What is agnosticism…?
I den sidste tid har en stadigt større flok af ateister forsøgt at underminere agnosticisme ved at hævde, at agnosticisme enten er teisme eller ateisme. På wikipedia kan man imidlertid læse flg.: »Agnosticisme står i modsætning til ateisme, idet ateismen klart afviser Guds eksistens« og »tilsvarende må ateisme også adskilles fra agnosticismen, der hævder, at det ligger uden for menneskers forstand at kunne afgøre, om Gud eksisterer eller ej.«  Jeg skal være den første til at beklage den manglende oversættelse, som skyldes ene og alene mangel på tid. Til de ateister, som er kyndige udi engelsk så da:
What Is Agnosticism? (1981)
H. J. Blackham
[This article was originally published in “Free Inquiry,” Summer, 1981, pp. 31-33.]
Winds of Doctrine
As a definition of the limits of knowledge, “agnosticism” needs to be understood historically. Summarily and roughly, philosophy at the time of Plutarch (first century A.D.) offered six positions: on the one hand, a dogmatic Idealism or Materialism: on the other, skepticism, pragmatism, eclecticism, or fideism. The names of Plato and Democritus can be put at the head of the dogmatic traditions: Pyrrho has lent his name to fundamental skepticism; Isocrates made immensely influential a pragmatic view of philosophy; and Plutarch himself was the preeminent representative of a rational and ethical eclecticism. Perhaps Tertullian, if not Saint Paul, represents the constraints of fideism after Christian faith came into contact and conflict with Greek gnosticism.
The case for each of these positions was spelled out in verbal argument. Plato, in the Sophist (246-247), generalizes the permanent irreconcilable conflict between Idealists and Materialists as a Battle of Gods and Giants, which transcends the differences of the Idealist position; but he confidently assumed that they could not be insuperable, because knowledge was not to be had on other terms. He believed in the immortality of the rational soul and the real existence of the objects of its knowledge, which must be intelligible Ideas or Forms, independent of sense perceptions. Protagoras had already sounded the agnostic note, it may be said, with his “of all things the measure is Man,” and explicitly: “As to the gods, I have no means of knowing either that they exist or that they do not exist.” But it is Isocrates who opposed the whole bent of academic philosophy in his development of the rationalizing Enlightenment of the sophists, a rationalism critical of and ready to ridicule “pure reason,” the “phronesis” or idea of wisdom, which was the nuclear element in the development of Plato’s though. This attainable intuitional knowledge was for Plato not only a view of all time and all existence sub specie aeternitatis but also the indispensable source of the right ordering of personal life and public affairs. Isocrates argued that no such knowledge was attainable that would suffice for all occasions and all purposes. Instead, he maintained, cultivation of the art of discourse, relevant to the whole life of civilized man and dealing with great causes and large ideas, was the best preparation for the most complete competence attainable. There was no institution devised by man that the power of speech had not helped to establish (Antidosis). The art of rhetoric and the art of thought were the same. The ability to deliberate and decide was the most versatile and useful of all abilities. This was to recommend and to teach method instead of doctrine, an open approach which, if it did not turn opinions into doctrines with the claim of knowledge, in the manner of the schools, provided a foundation for higher education and intellectual culture, a literary humanism occupied with large human affairs and concerns and addressed concretely to manifest problems with all the seriousness, but not necessarily with the detachment and never with the dryness, of the philosophic spirit. Isocrates was the most illustrious teacher of his time and made his school “the image of Athens.” The pupils of Athens, as he said, became “the teachers of the rest of the word” (Panegyricus).
However, the argument of a discourse were not tautologies that could be ended with a Euclidean flourish: Q.E.D. The wits exercised in such performances were capable of producing a plausible argument on the other side that might be made to seem not less persuasive. Indeed, Protagoras had laid it down that there are two sides to every question and an opposing argument to any proposed, and he taught how to attack and refute any proposition. Since he also first introduced the Socratic method of dialogue and drew attention to distinction of tense and mood and to divisions of discourse, he pioneered development of the technical resources of argument, as well as exploiting for profit the tricks of the trade. Thus eristic theory and techniques, and what was sometimes called “methodics,” became central to philosophy; and a high proportion of a philosopher’s output was in this category, including even collections of refutative arguments, solutions of controversial questions, materials for argument, unscientific proofs, and the like. Diogenes Laertius listed many such works among the writings of Aristotle and Aristotle’s pupil and successor, Theophrastus. Aristotle himself distinguished between methods for attaining knowledge, principally philosophical analysis, and methods of arguing in favor of the probable, principally dialectic.
