Agnostic beliefs

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The website declares concerning agnostic beliefs:

Agnostic Religion: Views and Viewpoints

There are two basic forms of agnosticism. Weak Agnosticism holds that God is unknown. It accepts that God may be known, and some people may possibly know God. The second form, Strong Agnosticism, maintains that God is unknowable, that God cannot be known.

There is an additional breakdown of views on the ability to know God. Limited agnosticism says that God is partially unknown because of our finitude. This view holds that we can know some things about God, but we cannot know everything. Unlimited agnosticism claims that God is completely unknowable. That is, it’s impossible to truly know anything about God.

Agnostic Religion: Views of Reality

The agnostic views about the existence of God stem from views about the ability to know reality. These views of reality were most strongly advocated by David Hume and Immanuel Kant. David Hume was technically a skeptic, but his views led to agnosticism. One of his main ideas was that everything we experience is totally separate and unconnected. The cause-and-effect relationships that we observe can never really be known with any certainty. Instead, Hume thought, causal relationships are based solely on observation, and we see causality as we link events that occur together.

Immanuel Kant was greatly influenced by the ideas of Hume. Kant held that knowledge is provided by experience through the senses. The conclusion is that we can never know actual reality as it truly is if we are dependent on our senses. We can only know something as we experience it in ourselves. Since everyone experiences the same event differently, we can never know the event as it actually happened outside of ourselves.

The views of Hume and Kant impact a person’s views about God. If we cannot know reality as it actually is, then we really can’t even know events as they are independent of our senses. Also we can’t really know the true causes of any given event if everything is unconnected. With this in mind, therefore, the agnostic claims he does actually know the possible Cause of the Universe. Hence, for the agnostic, God’s existence is in question.[1]

Types of agnosticism

See also: Types of agnosticism

The website The Basics of Philosophy indicates about the various types of agnosticism:

Strong Agnosticism:

This is the view (also called hard agnosticism, closed agnosticism, strict agnosticism, absolute agnosticism or epistemological agnosticism) that the question of the existence or non-existence of God or gods is unknowable by reason of our natural inability to verify any experience with anything but another subjective experience.

Mild Agnosticism:

This is the view (also called weak agnosticism, soft agnosticism, open agnosticism, empirical agnosticism, or temporal agnosticism) that the existence or non-existence of God or gods is currently unknown but is not necessarily unknowable, therefore one will withhold judgment until more evidence becomes available.

Pragmatic Agnosticism:

This is the view that there is no proof of either the existence or non-existence of God or gods.

Apathetic Agnosticism:

This is the view that there is no proof of either the existence or non-existence of God or gods, but since any God or gods that may exist appear unconcerned for the universe or the welfare of its inhabitants, the question is largely academic anyway.

Agnostic Theism:

This is the view (also called religious agnosticism) of those who do not claim to know of the existence of God or gods, but still believe in such an existence.

Agnostic Atheism:

This is the view of those who claim not to know of the existence or non-existence of God or gods, but do not believe in them.[2]

Limited agnosticism vs. unlimited agnosticism

The Christian apologist Norman Geisler makes a distinction between limited agnosticism and unlimited agnosticism.[3]

According to the website All About Philosophy:

Two other types with respect to the ability to know God are limited and unlimited agnosticism. Limited agnosticism holds that God is partially unknowable. It is possible to know some things, but not everything, about God. Unlimited agnosticism, however, claims that God is completely unknowable. It says that it is impossible to know anything about God.[4]

Norman Geisler on unlimited/complete agnosticism

See also: Agnosticism quotes

Christian apologist Norman Geisler wrote on complete agnosticism:

Complete agnosticism is self-defeating; it reduces to the self-destructing assertion that "one knows enough about reality in order to affirm that nothing can be known about reality." This statement provides within itself all that is necessary to falsify itself. For if one knows something about reality, then he surely cannot affirm in the same breath that all of reality is unknowable. And of course if one knows nothing whatsoever about reality, then he has no basis whatsoever for making a statement about reality. It will not suffice to say that his knowledge about reality is purely and completely negative, that is, a knowledge of what one cannot meaningfully affirm that something is not – that it follows that total agnosticism is self-defeating because it assumes some knowledge about reality in order to deny any knowledge of reality (Geisler, Apologetics, p. 20).[5]

Agnosticism and belief in evolution

See also: Social effects of the theory of evolution

T. H. Huxley coined the word agnostic.

Since World War II a majority of the most prominent and vocal defenders of the evolutionary position which employs methodological naturalism have been atheists and agnostics.[6]

Strictly speaking, although most agnostics in the Western World are evolutionists, a belief in evolution is not required to be an agnostic.

