest.WEB,weblink Commentary on the Articles of Faith, John Tyrrell, 1996, To believe in the existence of a god is an act of faith. To believe in the nonexistence of a god is likewise an act of faith. There is no verifiable evidence that there is a Supreme Being nor is there verifiable evidence there is not a Supreme Being. Faith is not knowledge. We can only state with assurance that we do not know.,weblink" title="">weblink 2007-08-07, WEB,weblink Austin Cline, What is Apathetic Agnosticism?, {{Failed verification|date=February 2019}}Rauch, Jonathan, Let It Be: Three Cheers for Apatheism, The Atlantic Monthly, May 2003


Hindu philosophy

{{See also|Sanjaya Belatthaputta}}Throughout the history of Hinduism there has been a strong tradition of philosophic speculation and skepticism.BOOK, World scriptures: an introduction to comparative religions, Kramer, Kenneth, 978-0-8091-2781-8, 1986,weblink 34, WEB
, Subodh Varma
, The gods came afterwards
, The Times of India
, May 6, 2011
, June 9, 2011
,weblink" title="">weblink
, November 5, 2015
, no
, mdy
, The Rig Veda takes an agnostic view on the fundamental question of how the universe and the gods were created. Nasadiya Sukta (Creation Hymn) in the tenth chapter of the Rig Veda says:BOOK, Kenneth Kramer, World Scriptures: An Introduction to Comparative Religions,weblink January 1986, Paulist Press, 978-0-8091-2781-8, 34–, BOOK, Christian, David, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History,weblink September 1, 2011, University of California Press, 978-0-520-95067-2, 18–, BOOK, Upinder Singh, A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century,weblink 2008, Pearson Education India, 978-81-317-1120-0, 206–,

Hume, Kant, and Kierkegaard

, Aristotle on the existence of God
, February 9, 2014
,weblink" title="">weblink
, May 30, 2014
, no
, mdy
, Anselm,WEB
, Internet History Sourcebooks Project
, February 9, 2014
,weblink" title="">weblink
, May 31, 2014
, no
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, ENCYCLOPEDIA,weblink Saint Anselm, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, June 29, 2014, Williams, Thomas, 2013, Spring 2013,weblink" title="">weblink December 2, 2013, no, mdy, Aquinas,WEB
, Internet History Sourcebooks Project
, February 9, 2014
,weblink" title="">weblink
, August 14, 2014
, no
, mdy
, BOOK, Owens, Joseph, Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Existence of God: The Collected Papers of Joseph Owens,weblink 1980, SUNY Press, 978-0-87395-401-3, Descartes,WEB
, Descartes' Proof for the Existence of God
, February 9, 2014
,weblink" title="">weblink
, February 22, 2014
, yes
, mdy
, and Gödelpresented arguments attempting to rationally prove the existence of God. The skeptical empiricism of David Hume, the antinomies of Immanuel Kant, and the existential philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard convinced many later philosophers to abandon these attempts, regarding it impossible to construct any unassailable proof for the existence or non-existence of God.ENCYCLOPEDIA,weblink Agnosticism, William L., Rowe, William L. Rowe, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 978-0-415-07310-3, Taylor & Francis, 1998, Edward Craig, yes,weblink" title="">weblink July 22, 2011, April 17, 2012, In his 1844 book, Philosophical Fragments, Kierkegaard writes:Kierkegaard, Søren. Philosophical Fragments. Ch. 3Hume was Huxley's favourite philosopher, calling him "the Prince of Agnostics".A Hundred Years of British Philosophy, By Rudolf Metz, pg. 111 Diderot wrote to his mistress, telling of a visit by Hume to the Baron D'Holbach, and describing how a word for the position that Huxley would later describe as agnosticism didn't seem to exist, or at least wasn't common knowledge, at the time.