With all this development of technical resources and refinements in argument in classical philosophy, there was no knock-out device to determine a definitive outcome. On the scientific side, there was systematic collections of observations in the search for causes, particularly in Aristotle’s innumerable notebooks. But it is not too much to say that the manipulation of arguments and the collection of evidence (save of the kind needed in legal prosecution or defense) remained different disciplines and separate interests in classical philosophy.
At the same time, the effect on higher education of Isocrates’ advocacy and successful practice of the art of disclosure as the primary intellectual discipline can hardly be exaggerated. It was a discipline that prepared men for public affairs and public employment. Themes for exercises were taken from literature, history, and moral philosophy to train men for pleading in the courts, arguing for causes in political assemblies, entertaining cultivated audiences, or simply making up their own minds. This was the foundation of the literary humanism so conspicuously successful in the Roman World at the time of the “Second Sophistic” (first two centuries A.D.) and in Europe during the Renaissance.
The First Turning-Point
In the second half of the sixteenth century, Montaigne read himself into the classical inheritance for a different purpose — on a course of free inquiry. He discovered the interminable inconclusiveness of argument of verbal philosophy, and he ended with the ultimate doubt: Que sais-je? Blown, like Augustine, by the winds of doctrine, he could not feel safe in any of the positions; even skepticism was too unjustifiably conclusive. Pascal, reporting to his confessor on his reading, told him that he most respected Epictetus and Montaigne and, in summarizing their opinions for him, he said a discourse was to take it as it appeared and refrain from any examination, which would at once reveal difficulties and raise doubts. This is the professional routine of the philosopher and shows how brittle is the most careful discourse and how treacherous verbal answers are to free inquiry.
A little later, Francis Bacon, who, like Montaigne, was painfully aware that the whole legacy of classical philosophy was a discouragement to learning, set himself the task of reviving hope with a vision of the future inspired by the early successes of empirical methods of testing hypotheses. The loose, but reasonable, appeal to experience had to be refined as an appeal to a specifically devised experience constructed to test a particular theory. Within its limits, this was a decisive way of settling theoretical disputes. Novum Organum (1620) spelled out the new method of learning, which was to displace the literary humanism of Isocrates as the foundation of a positivist culture, obtaining knowledge piecemeal and cooperatively, provisional, corrigible, progressive, to be applied to “the relief of man’s estate.” Bacon, godfather of the Royal Society and acknowledged master of the philosophes in Diderot’s Encyclopédie, left the winds of doctrine to blow where they listed and gave his attention to cultivation of the soil. In particular, his organum was a replacement of the magisterial Metaphysics of Aristotle and made way for the atomic model of Democritus. All the same, he did not set aside or put in question the assumption of theism. On the contrary, he counted on the new learning to fortify belief:
I had rather believe all the fables in the Legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind. And therefore God never wrought miracle to convince atheism, because His ordinary works convince it. It is true that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion: for while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no farther; but when it beholdeth the chain of them confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity. Nay, even that school which is most accused of atheism doth most demonstrate religion; that is, the school of Leucippus and Democritus, and Epicurus. For it is a thousand times more credible, that four mutable elements, and one immutable fifth essence duly and eternally placed, need no God; than that an army of infinite small portions, or seeds unplaced, should have produced this order and beauty without a divine Marshall. [“Of Atheism”]
Thus the clear-sighted Bacon, looking backward and forward and setting the minds of his contemporaries on the bright prospects opening up for empirical investigation and the technological manipulation of nature, had not in his own mind set science free from metaphysical assumptions and interests.
