Agnostic: An Intellectual Method of Examination

The term agnostic is most often used to describe a person whose views align with neither theism nor atheism. In this context, an agnostic is typically perceived as taking the soft position. Lacking the commitment of theists and atheists, they sit in a place of ambiguity where they refuse to make a decision one way or the other.

Agnostics are often criticized by both theist and atheist parties for their refusal to decide whether or not god(s) exists, but this is a misleading characterization. Coined by T.H. Huxley, agnosticism was never meant to become a religious classification between theism and atheism. In fact, some individuals blur the lines between these terms. For example, apophatic theists in the late 1800s embraced the term agnostic, claiming “all good Christians worshipped an ‘unknown God'” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

You don’t have to subscribe to a certain religious stance to apply an agnostic view. It is merely the pursuit of answers through knowledge and reason that refuses to leap to unproven conclusions.

[Agnosticism is] not a creed but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle,” namely, to follow reason “as far as it can take you,” but then, when you have established as much as you can, frankly and honestly to recognize the limits of your knowledge.”

Brittanica

Arguably, I would say that this is the wiser philosophical path. One that doesn’t give in to society’s demand to “choose a side” when there isn’t justifiable evidence to lean either way. It even takes things further by inviting the possibility that the truth doesn’t fall into a single category or explanation (e.g., theism or atheism).

Too often, we polarize truth. Something is either right or wrong, this or that. But such a simplistic, dualistic view disregards the complexity of the multidimensional world we live in.

I personally don’t consider myself a theist, atheist, or agnostic, but I do apply an agnostic method to understanding the world around me. Simply put, it’s intellectual curiosity that’s comfortable in admitting that it doesn’t have all the answers – and that’s okay.

One of the most liberating things I’ve done is give myself permission not to have all of the answers.

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