United Kingdom

Charles Darwin

File:Charles Darwin seated crop.jpg|thumb|upright|Charles DarwinCharles DarwinRaised in a religious environment, Charles Darwin (1809-1882) studied to be an Anglican clergyman. While eventually doubting parts of his faith, Darwin continued to help in church affairs, even while avoiding church attendance. Darwin stated that it would be "absurd to doubt that a man might be an ardent theist and an evolutionist".Letter 12041 – Darwin, C. R. to Fordyce, John, May 7, 1879. weblink" title="">Archived from the original on June 29, 2014.Darwin's Complex loss of Faith The Guardian September 17, 2009. weblink" title="">Archived from the original on June 29, 2014 Although reticent about his religious views, in 1879 he wrote that "I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. – I think that generally ... an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind."WEB,weblink Darwin Correspondence Project – Belief: historical essay, November 25, 2008,weblink" title="">weblink February 25, 2009,

Thomas Henry Huxley

File:ThomasHenryHuxley.jpg|thumb|upright|Thomas Henry HuxleyThomas Henry HuxleyAgnostic views are as old as philosophical skepticism, but the terms agnostic and agnosticism were created by Huxley (1825-1895) to sum up his thoughts on contemporary developments of metaphysics about the "unconditioned" (William Hamilton) and the "unknowable" (Herbert Spencer). Though Huxley began to use the term "agnostic" in 1869, his opinions had taken shape some time before that date. In a letter of September 23, 1860, to Charles Kingsley, Huxley discussed his views extensively:BOOK, Thomas Henry Huxley, Thomas Henry Huxley, The Major Prose of Thomas Henry Huxley,weblink 1997, University of Georgia Press, 978-0-8203-1864-6, 357–, BOOK, Leonard Huxley, Thomas Henry Huxley A Character Sketch,weblink February 7, 2012, tredition, 978-3-8472-0297-4, 41–, And again, to the same correspondent, May 6, 1863:BOOK, Leonard Huxley, Thomas Henry Huxley, Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley,weblink December 22, 2011, Cambridge University Press, 978-1-108-04045-7, 347–, Of the origin of the name agnostic to describe this attitude, Huxley gave the following account:BOOK, Collected Essays, Vol. V: Science and Christian Tradition, Thomas, Huxley, 1-85506-922-9, Macmillan and Co 1893, 237–239, In 1889, Huxley wrote:Therefore, although it be, as I believe, demonstrable that we have no real knowledge of the authorship, or of the date of composition of the Gospels, as they have come down to us, and that nothing better than more or less probable guesses can be arrived at on that subject.BOOK, Huxley, Thomas Henry, Thomas Henry Huxley, Essays Upon Some Controverted Questions,weblink 1892, Macmillan, 364, Agnosticism And Christianity, Agnosticism And Christianity: Therefore, although it be, as I believe, demonstrable that we have no real knowledge of the authorship, or of the date of composition of the Gospels, as they have come down to us, and that nothing better than more or less probable guesses can be arrived at on that subject. (Image of p. 364 at Google Books),

William Stewart Ross

William Stewart Ross (1844-1906) wrote under the name of Saladin. He was associated with Victorian Freethinkers and the organization the British Secular Union. He edited the Secular Review from 1882; it was renamed Agnostic Journal and Eclectic Review and closed in 1907. Ross championed agnosticism in opposition to the atheism of Charles Bradlaugh as an open-ended spiritual exploration.Alastair Bonnett 'The Agnostic Saladin' History Today, 2013, 63,2, pp. 47–52In Why I am an Agnostic (c. 1889) he claims that agnosticism is "the very reverse of atheism".BOOK, William Stewart Ross, Joseph Taylor, Why I Am an Agnostic: Being a Manual of Agnosticism,weblink 1889, W. Stewart & Company,

