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Agnosticism is a word that was coined by Thomas Henry Huxley and he used it to describe the group of people who took a neutral stand on the argument between theists and atheists. For many centuries, religious scholars and philosophers argued over the God’s existence.. (Carroll, 650) This argument is separated into two groups.
One group argues that God exists while the other group disputes this. However, the twist in the argument began when agnostics surfaced with a new perspective to the entire issue at hand. Agnosticism is non committal to the existence of God or not. It rather argues about the lack of substantial evidence to prove that God actually exists or not. Thus, agnostics do not take sides in the argument about whether God actually exists or not. They are perceived as neutralists when the argument about God’s existence ensues. (Carroll, 202)
This essay is a literary criticism of agnosticism. Every situation in life has two sides and you can either disagree or agree with a particular side. The argument about the God’s existence only has two sides and any rational person can only choose a particular side to the argument. Agnosticism’s argument about lack of substantial evidence to back God’s existence or dispute it is just a digression.
Making decisions in life is sometimes a demanding task and some people tend to shy away from making firm decisions. Due to the fact that God is unseen, it takes a lot of courage to serve him whole heartedly. (Tacelli, 219) Concerns and fears have been expressed about the argument that has ensued between theists and atheists.
Caught in the fierce argument between theists and atheists, agnostics decided to take a neutral stand on the issue. (Tacelli, 320) At one time or the other in our lives, we are required or compelled to make difficult decisions. But in the case of agnostics, indecision is one of the primary reasons why they have taken a neutral stand in the argument between theists and atheists. (Tacelli, 602)
Theists have believed in God for many centuries regardless of the tense argument surrounding the issue. Their faith in God supersedes every other issue and it has worked perfectly for them for a long time. (Ratzinger, 768) There are times or situations when their faith in God is tested. But these difficult situations are perceived as norms of life and it is expected that an individual who has faith in God should hold on strong to him during this trying times.
Showing resilience and perseverance is always encouraged because; theists believe that overcoming difficult situations measure’s a person’s faith in God. (Ratzinger, 621) However, atheists use these difficult situations as an example of God’s absence in the world but this does not in any way deter theists because, it is a decision they have made. Also, theists believe that, the presence of problems in a person’s life does not connote the absence of God. (Ratzinger, 457)
Theists have held on to their faith in spite of criticisms while, atheists have also refused to believe in the presence of God in spite of the number of miracles they have witnessed. These separate and respective groups have maintained their positions because; it is their decision to believe what they choose to believe. Agnostics have been unable to take a stand in the issue due to their inability to make a decision and it is advisable that agnostics emulate theists and atheists.
Fear of Commitment
Taking sides with either theists or atheists would mean commitment to the chosen side regardless of the consequences. Theists believe in God and they are passionately committed to their course while atheists are unbelievers and they are equally committed to their argument. The commitment of each side is passionate and time tested. (Ratzinger, 412)
Another reason why agnostics claim a neutral position in the argument between theists and atheists is the fear of commitment. As already aforementioned, taking a position with a particular side would require absolute and unquestioned loyalty. (Bayme, 300) But it seems the agnostics are not ready for this kind of commitment and loyalty thus, they prefer to hide under the pretext of been neutral. Having faith or believing in anything requires an individual to make a decision about such an issue.
Thereafter, such an individual pledges his/her loyalty and commitment to it. Anything short of this or contrary to this can be termed as just a digression. Agnostics are a literal example of this since they fail to make a decision and be committed to what they really want. (Bayme, 623)
While theists and atheists are engrossed in a serious argument, agnostics decided to be non committal to any particular side and this has afforded them the opportunity to watch from afar how the drama unfolds. This means that apart from agnostics been indecisive, the fear of commitment is also another reason why they claim to take a neutral stand. (Bayme, 209)
Agnostics lack braveness
In life, serious minded people usually have to make serious decisions no matter how hard or difficult such decisions might be. (Ratzinger, 712) After making such a decision, they spend the rest of their entire life fighting that course which they have chosen. Although in the process of fighting or following a particular course, there are also setbacks and side effects that arise on the way.
These setbacks and side effects sometimes affect the individual or people fighting a particular course and this makes it extremely difficult for people to fight for a course. In other words, this means that it takes a lot of boldness and courage to make a decision and stay committed to it therefore, only brave people do it. (Ratzinger, 645)
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Theists and atheists unlike agnostics are courageous enough to make decisions about what they believe or think and they stay committed to their respective courses. This is a display of braveness and it is a trait which the agnostics do not portray. (Bayme, 672) Theists do not see God yet they believe strongly in his presence and existence while, atheist on the other hand refuse to change their mind that God actually exists.
Even the miracles they witness are unable to make them change their minds. Both sides are able to hold on to their respective beliefs because; it is their decisions, they are committed to it and above all they are brave enough to face whatever criticisms or problems that come their way as a result of these decisions. (Bayme, 731)
With the aforementioned examples, it is very glaring that been an agnostic is as a result of the reasons mentioned above and not the misconception of been neutral. The actual reasons why people hide under the cover of been agnostic are; they cannot make decisions as such, they are indecisive. (Bayme, 340)
Also, they are afraid of making any serious commitment and lastly, they are not brave. These are the real reason why people are agnostics when it comes to the issue of God’s existence and not the flimsy excuse about lack of substantial evidence. When it comes to the issue of believing in something, it is either you believe in it or not. There is no neutrality in such a serious and delicate issue. (Bayme, 414)
Scientific evidence and evidence which a court of law accepts are human perimeters to judge. These same perimeters cannot be used to measure or ascertain the existence of God as agnostics claim. Moreover, these perimeters are known to have failed in the past times without number thus cannot be used as the final methods the pass judgement or draw conclusions.
Theists use miracles as an example of God’s existence and presence in human lives while atheists simply dismiss that as norms of life. It is expected that the agnostics take a stand with either side or rest their case. Religious scholars and philosophers who argue for against the existence of God are brave and courageous. (Tacelli, 444)
Agnosticism is an unserious position to take on a serious position to take on a serious issue like the existence of God. With all the examples given above, it can be inferred or concluded that, agnostics are people who are unserious, indecisive and are afraid of making commitments. They are also people who are not brave thus, agnostics claim to take a neutral stand when theists and atheists argue using the flimsy excuse about lack of substantial evidence to prove God’s existence or dispute it. (Carroll, 112)
Bayme, Carol. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Victorian Age. (Vol. 2B) 8th ed. New York: Norton, 2003.
Carroll, Robert. Agnosticism: The Skeptic’s Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University press, 2009. Print.
Fr. Tacelli, Ronald. Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God: A critical Review. London: Intervarsity Press, 2007. Print.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions. Ignatius Press. 2004. Print