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Draconis Rex

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Examination of Agnosticism
« on: July 02, 2014, 03:46:38 PM »

I have often mentioned on these boards that I am agnostic, but it’s a topic we have never really examined. We have discussed other religions but there are some who do not directly deal with a deity. Please read through and feel free to post, agree, disagree, question, opinion, comment, whatever you feel.

Agnosticism is the view that the truth values of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, as well as other religious and metaphysical claims—are unknown or unknowable. According to the philosopher William L. Rowe, in the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of a deity or deities, whereas a theist and an atheist believe and disbelieve, respectively

Wikipedia

noun
Agnostic A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God.

Oxford on-line Dictionary


These are the official meanings of agnosticism, but it is an almost clinical viewpoint. My belief is that for the individual, although the basis is the same, there may be a deeper meaning to being an agnostic. Another take on this is “seeing is believing” which kind of boils it right down to a basic attitude. So, what does it mean to the agnostic? Is it as clean cut as the dictionary and wiki says?

There are two kinds of agnostic; the weak agnostic and the strong. This is not a reflection on the person however it is analogous to the nature. A weak agnostic will say that he/she does not know whether deity exists, whereas the strong agnostic will claim that no one can say for certain a deity exists or not. Although it may seem the easier option to be a weak agnostic, it is more (for me) a case of not presuming to decide for others. I can say what I believe or not, but I cannot do that for another. The strong agnostic however opens him/herself up for direct confrontation and argument that will likely remain unresolved (and perhaps a bloody nose?).

It’s been suggested that agnosticism is a way of being noncommittal, standing on the fence as it were, between theism and atheism. Again it can be a bit more involved than that. We can break it down again into another two levels, agnostic theist and agnostic atheist. The premise here is that the agnostic theist accepts the existence of deity but does not have the conclusive knowledge to commit to that belief,  thusly vice versa applies with the agnostic atheist.

Thomas Henry Huxley, an English biologist (mid to late 1800’s) who was a strong advocate of Darwins theory of evolution, is credited with being the first person to create and coin the phrase “agnostic”.

I am not going to write up any more pertaining to this, at least for the moment as I would like to leave it open for discussion.
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Alchymist

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Re: Examination of Agnosticism
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2014, 12:28:34 AM »

Well, Drac....

The phrase "can of worms" springs to mind at this point.

Whole libraries of books and articles have been written, and in all probability will continue to be written, both defending and attacking agnosticism. Most of the attacks, it seems to me, involve accusations of fence-sitting, of not being able to make up your mind, of spiritual or philosophical spinelessness; It's probably true that some who call themselves agnostics could plead guilty to such charges, but to me agnosticism simply means a kind of intellectual honesty.

I tend towards the Strong Agnostic position, myself. I contend that it is, quite simply, impossible for we humans, at our present state of spiritual and intellectual development, to really know anything at all about the existence or non-existence of God, gods, Goddess, goddesses ..... let's be non-sexist and simply call them deities. To make any proposition at all about the existence of deities, one way or the other, involves either total denial or total "belief." And a "belief", to me, is simply an opinion, which might possibly be shared by other people, but for which no unambiguous corroborating evidence exists (I mean the kind of evidence that would be acceptable at least in a Court of Law if not in a scientific laboratory).

Personally I try to not believe in anything. I suspect a great many things; I suppose that some of them might even turn out to be true, in some sense; but I don't believe any of them. I'm quite happy to entertain the possibility that there is a vast, cosmic-scale intelligence in the Universe - even an intelligence that might have had some hand in the creation of the Universe - perhaps even multiple intelligences. I'm also happy to accept the proposition that there might be .... living entities, let's say, that may or may not be physical beings in the sense that most of us understand the term, but that are as far beyond humans in terms of knowledge, wisdom, power and longevity as we humans are beyond rats and mice; entities that we can call deities if we want.

However, if such living entities and/or Universal Intelligences exist, then for inscrutable reasons of their own they have decided to ensure that we have - again - no unambiguous corroborating evidence of their existence. Thus, if we want to believe in them we have to take their existence on faith alone; and I can't, intellectually, force myself to have that kind of faith. I suspect; but I don't believe; so, I call myself agnostic.