Bertrand Russell

File:Russell1907-2.jpg|thumb|upright|Bertrand RussellBertrand RussellBertrand Russell (1872-1970) declared Why I Am Not a Christian in 1927, a classic statement of agnosticism.WEB,weblink Why I Am Not A Christian, by Bertrand Russell,, March 6, 1927, February 9, 2014,weblink" title="">weblink March 1, 2014, no, mdy, BOOK, Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects,weblink 1992, Routledge, 978-0-415-07918-1, He calls upon his readers to "stand on their own two feet and look fair and square at the world with a fearless attitude and a free intelligence".BOOK, Donald E. Smith, The Hopeful Agnostic: What I Believe â€“ I Guess,weblink February 2012, AuthorHouse, 978-1-4685-4459-6, 15–, In 1939, Russell gave a lecture on The existence and nature of God, in which he characterized himself as an atheist. He said:BOOK, Russell, Bertrand, Collected Papers, Vol 10, 255, However, later in the same lecture, discussing modern non-anthropomorphic concepts of God, Russell states:Collected Papers, Vol. 10, p.258In Russell's 1947 pamphlet, Am I An Atheist or an Agnostic? (subtitled A Plea For Tolerance in the Face of New Dogmas), he ruminates on the problem of what to call himself:BOOK, Ken Ewell, Traveling with Philosophes,weblink August 27, 2006, iUniverse, 978-0-595-85361-8, 348–, BOOK, Bertrand Russell, Last Philosophical Testament: 1943–68,weblink 1997, Psychology Press, 978-0-415-09409-2, 91–, In his 1953 essay, What Is An Agnostic? Russell states:BOOK, Bertrand Russell, The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell,weblink March 2, 2009, Routledge, 978-1-134-02867-2, 557–, BOOK, Victor Robert Farrell, Wake Up! â€“ Dynamite for the Daytime,weblink, 978-0-9538864-2-5, 367–, Later in the essay, Russell adds:WEB,weblink 'What Is an agnostic?' by Bertrand Russell,, February 2, 2014,weblink" title="">weblink August 22, 2013, no, mdy,

Leslie Weatherhead

{{See also|Christian agnosticism}}In 1965 Christian theologian Leslie Weatherhead (1893–1976) published The Christian Agnostic, in which he argues:BOOK, Weatherhead, Leslie D., The Christian Agnostic,weblink September 1990, Abingdon Press, 978-0-687-06980-4, Although radical and unpalatable to conventional theologians, Weatherhead's agnosticism falls far short of Huxley's, and short even of weak agnosticism:

United States

Robert G. Ingersoll

File:RobertGIngersoll.jpg|thumb|Robert G. IngersollRobert G. IngersollRobert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899), an Illinois lawyer and politician who evolved into a well-known and sought-after orator in 19th-century America, has been referred to as the "Great Agnostic".JOURNAL, Brandt, Eric T., and Timothy Larsen, The Old Atheism Revisited: Robert G. Ingersoll and the Bible, Journal of the Historical Society, 11, 2, 2011, 211–238, 10.1111/j.1540-5923.2011.00330.x, In an 1896 lecture titled Why I Am An Agnostic, Ingersoll related why he was an agnostic:WEB,weblink Why I Am Agnostic,, February 2, 2014, In the conclusion of the speech he simply sums up the agnostic position as:In 1885 Ingersoll explained his comparative view of agnosticism and atheism as follows:BOOK, Jacoby, Susan, 2013, The Great Agnostic, Yale University Press, 17, 978-0-300-13725-5, {{See also|Physical determinism}}