God on Trial
During this “century of genius,” which produced the first spectacular fruits of modern science, those working in the fields of investigation did, like Bacon, assume that they were piecing together the divine design, enabled, as Kepler said, to “think the thoughts of God.” Studying together, fraternally, the works of God, they were more blessed than students of the Word of God, who had taxed each other with heresy and soaked in blood the centuries beginning anno Domini. Science was another road to God, a second, less disputable revelation. Professional scientists, led by Newton, were amateur theologians. Since there was an order in nature that was being unraveled, it was only reasonable to assume, with Bacon, that it was the work of a rational, purposive intelligence that linked and sustained the whole. The onus was on anyone who thought otherwise to face the odds and justify his own irrationality. John Locke, who enthusiastically welcomed the new regime of empirical investigation and sought to provide its theoretical credentials, and who downgraded philosophers from architects of knowledge to under-laborers on the site of building operations, caring for the tools and preparing the ground, also was witness for the reasonableness of religious belief and excluded atheists from his republic of toleration — on the ground that they were not bound by an oath. God was necessary politically as well as intellectually.
This general assumption that the new learning of science would not only establish positive knowledge but also bring its proofs to the overbeliefs that had been justified by unscientific proofs lasted till the end of the eighteenth century. It has been said that during this period “God was on trial.”
The Second Turning-Point
The critical philosophy of David Hume, reinforced later by Kant (who said that Hume has awakened us from “dogmatic slumbers”), put in question the status and character of positive knowledge. He pointed out that it was simply knowledge of regular sequences and coexistences as presented to our observation of phenomena and did not carry or imply knowledge of causes, powers, natures, essences, or purposes. This began the disassociation of science from metaphysics, surrendering any claim on its behalf to answer general questions. With the steady progress of the sciences and the analytical attention of philosophers to what scientists were doing, it became abundantly clear that science was capable of dealing only with questions arising in the course of a line of research that were formulated in a way to provide answers that could be tested. Loose questions, general questions, first and last questions, the traditional metaphysical questions, were not a kind with which science was, or would ever be, competent to deal. During the period of trial science not only had not proved the existence of God, it had not even been able to do anything to reinforce the assumption. Laplace declared that he had no need of that hypothesis, and of course he had none. His statement was really about the irrelevance of that hypothesis to scientific business, not about its truth claim.
Thus, to look back at Bacon’s statement in “Of Atheism,” God’s ordinary works as studied in the sciences did not “convince atheism,” since they were preoccupied with “second causes scattered” and went no farther. He had begged the question when he went farther to say that Providence and Deity were necessary to link them in a chain, a rational order. Auguste Comte, too, anticipated the issue when he announced at the end of his Cours philosophique in 1851 that the servants of Humanity, theorists and practical persons, had irrevocably displaced the slaves of God and taken the management of earthly affairs into their own hands, to construct at last the true providence: moral, intellectual, and material. Comte said he was not an atheist because that was to take theology seriously, whereas the ages of theology and metaphysics were past and done with, succeeded by the positive sciences. On the side counter to Bacon in this respect, Comte claimed too much for the competence of science. But the overweening claims of theology were being checked, the onus on the unbeliever to justify his perverse irrationality reversed.
Logically, there was a return to the position of Protagoras after the lapse of more than two millennia. Science could not cope with metaphysical questions. They belonged as before to the about, the about of interminable inconclusive argument. Had science, then, made no difference? If metaphysical theories were irrelevant to the sciences, were scientific findings equally irrelevant to metaphysical theories? Even abstract arguments rely on evidence. The answer can be given in two main installments.
- (1) The physical sciences in their earlier stages seemed to offer models of harmony and design, eminently attributable to a supreme intelligence. Biological studies were sooner to encounter doubts and difficulties for a teleological view. When the evidence produced by Darwin, and his theories, showed the possibility of an order in nature that was not purposive, a turning-point was reached. The ambiguity of “reason” in the interpretation of nature became apparent. There were reasons for what had happened, but not necessarily any reason. The absurdity of unbelief in a supreme reason (with or without capitals) was exposed as an unwarranted assumption. It was at this point that T.H. Huxley, Darwin’s advocate, invented the word “agnosticism” (1869) to reinstate the position of Protagoras. The onus was shifted from the shoulders of the unbeliever to justify his perversity, to the shoulders of the believer to justify his belief, to show why he should be taken seriously.
