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last updated March 5th, 2008 and is permanently morphing...
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"A man without god is like a fish without a bicycle." Quoted by Robert Anton Wilson in _Cosmic Trigger Vol 1_, found on the men's room wall, Larry Blake's Pub, Berkeley, 1977
Well, I picked up "guerrilla ontology" from the Physics/Consciousness Research Group when I was a member back in the 1970s. Physicists more usually call it "model agnosticism," and it consists of never regarding any model or map of Universe with total 100% belief or total 100% denial. Following Korzybski, I put things in probabilities, not absolutes. I give most of modern physics over 90% probability, the Loch Ness Monster around 50% probability and anything the State Department says under 5% probability. As Bucky Fuller used to say, "Universe is nonsimultaneously apprehended"---nobody can apprehend it all at once---so we have no guarantee that today's best model will fit what we may discover tomorrow. My only originality lies in applying this zetetic attitude outside the hardest of the hard sciences, physics, to softer sciences and then to non-sciences like politics, ideology, jury verdicts and, of course, conspiracy theory. Also, I have a strong aversion, almost an allergy, to Belief Systems, or B.S.---a convenient abbreviation I owe to David Jay Brown. A neurolinguistic diet high in B.S. and low in instrumental data eventually produces Permanent Brain Damage, a lurching gait, blindness and hairy palms like a werewolf. - RAW
The doctrine that certainty about first principles or absolute truth is unattainable and that only perceptual phenomena are objects of exact knowledge.
Intellect: The exercise
the mind: Results of reasoning: Unbelief. Doubt
inability to believe, agnosticism
denial, denial of assent, NEGATION
contrary belief, conviction to the contrary, OPPOSITION
blank unbelief, unfaith, want of faith
infidelity, misbelief, HERESY
derision, scorn, mockery, RIDICULE
change of belief, loss of faith, lapse of faith, crisis of conscience, reversal of opinion, retraction, RECANTATION
incredibility, implausibility, IMPROBABILITY
Intellect: The exercise of the mind: General:
philosophy, ontology, teleology, metaphysics,
speculation, philosophical thought, abstract thought, systematic thought
scientific thought, science, natural philosophy
philosophical doctrine, philosophical system, philosophical theory, SUPPOSITION
school of philosophy, OPINION
monism, dualism, pluralism
idealism, subjective idealism, objective idealism, conceptualism, transcendentalism
phenomenalism, phenomenology, realism, nominalism, positivism, logical positivism, analytic philosophy, REASONING
holism, organicism, structuralism, functionalism, reductionism, reductivism
rationalism, humanism, hedonism, eudemonism
empiricism, probabilism, pragmatism
agnosticism, skepticism, irrationalism, DOUBT
nihilism, fatalism, FATE
Pythagoreanism, Platonism, Aristotelianism
Skepticism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Cynicism
Cartesianism, Kantianism, Hegelianism, Neo-Hegelianism, dialectical materialism, Marxism
Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, Yoga, Zen, RELIGION
Emotion, religion and
nothing sacred, profaneness, ungodliness, godlessness, IMPIETY
false religion, heathenism, IDOLATRY
no religion, atheism, nullifidianism, dissent from all creeds, disbelief, UNBELIEF
agnosticism, skepticism, Pyrrhonism, DOUBT
probabilism, euhemerism, PHILOSOPHY
lack of faith, want of faith, infidelity
lapse, lapse from faith, recidivism, backsliding, TERGIVERSATION
paganization, dechristianization, post-Christian state
amoralism, apathy, indifferentism, INDIFFERENCE
There is something Pagan
in me that I cannot shake off. In short, I deny nothing, but doubt
Lord Byron (1788-1824), English poet. Letter, 4 Dec. 1811 (published in Byron's Letters and Journals, vol. 2, ed. by Leslie A. Marchand, 1973-81).
I do not pretend to know where many ignorant
are sure-that is all that agnosticism means.
Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), U.S. lawyer, writer. Speech, 13 July 1925, Dayton, Tennessee, defending John T. Scopes on trial for teaching Darwinism.
Question with boldness
the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve
of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, 10 Aug. 1787.