T.H. Huxley

The word "agnostic" was coined in 1869 by T. H. Huxley[7] from the Greek roots a- not, and -gnostic, knowing; the philosopher Herbert Spencer was influential in spreading its use. One nineteenth century saw held that "There is no god but the Unknowable, and Herbert Spencer is his prophet."[8]

Huxley earned the nickname "Darwin's Bulldog" as a result of his vigorous advocacy of the Theory of Evolution.

Charles Darwin and agnosticism

evolution darwin theory
Late in Charles Darwin's life, Darwin told the Duke of Argyll that he frequently had overwhelming thoughts that the natural world was the result of design.[9] In a letter to Asa Gray, Darwin confided: "...I am quite conscious that my speculations run quite beyond the bounds of true science."[10]

Charles Darwin (12 February 1809 - 19 April 1882) was a famous naturalist born in England. Charles Darwin is best known for popularizing the idea of evolution by natural selection presented in his book "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life."

Darwin likely abandoned Christianity as a student when he disappointed his father by refusing to become a minister. In his autobiography Charles Darwin wrote about the diminishment of his religious faith and Darwin stated that he was an agnostic.[11] Darwin wrote the following: "The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble to us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic."[12] However, Darwin stated in his private notebooks that he was a materialist, which is a type of atheist.[13] [14][15] In the 1996 British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Kim Sterelny wrote in a book review the following: "I have no doubt that Darwin was a materialist and a mechanist..."[16] See: Religious views of Charles Darwin

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states regarding a candid admission of Charles Darwin:

In 1885, the Duke of Argyll recounted a conversation he had had with Charles Darwin the year before Darwin's death:

In the course of that conversation I said to Mr. Darwin, with reference to some of his own remarkable works on the Fertilisation of Orchids, and upon The Earthworms, and various other observations he made of the wonderful contrivances for certain purposes in nature—I said it was impossible to look at these without seeing that they were the effect and the expression of Mind. I shall never forget Mr. Darwin's answer. He looked at me very hard and said, “Well, that often comes over me with overwhelming force; but at other times,” and he shook his head vaguely, adding, “it seems to go away.”(Argyll 1885, 244)[17]

For most of his adult life Charles Darwin suffered from very poor health.[18] The 1992 New Encyclopaedia Britannica stated that Darwin's illness was psychogenic in origin (A psychogenic illness is one that originates in the mind or in mental condition).[19] see: Charles Darwin's illness

Belief in evolution and sexual immorality

Dr. Carl Wieland is the Managing Director of Creation Ministries International

See also: Atheism and morality

In July 2000, Creation Ministries International reported:

For years, many people have scoffed at any suggestion that the evils in society could be linked with the teaching of the theory of evolution. But new research has confirmed what Bible-believers have known all along—that the rising acceptance of Darwin’s theory is related to declining morality in the community.

The research survey of 1535 people, conducted by the Australian National University, revealed that belief in evolution is associated with moral permissiveness. Darwin himself apparently feared that belief in evolution by the common man would lead to social decay. The survey showed that people who believed in evolution were more likely to be in favour of premarital sex than those who rejected Darwin’s theory. Another issue which highlighted the contrast between the effect of evolutionary ideas and that of biblical principles was that Darwinians were reported to be ‘especially tolerant’ of abortion.