- (2) More indirectly, and on all fronts, scientific evidence has demolished the world in which traditional theological beliefs originated and developed. To bring them out of their context, to demythologize and reinterpret them is a delicate, maybe gratuitous, task for modern theologians; so their survival is more remarkable than impressive. Argument will go on, as always, and becomes ever more refined or sophisticated; and when religious beliefs are concerned, argument is not the whole matter and, for many, not the main matter. Intellectually, however, a disregard for religious beliefs does not have to be justified, as once it had, with its back to the wall. The boot is on the other foot. Historically, “agnosticism” does not merely mean a suspension of judgment. Rather, it means intellectual justification for a disregard of theology.
[H.J. Blackham is former president of the British Humanist Association and the author of many books on humanism and philosophy.]
Hvad sagde Huxley:
There are other definitions of atheism and agnosticism that are sometimes used. For example, T. H. Huxley, who first coined the term “agnostic”, said:
»Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle. … Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable.«
Huxley sagde endvidere, at han opfandt begrebet agnosticisme for at beskrive det, han mente, gjorde ham unik imellem hans samtidige tænkere:
»When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; a Christian or a freethinker – I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them. They were quite sure that they had attained a certain “gnosis” — had more or less successfully solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble.«
Agnostic’ came to mind, he says, because the term was “suggestively antithetic to the ‘gnostic‘ of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant….” Huxley seems to have intended the term to mean that metaphysics is, more or less, bunk. In short, he seems to have agreed with Hume’s conclusion at the end of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding:
»When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.«
Mere info om Huxley kan findes her: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Henry_Huxley
Forskellige typer af agnosticisme:
Types of agnosticism
Agnosticism can be subdivided into several subcategories. Recently suggested variations include:
- Strong agnosticism (also called “hard agnosticism,” “closed agnosticism,” “strict agnosticism,” or “absolute agnosticism”) refers the view that the question of the existence or nonexistence of God or gods 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 don’t know whether God exists or not, and neither do you.”
- Weak agnosticism (also called soft agnosticism, open agnosticism, empirical agnosticism, temporal agnosticism)—the view that the existence or nonexistence of any deity 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 deity exists or not, but maybe one day when there is more evidence we can find something out.”
- Apathetic agnosticism (also called 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 anyway.
- Agnostic theism (also called religious agnosticism, spiritual agnosticism)—the view of those who do not claim to know existence of any deity, but still believe in such an existence. (See Knowledge vs. Beliefs)
- Agnostic atheism the view of those who do not know of the existence or nonexistence of a deity, and do not believe in any.
- Ignosticism the view that a coherent definition of God must be put forward before the question of the existence of God can be meaningfully discussed. If the chosen definition isn’t coherent, the ignostic holds the noncognitivist view that the existence of God 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 “God exists” as a meaningful proposition which can be argued for or against. An ignostic cannot even say whether he/she is a theist or a nontheist until a better definition of theism is put forth.
