Atheism in Agnosticism

Madalyn Murray O'Hair: on agnosticism Why I am an Atheist (Society of Separationists: Austin TX 1966)

... Why don't you admit that you are an agnostic? Well, simply elementary my dear Watson. Let me tell you in one word the difference between an atheist and an agnostic. The difference is guts. I lose more agnostic friends by saying that. But let's go into detail again.

The term agnostic was coined by Sir Thomas Huxley in 1869. He designed a word which would indicate the exact opposite of gnosticism. Since the prefix "a" in words of Greek derivation ofttimes is a privative, that is, giving to the word a negative sense, he coined the the word "agnostic" or agnosticism. He was apparently studying gnosticism at the time. 13

... But, popularly, the word has been corrupted, probably deliberately corrupted, as the words Atheist and materialist have been corrupted and by the same persons--the very powerful religionists. Popularly the word agnostic is felt to mean that the nature of god cannot be known but that there is a god. Therefore the agnostic is accepted in the community and he is accepted by the church. Agnosticism is very closely related to the religious doctrine that the ways of god are unfathomable, that human reason is fallible and that man requires a different, nonscientific, path to the truth. Agnostic philosophers, as distinguished from the man on the street agnostics, are always allies of the church. The reason is that agnosticism, which puts forward the false notion that the world is unknowable, undermines science and reinforces theology. It inclines man to faith, inducing him to trust religious doctrines. The test is always the same: Does the church accept the existence of the creed If it does than the creed is not one which is in opposition to religion. The church does not anathematize the agnostic. You know, Thomas Huxley later wrote that he regretted coining the word because of the widespread misuse of the term by the public. 15

Home | Typologies | Judaism | Classical Greece | Christianity | Islam | Modern
Suspicion | Academia | Religious | Daoism | Indian/Hindu | Confucianism | Buddhism
Native American | African | Definitions | Literature | Metaphors | Songs

created 1jun1996, revised 20mar98     |     comments on this site? tpkunesh@atheisms.info