Bernard Iddings Bell

Canon Bernard Iddings Bell (1886-1958), a popular cultural commentator, Episcopal priest, and author, lauded the necessity of agnosticism in Beyond Agnosticism: A Book for Tired Mechanists, calling it the foundation of "all intelligent Christianity."WEB,weblink The Good News, by Bernard Iddings Bell (1921),, 2019-02-21, Agnosticism was a temporary mindset in which one rigorously questioned the truths of the age, including the way in which one believed God.BOOK, The religious roots of postmodernism in American culture: an analysis of the postmodern theory of Bernard Iddings Bell and its continued relevance to contemporary postmodern theory and literary criticism., Brauer, Kristen D., University of Glasgow, 2007, Glasgow, Scotland, 32, His view of Robert Ingersoll and Thomas Paine was that they were not denouncing true Christianity but rather "a gross perversion of it." Part of the misunderstanding stemmed from ignorance of the concepts of God and religion.BOOK, Unfashionable Convictions, Bell, Bernard Iddings, Harper & Brothers, 1931, New York and London, 20, Historically, a god was any real, perceivable force that ruled the lives of humans and inspired admiration, love, fear, and homage; religion was the practice of it. Ancient peoples worshiped gods with real counterparts, such as Mammon (money and material things), Nabu (rationality), or Ba'al (violent weather); Bell argued that modern peoples were still paying homage—with their lives and their children's lives—to these old gods of wealth, physical appetites, and self-deification.BOOK, Beyond Agnosticism, Bell, Bernard Iddings, Harper & Brothers, 1929, New York and London, 12–19, Thus, if one attempted to be agnostic passively, he or she would incidentally join the worship of the world's gods.In Unfashionable Convictions (1931), he criticized the Enlightenment's complete faith in human sensory perception, augmented by scientific instruments, as a means of accurately grasping Reality. Firstly, it was fairly new, an innovation of the Western World, which Aristotle invented and Thomas Aquinas revived among the scientific community. Secondly, the divorce of "pure" science from human experience, as manifested in American Industrialization, had completely altered the environment, often disfiguring it, so as to suggest its insufficiency to human needs. Thirdly, because scientists were constantly producing more data—to the point where no single human could grasp it all at once—it followed that human intelligence was incapable of attaining a complete understanding of universe; therefore, to admit the mysteries of the unobserved universe was to be actually scientific.Bell believed that there were two other ways that humans could perceive and interact with the world. Artistic experience was how one expressed meaning through speaking, writing, painting, gesturing—any sort of communication which shared insight into a human's inner reality. Mystical experience was how one could "read" people and harmonize with them, being what we commonly call love.BOOK, Unfashionable Convictions, Bell, Bernard Iddings, Harper & Brothers, 1931, New York and London, 4–5, In summary, man was a scientist, artist, and lover. Without exercising all three, a person became "lopsided."Bell considered a humanist to be a person who cannot rightly ignore the other ways of knowing. However, humanism, like agnosticism, was also temporal, and would eventually lead to either scientific materialism or theism. He lays out the following thesis:
  1. Truth cannot be discovered by reasoning on the evidence of scientific data alone. Modern peoples' dissatisfaction with life is the result of depending on such incomplete data. Our ability to reason is not a way to discover Truth but rather a way to organize our knowledge and experiences somewhat sensibly. Without a full, human perception of the world, one's reason tends to lead them in the wrong direction.
  2. Beyond what can be measured with scientific tools, there are other types of perception, such as one's ability know another human through loving. One's loves cannot be dissected and logged in a scientific journal, but we know them far better than we know the surface of the sun. They show us an undefinable reality that is nevertheless intimate and personal, and they reveal qualities lovelier and truer than detached facts can provide.
  3. To be religious, in the Christian sense, is to live for the Whole of Reality (God) rather than for a small part (gods). Only by treating this Whole of Reality as a person—good and true and perfect—rather than an impersonal force, can we come closer to the Truth. An ultimate Person can be loved, but a cosmic force cannot. A scientist can only discover peripheral truths, but a lover is able to get at the Truth.
  4. There are many reasons to believe in God but they are not sufficient for an agnostic to become a theist. It is not enough to believe in an ancient holy book, even though when it is accurately analyzed without bias, it proves to be more trustworthy and admirable than what we are taught in school. Neither is it enough to realize how probable it is that a personal God would have to show human beings how to live, considering they have so much trouble on their own. Nor is it enough to believe for the reason that, throughout history, millions of people have arrived at this Wholeness of Reality only through religious experience. The aforementioned reasons may warm one toward religion, but they fall short of convincing. However, if one presupposes that God is in fact a knowable, loving person, as an experiment, and then lives according that religion, he or she will suddenly come face to face with experiences previously unknown. One's life becomes full, meaningful, and fearless in the face of death. It does not defy reason but exceeds it.
  5. Because God has been experienced through love, the orders of prayer, fellowship, and devotion now matter. They create order within one's life, continually renewing the "missing piece" that had previously felt lost. They empower one to be compassionate and humble, not small-minded or arrogant.
  6. No truth should be denied outright, but all should be questioned. Science reveals an ever-growing vision of our universe that should not be discounted due to bias toward older understandings. Reason is to be trusted and cultivated. To believe in God is not to forego reason or to deny scientific facts, but to step into the unknown and discover the fullness of life.BOOK, Unfashionable Convictions, Bell, Bernard Iddings, Harper & Brothers Publishing, 1931, New York and London, 25–28,