Austin Cline skriver:
»Once it is understood that atheism is merely the absence of belief in any gods, it becomes evident that agnosticism is not as many assume, a “third way” between atheism and theism. The presence of a belief in a god and the absence of a belief in a god exhaust all of the possibilities. Agnosticism is not about belief in god but about knowledge — it was coined originally to describe the position of a person who could not claim to know for sure if any gods exist or not. Thus, it is clear that agnosticism is compatible with both theism and atheism. A person can believe in a god (theism) without claiming to know for sure if that god exists; the result is agnostic theism. On the other hand, a person can disbelieve in gods (atheism) without claiming to know for sure that no gods can or do exist; the result is agnostic atheism. It is also worth noting that there is a vicious double standard involved when theists claim that agnosticism is “better” than atheism because it is less dogmatic. If atheists are closed-minded because they are not agnostic, then so are theists. On the other hand, if theism can be open-minded then so can atheism. In the end, the fact of the matter is a person isn’t faced with the necessity of only being either an atheist or an agnostic. Quite the contrary, not only can a person be both, but it is in fact common for people to be both agnostics and atheists. An agnostic atheist won’t claim to know for sure that nothing warranting the label “god” exists or that such cannot exist, but they also don’t actively believe that such an entity does indeed exist.«
Men Cline skriver også om strong agnosticisme vs. weak agnosticisme, så han anerkender ihvertfald, at der er flere former for agnosticisme og ikke blot de to, som han beskriver ovenfor:
»If someone is a strong agnostic, they don’t merely claim that they don’t know if any gods exist; instead, they also claim that no one can or does know if any gods exist. Whereas weak agnosticism is a position that only describes the state of knowledge of one person, strong agnosticism makes a statement about knowledge and reality themselves. For reasons that are probably obvious, weak agnosticism is the easier of the two to defend. In the first place, if you claim that you don’t know if any gods exist, others should accept that as true unless they have very good reasons to doubt you — but that is rather trivial. More important is the agnostic premise that one shouldn’t make knowledge claims in the absence of clear and convincing evidence — but that, too, can be relatively straightforward so long as the distinction between knowledge and belief is maintained. Because the claim of strong agnosticism goes beyond the individual speaker, it is a bit more difficult to support. Strong agnostics may often point out that there simply isn’t any good evidence or arguments which can allow for a person to assert that they know that a god exists — and, in fact, the evidence for any one god is no better or worse than the evidence for any other god. Therefore, it is argued, the only responsible thing to do is to suspend judgment altogether. While this is a reasonable position, it doesn’t quite justify the claim that knowledge of gods is impossible. Thus, the next step that a strong agnostic needs to take is to define just what is meant by “gods”; if it can be argued that it is logically or physically impossible for humans to have knowledge of any being with the assigned attributes, then strong agnosticism may be justified. Unfortunately, this process effectively narrows the field of what does and does not qualify as a “god” to something much smaller than what humans have actually believed in. This, then, can result in Straw Man fallacy because not everyone believes in “god” as the strong agnostics define the concept (a problem shared with strong atheists, actually).
One interesting criticism of this strong agnosticism is that for a person to adopt the position that knowledge of gods is impossible, they essentially concede that they know something about gods — not to mention the nature of reality itself. This, then, would suggest that strong agnosticism is self-refuting and untenable.«
Zofia Zdybicka skriver:
»Epistemological atheism is proper to all philosophical concepts that deny that man can know God or resolve the problem of God’s existence. Agnosticism is the basic attitude of atheism for epistemological reasons and takes various forms: a) the agnosticism of immanence associated with the philosophy of consciousness or the philosophy of the subject, which leads human thought to the state where it is locked within the subject (consciousness) and where all differences between thought and being are removed, and ultimately consciousness is regarded as an absolute; b) the rationalistic agnosticism of Kant (and the entire Enlightenment), which rejects all sources of knowledge except reason; c) scepticism — the position that we cannot resolve the problem of whether or not God exists (Pythagoras, Montaigne, Charron and Bayle); d) methodological agnosticism — the position that recognizes only the particular sciences as having cognitive value and denies that science can go beyond the area of empirical experience. Methodological monism excludes metaphysics and theology, which are essentially connected with the problem of God, from the field of rationality (sensualism, empiricism, positivism and scientism); e) the agnosticism of the subconscious — this includes positions that exclude the problem of God from their natural philosophical or theological environment and connect the genesis of the idea of God and religion with a purely fantastic hypothesis. Atheism moves beyond this phase and becomes a horizon of thought, a phenomenological domain or a doctrinal system (Freudianism, Marxism).« 
Cline og Zdybicka ligger nærmere opad valget imellem teisme eller ateisme – og det er helt fint. Men agnosticisme forholder sig til viden – ikke tro. Jeg mener derfor, at agnosticisme netop kan repræsentere en tredje vej – nemlig den som beskriver the weak agnostic: A weak agnostic would say, »I don’t know whether any deity exists or not, but maybe one day when there is more evidence we can find something out.« Cline beskriver ydermere blot to former for agnosticisme ud af de 6, som nævnes på wikipedia.