Science and religion are not so different in the end, except that in science, the ultimate sin is believing too strongly.
- Marvin Minsky
Muslims in Oslo, Norway, applied for the right to call worshipers to prayers, calling "Allahu akbar" ("god is great") over loudspeakers. The neighborhood council granted the request, to the delight of the World Islamic Mission. A spokesman called this: a "victory of great symbolic importance. It means our religion is respected on the same lines as other religions." But to keep things equal, the council also approved a request by The Norwegian Heathen Society to summon members to their meetings by calling out "There is no god" over the loudspeakers. (AP)
it's fairly obvious to everyone that comes in contact with me that i am very much against any and all organized religions. they have a right to exist of course, but i will not hide the fact that i feel religion is the cause of most of the suffering and unnecessary death throughout history and continues to this day. i will rejoice and dance the day that all of it, INCLUDING THE RELIGION OF SCIENCE, gets wiped off the face of this earth and beyond.
however, spirituality for me, is very important. and a very personal one.
there is one organized religion that often gets neglected and dismissed as a non-religions entity: the citadel of science.
in my mind, and hopefully in the near future in more people's minds, they are the greatest threat to the methodology of science. the process of scientific method is a good one and very practical. we choose to deal with the outcome of science, and we suffer or enrich our lives with it.
what is bothersome about science is that it works, and because it works, it is often used as a wall to hide behind.
religious fanatics in the guise of science often have reflexive reactions like:
"all religions are wrong."
"there are no ufo's"
and write books like _Why People Believe in Weird Things_
closet cases like James Randi insist upon inflating his ego by "disproving" claims. that's fine with me, except i have a problem with his ego and his smugness. his term "pseudo science" simply means that if it isn't established, it won't be considered. if it's disproven as fraud, so be it. next case. the problem i have is that this involves a very nasty habit of limiting oneself to even the possibility of the wonder of existence. all the revered scientists throughout history have been labeled crackpots and pseudo scientists BY THE ESTABLISHED ORDER. back in the day it was the church. now it is the church of science.
i don't believe in a god, and i'll do my best to argue with classical religious fundamentalists. but i'll also argue the possible existence of fairies and elves with fundamentalist scientists. whether i objectively believe in those things is not the issue. i simply state that they are possible and am willing to believe if given sufficient proof. so far, there isn't enough to convince me. i am not on a crusade to prove that they don't exist. in fact, i want to believe in such things, and will enjoy the process of looking for mysteries, that still have not been proven either way.
remember, the scientists i have a problem with AUTOMATICALLY dismiss any notion outside of what they have been taught in the INSTITUTION of science. meaning that they are simply being - religious. they will insist on an already envisioned outcome and try to prove the inner knower right.
this is hardly scientific.
therefore i declare that i believe in the existence of:
self transforming machine elves
the transcendental object at the end of time
and anything else. have they been proven? well what exactly does that mean? i have never come across historical figures long dead, so why should i believe in their existence? and we all know about "history" don't we?
science is good for one thing: practical engineering. they are right ENOUGH to make something work, like getting to the moon.
but as a militant agnostic, and a quantum ontologist, they are hardly the be all end all. i happen to have fun thinking about the possibility of the vastness of possibilities. and since my world view is completely based on subjectivity and consensual hallucination, it's simply a matter of aesthetics and choice, just like everything else.
"you are what you cache"
and what i like to cache in my gray matter are interesting things, like the topics mentioned above. if someone else wants to immerse themselves in rocket science and non-euclidean geometry, be my guest. i hope they are having as much fun as i am.
