Agnostic? Aren’t we all?

When asked the question “is God real?” the answer “I don’t know” is perfectly valid. However, does the title agnostic actually mean anything special?

In the Republic, Plato explores the idea of knowledge versus opinion and I wish to slightly redefine it as there is fact and there is opinion. A fact is a verifiable truth, for instance it is a fact that Chicago exists. We can all view photographs of it on Google and if we don’t believe that it is real we can travel to Chicago to verify it for ourselves. There are facts that you can verify directly, such as Chicago, and there are facts that you can only verify through indirect means such as the topology of the dark side of the moon (you can’t see it with your eyes, but you could send a robotic spacecraft to map it with ladar or other technology). Opinion on the other hand isn’t verifiable. It is a fact that you have an opinion, but the truth of the opinion is up for debate. A vegetarian may say that “meat is murder” and it is a fact that to eat meat an animal must die, but murder implies an unlawful or immoral act and it is opinion as to the morality of eating meat. I propose that all “knowledge” of God is opinion, no matter how strongly held. Nothing has ever been positively verified about the supernatural (though many things about the supernatural have been debunked) so the confirmation of God’s existence is a matter of opinion for it would be impossible for the atheist to definitively disprove all possible gods.

Gnosticism is a word that means having certain truth about something, usually spiritual or supernatural. Again, I want to insert the word fact into the equation, so Gnosticism is knowing a fact about the supernatural, being that it is real or not. If someone had a verifiable fact on the existence or non-existence of God and the rest of us could verify it then the debate between the theist and the atheist would immediately cease, and if God was real, a more interesting question of “Is God worthy of worship” could be raised. If God did not exist I am sure that some people would still hold on to the idea of God, just as many people deny evolution. However, I think that the majority of people (maybe after a few generations) would accept the verifiable truth in this matter.

Under this understanding of Gnosticism and Agnosticism we can conclude that in fact everyone is agnostic as no one has a verifiable opinion on the existence of God. What about the “I don’t know”s and the “I don’t care”s? If they aren’t agnostic what are they?

Theism is the active belief in a deity, one has to actively become a theist in order to be one. The rest of us either haven’t made that step or we have stepped away from it and we are not-theists. Not-theists, of course, are each unique unto themselves and their reasons for being a not-theist is as personal as any choice. But I wish to clarify that in regards to being a theist the answer is binary, you either are a theist or you are not a theist. If you are not a theist then you are without god and an a-theist. I think that the title agnostic is generally used to avoid being labelled an atheist and that is how it has gained such popularity. All the benefits of not believing in God with none of the social stigma attached the term atheist.

We are all agnostics and we are either a theist or a not-theist, so why do we hold a special place for the term agnostic? We are all humans and mammals, but we don’t say that we are a human theist, or a mammal atheist? These labels are a given and as such can be safely ignored in the context of the battle of opinion about the supernatural.

 

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