Og som Cline selv skriver: »Agnosticism is not about belief in god but about knowledge — it was coined originally to describe the position of a person who could not claim to know for sure if any gods exist or not.«
Jeg ligger tættere op ad Huxley og Protagoras, for som Blackham skriver: »The absurdity of unbelief in a supreme reason (with or without capitals) was exposed as an unwarranted assumption. It was at this point that T.H. Huxley, Darwin’s advocate, invented the word “agnosticism” (1869) to reinstate the position of Protagoras. The onus was shifted from the shoulders of the unbeliever to justify his perversity, to the shoulders of the believer to justify his belief, to show why he should be taken seriously.«
Yderligere en forklaring skal nok findes i, at der absolut ikke er konsensus omkring begrebet ateisme. Således er de tre ordbøger, som jeg har linket til, velansete og respekterede både indefor lærde kredse og i ‘public opinion’. De har alle tre den samme definition på ordet ateisme . Den strider så imod andre, som definerer ordet mere bredt . I en begrebsverden, hvor der i den grad hersker uenighed om betydningen af ordet ateisme, mener jeg stadigvæk, at weak agnosticisme leverer et klart bud på en tredje vej, hvor man netop vælger aktivt ikke at tage stilling. Der er altså ikke blot tale om et passivt fravalg af tro. Der er tale om et aktivt tilvalg af den position, hvor man ikke tager stilling.
Robert T. Carrol skriver: »Agnosticism is the position of believing that knowledge of the existence or non-existence of God is impossible. It is often put forth as a middle ground between theism and atheism. Understood this way, agnosticism is skepticism regarding all things theological. The agnostic holds that human knowledge is limited to the natural world, that the mind is incapable of knowledge of the supernatural. Understood this way, an agnostic could also be a theist or an atheist. The former is called a fideist, one who believes in God purely on faith. The latter is sometimes accused by theists of having faith in the non-existence of God, but the accusation is absurd and the expression meaningless. The agnostic atheist simply finds no compelling reason to believe in God.«
Ifølge Carrol behøver man altså ikke at være hverken teist eller ateist for at være agnostiker.
Hvis analogien om, at man enten er teist eller ateist, skal fungere ud fra præmissen, at man er ateist, hvis troen på Gud(er) er fraværende, så kan en teist jo også erklære, at jeg, som agnostiker er teist, fordi hvis jeg ikke har taget stilling, så tror jeg på Gud(er) – jeg har blot ikke erkendt det.
Så har vi to tilfælde:
- a) Ateisten erklærer, at jeg er ateist, fordi jeg ikke har taget stilling til om Gud(er) eksisterer.
- b) En teist erklærer, at jeg er teist, fordi jeg ikke har taget stilling til om Gud(er) eksisterer.
Men vi har også et tredje tilfælde:
- Jeg erklærer, at jeg ikke er hverken teist eller ateist, fordi jeg ikke har taget stilling til om Gud(er) eksisterer.
Det handler altså ikke om tro eller fravær af tro alene. Det handler om at tage stilling eller ikke tage stilling. Man kan ikke have et fravær af noget, som man ikke har taget stilling til – og nærvær af noget andet, som man heller ikke har taget stilling til. Enten har man fravær af begge dele, nærvær af begge dele eller det vil være der som et potentiale i fremtiden. Hvis jeg ikke har taget stilling til, om jeg vil tage ud og træne i morgen, så betyder det ikke, at jeg ikke tager ud for at træne i morgen, det betyder heller ikke, at jeg tager ud for at træne i morgen. Det betyder alene, at jeg ikke har taget stilling til det. Der ligger altså en tidsdimension indkoblet i, om man vælger noget eller fravælger noget. Hvis man er ateist, så har man fravalgt tro. Hvis man er teist, så har man fravalgt ikke-tro. Hvis man er den form for agnostiker, som jeg beskriver, så har man ikke fravalgt nogen af delene. Deri ligger ikke et fravær af det ene – men et fravær af begge.
