A Brief Dialogue on Agnosticism

Adam Pearson: “I believe that agnosticism is far more reasonable than either theism or atheism in the absence of definitive, authoritative, evidentially-supported, decisive, reasonable, and persuasive arguments for one position or the other.

The arguments and evidence for there being a ‘God’ as defined by Judaeo-Christian-Islamic tradition are not terribly convincing, but nor do the atheist arguments definitively establish the thesis that there is no sort of ultimate power at the root of the universe.

Faced with a lack of evidence and a poverty of decisively persuasive arguments, I am neither presumptuous enough to claim there is a Divinity nor arrogant enough to overextend our arguments and evidence in favor of doubt to definitively claim that there is not.

Therefore, I remain a philosophical agnostic.”

Faiz Imam: “I think Douglas Adams said it best:

“People will then often say, ‘But surely it’s better to remain an Agnostic just in case?’ This, to me, suggests such a level of silliness and muddle that I usually edge out of the conversation rather than… get sucked into it. (If it turns out that I’ve been wrong all along, and there is in fact a god, and if it further turned out that this kind of legalistic, cross-your-fingers-behind-your-back, Clintonian hair-splitting impressed him, then I think I would choose not to worship him anyway.)” 

Adam: “As much as I like Adams, it is not to impress a potential God that I remain an agnostic but because I honestly cannot be sure whether there is a God (defined however you will) or not given the evidence and arguments that I have. This seems to me the only intellectually realistic and responsible position precisely because it does not go beyond what the evidence and arguments suggest.”

Erik Bedross: “I dont think youre clear on what the word “agnostic” actually means.  People who define themselves as agnostic have made no mention of their belief (or lack) of belief in a god or divine being(s).”

Adam: “A-gnostic literally means ‘no-knowledge’ or ‘without-knowledge,’ that is, agnosticism, a term coined by T.H. Huxley, refers to the position that we cannot know with any degree of certainty whether there is a God or not. That is, we have neither sufficient evidence nor strong enough arguments to settle the matter one way or the other, therefore, we are honest and claim “we do not know.””

Erik: “Do you believe in God, Adam? Please do not tell me whether you “know” if He exists or not (agnosticism/gnosticism).  I would like to know what you “believe,” that is, your religious belief.”

Adam: “I neither believe nor disbelieve in a God. That is my position.”

Erik: “Sorry, but it’s a binary choice. You’re leaning slightly one way or the other and are either lying to me, or to yourself about it, for whatever reason.”

Adam: “To me, the issue is not strictly a binary one.  As I see it, the choice is not: believe or do not believe. The third option is: choose not to decide between two options when neither of them has sufficient arguments and evidence to establish it.”

Erik: “That’s bullshit and you know it. What it comes down to is that you were born with no belief in god.  Then information was presented to you, and you were given the option to believe it. And, in being human, it is impossible to believe something just enough to be at the exact halfway point between belief and disbelief.

And while one can claim apathy as reasoning for not being able to make a choice between the two, I find it hard to believe you fall under that category at all, given that you’ve put such time into writing such lengthy posts defending your so called “position”, which is not so much a position at all, as it is a bail-out method of getting your hands dirty and taking the responsibility of making a concrete choice and facing the consequences that accompany it.”

Adam: “This is where we differ, I think. I don’t locate agnosticism as a mid-point between atheism and theism; I see it as a position looking out on these other two positions and finding insufficient proof and arguments for either. Therefore, it… remains undecided and says “I don’t know.”

It’s not out of fear of making the wrong choice that we agnostics say “we don’t know,” nor is it out of a failure to take responsibility for taking a position. We simply don’t think we have enough evidence or strong enough arguments to make a claim on the issue one way or the other. And this does not necessarily mean apathy; I actually regularly read atheist and theistic arguments and engage in the debates. I just haven’t been convinced yet one way or the other. That may change of course, and I’m open to the possibility. But it just hasn’t happened yet.

For you, this is a black and white situation; either one believes or one does not. I don’t see it as being that clear-cut. It is possible to believe that one does not know enough, that is, that one does not have enough evidence or strong enough arguments, to definitively claim that there is a God or that there is not. There are also other flavors of agnosticism. One cay say “I don’t know one way or the other, but I think it’s more likely that there is no God” or that “I don’t know one way or the other, but I think it’s more likely that there is a God.” That is, one can lean more towards atheism or theism. I’ve held both of those positions in the past. Now, though, I’m really not sure. So I call myself a pure and simple agnostic.

I’m not sure where you’re coming from; from your perspective, that may make me a straight-up atheist. But this is how I understand where I’m coming from. Either we’re not understanding the issue in the same terms or we simply don’t agree. If the latter is the case, that’s okay too; I believe that great minds don’t think alike”


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