RE: virus: atheism vs. agnosticism

Robin Faichney (
Fri, 5 Dec 1997 08:05:58 -0000

> From: rpc man[]
> Perhaps you
> can be so kind as to elaborate on how I have misinterpreted Huxley's
> concept of agnosticism and why you think he wouldn't consider himself
> an
> atheist (or someone who doesn't believe in god) in the 1990s?
OK, you got me up in arms against atheism again.

The force of the term "agnosticism" has been lost. It has come
to mean: not to hold an opinion on the questions of life and death; to
say "I don't know" when you really mean "I don't want to know." When
allied (and confused) with atheism, it has become part of the attitude
that legitimizes an indulgent consumerism and the unreflective
conformism dictated by mass media.

For TH Huxley, who coined the term in 1869, agnosticism was as
demanding as any moral, philosophical or religious creed. Rather than a
creed, though, he saw it as a *method* realized through "the rigorous
application of a single principle." He expressed this principle
positively as : "Follow your reason as far as it will take you," and
negatively as: "Do not pretend that any conclusions are certain which
are not demonstrated or demonstrable." This principle runs through the
Western tradition: from Socrates, via the Reformation and the
Enlightenment, to the axioms of modern science. Huxley called it the
"agnostic faith".

-- Stephen Batchelor in Buddhism Without Beliefs

Understood properly, agnosticism is not just compatible with
reason, but fundamental to a consistently rational attitude to
the world. And agnosticism with regard to the existence of
God is not different from agnosticism in general. Follow
your reason as far as it will take you, and do not pretend
that the non-existence of God is certain, when it is not
demonstrated or demonstrable.