»Man kan potentielt være såvel troende som ikke troende, og som potentiale kan de eksistere som muligheder på samme tid, men sågu kun som potentiale, man ER en af delene, og kan ikke være begge på samme tid.«
Man kan potentielt godt gå rundt med en ubevidst tro, som styrer en del af ens liv – uden at man er bevidst om den; men hvis vi holder os til den bevidste del, så giver det ikke så meget mening, at man skulle kunne være både troende og ikke-troende på samme tid, hvorfor den eneste mulighed, som giver mening – hvis man vælger ikke at tage stilling – er, at man ikke er nogen af delene – altså fravær af begge – både teist og ateist. Hvad er der så tilbage? – Agnosticisme.
En typisk analogi, som ateister projicerer over på deres modstandere i en diskussion er den med en enkelt dør, som man kan vælge at gå igennem eller lade være. Man kan ikke forbeholde beslutningen om, hvilken side af døren, man befinder sig på, man kan kun beslutte, om man vil gå igennem døren eller ej; men indtil den beslutning er taget, er man fysisk til stede på A-siden (ateisme). Enten er man på den ene side af døren eller den anden side af døren. Der er ingen anden epistemologisk mulighed tilgængelig. Går du gennem døren eller ej? Og hvis du siger, at du ikke vil tage stilling nu og her, så er det fint, så er du stadigvæk på A-siden af døren (ateist).
Men hvis nu Dawkins virkelig holder fast i, at religion er et kognitivt virus (altså en sygdom), så må han vel også være nået til den erkendelse, at religion ligesom skizofreni eller influenza eller tilstanden hjernedød ikke kræver nogen forståelsesgrad, ikke sandt? Altså hvordan kan Dawkins så påstå, at eksempelvis ateisme dækker over hele spektret af fravær af tro – og at dette ikke gælder for teisme, fordi teisme kræver en erkendelse? For hvis religion er en sygdom (et virus), så må Dawkins vel nødvendigvis være enig i, at man i så fald også kan være teist uden nogen erkendelsesgrad. Hvordan kan man så påstå, at alle – som ikke har en erkendelse af tro – er ateister? Eller at ateisme er et passivt fravær – hvor teisme kræver et aktivt tilvalg? Altså kan udgangspunktet nødvendigvis – ifølge Dawkins egen teori om virus – findes på begge sider af døren.
In English: Many, who consider themselves more true to agnosticism, believe that if you choose not to take a stand on the subject of theism – atheism, then you are neither by default. Since atheism is also defined more broadly as an absence of belief in deities, it is the belief of many agnostics that agnosticism is not coherent with the generally acknowledged form of atheism, where one believes in the affirmation of the nonexistence of gods or the rejection of theism. True agnostics would say that there is not substantial empiric evidence/material to take a stance on theism – atheism. The truth of the matter is that the allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic world-view.
In that sense being an agnostic is about choice. You choose the position, where you simply do not take a stand on being neither a theist nor an atheist. It is often put forth by atheists such as 1772 when Baron d’Holbach said that »all children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God«, that if you do not choose, then you are an atheist by default (absence of belief), but then a theist could justly argue, that you could as well be a theist, if you do not take a stand – you simply don’t realize it. I believe that we are born agnostic – inherently undecisive on something we do not know the nature of. Atheism or theism cannot – in my opinion – come into speak, until we know the nature of the terms and as a result decide to take a stand, but, as clearly as we can decide to take a stand, we can also choose not to take a stand – based on learning that there is no conclusive empiric evidence. Now here comes the tricky part. If you choose not to take a stand on something, there is a time-dimension added (e.g. I have not taken a stand on whether I will go training, but I may – may not tomorrow). Now by choosing not to take a stand on the subject theism – atheism, I have not chosen not to be a theist, and yet mysteriously I am an atheist by default (abscence of belief). It would be as obscene as to believe that by choosing not to take a stand, I would have chosen not to be an atheist, and yet mysteriously I am a theist by default. If you choose not to take a stand you are either both by default, none by default, or you have the potential in time to be either •. Some believe that subconsciously you can actually believe something, and yet it doesn’t appear in your conscious mind, but if we keep to the conscious level, it does not make much sense to say, that you are both a theist and an atheist, so that leaves us with the point, that if you do choose not to take a stand on the subject of theism – atheism, then you are neither by default. What is left then? – agnosticism. Thus, you may say, I put my decision on hold in the perspective of time, but that does not make me a theist – nor does it make me an atheist. To me it is the pure form of agnosticism.
