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"Hey, buddy, I've got a practically-new Agnosticism just for you!"
What is an "Agnostic"? If you listen to some persons claiming to be "Agnostics", you can almost hear the sleazy salesman that duped them, since they will repeat, like parrots: "An Atheist is someone who denies the existence of God, whereas an Agnostic is just somebody who doesn't know whether God exists".
Yeah, right, and you believed the salesman who said that to you?
Imagine a man who had to drive his sick Mother to the Emergency Ward of the nearest hospital. What would he do if his car's engine broke down along the way? He would ease the car over to the side of the road, in a safe location, then call a taxi or an ambulance with his cell phone, or try to stop another car passing by, to convince them to take his Mother to the hospital. He would make every effort, and be willing to pay a lot of money, to get his Mother to the hospital.
Now, imagine the same situation, except this time the son, when his car broke down, just put a hand-scribbled sign saying "Dis-Engined" on his windshield, and then proceeded to work on his stamp collection while his Mother died of a heart attack in his stranded car. Imagine if somebody asked him: "That's horrible! Do you hate your Mother?", and he answered: "No! I'm just Dis-Engined!"
Compare this to the man calling himself an "Agnostic". The "engine of his knowledge of God" is broken, but he doesn't even try to fix it. He just slaps the "Agnostic" label on his forehead, and proceeds to work on his stamp collection (or his financial empire, or his abdominals, or his latest female interest, etc.). Meanwhile, the "Mother of his purpose in life" just withers away.
Is the above metaphor really applicable? Do these people really just use the label "Agnostic" as a socially-acceptable excuse to organize their lives without God? Let's try and find out.
Let's suppose, for the sake of the argument, that we have in front of us somebody who really doesn't know whether God exists. How would such a person behave, if he or she were rational? What logical steps would this person take?
The first rational step would probably be: "Why bother?" The rational reaction, when we find out we don't know something, is to ask ourselves: "Do I need to make an effort to find out?" For example, I don't know how to smoke marijuana, but I do know that inhaling products of combustion is unhealthy for the body, and that psychotropic drugs are unhealthy for the mind. Since I want a healthy mind in a healthy body, I know I don't want to know how to smoke pot.
But is the knowledge of the existence of God intrinsically evil, like taking drugs? Well, it depends on how we define "knowledge of the existence of God". Certainly, falsehood is bad, so if God doesn't exist, it would be irrational to believe that He does exist. A second pitfall is that if God does exist, but no human reason is able to rise up to the knowledge of His existence, then it would be irrational to behave as if we knew He existed.
Does this apply in our case? Partially Yes, and partially No. Our Agnostic, according to our hypothesis, really doesn't know whether God exists. So this person cannot currently have fallen into one of those pitfalls. So in that sense, No. But those pitfalls are real, so our Agnostic person must be careful not to leave this state of agnosticism without a good reason.
The second rational step taken by an Agnostic, if such a person really existed, would probably be: "OK, assuming that searching for the knowledge about the existence of God is not intrinsically evil (even though I must be very cautious about falling into falsehood), is there anything good about such a quest?" In other words, is there something repulsive about Atheism, and attractive about Theism?
Here, our Agnostic would need to proceed with a careful and honest examination of the logical consequences of Atheism. Basically, if God really doesn't exist, then we are only heaps of molecules randomly assembled by a purposeless evolution. In other words, "If God Is Dead, Nothing Is Forbidden".
Our Agnostic would also need to reflect upon the correct definition of God. Of course, writing down a definition of something doesn't "prove" that such a thing exists! But we can't try to find out if the knowledge about the existence of "God" is good, if we don't even know what we are looking for! Here again, a basic examination of the correct definition of "God" tells us that if He does exist, then He is the purpose of our existence. Something infinitely Good, Wise, Loving, Respectful, Just, Strong, etc., is another way of saying: "That which would satisfy all our desires, forever, and give us perfect happiness".
So the rational and logical reaction of our Agnostic would be to say: "Apparently, an inquiry into the existence of God is worth a reasonable effort, provided I remain on my guard and don't fall into error".
The third rational step taken by our Agnostic would probably be: "But is our reason able to know the existence of God?" We must examine the capacity of our tools. There is no use trying to perform a triple coronary bypass with a hammer, or trying to fly across the ocean with a washing machine! So what can our reason know? What are the limits of our rational "tool"?
A logical and rational reaction to this question is: "Who would know?" If we need some knowledge about teeth, we'll consult a dentist. If we need knowledge about a strange noise coming from our laptop, we'll consult a Computer Repairman. So what human discipline deals with the limits of our rational "tool"? The answer is Philosophy, and more precisely the first part of the third part of Philosophy, i.e. something called "Criteriology" (also known as "Epistemology").
Good references for the study of Criteriology, as well as many other prerequisites necessary for any rational inquiry into the existence of God, are presented in: "The Proofs of God's Existence: Some Preliminary Groundwork". Would a rational and logical Agnostic agree with everything in that article? Well, that person would at least study it carefully, and send me an e-mail describing any errors in it, if that happened to be the case.
Do I claim there is no difference between "Agnosticism" and "Atheism", in the dictionary? No. There is a verbal difference between "Claiming to know that we cannot know whether God exists or not", and "Claiming to know that God doesn't exist". But in this article, I'm not talking about verbal theories. I'm talking about flesh-and-blood men, like you.
Do "rational Agnostics" exist? Maybe, but I've never come across one. So then, are all so-called "Agnostics" stupid because they believe everything that the "used-agnosticism salesman" tells them? I don't think they are stupid. On the contrary, they understand the situation very clearly: If God exists, then God accuses their sins.
If your room is in a mess, you can either turn on the light, see the mess, and clean it up. Or you can break the light bulb and claim that you don't know whether light exists!
Remove sin, and you'll see God [Mt 5:8].
Maybe you've listened to some strange salesman for too long. Isn't it time to start listening to your own conscience?
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