- @Om* 4/27/00
"agnostic in theory, atheist in practice" - before the Bush regime illegally took over the exective branch of what was once the United States, I considered myself a full agnostic, in the sense that i would attack fundamentalist scientists as well as fundamentalist religious scumbags. I've altered this tactic. I see now that the impending theocracy is the ultimate enemy of agnosticism, and must be stopped at all costs. I choose now to practice counterpropaganda, consciously make sweeping generalizations, and label all people brainwashed by the christian cult as potential child rapists. statistically speaking, the christian church ranks at the very top of harboring and protecting convicted child molesters (the true terrorists). the church has now hijacked the government to implement their agenda to make the States into a christian version of Saudi Arabia. i still hold to the term agnosticism as an accurate term, but in practice, during the war for humanity and reason, i will definitely stand behind the atheist agenda. - @Om* January 15th, 2008
A theme throughout Arthur C. Clarke's novels is the evolution of the human spirit and man's innate desire to expand his reach. But he doesn't see religion as the answer. He calls religion a "disease of infancy," and in _3001: The Final Odyssey_, it has become taboo, a product of man's early ignorance that provoked hatred and bloodshed.
"One of my objections to religion is that it prevents the search for god, if there is one," he says. "I have an open mind on the subject, if there's anything behind the universe. And I'm quite sympathetic with the views that there could be."
"It may be that our role
on this planet is not to worship god, but to create him." - Arthur C.
According to the 13th century Andalusian Sufi Ibn Arabi there exist "delicate tenuities" that stretch between heaven and earth like Jacobs-ladders - and the "meanings" which descend along these tenuities are like angels. I believe he actually saw the tenuities as nearly-transparent ribbands of light, strands of aurora borealis pulsing with luminous nodes like stars falling through gauze curtains. There's no need to limit this perception either by theological or psychological explanations - for the naive realist any experience has as much a prior claim to ontological authenticity as any other experience - a spirit is seen or a meaning descends in the same manner that a soft rain is seen and descends. But how naive can we be? Never mind - the most advanced science or abstruse theology leads us in bewilderment back to the same crude existentialist proposal: since it appears, it might as well be real. So - if the meaning that appears in the tenuity is real, it can be traced back to its source which is real - or real enough for our present purposes - and this tracing-back is called (by the Ismaili gnostics) ta'wil, or "Interpretation." The psychologist would say the knowledge that arises in this operation comes from the inside - the theologian would say it comes from the outside - but for us both explanations have lost power to beguile.
As an alchemical process, interpretation transpires in a space
both inside/outside and neither simultaneously; as "hermeneutic
exegesis" (in Henry Corbin's phrase) it belongs to an in-between or
isthmus called Mundus Imaginalis, where images appear as autonomous, or
where dreams foretell the truth.
In one sense neither real nor unreal, in another sense, perfectly
capable of appearing to us as spirit, the world of imagination acts as if it were the source
of significances, location of personae, breath of the world. Science
and religion might unite to call this delusion - but for us it is
rather a matter of sheer desperation. The two-dimensionality of
dueling epistemologies, dichotomies, semantic traps, bad faiths - fuck
science and religion - we should demand a rationalism of the marvelous -
*an end to the violence of the explanation.*
In this context, individuals and groups bear the responsibility of makingcontact with their own angels - even the mystic gurus has misled us here, since they stand between us and our own awareness and pretend to an authority that reduces us to subjects - or rather to objects - objects of someone else's interpretation. It seems we cannot escape the imputation of an old heresy here - based on the presumption that everyone at every moment knows precisely what's going on and what to do - if only they can break free of need, oppression, and the suffocation of false consciousness - and escape the scarcity by which authority measures its wealth and its power against us. Above all - the scarcity of interpretation."
Hakim Bey - _For And Against Interpretation_
PLAYBOY: Of all the values you rebelled against as a child, what was the one you most despised?
GEORGE CARLIN: Religion. When the Catholics start laying their trip on you, you notice very early in life what a load of shit it is. The hypocrisy is just breath-takingly apparent, even to a child. But what I hated most was seeing those priests and brothers getting so much pleasure out of inflicting pain. I wondered what was wrong with them.
PLAYBOY: Do any other religions interest you?
CARLIN: None of the christian religions do. They're all outer-directed. "Who can I convert?" "Let's go to this country and make them christians." "Wear this." "Do that." "No, don't worship that way. Worship this way or I'll kill you - for the good of your soul, of course." Meanwhile, followers of Eastern religions are sitting in the middle of their minds, experiencing a bliss and a level of consciousness that Western man can't begin to approach. Christianity is all external, all material. Gold. War. Murder. The big churches operate, morally and economically, just like the big corporations. Yet they don't pay taxes. Let them pay their fair share, those fucking religions.
