Previous Page/Table Of ContentsNext Page

G . Why Agnostics Can Believe In God

Any of you who studied Peter Kreeft's introductory material might well be a bit confused about my assertions in this book. Peter defined an Agnostic as someone who is indecisive about the existence of God. That is, of course, totally inconsistent with the dictionary definition of what an Agnostic really is:

An agnostic35 is a person who believes that the nature of God is unknown, and probably unknowable.36

The above definition says nothing about the existence or non-existence of God. It only says that I do not expect mankind to ever know the true nature of God. Those who would choose to believe that God does not exist as anything other than a concept in our minds could still be agnostics, as the true nature of God may well be a mere belief which resides inside of the minds of mankind. However, that is not my personal belief, as I do see at least some scientific evidence which would lead to a conclusion that some sort of God created force probably does exist in a form in which we can measure its presence by use of scientific means. That is the subject of Book II, Section F.
The whole problem is the placement of the word "agnosticism" in Peter Kreeft's "Figure One" as an association with the word "indecision." While I can easily conceive of those who would be in a state of indecision over their religious beliefs, most of us who are true Agnostics have made a deliberate decision to adopt that religious viewpoint. My preference, then, would be to draw a separate line down from "decision," which line would lead to "agnosticism" as an alternative to either belief, unbelief, or indecision.
Presently, agnosticism is an informal belief, but it is not restricted to that. I could develop a formal Agnostic religion, and I have been thinking long and hard about doing it. If I did so, and included my belief in the existence of God, then my form of agnosticism would clearly belong as a third choice along with monotheism and polytheism because of my belief that mankind can never know if there is one God or many Gods (because we will probably never know the nature of God).
The difficulty which I have had with those who would have me adhere to one or another of the existing formal religions is the non sequitur of "God exists; therefore X," where "X" is the particular religion being promoted by those individuals. For the debate, Dr. Moreland argues, in essence, that God exists, therefore we should all be Christians, because (apparently) it is only the Christians who have the true view of God. Once you read Spengler, or the Durants' "The Lessons of History," you cannot accept that view.
In "The Mansions of Philosophy" (1929), Will Durant characterized Religion as "The Great Enemy" of Philosophy. I have always asked myself why that was so. Why cannot there be a Religion which is compatible with Philosophy?
The answer appears to lie in Spengler: Religion is the product of the Early Culture, while Philosophy is the intellectual product of the Civilization. The two are incompatible because of their origins 180 degrees out of phase from each other. In many ways, it would seem that Religion is and Philosophy are the antithesis of each other.
But then I recalled again "The Lessons of History." There, the Durants teach that "Marx was an unfaithful disciple of Hegel: he interpreted the Hegelian dialectic as implying that the struggle between capitalism and socialism would end in the complete victory of socialism; but if the Hegelian formula of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis is applied to the Industrial Revolution as thesis, and to capitalism versus socialism as antithesis, the third condition would be a synthesis of capitalism and socialism; and to this reconciliation the Western World visibly moves."
So, to draw a parallel to the teaching of the Durants, if the creative force which I see as supplied by God is the thesis, and if Religion and Philosophy are antithesis, would not (or at least, should not) my formal system of Agnostic beliefs be the synthesis? The next question is: why would it appear that I am the first to conceive of this possibility?
One reason is that there is so much time, in the Cultural sense, between the strong driving force of Religious faith and its intellectual counterpart, Philosophy. Our Western society is really the first to attempt large scale preservation of knowledge from the past. So, it is appropriate that the West would be the first to even attempt this synthesis.
The fundamental base which makes Religion and Philosophy into the antithesis of each other is their respective reliance upon the irreconcilable base values of Faith and Reason. Thus, another barrier to a synthesis is the fact that there really is no room for compromise between these base values. Unlike Capitalism and Socialism which would admit to an infinite degree of selection between the pure versions of either, the choice between Faith and Reason is fundamental.
If we choose Faith, the result is the "Second Religiousness" which Spengler has predicted, and which we already see forming around us. The debate over the teaching of evolution and/or creationism in our schools is one aspect of this absolute reliance upon Faith as a base value. It is clear that no rational person would deliberately corrupt his or her value system by choosing any premise based on Faith as a base value.
If we choose Reason as our base value, the question arises as to: what do we derive which is distinct from the Philosophy of Aristotle (and his successors) which we had adopted as a pure intellectual feat? Well, I believe that we should eventually derive some version of agnosticism which is fully compatible with, and a part of, Philosophy, and that result would be the synthesis which would be predicted by Hegel.
But if we would change our world for the better, and avoid the coming Cęsarism, we must teach this synthesis to as many children as possible, weaning them away from Faith as a fundamental base of intellectual premises. If we teach our children the ways of Reason, and destroy Faith, we can avoid the "Second Religiousness" and all of its evil consequences. But those of us who would adhere to Reason must first realize that we are in the middle of a battle for the lives of our children with those who would adhere to Faith, and we must begin to fight that war with all of the weapons at our command. If we lost that battle, our ideas and our lives may be as easily destroyed as the early Christians destroyed the Great Library at Alexandria.37
This is the message which I choose to write, over and over again: choose Reason, not Faith; choose Agnosticism, not any other Religion; and choose life under the light of knowledge for our children's children, not the dark and desperate times associated with the "end times" of Western Civilization. That is the choice which confronts us all both here and now, and over our near term future. Once the forces of Faith become too strong for us to defeat them, it will be too late, and the darkness will fall upon us all.

35 The word "agnostic" was coined by Thomas Henry Huxley [1825-1895], who intended it to be the antithesis of "gnostic" (used in the sense of the definition "of, relating to, or characterized by knowledge or cognition : INTELLECTUAL, KNOWING"), and it represents a personal statement by him that he did not know the truth about God and did not expect to ever know the truth about God. A key quotation of his is: "The only medicine for suffering, crime, and all the other woes of mankind is wisdom." (Science and Education [1868], Chapter 4.)

36 The unknown nature of God includes any specification of whether God is singular or plural, and thus agnostics may not truly be classified as either monotheistic (singular God) or polytheistic (multiple Gods).

37 One of the greatest evil deeds of the early Christians, during the "Second Religiousness" (strong Faith) time of Classical Civilization, was to destroy the library at Alexandria, and with it, a thousand years of accumulated human knowledge (except for a few surviving scraps). The Catholic Church made the guy most responsible for this despicable act into a saint. Go figure.

Copyright © 1994-1999 by the Agnostic Church

Please send us your feedback!

Previous Page/Table Of ContentsNext Page