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Why Agnosticism

Agnosticism is unique in that, unlike any other religious perspective, it asserts nothing more than a simple truth that all are aware of, but few will admit: we are not absolutely certain whether or not there is a god, or where we go when we die. There are a dozen different flavors of agnosticism that debate if it is ever possible to discover absolute spiritual truth, but it is the fact that agnosticism makes no assumptions that sets it apart from any other spiritual outlook, even atheism. And, this difference, this willingness to accept the fact that we don’t know for sure (and might not ever know), keeps reality in perspective. There are questions we do not have the answers to, and it is our responsibility to be mature enough to admit when this is the case; the alternative to admission is denial, to assert that one’s faith is evidence enough to constitute a fact, even enough to contradict known facts (such as the faith-driven assertion that the earth is flat, something known to be false even in the times of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks).

When somebody asserts that they know that their own religion is true, they are making a comment on their own confidence in that belief, rather than on the validity of the belief itself. When you get down to the core of every religious position, they all center around faith; you must have faith that Jesus rose from the dead or that Mohammed did in fact converse with an angel. There is no direct evidence of these figures or events, no way to know for sure if the vague witness accounts we have of them are true or mistaken. One must have faith to ascribe to a religion, because nobody knows the truth for sure. There is nothing wrong with having faith in a religion, but it is imperative to realize the difference between faith and fact.

Nobody would take a scientific theory seriously if it were grounded only on faith; nobody in their right mind would take an un-tested medicine because the doctor simply had faith it would work. We form beliefs based on our observations, on trial-and-error, and by logically deducting the answers to questions. Religion stands alone in that it is the one popular aspect of human belief that is not based on any sort of evidence or direct experience, and it stems from a simple source: We are uncomfortable with not knowing what life is really all about. We are learning creatures; our natural drive is to learn as much as we can to give ourselves a sense of security and control, and it drives us mad when there’s something we can’t directly observe or learn about, such as death and spirituality. Even atheism, based on scientific evidence, concludes that there is no god, when the existence of one is still certainly a possibility. Inductively-asserting that there is no god due to our current scientific evidence neglects the possibility that our evidence or reasoning could be flawed, as has happened many times in human history. Agnosticism is the understanding that, even though we’re learning creatures, there are some things we cannot learn about right now; it is about being at peace with the things in life we do not know.

Agnosticism leaves room for error, for change, because life is unpredictable. Perhaps humans’ greatest novelty is our adaptability, our ability to change our understanding of the world around us whenever we learn something new. Putting oneself in a box of fixed spiritual beliefs leaves no room for new discoveries, and may possibly lead to flat-out denial of such new developments. And, for the sake of ensuring our well-being as a people, it is absolutely essential that we listen to what new discoveries tell us, even when they are inconvenient; especially when they are inconvenient. Agnosticism makes no un-founded assumption, but necessitates coming to terms with the fact that there are mysteries we have yet to solve, and some that may lie forever beyond our mortal reach.