_Wired_ Interview (February 2001)
Q: There are very few places, even in the comic world, where people are so openly blasphemous as you are. And I love every second of it. Why the absolute, unremitting scorn for religion?
Carlin: I take pride in it. Sometimes people will say, "That's bigotry, can't you see? You wouldn't attack blacks, you wouldn't attack Jews." I say, "Wait a minute, religion is a self-conferred intellectual decision; it's not something you get at birth and is unchangeable. You're collusive with the religion when you accept it; you have a choice." So I think intellectually if you accept it, intellectually I have every right to question that choice you made. Whereas your blackness, ethnicity, homosexuality is something that might be genetic, I can't touch that, and I have no right.
Everything that you know about yourself comes from thinking back, and I think I saw religion as the first big betrayal of me. You know, they promised everything. I remember at first communion I was seven years old, and they said, "You're going to feel different, you're going to get the blessed sacrament in your mouth, and you will be in a state of grace, you will feel god's presence." I thought, "None of that happened." And I can remember noticing that. I probably, at some level, decided to listen a little more carefully to what they were saying in the future and maybe not just buy it all. But I was openly disdainful of what they were teaching before I reached eighth grade. And I felt that they attempted to lead me astray; they attempted to promise me things that weren't attainable through their narrow method.
I think religion is very anti-man. I think it's a terrible distortion and exploitation of a very natural urge every human has--to be rejoined with the one somehow, to become a part of the universe. Once the high priests and the traders took over, we were lost as a species.
Not-knowing is true
Presuming to know is a disease.
First realize that you are sick.
Then you can move toward health
- Lao Tzu
track _Science Of Myth_ MP3 by Screeching Weasel off of _My Brain Hurts_ CD on Lookout! (1991)
"it doesn't matter if
it's real or not... some things are
better left without a doubt... and if it works then it gets the job
done... somehow no matter what the world keeps turning, somehow we get
by without ever learning.."
When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.
-- J. Krishnamurti, _Freedom from the Known_, pp. 51-52
"Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet." - Napoleon Bonaparte
It's important to realize that the use of drugs for spiritual purposes is nothing new. Rather, the present interest is perhaps a revival of spirituality as it was experienced before religion became so institutionalised. It's also worth remembering that there have been many previous wars against drugs, and that many spiritual practices using drugs have been eliminated through persecution. In India they used Soma; in Europe we had witches who made use of mushrooms and toad skin until they were persecuted out of existence; in Siberia the Communists wiped out the shamans who used fly agaric. In North and South America the christian missionaries are still actively trying to eliminate traditional shamans and their use of psychoactive plants by saying they are devil worshippers. This not only continues, but with renewed vigour by some missionaries whose aim is to eliminate paganism by the millennium.
- Nicholas Saunders - _The Spiritual Use Of Psychoactive Drugs_
"I grew up in a mostly Buddhist environment. My father, when very young, was the first American to be ordained as a Buddhist monk. He now teaches Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia University and is regarded as this country's foremost authority on Buddhism. When the Dalai Lama comes to America, it's my father who is his host. When asked if I consider myself Buddhist, the answer is, not really. But it's more my religion than any other because I was brought up with it in an intellectual and spiritual environment. I don't practice or preach it, however. But Buddhism has had a major effect on who I am and how I think about the world. What I have learned is that I like all religions, but only parts of them."
Thurman, interview in _Cosmopolitan_, 1995
_The San Jose Mercury News_ profiled Linus Torvalds in a piece titled "Linus the Liberator" by David Diamond (1999):
Unlike many in Silicon Valley, the newcomer is guided by a strong set of ethics. "There are like two golden rules in life. One is 'Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.' For some reason, people associate this with christianity. I'm not a christian. I'm agnostic. The other rule is 'Be proud of what you do.'"
