Faithology, The. "Agnosticism Overview." Faithology.com. Faithology, 6 March 2013. Web. 25 May 2013.
Staff, T.F.E. (2013, Mar 6). Agnosticism Overview. Faithology.
Staff, The, et. al. "Agnosticism Overview" Faithology, LLC. Last modified March 6, 2013.
Faithology, LLC, 2012. (Accessed May 25, 2013).. Agnosticism Overview.
- "Agnosticism." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2011. Web. 04 Nov. 2011.
- Jones, Lindsay, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. 15 vols.
- Last Updated: March 6, 2013
- Originally Published: June 21, 2012
Thomas Henry Huxley coined the term “agnosticism” in 1869, but the mental position it describes has a history dating back to ancient times. Agnosticism has no formal organization or membership; it is best understood as a mental attitude shared by many throughout the world.refers to the belief that only mundane human experience may be understood with any degree of certainty. Thus, agnosticism holds that the existence of a deity is unknowable. Agnostics neither wholly accept nor wholly reject metaphysical claims of religion, claiming that faith alone is insufficient grounds for determining factual religious information. Because of this belief, agnostics are open to the possibility that a deity may exist, but they generally require incontrovertible evidence of the divine in order to accept this possibility.
- The existence or non-existence of a deity is ultimately unknowable.
- Agnostics neither accept nor reject the possibility that deities are indeed real and may play a part in human life.
- Knowledge is verified by human experience and the senses, not through belief or reasoning.
Doubt in the existence of the divine may be traced as far back as the 9th century BCE in India:
- The Hindu sacred scriptures known as Vedas refer to a plethora of deities. However, passages exist in the Vedas that not only ridicule the Hindu deities, but also cast doubt on whether they truly exist or not.
- The first Greek to actually raise the question of whether deities existed or not with the implication of a negative answer was the philosopher Protagoras (c. 485-420 BCE). However, this sort of thought never developed into a popular in Greece and Rome.
- The of modern agnosticism, as it is known today, may be traced to 1869, when Thomas Henry Huxley coined the term "agnosticism."
- After Huxley, several authors expanded the use of this term, eventually transforming it into modern agnosticism.
The Ancient Roots of Doubt in the Divine
Although the term agnosticism reflects a modern practice, the idea of doubt in the divine has existed in all likelihood throughout ancient history. One of the oldest known records of this disbelief dates back to the 9th century BCE in India. The Vedas, the principal Hindu sacred scriptures, describe hymns sung to the majority of deities present in the Hindu pantheon. For example, Indra, the chief Vedic deity, is described and praised in a great number of Vedic hymns. However, some of these hymns ridicule Indra, and even cast doubt on the truth of his existence. One of the most famous hymns concerning doubt in the divine is as follows:
“Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation? The Gods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being? He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it, Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.”