Perhaps - if such entities exist - they don't show themselves to us because we would, collectively, demand that they solve all our problems for us, which would severely stunt our development as sentient beings. Maybe there's something like the Prime Directive of Star Trek in force; it is forbidden to interfere in the development of sentient beings.

Well .... I could probably keep going for several pages, but I guess I'll stop here. For now.

Blessed Be, believers, atheists, agnostics or whatever else you want to call yourselves;

Alchymist. 
« Last Edit: July 03, 2014, 10:41:34 AM by Alchymist »
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Valerie

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Re: Examination of Agnosticism
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2014, 04:02:57 AM »

I've said before am a believer, for me, there is something "there" I feel it but I am very laid back if you believe in something else or nothing at all, am fine with that too x :)
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Edan

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Re: Examination of Agnosticism
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2014, 09:40:59 AM »

Most agnostics I run into have a sense of "openess" in terms of experiencing deity, they simply haven't. I would say that if one were to have the attitude of this "cannot" be proven it would make me feel like they were using agnosticism as a misnomer for atheism. Simply because there seems to be a lack of openess to the possibility.
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Draconis Rex

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Re: Examination of Agnosticism
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2014, 09:58:53 AM »

Strong agnosticism does seem to reveal a possible degree of resistance, but they are looking for conclusive, hard and tangible proof of existence.

As a weak agnostic, I accept the possibility of deity, in fact I would go as far as saying I like the idea of such. But I feel that something in me is resistant. I acknowledge more readily that there is "something" out there rather than being specific.

The thing about agnosticism is that it's not really a choice, one doesn't choose to be that way.
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Edan

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Re: Examination of Agnosticism
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2014, 11:16:45 AM »

I can see that. Feeling this need for evidence isnt something I think people decide one day. Likewise I assume we all have our level of necessary proof. When moving away from my Christian upbringing I didnt know what to expect. It was only through seeing what I considered "evidence" that I was able to achieve a ha4d poly outlook.
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Edan

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Re: Examination of Agnosticism
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2014, 11:17:38 AM »

*hard poly* forgive the typo.
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Alchymist

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Re: Examination of Agnosticism
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2014, 11:22:19 AM »

I would say that if one were to have the attitude of this "cannot" be proven it would make me feel like they were using agnosticism as a misnomer for atheism. Simply because there seems to be a lack of openess to the possibility.

I see your point of view, Edan, but I don't agree. "Atheism" seems to me to mean the total denial of any possibility of the existence of deities - again, without any real evidence. "Strong agnosticism" would seem to me to mean (as I have said) openness to the possibility, but being honest enough to admit that no real evidence exists (at least, none that I'm aware of) and that to believe requires a "leap of faith".

One could also argue - and I tend towards this view myself - that to "believe in" the currently fashionable mechanistic-materialist paradigm requires a similar leap of faith - the faith that our five (or more) senses, augmented by whatever wonderful instruments we can devise, actually gives us a true picture of the Universe. Whatever information we take in via our senses gets organized by our brains into what seems like a surprisingly coherent picture of the "reality" "out there", but, even so, I submit it is impossible to be 100% certain. We could, I suppose, all be living in a vast computer-generated "Matrix"......

The only thing, I would say, that we can be absolutely, 100%, certain of is our own conscious existence. Everything around us could be a very convincing illusion, but there is something - inside our heads, it seems - that is conscious of the "illusion". Although there are those out there, who call themselves "skeptics" or "rationalists" or "realists" or whatever, who seem to take huge delight in taking even this much away from us. Consciousness, they say, is nothing more than an illusion generated by electrochemical activity in the brain - which prompts the question "Who is the one who is being fooled by the illusion?"

Which brings us, I suppose, to a point of total, all-encompassing, meta-agnosticism; we can't really be certain of anything. It might be tempting, at this point, to go back to bed, pull the covers over our heads and scream at the universal illusion to "Go away and stop bugging me!!"

But it won't, of course. No matter what we do, the Universe is still out there, and somehow, day by day, hour by hour, we have to deal with it, make use of parts of it, interact with other parts, ignore yet others - but, always, being aware that it might all be a virtual stage set........

Blessed Be, whatever that might mean in the greater scheme of things......