In an interview (first published on the web) conducted while Brian Eno was promoting his album _Nerve Net_ a few years ago, the interviewer noted that Eno described his music as "godless." He responded "Well, I'm an atheist, and the concept of god for me is all part of what I call the last illusion. The last illusion is someone knows what is going on. That's the last illusion. Nearly everyone has that illusion somewhere, and it manifests not only in the terms of the idea that there is a god but that it knows what's going on but that the planets know what's going on. Astrology is part of the last illusion. The obsession with health is part of the last illusion, the idea that there's that if only we could spend time on it and sit down and stop being unreasonable with each other we'd all find that there was a structure and a solution underlying plan to it all, for most people the short answer to that is god."
The primary basis for theological study, and the big motivator for scientific research into consciousness, is not institutionalized religion. astronaut Edgar Mitchell describes that as the “exoteric core.” In fact, the majority of studies are based on the esoteric inner core essentially, the seeds that planted religion. “Religion is dogmatic, political, egocentric, and a perversion, generally, of the esoteric inner experience,” he said. “Religion is based upon the experience of [its native] culture. But if you look at the mystic experience (indefinable phenomena in nature such as synchronicity, premonition, etc.), which is the inner core of all this, across all cultures they’re essentially the same. “As I’ve said for years in my lectures, if you could get jesus, Buddha, Moses, Lao Tzu, and Zoroaster and the primitive shamans together, they would have no disagreement on the nature of ultimate reality, because the inner experience they experienced is that communion with what classical literature describes as the godhead; to quote theologian Paul Tillich, ‘the ground of our being.’ That is the same in virtually all the cultures.'
track _Exile_ MP3 by Verbal Assault off of _On_ 12" on Groove (1989)
To make a decision
That is just a process of elimination
A choice to two is not enough
I view both ends with mistrust
Told to love because another hates
No middle ground to mediate
Your reasoning is tyrannous
I view both ends with mistrust
I feel like I'm an exile
And I think of you
I feel like I'm in exile
And I can't get through
Can't you remember the painful strife
And untold waste of human life
For arrogant judgment of their crimes
We've been too wrong too many times
And those who wish to continue on
Acting as if there's nothing wrong
Blinded by your false pride
We sit and watch and help them die
As the extremes push their ends
I watch as the lines begin to bend
As tactics fail in self defeat
I watch as the ends begin to meet
I walk away
Understanding that mind makes reality, one must then understand why belief is the enemy . Belief systems have often been created to shape the mind into narrow reality-tunnels that exclude other modes of perception. If you can control what people believe - as Hitler, Stalin, and other dictators realized - you have a method of coercion better than a thousand tanks or the death penalty. The so-called holy wars of religion and the Inquisition were waged in the name of belief, the idea being that either you believed in the True Religion or you were deserving of death. As Robert Anton Wilson points out, convictions make convicts - rigidity of belief and ideological dogmatism ("there is only one true way") have restrained and distorted the human spirit for thousands of years. People will do things they wouldn't otherwise - such as suicide bombings or kamikaze dives - in the name of religious or nationalistic beliefs. The problem of the human race has not been a lack of belief, it has been a surplus of it. He who can get us to believe in an ideology has us under his power. But ideology governs more than action or behavior.
Seeker1 - _Why Belief Can
Be Our Enemy_
MDC - _CHURCH & STATE_ MP3 off of _Millions Of Dead Cops/More Dead Cops_ CD on R Radical (1982/1988)
nationalism in school
perpetrating their rule
lying textbooks rant their patriotic slant
"you're country's great!" cry the church and the state
"all that've died, were on god's side"
president and pope your pride and hope
families build christian ethics instilled
the biblical truth? faith, not proof!
wield a sword walk with the lord
be a man protect your land
hear your call martyrs all
your life's lost nailed to a cross
dead on foreign soil for your god (and their oil)
I see by your outfit you
may be a preacher.
"Yes, I am, - of the non-theistic, non-sectarian sort."
- _Creatures Of Light And Darkness_ by Roger Zelazny
"Don't pray in my school and I won't think in your church" - bumper sticker
"I can live without god. I can't live without painting." - Van Gogh from the film _Vincent & Theo_
the terrorists are not only muslims who hijack airplanes, but born-again christians who hijack governments.
W.C. Fields willed his money to establish an ophanage where no religion is preached.
