Theists and atheists both dislike agnostics, because agnostics will not join either of their teams. Theists and atheists alike often treat this unwillingness to join as a lack of courage or integrity, or as confusion about the options, or as knock-kneed fence-sitting. In reality, however, agnosticism is a refusal to play the theists-vs.-atheists game. It is a desire to step outside of Hatfields-and-McCoys rules in the hope of creating something better.
Here is my view of agnosticism. I welcome alternative accounts of agnosticism, as well as critiques of this position.
1) There is no more reason (and no less reason) to accept the existence of the many deities worshipped by Christian, Jewish, or Muslim denominations than there is to accept the existence of Thor, Osiris, or Athena, or leprechauns, fairies, or ancestor-spirits.
2) There is no more reason (and no less reason) to accept an utterly deity-free and spirit-free universe than there is to accept a universe which contains at least one deity and/or spirit-force. No principle of reasoning and no piece of evidence can decide the case conclusively to the satisfaction of even most interested parties.
3) Whether the universe contains any deities or spirits whatsoever, human beings must still work together, in spite of numerous differences, to solve enormous economic, social, ecological, and political problems which threaten to destroy us.
4) Whether one believes in spirit-entities or not, one realizes the importance of working for one's family, loved ones, and social groups, and one is genetically programmed to engage in at least some altruistic activity for their benefit. There are atheists, agnostics, animists, and theists both inside and outside of prison, both inside and outside of the academy, both inside and outside of the laboratory, both inside and outside of Congress.
Conclusion: the question of the existence or non-existence of spirits and deities is not very important, and should be left to one side so that we can concentrate our attentions on the problems which ARE important. Deciding on the existence or non-existence of spirit-beings is a waste of time. Thus, on my view, agnosticism is not a refusal to "pick a side" or an unwillingness to risk being wrong: it is a sense that beliefs which can't be firmly grounded in evidence, and which make no real difference in our lives either way, are really not worth arguing about.
That is why I call myself an agnostic. Not that I personally don't know the answers: but rather, THERE IS NO KNOWLEDGE TO BE HAD about the answers, and no reason to be bent out of shape about this lack of knowledge, and no reason to use wishful thinking to pretend that such chimerical knowledge is available.
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