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agnostic

I’m glad we finally got to the noun agnostic because it gives me a chance to clear up some confusion.

There are two meanings of the noun agnostic. For one, an agnostic is someone who believes that there is nothing that is known with certainty about any ultimate reality. (The “with certainty” in the previous sentence is redundant and won’t be used from now on in this entry because if you aren’t certain about something then you believe it, not know it.)

The second meaning of the noun agnostic is someone who claims to have no opinion about the existence of a god and, therefore, that person has neither faith in nor a disbelief in a god or gods.

When I say something to the effect of, “I’m an atheist, but I can’t disprove the existence of a god and, therefore, I accept the possibility, small though it might be, that there might be a god,” some people respond by telling me that, because I’m not 100 percent certain that there is no god I’m agnostic, not atheist.

No. An agnostic has no belief one way or another about whether there is a god. That is not me. I believe strongly that there is no god.

The only reason why my belief is not a certainty is that the god hypothesis has been devised in a way to make it disprovable. Even if some brilliant person came up with an absolute proof that, based on unshakeable laws of physics, God cannot exist, believers would come up with a countering argument.

They might claim that God exists outside of the physics that bound and bind us, and, therefore, that brilliant person’s proof is false. They won’t explain the nature of this non-physical existence. They’ll just claim it exists.

Or they might claim that, because God is omnipotent, he can alter the laws of physics to make it look like he doesn’t exist. If asked why their God would be such a practical joker they might respond with something to the effect of, “We’re mere mortals. We couldn’t possibly understand God’s Great Plan. Don’t even try.”

It’s always much more difficult to disprove the nonexistence of something—anything—than it is to prove the existence of something that does indeed exist. So it is that much more difficult—I suspect impossible—to disprove a hypothesis that has been constructed in a way to make it disprovable.

Consequently, I will never say that I am 100 percent certaint that God does not exist. However, I, contrary to the definition of agnostic, do have an opinion on that. I believe that God (or gods) does not exist. And that makes me an atheist, not an agnostic.

Hmm. The above discussion might have been a mistake. Now I may have nothing left to say when I get to the word atheist.

Agnostic can also be used as an adjective. In this case, the word is broader than when it is used as a noun. As an adjective, it can simply mean that the person that the adjective references is an agnostic. However, it can also mean that he or she simply hasn’t committed to an opinion about some concept—any concept, whether concerning religion or not.

I write marketing literature for business-to-business software companies. In this arena, the use of the adjective agnostic is broadened yet further. One may, for example, talk about hardware-agnostic software. This means that the software will run on any hardware equally well and without variation.

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