Here's my take on it.
Agnosticism is illogical and refutes itself. Agnosticism and agnostics characterize God as unknowable, ineffable, incomprehensible to all attempts to understand him. This doctrine is self-refuting. The agnostic is making a knowledge claim about what he/she claims is unknowable. How do agnostics know that God is unknowable if he is unknowable ? How do they even know that God's existence cannot be disproved if God is unknowable, or that God even exists if he is unknowable ? To claim any attribute for God is knowledge and claims to know this unknowable God possesses certain attributes. That's a logical contradiction, and any being containing two incompatible attributes cannot possibly exist. So one need not resort to agnosticism. He/she would be justified in not believing in that God if the concept of it contradicts itself in any way. One is justified in accepting and adopting the atheist position.
Anthony, I myself like you am a strong atheist. Richard Dawkins in his book describes seven steps to atheism and says that there must be very few people who are atheists belonging to the seventh step. I however have observed that although agnostics do appear to outnumber atheists, atheists by no means are small in numbers.
Not all agnostics say that god is unknowable. Most however say that there is neither enough proof to show that god exists nor there is enough proof to prove that he does not exist. Some believe that science will bring the necessary proof while others say that science alone is not enough to prove or disprove god and logic is also required to decide this. I have studied the opinions of Thomas Huxley, R.G.Ingersoll, Clarence Darrow and Richard Dawkins and it is my opinion that they all have gone right up to the last step of atheism but have taken one step back mainly because a doubt about creation. Dawkins feels that science will eventually disprove the existence of god. However, scientists have already said that no god was needed through the entire process of evolution of species lasting 3.5 billion years or during the entire progress of the universe lasting 13.7 billion years since the big bang. This, in my opinion is more than what we can expect science to do. God does not exist, he never existed.
Yes, I agree Madhukar that "Most however say that there is neither enough proof to show that god exists nor there is enough proof to prove that he does not exist."
I thing agnostics are hedging their bets. They aren't comfortable taking that final step and just saying they are an Atheist.
I agree with booklover. Well said.
Me, too, Steph! I went through an agnostic period, reading Thomas Huxley, &c., and then I read Harris and realized he was closer to what my own beliefs were (you should pardon the expression). Give the agnostic time, and they will come 'round.
It's not unwillingness to take a final step. It is just as arrogant to be certain there is no god as to be certain there is. That is the whole point...nobody knows.
I think agnosticism is a failure to understand probabilities. The existence of god or non-existence of god are not equally probable outcomes. The likelihood of god existing is the same likelihood as any random absurdity imagined by the human mind (invisible marshmallow people). The odds of god's non-existence are, likewise, equal to the odds of invisible marshmallow people's non-existence.
If there are scientific principles and methods behind every other process and phenomenon resulting from creation, Why Shouldn't There Be Scientific Principles And Methods Which Also Describe The Moment Of Creation?
To suggest that everything EXCEPT ONE had a logical explanation behind it is to suggest a massive discontinuity to the overall. I submit that such a suggestion is both illogical and unnecessary. Diligent investigation by those who want to learn and know how this reality works will eventually unearth those principles and processes.
Laplace said it, Hawking said it, and many others, and I agree with them: god is not necessary.
You're just being parsimonious, Loren. Better watch it, or I will get Mr. Ockham to take his razor to you.
Too late. I been shaving with Occam's Razor since Bob Heinlein introduced me to it with Stranger in a Strange Land, some 40+ years ago!
Honestly, I could K.I.S.S. the guy! (get it? wink-wink!)
the words Agnostic and Atheist address two fundamentally different questions. What do you KNOW? and What do you BELEIVE?
The words Gnostic and Agnostic pertain to being in a state of having "knowledge" or being "without knowledge" of any given thing. One can be Agnostic about anything, one doesn't know enough about to feel that they can form an opinion on.
If the question is "Is there a God?" then...
To say "I am an Agnostic" is to say "I do not know".
To say "I am an Atheist" is to say "I do not believe".
So, logically, to say "I don't know if there is or isn't a God, but I don't believe that there is" is to say "I am an "Agnostic Atheist".
It is only with, empirical, objective proof that anyone could claim to be a "Gnostic Atheist" or a "Gnostic Theist" for that matter as it would require and belief or disbelief based in actual "Knowledge" of a God.
It's a colloquial misuse to use the two words to try to answer the same question. I think if we paid more attention to how we misuse words, we'd all get along much better.
Thank you, Vash. I have used exactly this definition/argument and been looked at as though I was crazy when I told people there could be agnostic believers. Nice to see it spelled out so concisely.
That is the label I find myself with as well. When I consider the limits of my knowledge, it is the best fit. I do not shy from using the term atheist when necessary but only to describe my lack of belief. I find positive atheism as arrogant as theism.
While I don't doubt the existence of agnostic theists, I'm confused as to how that could work. How does a person profess a lack of knowledge of a thing, yet choose to believe in that thing anyway? Maybe this is expressed most often in social religion but at it's core, it is still not a belief.