We often use terms like agnosticism or atheism to define a philosophical thought regarding God. Below we reveal what it means to be agnostic and the main differences with atheism. We will see that these two points of view can be diametrically opposed.
First of all, we want to make it clear that we respect any religious belief and that the debate on this subject is healthy and necessary, as long as it is based on respect.
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Meaning: What is agnosticism
Etymologically, the word “agnosticism” means “lack of knowledge”, which already gives us an approximate idea of its meaning. Broadly speaking, it is the philosophical position according to which the existence or non-existence of God and many other issues cannot be proven , since we do not have enough knowledge to affirm one thing or another.
The term was coined by the philosopher and biologist Thomas Henry Huxley in 1869, although some ancient philosophers such as Protagoras already maintained this position. “An agnostic thinks that it is impossible to know the truth in matters like Godor the next life in which Christianity and other religions are concerned. Or, if not impossible, at least impossible at present”, says Bertrand Russell.
Differences with atheism
The different demographic studies do not distinguish between agnosticism and atheism, so they include them in the same category of non-religious people. However, there are fundamental differences.
1. Existence of God
The first, and most important, is that atheists flatly reject the existence of one or more deities (we understand deity as a superior entity with powers that can be worshiped or feared). This is where the most intense debates arise, and that is that there are several conceptions of God and not all of them include a superior being with powers.
2. It is not only religion
Agnosticism can be seen reflected in the different philosophical currents throughout history. If we look at Hindu philosophy, the Rig-veda ensures that there is absolute ignorance in matters such as the creation of the universe or the creation of the gods . Henry Huxley, who coined the term “agnosticism”, states: “I neither affirm nor deny the immortality of man. I see no reason to believe in it.”
Types of agnosticism
As we will see below, there are different types of agnosticism depending on the degree to which they reject the existence of evidence regarding some statement or God.
1. Apathetic agnosticism
There is no evidence of the existence or non-existence of God, although if there were, they would be inconsequential , since that would not affect the universe or its inhabitants. Therefore, they assume that the deity or deities have “turned their backs” on the universe.
2. Strong agnosticism
It is the type that we have analyzed so far, and it affirms categorically that there is no proof, nor will there be , of the existence or non-existence of God.
Therefore, how is strong agnosticism different from atheism?
In this particular case, the strong agnostic will also ensure that under no circumstances can life after death or the existence of parallel dimensions be demonstrated. This position is as dogmatic as strong theism.
agnosticism Although it is based on the same premise as strong agnosticism, a weak agnostic would not rule out that, one day, we will find proof of the existence or non-existence of God. Therefore, they assure that for now there is no evidence of it.
So far no irrefutable evidence has been shown and science is gaining ground over religion in explaining phenomena that were previously considered divine. On the contrary, no one has been able to ensure with certainty that a divine entity does not exist.
4. Agnostic theism
Even so, there is a connecting link between theism and agnosticism . Agnostic theists claim that there is no evidence that a deity exists, but they still believe in it.
A concept closely related to agnosticism is ignosticism. This position defends that, before questioning the existence of a deity, a coherent definition of the word “deity” must be proposed . Otherwise, any statement is impossible to prove.
Therefore, this thought raises a very complex question: “What is a God
”. In some cultures and religions, deities do not have absolute power or are not omnipresent (as is the case in most monotheistic religions), but rather possess knowledge or skills superior to the rest for which they are worshiped.