"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." - Thomas Paine, founding father of the U.S.
there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...
- John Lennon
"The world is my country, all mankind my brethren, and to do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
"The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable." - H.L. Mencken
"Religion seems to need violence and violence religion" - Mark Juergensmeyer - _Terror in the Mind of God_
track _I want To Conquer The World_ MP3 by Bad Religion off of _No Control_ 12" on Epitaph (1989)
hey brother christian with
your high and mighty errand
your actions speak so loud I can't hear a word you're saying
hey sister bleeding heart with all of your compassion
your labors soothe the hurt but can't assuage temptation
hey man of science
with your perfect rules of measure
can you improve this place with the data that you gather?
hey mother mercy can your loins bear fruit forever?
is your fecundity a trammel or a treasure?
I want to conquer the
give all the idiots a brand new religion
put an end to poverty, uncleanliness and toil
promote equality in all of my decisions
with a quick wink of the eye and a "god you must be joking!"
hey mister diplomat
with your worldly aspirations
did you see your children cry when you left them at the station?
hey moral soldier you've got righteous proclamation
and precious tomes to fuel your pulpy conflagrations
I want to conquer the
expose the culprits and feed them to the children
I'll do away with air pollution
and then I'll save the whales
we'll have peace on earth
and global communion
The terms agnosticism and agnostic were coined by Thomas Henry Huxley in 1869. The concept however has long existed, a philosophical and theological view that the existence of a god or gods is either unknown, or inherently unknowable. The term has since come to be commononly used to describe those who take a doubtful or noncommittal stance on the existence of gods as well as various esoteric matters of world religions.
Many agnostics are people who do not believe in absolute truth. Others doubt the likelihood of various religious phenomena, and reserve judgment. Yet others believe that people can have scientific or real knowledge of phenomena, but when it comes to what lies behind phenomena there can be no evidence that entitles anyone either to deny or affirm anything. The singular characteristic of agnosticism is uncertainty or doubt.
Origin of the term
The word agnostic comes from the Greek a (no) and gnosis (knowledge). Among the most famous agnostics (in the original sense) were Huxley, Charles Darwin, and Bertrand Russell. Russell's _Why I Am Not a Christian_ is considered a classic text about agnosticism. It has been argued from his works, especially Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, that David Hume was an agnostic, this however remains subject to debate.
Agnosticism is not to be confused with a view specifically opposing the doctrine of gnosis and Gnosticism - these are religious concepts that are not generally related to agnosticism.
The logic of Agnosticism
The logic of the position adopted by agnostics depends on the correct parsing of statements of belief or knowledge. Such statements are not about facts, but about other statements. For example, god exists is a statement about god, but John believes that god exists is about the statement god exists. In the jargon of the logician, statements about other statements are second-order predicates.
There are two possible statements one can make regarding the existence of gods – either god exists or god does not exist. Since someone can either agree or disagree with each, there are a total of four possibilities.
* agree with the statement: god exists
* not agree with the statement: god exists
* agree with the statement: god does not exist
* not agree with the statement: god does not exist
Joining these with a conjunction, one can derive four possibilities:
1. The theist agrees with the statement god
exists and does not agree with the statement god does not exist
2. The strong atheist does not agree with the statement god exists and agrees with the statement god does not exist
3. The agnostic does not agree with the statement god exists and does not agree with the statement god does not exist
4. One cannot coherently agree with the statement god exists and with the statement god does not exist, since this is a logical contradiction.
Agnostics vary in their reasons for agreeing with (3). If one holds that knowledge of god is impossible, it follows that one will not agree with either, since each assumes that one can have some knowledge of god. It is not coherent to believe in god and yet to claim to have no knowledge of god, since the belief at the least implies that one knows god exists. Other agnostics simply reserve their judgment, not claiming that knowledge of the existence of god is impossible, but perhaps claiming that there is insufficient evidence one way or the other. Agnosticism is thus to some degree independent of atheism/theism.