When it comes to agnostic atheism or agnostic theism it is merely forms of theism and atheism and thus not defining agnosticism. However I do acknowledge that there doesn’t seem to be a general consensus on the terms in speak. Rather it seems that different groups take the stance that best fits what they want to promote – be it theism or atheism. I am of the firm belief that the argumentation about theism – atheism and the possible choice of agnosticism as a middle stance is important when defining what theism – agnosticism – atheism is in reality. There is too much swearing on the frontline these days – I believe more in dialogue…
- Being an atheist is not a state. It is the positive prejudice of many atheists that it is a state/condition. Atheism clearly subjugates indecisiveness or negates the possible choice in time. The difficulty arises because we confuse belief and knowledge. The agnostic denies the possibility of knowledge on this subject and accepts the claims of the theist or atheist merely as beliefs. Being an agnostic I do not have to take a stand on belief. With belief there is often a question to be resolved by additional evidence, but in the case of the agnostic he doubts that as well. Major theologians have reached similar conclusions. Hans Kung finds the question cannot be settled by rational argument. Either view is allowable and cannot be established solely on the basis of reason. Niebuhr finds the question “Does God exist?” mistaken, because in his theology God is the ground of all existence, not part of it. I am agnostic because knowledge is impossible on this question, not because I can’t make up my mind. I think it is biased only to mention that agnosticism can be paired with theism – atheism. It can naturally stand on its own two feet too.
- We cannot have any knowledge of an omnipotent or omniscient being since those qualities do not exist in anything we do know. Even Aquinas had to admit that we know God only by analogy and not directly. I do not consider myself an atheist nor am I a theist either. I consider both labels to be void of meaning and irrelevant because their object (God) is also meaningless and irrelevant. To me it is as if one is saying “I believe in …..” and the other “I lack belief in …..”. From an empirical point of view it just doesn’t make sense to discuss it at all – the premonition of the object (God) would be deeply personal for both anyways.«
A typical thought-experiment that ahteists project on their opponents in a discussion is that analogy containing a single door, through which one can decide whether or not to pass. One cannot reserve decision on which side of the door he is. One can reserve decision on whether or not to go through the door, but until that decision is made, one *is* physically present on side A. One *must* be either through the door or not through the door; there is no other option epistemologically possible. Do you go through the door, or do you not? So how about that? And if you say “I choose not to decide at this time,” that’s fine, but for now you’re still on this side of the door.
Well do you believe in Dawkins when he claims religion to be a virus? If you do, then you must also recognize that religion – just like schizophrenia, the flu, braindead, herpes, etc. – is a disease or condition that doesn’t require any active choice, nor any understanding of god(s) or any creative design, right? So if theism does not require any active choice, then it must be able to cover the same greyzone as atheism, where atheism is claimed by you people to cover all passive non-belief – in the understanding, that if you suffer from a disease like theism (virus) then you are not required to understand what it is, nor be active about it, right?
Now if we return to your thought experiment involving the door, bear this in mind, then how can you claim, that on one side of the door is atheism, which does not require an active choice, and that on the other side of the door is theism, but it requires an active choice in order to go through it and become a theist?
If theism is by Dawkins terms a virus, then it doesn’t care about doors and choices. I cannot lie in my bed and decide for myself that now I do not want to have herpes anymore and *poof* it vanishes in thin air, now can I? So obviously I can stand on your side of the door and be a theist without knowing anything about it – as per Dawkins argument about virus – or the starting point may as well be on the other side of the door – facing the choice of atheism – or not.
Den australske filosof Graham Oppy har udgivet en bog, som ser meget spændende ud. Den hedder Arguing about Gods. Og Terry Eagleton nævner også Humes i sin anmeldelse af Dawkins: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/eagl01_.html
»atheist Show phonetics
someone who believes that God or gods do not exist«
»a disbelief in the existence of deity b: the doctrine that there is no deity«
• noun the belief that God does not exist.
— DERIVATIVES atheist noun atheistic adjective atheistical adjective.
— ORIGIN from Greek a- ‘without’ + theos ‘god’.«