Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Don't Believe In Agnostics (Really)

There are no such things as Agnostics - no such thing as people who are undecided about whether or not God exists. Theoretically, you can be on the fence, but life has a way of pushing you to act based on what you believe. So when that happens you can't be indecisive. You have to choose. Do you live your life as if there is no God? Then you're an Atheist. Do you believe there is a God who created the universe, but you don't try to form any kind of relationship with Him? Then you're a Deist. Do you think all religions are ways to God and think they should just get along? Then you are denying all of them, because they all claim to be exclusive. No matter what you do, at some point you have to jump off the fence and make a decision like the rest of us. Life will not let you stay where you are forever. And if your Agnosticism is a claim to objectivity, I hope to break down that arrogant assumption.

If you're a Christian and you think you could go either way on homosexuality, women as pastors, or the existence of Hell, you'll lose your chance to be indecisive the moment life throws you a moment where you have to act one way or another regarding those issues (most notably if you're a pastor). If your son starts dating another boy and you're happy about that, or your church brings in a female pastor and you decide to stay, or you refuse to warn someone about the danger of Hell, in effect you're jumping off the fence and taking a stand on an issue. You can't claim to be an agnostic on the issue. So we'll look at 3 different kinds of Agnostics: the secular Agnostic, the spiritual Agnostic, and the Christian Agnostic.

The Secular Agnostic

This is the guy who says, "I don't know whether or not God exists," but spends his time actively resisting the idea that there could be a god. Richard Dawkins falls into this category as do most others in the Skeptic movement. But beliefs have consequences - when doing history, or science, or archaeology, if you claim to be an agnostic but stack the 'rules' of these fields in such a way that you have to work as if God definitely didn't exist (i.e. in history you have to outright deny theistic causes in, say, the creation of Israel rather than holding theistic and naturalistic causes to be equally valid), then you're not an Agnostic. You've come down on a Yes and No decision, and you've decided to go with "No." If you live your life as if there were no God who cared about your ethics and morality -except whatever society happens to approve of at the moment- then in effect you are denying the possibility of a personal God who minds what you do. If you really thought there could be such a God, you would probably live your life much more carefully, observing the moral laws common to most religions and offering up regular prayers, just in case. But that would actually make you a spiritual Agnostic...

The Spiritual Agnostic

This is the guy who claims that there is a god but says, "I don't know which religion is the right one, or if any of them are." His favourite analogy is of four blind men gripping different parts of an elephant, each one concluding that it is something completely different, and all of them being wrong. This guy isn't on a journey trying to figure out which religion is the right one; he's stopped looking and doesn't want to hear arguments from religious adherents. He either believes that god is a sort of love energy that permeateseverything (though he has no way to know this for sure... AND, it's actually just as much of a definite religious position as Islam is) or he thinks that God started up the universe but doesn't care what people do with their limited time on earth, which is really Deism. Notice that this guy isn't Agnostic either - he comes down on a definite religious position.

The Christian Agnostic

This is the guy who believes in Jesus but says, "The Bible is limited by our interpretations - we can't know for sure what it says." If you name any doctrine or a moral issue, this guy is sitting back waiting for his chance to call you on pride for thinking you could know about such things. His natural enemies are authority, doctrine, reason, and constructive philosophy. He lies awake most nights worrying about how Rene Descartes and The Early Princeton Theologians have ruined his life. He claims to not know whether women should be pastors, but he has no problem attending church where the pastor is a woman; he claims not to know whether you have to be a Christian to get to heaven, but he doesn't seem conflicted when his non-Christian friends and relatives pass away; he doesn't think you should be so certain about how people are made right with God, but his hope seems to rest on the idea that in general he's a pretty good person; he claims not to know what the Bible says on homosexuality, but openly celebrates his son's marriage to another man, and their subsequent adoption of a child.

Why This Matters

Agnosticism is a claim to objectivity. Because you don't 'land' anywhere, you can claim not to be biased. But in reality there are no such people, and when life forces you to act on what you believe, you'll find out that you're just as sure of what you think as everybody else is. You're not unbiased at all. So Christians - please run with this observation and improve on it, work out the flaws (and there are flaws, but I have to stop writing), and use it to take away peoples' false idea that they're the objective ones when it comes to religion. Or if you fall into these categories, ask yourself how sure you are that you really are Agnostic about an issue, and if this really makes you more clear-headed than others. It could be that you're actively searching for the truth and you're not sure what to believe but you're willing to find out - this post isn't for you. This post is for those who are apathetic and stalled in their Agnosticism, but claim to be unsure as a way of making themselves sound more reasonable. Whether they are secular, spiritual, or Christian, these supposed Agnostics deserve a reality check and a swift kick in the rear.



  1. So what is the proper Christian response if your son starts dating another boy?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I don't know - I'm theoretically Agnostic about what a Christian should do. I'd find some way to show that I love him, while also showing him that I don't support his lifestyle choices.

  4. You know what they say about theoretical agnostics... they need a reality check and a swift kick in the rear.

  5. I just read your quotes....interesting stuff.

  6. It is a compliment. I wanted to read more but just didn't get around to it. I think that you make a compelling argument.

  7. What happened to the conversation we were having? Is there censorship going on?

  8. @Anon.

    Yes. The post really wasn't about gay marriage; I had offered my email so that we could talk more personally in a less public space; and, my efforts to have you explore why you hold to certain cultural assumptions about sexuality was generally just met with indignant retorts. Also, I mostly delete anonymous comments anyway. I'd like a name, even if it's a pseudonym - it makes the conversation more personal.


Start or join a conversation! Please do not use the 'Anonymous'; option; use the Name/URL form and leave a first and last name (or last initial). Thank you.