(File:Europe No Belief enhanced.svg|thumb|Percentage of people in various European countries who said: "I don't believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force." (2005)WEB,weblink Social values, Science and Technology, April 9, 2011,weblink" title="">weblink April 30, 2011, yes, )Demographic research services normally do not differentiate between various types of non-religious respondents, so agnostics are often classified in the same category as atheists or other non-religious people.WEB,weblink Major Religions Ranked by Size,, August 14, 2010,weblink" title="">weblink August 11, 2010, no, A 2010 survey published in Encyclopædia Britannica found that the non-religious people or the agnostics made up about 9.6% of the world's population.ENCYCLOPEDIA
, Religion: Year in Review 2010: Worldwide Adherents of All Religions
, Encyclopædia Britannica
, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc.
, November 21, 2013
,weblink" title="">weblink
, July 2, 2014
, no
, mdy
, A November–December 2006 poll published in the Financial Times gives rates for the United States and five European countries. The rates of agnosticism in the United States were at 14%, while the rates of agnosticism in the European countries surveyed were considerably higher: Italy (20%), Spain (30%), Great Britain (35%), Germany (25%), and France (32%).WEB
, Religious Views and Beliefs Vary Greatly by Country, According to the Latest Financial Times/Harris Poll
, Financial Times/Harris Interactive
, December 20, 2006
, April 9, 2011
, yes
,weblink" title="">weblink
, July 23, 2013
, mdy
, A study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that about 16% of the world's people, the third largest group after Christianity and Islam, have no religious affiliation.NEWS, Study Finds One in 6 Follows No Religion, Goodstein, Laurie, The New York Times, December 18, 2012,weblinkweblink June 29, 2014, yes, According to a 2012 report by the Pew Research Center, agnostics made up 3.3% of the US adult population.WEB
, Cary Funk
, Greg Smith
, "Nones" on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation
, Pew Research Center
, 9, 42
, November 21, 2013
,weblink" title="">weblink
, August 26, 2014
, yes
, mdy-all
, In the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center, 55% of agnostic respondents expressed "a belief in God or a universal spirit",WEB
, Summary of Key Findings
, 2011
, Pew Research Center
, December 28, 2011
, Nearly all adults (92%) say they believe in God or a universal spirit, including seven-in-ten of the unaffiliated. Indeed, one-in-five people who identify themselves as atheist (21%) and a majority of those who identify themselves as agnostic (55%) express a belief in God or a universal spirit.
,weblink" title="">weblink
, October 17, 2014
, no
, mdy
, whereas 41% stated that they thought that they felt a tension "being non-religious in a society where most people are religious".WEB,weblink Summary of Key Findings, 2011, Pew Research Center, December 28, 2011, Interestingly, a substantial number of adults who are not affiliated with a religion also sense that there is a conflict between religion and modern society â€“ except for them the conflict involves being non-religious in a society where most people are religious. For instance, more than four-inten atheists and agnostics (44% and 41%, respectively) believe that such a tension exists.,weblink" title="">weblink October 17, 2014, no, mdy, (File:Irreligion map.png|thumb|upright=1.8|left|Proportion of atheists and agnostics around the world)According to the 2011 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 22% of Australians have "no religion", a category that includes agnostics.WEB
, Cultural Diversity in Australia
, Australian Bureau of Statistics
, 2012
, June 21, 2012
,weblink" title="">weblink
, May 28, 2014
, no
, mdy
, Between 64% and 65%BOOK, Zuckerman, Phil, Martin, Michael T, The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, 2007, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 978-0-521-60367-6, 22379448M, 56,weblink April 9, 2011, of Japanese and up to 81%WEB
, Average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 nations
, January 3, 2008
, October 21, 2012
,weblink" title="">weblink
, August 23, 2013
, no
, mdy
, of Vietnamese are atheists, agnostics, or do not believe in a god. An official European Union survey reported that 3% of the EU population is unsure about their belief in a god or spirit.BOOK, Social values, Science and Technology, Directorate General Research, European Union, 2005, 7–11,weblink April 9, 2011,weblink" title="">weblink April 30, 2011, yes,


