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Agnosticism 101

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If there is anything as misunderstood and misrepresented as atheism, it must be agnosticism. There are many misconceptions about agnosticism, agnostics, and the reasons why anyone would adopt a position of agnosticism in the first place. This is unfortunate, because whether agnosticism is conceived of as a philosophy or simply an isolated position on the existence of gods, it is eminently reasonable and defensible.

The definition of agnosticism is one of the more contentious issues - even many agnostics continue to hold to the idea that agnosticism represents some sort of "third way" between atheism and theism. Not only evidence from standard dictionaries but also a careful comparison between agnosticism and other ideas like theism and atheism reveal that calling oneself an agnostic by no mean excludes being either an atheist or a theist.

Limiting oneself to discussing agnosticism as an isolated position fails to do it justice. It was originally conceived by Thomas Henry Huxley as a methodology for approaching religious questions, particularly the existence of God. Even before he coined the term, however, basic agnostic principles had existed for a long time and they have always posed serious challenges to basic premises in theology and religious philosophy. Agnosticism is a skeptical challenge to the notion that any religious conclusion can really be "known" in the first place.


Defining Agnosticism
To understand why agnosticism is both reasonable and plays an important role in the philosophy of religion, the first step is to get a better grasp of just how the concept is defined. There are quite a few different definitions of agnosticism, but the definitions presented here are the most basic, the broadest, and I think the most reasonable of the lot. Defining agnosticism isn't all that difficult because the broad understanding of it is well supported by most standard dictionaries.

Highlights:
•  What is Agnosticism?
•  Strong Agnosticism vs. Weak Agnosticism
•  Standard Dictionary Definitions of Agnosticism


Agnosticism Compared & Contrasted
One way to learn more about agnosticism is to take a closer look at how it compares with other ideas. Contrasting agnosticism with atheism and theism can reveal that agnosticism is not really a 'third way' between the two. Seeing how and why agnosticism is often conceived as a lack of commitment can also explain the differences between some popular perceptions of agnosticism and the way it is properly defined.

Highlights:
•  Agnosticism vs. Atheism
•  Agnosticism vs. Theism
•  Agnosticism and Commitment


Philosophy of Agnosticism
Agnosticism plays an important role in the philosophy of religion because it poses a serious challenge to those theologians and philosophers who argue that knowledge about gods is possible. If agnosticism can be successfully defended as being at least rational, then the efforts of many religious apologists (especially those who try to prove the existence of God) can be called into serious question, if not rejected entirely as a castle built upon sand.

Highlights:
•  Agnosticism & Thomas Henry Huxley
•  Agnosticism & Robert Green Ingersoll
•  Philosophic Origins of Agnosticism

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