Alchymist,
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marisol

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Re: Examination of Agnosticism
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2014, 03:59:53 PM »

I have never spoken with anyone before on the subject of agnosticism. I can see it's not necessarily how a person would want to
feel and please don't take offense. I've been thinking about this all day and have a question. Drac you were brought up in the
church, does this resistance you feel have anything to do with that? Is the act of accepting something intangible without evidence
impossible? A leap of faith, so to speak. I say this because we could prove and disprove deity all day, but the divine is out there.
Of course, that is my opinion.

I have always thought of agnosticism as spiritual exploration. The evidence is not always in plain sight or you are not aware of it.
This doesn't mean it's not there, you just haven't found it. What kind of evidence is required for belief? What would be enough?
Now please don't laugh at me. Tell me.
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Draconis Rex

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Re: Examination of Agnosticism
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2014, 04:51:05 PM »

Oh I'm not going to laugh Mari, in fact I applaud your insight!  ;)  You have hit the nail squarely on the head and it was a post I was saving for further on into this thread. I guess I can broach it sooner....LoL

I have stated already that I am an agnostic, meaning I don't know one way or the other whether Deity truly exists. But with a leaning towards theism, which means I am prepared to accept the possibility. I can say that although I, as an agnostic, am always going to be looking for that Rosetta Stone, I will in fact be searching. I am therefore a seeker.

Yes, I was brought up in the Baptist ministry, and I did in fact immerse myself in it. However, what I found was that I was immersing myself in the fellowship of the young people around me in the church. I used to play guitar for our youth group, I wrote songs and we even did a couple of recordings. But I think it was the sense of these people looking to me for that, and the enjoyment of that participation that kept that barb firmly on the hook.

If I missed the service, I would feel guilty; not because I wasn't attending, but because my mother or my aunt and uncle would be short with me over it. I should elaborate here; My mother was brought up as strict Exclusive Plymouth Brethren, and my aunt and uncle were Elders at my church, Bristo Baptist Church. (I'm not sure if anyone has heard of Charlotte Baptist Chapel in Edinburgh but it is world known, that was my mothers church).

I'm not really sure how I came to be agnostic, but I remember my friend at that time telling me he thought I was an agnostic. I didn't know what that meant exactly except for the "seeing is believing" explanation. It was shortly after that that I stopped going to church.

What kind of proof would be required? I have no idea Mari. I guess if I knew that, I might be able to move forward. I simply don't accept many things at face value, I am always looking for reasons for things, why they happen, how they happen. I always question. My ex was (and still is) fond of accusing me of analysing everything, even what people say.

I don't know if this explains anything very well but it may help....
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Draconis Rex

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Re: Examination of Agnosticism
« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2014, 04:56:26 PM »

I have two reasons for putting up this thread;

1. I feel we've been getting a bit chit chatty lately, so I thought I would throw this in to encourage a bit of thought.

2. I wanted other peoples thoughts on agnosticism, gain some outside points of view, so I could gain a bit more insight myself.
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Alces Alces

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Re: Examination of Agnosticism
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2014, 08:29:19 PM »

My personal perspective on agnotism is that once those who feel this way find the evidence they're looking for they have a much stronger faith than those who blindly follow. I attended several churches that insisted you simply believe and if you don't your a heathen bound for Hell. I went along with it because I enjoyed being a part of that community of believers.

As time marched on, I seemed to want something more concrete. Like you Drac, I tend to over analyze things. That's not to say that at the time I needed Jesus to drop down and say "Here I am!". I just needed to see a correlation between the faith I was supposed to have and cold hard scientific fact. The faith is believing but not seeing didn't give me a strong enough foundation.

As I hit my late 40s early 50s I started sensing the devine in everything around me. I guess you could call it deity. The idea of polarity and balance and the energy in the universe and within all of us theory held more water for me than the just believe statement I heard. As an example I was watching shark week on the discovery channel. They said that those who dive among sharks and are very fearful are more likely to be attact. When I told my husband this he said it was just a bunch of new age bs. But when I pointed out that when we feel fear our neurons are firing off like crazy, that is the electromagnetic field sharks are attracted to, he had to concede.

So to make a short story long.... Yes I do believe in a deity. This universe is too harmoniously designed. But for me that deity resides among everything we can see. So I guess that's why I have been drawn to this path. Please forgive me if I have been rambeling on incoherently :).
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