Agnosticism is criticized from a variety of standpoints. Some religious thinkers see agnosticism as limiting the mind's capacity to know reality to materialism. Some atheists criticize the use of the term agnosticism as functionally indistinguishable from atheism; this results in frequent criticisms of those who adopt the term as avoiding the atheist label.


Theistic critics claim that agnosticism is impossible in practice, since a person can live only either as if God did not exist (etsi deus non-daretur), or as if God did exist (etsi deus daretur).WEB
, Habermas writes to Ratzinger and Ruini responds
, Sandro Magister
, 2007
, May 25, 2008
,weblink" title="">weblink
, February 21, 2014
, no
, mdy
, WEB,weblink Why can't I live my life as an agnostic?, 2007, May 25, 2008,weblink" title="">weblink May 16, 2008, yes, mdy-all, BOOK, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, Joseph, Ratzinger, 978-1-58617-142-1, Ignatius Press, 2006, Religious scholars such as Laurence B. Brown criticize the misuse of the word agnosticism, claiming that it has become one of the most misapplied terms in metaphysics. Brown raises the question, "You claim that nothing can be known with certainty ... how, then, can you be so sure?"WEB,weblink Religion of Islam: Agnosticism, Laurence B. Brown, 2007, May 25, 2008,weblink" title="">weblink August 23, 2014, no, mdy, BOOK, Laurence B. Brown, MisGod'ed: A Roadmap of Guidance and Misguidance in the Abrahamic Religions,weblink February 2008, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 978-1-4196-8148-6,


According to Pope Benedict XVI, strong agnosticism in particular contradicts itself in affirming the power of reason to know scientific truth. He blames the exclusion of reasoning from religion and ethics for dangerous pathologies such as crimes against humanity and ecological disasters.BOOK, The Yes of Jesus Christ: Spiritual Exercises in Faith, Hope, and Love, Joseph, Ratzinger, Cross Roads Publishing, 2005, BOOK, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief And World Religions, Joseph, Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, 2004, WEB,weblink Papal Address at University of Regensburg,, September 12, 2006, June 29, 2014, Benedict XVI,weblink" title="">weblink June 1, 2014, no, mdy, "Agnosticism", said Ratzinger, "is always the fruit of a refusal of that knowledge which is in fact offered to man ... The knowledge of God has always existed". He asserted that agnosticism is a choice of comfort, pride, dominion, and utility over truth, and is opposed by the following attitudes: the keenest self-criticism, humble listening to the whole of existence, the persistent patience and self-correction of the scientific method, a readiness to be purified by the truth.The Catholic Church sees merit in examining what it calls "partial agnosticism", specifically those systems that "do not aim at constructing a complete philosophy of the unknowable, but at excluding special kinds of truth, notably religious, from the domain of knowledge".ENCYCLOPEDIA
, Agnosticism
, Catholic Encyclopedia
,weblink" title="">weblink
, July 1, 2014
, no
, mdy
However, the Church is historically opposed to a full denial of the capacity of human reason to know God. The Council of the Vatican declares, "God, the beginning and end of all, can, by the natural light of human reason, be known with certainty from the works of creation".
Blaise Pascal argued that even if there were truly no evidence for God, agnostics should consider what is now known as Pascal's Wager: the infinite expected value of acknowledging God is always greater than the finite expected value of not acknowledging his existence, and thus it is a safer "bet" to choose God.WEB,weblink Argument from Pascal's Wager, 2007, May 25, 2008,weblink" title="">weblink June 5, 2008, no, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli cited 20 arguments for God's existence,Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God, from the Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ronald Tacelli, SJ, Intervarsity Press, 1994. weblink" title="">Archived from the original on June 29, 2014. asserting that any demand for evidence testable in a laboratory is in effect asking God, the supreme being, to become man's servant.BOOK, Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph, Ratzinger, Random House, 2007,


