What do Agnostics believe?
“Concerning the gods, I am unable to discover whether they exist or not…for there are many hindrances to knowledge, the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life.” - Protagoras
Often confused with Atheists, agnostics hold fast to the fact that the existence or lack thereof of God is unknowable. In short, they are not sure if God exists and are completely cool with that.
As opposed to an Atheist who assumes that God does not exist all together. Agnostics and atheists, though often mentioned together, are not the same.
In fact, the purpose of this post is to further distinguish what agnostics do and don't believe by providing some history, fast facts and finish up with some practical advice on how to witness to an agnostic.
In terms of history, one can assume agnosticism has been around for as long as humans have. I am sure someone early on had to have the mindset of "Who knows?" in response to the thought of life after this world.
Formally though, the term "agnostic" came into being around 1870 when Biologist, T.H. Huxley coined the term as a description of his own spiritual standing. This term and mentality came into popularity during a time in which innovation and human reason started taking precedent over spiritual facets.
Along with the name, other constructs came to the forefront that really began to provide legitimacy and structure to the agnostic worldview. Knowing this, here’s some aspects of agnosticism to take note of:
1. Agnosticism is not a purely passive position. Some people see agnostics as care-free, foolish or both. The assumption is that they are all indecisive individuals who just can’t make up their mind about God.
Where, for the majority, that is not the case. They, like other belief systems, do not take their conclusion lightly.
Most have done a lot of digging to arrive at their conclusion and believe wholeheartedly that knowing for sure that God does or does not exist is impossible. Agnostics are firm in that thought process.
2. Some Agnostics actually practice religion. A portion of agnostics operate like Atheists, living life free of religious influence. But for many agnostics, religious practice is a main component of their lives. They will follow all of the rituals, laws and tasks, but still be under the impression that there is no way of actually knowing if a God or gods is really out there.
Their religion is not spiritual as much as it is practical. It is not as strange as one might assume. Many people meditate, but aren't Buddhists. Some read the scriptures, but are not saved. Others partake in prayer with their family, but do not know their Heavenly Father.
In fact, I would wager to say that churches are FULL of agnostic Christians. Those who come for the community, but could not care less about Christ.
Aside from this, the practice of religion without a sure belief in God is something some agnostics practice. Yet, the degree of religious influence varies greatly between them.
3. There are different types of agnostics. Like many religions, agnosticism has many different forms and flavors.
There are strong agnostics who believe no one ever could successfully prove the existence or non - existence of God. That humans, no matter what, will never know.
There are weak agnostics who tend to think that God can’t be proven or disproven, but believe there is always the possibility of it being proven one day.
Lastly, there are apathetic agnostics that truly don’t care. They see the idea of God as purely impractical, almost like a story or Netflix show. They have removed themselves from all implications of His existing or non - existing.
With all of that said though, agnostics are in the same boat as all of us. Sinners in desperate need of the grace of God.
So, when in conversation with someone who is agnostic, listen well to their thoughts. Because they are technically not wrong: you can’t empirically prove that God exists or not. At some point, you have to find the faith to trust in God’s existence and goodness (Heb. 11:6).
Yet, the lack of full proof evidence for God doesn’t provide us a hall pass to bypass the consequences of not believing - which is eternal Hell (John 3:18).
A point to hit on in conversation would be this: what does someone lose who does NOT BELIEVE in God and is wrong? They lose everything and are doomed for eternity.
On the other hand, what does someone lose if they BELIEVE in God and is wrong? They lose nothing. If God is not real, they face the same fate as someone who didn’t believe.
So, agnostics might as well believe that God exists! If neither position can be proven or disproven, it is wise to subscribe to the side with the least amount of eternal consequences.