Agnosticism is the view that the truth values of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—are unknown or unknowable. Agnosticism can be defined in various ways, and is sometimes used to indicate doubt or a skeptical approach to questions. In some senses, agnosticism is a stance about the difference between belief and knowledge, rather than about any specific claim or belief. In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who is undecided about the existence of a deity or deities, whereas a theist and an atheist believe and disbelieve, respectively. In the strict sense, however, agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify the belief that deities either do or do not exist. Within agnosticism there are agnostic atheists (who do not believe any deity exists, but do not deny it as a possibility) and agnostic theists (who believe a deity exists but do not claim it as personal knowledge).
Thomas Henry Huxley, an English biologist, coined the word agnostic in 1869. However, earlier thinkers and written works have promoted agnostic points of view. They include Protagoras, a 5th-century BCE Greek philosopher, and the Nasadiya Sukta creation myth in the Rig Veda, an ancient Sanskrit text. Since Huxley coined the term, many other thinkers have written extensively about agnosticism.
Types of agnosticism
Agnosticism can be subdivided into several categories, some of which may be disputed. Variations include:
- Agnostic atheism
- Agnostic atheists are atheistic because they do not have belief in the existence of any deity, and agnostic because they do not claim to know that a deity does not exist.
- Agnostic theism
- The view of those who do not claim to know of the existence of any deity, but still believe in such an existence.
- Apathetic or pragmatic agnosticism
- The view that there is no proof of either the existence or nonexistence of any deity, but since any deity that may exist appears unconcerned for the universe or the welfare of its inhabitants, the question is largely academic.
- The view that a coherent definition of a deity must be put forward before the question of the existence of a deity can be meaningfully discussed. If the chosen definition is not coherent, the ignostic holds the noncognitivist view that the existence of a deity is meaningless or empirically untestable.
A.J. Ayer, Theodore Drange, and other philosophers see both atheism and agnosticism as incompatible with ignosticism on the grounds that atheism and agnosticism accept “a deity exists” as a meaningful proposition which can be argued for or against.
- Strong agnosticism (also called “hard,” “closed,” “strict,” or “permanent agnosticism”)
- The view that the question of the existence or nonexistence of a deity or deities, and the nature of ultimate reality is unknowable by reason of our natural inability to verify any experience with anything but another subjective experience. A strong agnostic would say, “I cannot know whether a deity exists or not, and neither can you.”
- Weak agnosticism (also called “soft,” “open,” “empirical,” or “temporal agnosticism”)
- The view that the existence or nonexistence of any deities is currently unknown but is not necessarily unknowable; therefore, one will withhold judgment until/if any evidence is available. A weak agnostic would say, “I don’t know whether any deities exist or not, but maybe one day, when there is evidence, we can find something out.”
- Spiritual Agnostic
- Agnostics who follow a devoted practice to traditionally spiritual practices in the absence of the knowledge of God while being irreligious
AGLA – is a notariqon (kabbalistic acronym) of the biblical phrase “Ateh Gibor Le-olam Adonai,“The Lord is mighty forever.” AGLA was condered a name of Godby magicians of the middle ages and appeared in magical formulas for everything from protection to flying. By Renaissance times, the formula was a common inscription for amulets and talismans. AGLA is used in its short form in a number of apotropaic circle-making forumulas.The Golden Dawn used it as the “God Name” of the North quarter in the “lesser banishing ritual,” representing Earth, and in the GRP to represent the passive elements of water and Earth. Agla also appears in Masonic lore, and some Masonic scholars have suggested that AGLA was a substitution for the “Word which was lost,” a primordial name of God or magical incantion which may represent the tetragrammaton.
Axiom of Maria is a precept in alchemy: “One becomes two, two becomes three, and out of the third comes the one as the fourth.” It is attributed to 3rd century alchemist Maria Prophetissa, also called the Jewess, sister of Moses, or the Copt. Marie-Louise von Franz gives an alternative version thus: “Out of the One comes Two, out of Two comes Three, and from the Third comes the One as the Fourth.”