According to Richard Dawkins, a distinction between agnosticism and atheism is unwieldy and depends on how close to zero a person is willing to rate the probability of existence for any given god-like entity. About himself, Dawkins continues, "I am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden."The God Delusion (2006), Bantam Press, p. 51 Dawkins also identifies two categories of agnostics; "Temporary Agnostics in Practice" (TAPs), and "Permanent Agnostics in Principle" (PAPs). He states that "agnosticism about the existence of God belongs firmly in the temporary or TAP category. Either he exists or he doesn't. It is a scientific question; one day we may know the answer, and meanwhile we can say something pretty strong about the probability.", and considers PAP a "deeply inescapable kind of fence-sitting".The God Delusion (2006), Bantam Press, pp 47-48


A related concept is ignosticism, the view that a coherent definition of a deity must be put forward before the question of the existence of a deity can be meaningfully discussed. If the chosen definition is not coherent, the ignostic holds the noncognitivist view that the existence of a deity is meaningless or empirically untestable.WEB,weblink The Argument From Non-Cognitivism, October 1, 2010,weblink" title="">weblink April 29, 2014, no, mdy, A. J. Ayer, Theodore Drange, and other philosophers see both atheism and agnosticism as incompatible with ignosticism on the grounds that atheism and agnosticism accept "a deity exists" as a meaningful proposition that can be argued for or against.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."Drange, Atheism

See also

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Further reading

  • BOOK, Agnosticism,weblink Forgotten Books, 978-1-4400-6878-2, 164–,
  • Alexander, Nathan G. "An Atheist with a Tall Hat On: The Forgotten History of Agnosticism." The Humanist, February 19, 2019.
  • Annan, Noel. Leslie Stephen: The Godless Victorian (U of Chicago Press, 1984)
  • Cockshut, A.O.J. The Unbelievers, English Thought, 1840-1890 (1966).
  • Dawkins, Richard. "The poverty of agnosticism", in The God Delusion, Black Swan, 2007 ({{ISBN|978-0-552-77429-1}}).
  • BOOK, Huxley, Thomas H., Man's Place in Nature,weblink February 4, 2013, Courier Dover Publications, 978-0-486-15134-2, 1–,
  • BOOK, Hume, David, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion,weblink 1779, 1–,
  • BOOK, Kant, Immanuel, The Critique of Pure Reason,weblink May 28, 2013, Loki's Publishing, 978-0-615-82576-2,
  • BOOK,weblink Philosophical Fragments,, February 9, 2014, Kierkegaard, Sören, 978-0-691-02036-5,weblink" title="">weblink February 22, 2014, yes, 1985,
  • Lightman, Bernard. The Origins of Agnosticism (1987).
  • Royle, Edward. Radicals, Secularists, and Republicans: Popular Freethought in Britain, 1866-1915 (Manchester UP, 1980).
  • BOOK,weblink Atheism â€“ The Case Against God, February 9, 2014, Smith, George H., 0-87975-124-X, yes, 1979,

External links

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