In identifying the primary factors determining these differences in community attitudes, the author of the research report, Dr Jonathan Kelley, said: ‘The single most important influence after church attendance is the theory of evolution.’[20]

Aldous Huxley and sexual immorality quote

See also: Atheism and meaninglessness

Aldous Huxley

The agnostic Aldous Huxley wrote:

I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; and consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do. For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning - the Christian meaning, they insisted - of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever.[21]

A significant portion of agnostics see their lives and the world being the product of purpose

See also: Atheism and purpose

One of the most popular arguments for God's existence is the teleological argument. Derived from the Greek word telos, which refers to purpose or end, this argument hinges on the idea that the world gives evidence of being designed, and concludes that a divine designer must be posited to account for the orderly world we encounter.

Research and historical data indicate that a significant portion of atheists/agnostics often see the their lives and the world as being the product of purposeful design (see: Atheism and purpose).[22]

Agnostics and belief in life after death

According to a study performed in the United States by researchers Wink and Scott, very religious people fear death the least.[23]

See also: Atheism and life after death and Naturalism

A large percentage, if not the majority of agnostics, hold to the philosophy of naturalism which rejects the miraculous.

However, when it comes to belief in life after death and other matters, a significant portion of agnostics/atheists reject naturalism in various instances (see: Atheism and the supernatural).

The website Skeptics Guide indicates that a significant number of atheists and agnostics believe in life after death and the website reported:

A survey compiled in 2014 by The Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture (AISFC) reveals that 32 percent of Americans who identified themselves as agnostics and atheists believe in an afterlife of some kind. In addition, 6 percent of the same non-theistic group expressed a belief in a “bodily resurrection”. These numbers were taken from a sample of 15,738 Americans, all of which were between the ages of 18 and 60. According to the data, 13.2 percent of Americans identify themselves as atheist, agnostic, or some other variation of non-believing.

I found these results to be quite surprising. Having been immersed in circles of atheists and agnostics for the past 20 years, the numbers revealed by this study are higher than I would have guessed, by quite a lot. What stands out the most is that 6% expressed a belief in resurrection. It could be a statistical anomaly of some sort (perhaps the respondents did not understand the question about bodily resurrection?) Why an atheist or agnostic would believe that a dead person could come back to life seems entirely contrary to their worldview.[24]

For more information, please see: Atheism and death

See also

Atheism and beliefs:


  1. Agnostic religion
  2. Agnosticism,
  3. Christian Apologetics By Norman L. Geisler, 2013
  4. Agnosticism,
  6. T. H. Huxley was also an early and influential supporter of Darwinism.
  7. London, Jack (1913), Martin Eden, Chapter 13
  13. Barrett, Paul H. Darwin on Man 1974:276
  14. American Scientist May 1977:323
  15. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Volume 47, 1996, page 641
  19. Morals decline linked to evolution
  20. Aldous Huxley quote
    • Does everything happen for a reason?, New York Times, October 17, 2014
    • Children see the world as designed by David Catchpoole, Creation Ministries International, Published: 16 July 2009
    • Atheist Jean-Paul Sartre made the candid confession: "As for me, I don’t see myself as so much dust that has appeared in the world but as a being that was expected, prefigured, called forth. In short, as a being that could, it seems, come only from a creator; and this idea of a creating hand that created me refers me back to God. Naturally this is not a clear, exact idea that I set in motion every time I think of myself. It contradicts many of my other ideas; but it is there, floating vaguely. And when I think of myself I often think rather in this way, for wont of being able to think otherwise." Source: Escape from God: The Use of Religion and Philosophy to Evade Responsibility By Dean Turner, page 109
    • The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy declares: "In 1885, the Duke of Argyll recounted a conversation he had had with Charles Darwin the year before Darwin's death: In the course of that conversation I said to Mr. Darwin, with reference to some of his own remarkable works on the Fertilization of Orchids, and upon The Earthworms, and various other observations he made of the wonderful contrivances for certain purposes in nature — I said it was impossible to look at these without seeing that they were the effect and the expression of Mind. I shall never forget Mr. Darwin's answer. He looked at me very hard and said, 'Well, that often comes over me with overwhelming force; but at other times,' and he shook his head vaguely, adding, 'it seems to go away.'(Argyll 1885, 244)Notes to Teleological Arguments for God's Existence
  21. Fear of death: worst if you’re a little religious?, World of Science]
  22. Survey: 32% of Atheists & Agnostics Believe in an Afterlife