Crosier – A crosier (crozier, pastoral staff, paterissa, pósokh) is the stylized staff of office (pastoral staff) carried by high-ranking Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and some Lutheran and Pentecostal prelates. The other typical insignia of most of these prelates, but not all, are the mitre, pectoral cross, and the episcopal ring.
Diptych – A diptych; from the Greek δίπτυχον, di “two” + ptychē “fold”) is any object with two flat plates attached at a hinge. Devices of this form were quite popular in the ancient world, wax tablets being coated with wax on inner faces, for recording notes and for measuring time and direction.
Demon – A demon (or daemon, from Ancient Greek, δαίμων daímōn), is a supernatural being from various religions, occultisms, literatures, and folklores that is described as something that is not human and, in ordinary (almost universal) usage, malevolent. The original neutral Greek word “daimon” does not carry the negative connotation initially understood by implementation of the Koine (Hellenistic and New Testament Greek) δαιμόνιον (daimonion), and later ascribed to any cognate words sharing the root, originally intended to denote a spirit or spiritual being.
Kemetism (also Kemeticism; both from km.t, the native name of Ancient Egypt) is a term for Egyptian neopaganism, i.e. neopagan revivals of Ancient Egyptian religion which developed in the United States from the 1970s onwards. There are several main groups, each of which take a different approach to their beliefs, ranging from eclectic to polytheistic reconstructionist.
Pan-Africanist or black nationalist: The Ausar Auset of Ra Un Nefer Amen is a syncretic approach targeted at the African diaspora. The Ancient Egiptian Order (a.k.a. “Nuwaubian Nation of Moors” and other names) was a black supremacist cult led by Malachi York.
Kemetic Wicca (also Tameran Wicca, from t3 mry “land of two riverbanks”, another native term for “Egypt”) is an eclectic approach combining Ancient Egyptian elements with Wicca.
Kemetic Revivalism and Reconstruction, a reconstructionist, which include academic approaches informed by Egyptology, notably Kemetic Orthodoxy of Tamara L. Siuda and Kerry Wisner’s Akhet Hwt Hwr
Neo-Atenism is a neopagan revival not of Egyptian polytheism, but of the monotheistic faith introduced under Akhenaten in the Amarna period (r. 1353–1336 BC)
Maat or ma’at (thought to have been pronounced *[muʔ.ʕat]), also spelled māt or mayet, was the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law, morality, and justice. Maat was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation. Her (ideological) counterpart was Isfet.
The earliest surviving records indicating Maat is the norm for nature and society, in this world and the next, were recorded during the Old Kingdom, the earliest substantial surviving examples being found in the Pyramid Texts of Unas (ca. 2375 BCE and 2345 BCE).
Theism, in the broadest sense, is the belief that at least one deity exists. In a more specific sense, theism is a doctrine concerning the nature of a monotheistic God and God’s relationship to the universe.  Theism, in this specific sense, conceives of God as personal, present and active in the governance and organization of the world and the universe. As such theism describes the classical conception of God that is found in Christianity, Judaism, Islam and some forms of Hinduism. The use of the word theism to indicate this classical form of monotheism began during the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century in order to distinguish it from the then-emerging deism which contended that God, though transcendent and supreme, did not intervene in the natural world and could be known rationally but not via revelation.
The term theism derives from the Greek theos meaning “god”. The term theism was first used by Ralph Cudworth (1617–88). Atheism is rejection of theism in the broadest sense of theism; i.e. the rejection of belief that there is even one deity. Rejection of the narrower sense of theism can take forms such as deism, pantheism, and polytheism. The claim that the existence of any deity is unknown or unknowable is agnosticism. The positive assertion of knowledge, either of the existence of gods or the absence of gods, can also be attributed to some theists and some atheists. Put simply theism and atheism deal with belief, and agnosticism deals with (absence of) rational claims to asserting knowledge.
Zoroastrianism /ˌzɒroʊˈæstriənɪzəm/ (or Mazdaism) is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra, in Avestan) and was formerly among the world’s largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.