One can draw a distinction between belief and knowledge leading some to claiming agnosticism is about knowledge, while atheism/theism is about belief. Since knowledge implies belief, one cannot intelligibly know some proposition to be true and not also believe that proposition is true. Belief does not imply knowledge, but knowledge does imply belief. However claiming to believe something but not know it puts one in a curious position - usually one accuses others of having a belief that is not knowledge.
Most modern uses focus on the question of the existence of gods rather than a broad range of metaphysical questions. The term may be applied to the simple failure to hold that a god does or does not exist (i.e., not taking a stand). In this sense, the twentieth century logical positivists, such as Rudolph Carnap and A. J. Ayer, who viewed that any talk of gods and perforce considerations of whether one can know that gods exist are simply nonsense; would count as agnostics. The " freethinking" tradition of atheism calls "agnosticism," used in this sense, "weak atheism" (or "negative atheism"). However, some critics have pointed out that many agnostics live as if there were no gods, not as if there were any, which makes agnosticism in their eyes a brand of atheism. And of course non-atheists and impartial data collection services display the common use of the term, distinct from atheism (along with secular, non-religious or a variety of other catagories some prefer to include) in its lack of rejecting the existence of gods.
The term has many uses, however. One alternative first suggested by Huxley states, "In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable" (Huxley, Agnosticism, 1889). A. W. Momerie has noted that this is nothing but a definition of honesty. Huxley's usual definition went beyond mere honesty, however, and he insisted that these metaphysical issues were fundamentally unknowable.
Some Views Within Agnosticism
* empirical agnosticism (aka open agnosticism,
weak agnosticism, soft agnosticism)-the view that the question of the
existence of gods is knowable but the individual has not seen enough
evidence or there is evenly-weighted evidence on both sides of the
question of the existence of a god or gods.
* closed agnosticism (aka strict agnosticism, strong agnosticism, hard agnosticism)-the view that the question of the existence of a god or gods is unknowable by nature or that human beings are ill-equipped to judge the evidence
* ignosticsm-(aka apatheism)-the view that the question of the existence of a god or gods is meaningless because it has no verifiable consequences
* model agnosticism - the view that philosophical and metaphysical questions are not ultimately verifiable, but that a model of malleable assumption should be built upon rational thought. Note that this branch of agnosticism differs from others in that it does not focus upon the question of a god's existence.
Origins of agnosticism
Agnostic views are as old as philosophical skepticism. But the terms "agnostic" and "agnosticism" were applied by Huxley to sum up his thoughts from that time's contemporary developments of metaphysics about the "unconditioned" (Hamilton) and the "unknowable" (Herbert Spencer). It is important, therefore, to discover Huxley's own views on the matter. Though Huxley began to use the term "agnostic" in 1869, his opinions had taken shape some time before that date. In a letter to Charles Kingsley (September 23, 1860) he discussed his views extensively:
"I neither affirm nor deny the immortality of man. I see no reason for believing it, but, on the other hand, I have no means of disproving it. I have no a priori objections to the doctrine. No man who has to deal daily and hourly with nature can trouble himself about a priori difficulties. Give me such evidence as would justify me in believing in anything else, and I will believe that. Why should I not? It is not half so wonderful as the conservation of force or the indestructibility of matter"..
"It is no use to talk to me of analogies and probabilities. I know what I mean when I say I believe in the law of the inverse squares, and I will not rest my life and my hopes upon weaker convictions"..
"That my personality is the surest thing I know may be true. But the attempt to conceive what it is leads me into mere verbal subtleties. I have champed up all that chaff about the ego and the non-ego, noumena and phenomena, and all the rest of it, too often not to know that in attempting even to think of these questions, the human intellect flounders at once out of its depth."..
Of the origin of the name "agnostic" to cover this attitude, Huxley gave (Coll. Ess. v. pp. 237-239) the following account:
"So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of 'agnostic.' It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the 'gnostic' of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant. To my great satisfaction the term took."
Huxley's agnosticism is believed to be a natural consequence of the intellectual and philosophical conditions of the 1860s, when clerical intolerance was trying to suppress scientific discoveries which appeared to clash with a literal reading of the Book of Genesis and other established christian doctrines. Agnosticsm should not, however, be confused with deism, pantheism or other science positive forms of theism.