Agnosticism Quotes

We've searched our database for all the quotes and captions related to Agnosticism. Here they are! All 100 of them:

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I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.
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Friedrich Nietzsche
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Mario, what do you get when you cross an insomniac, an unwilling agnostic and a dyslexic?" "I give." "You get someone who stays up all night torturing himself mentally over the question of whether or not there's a dog.
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David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest)
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The Bible has noble poetry in it... and some good morals and a wealth of obscenity, and upwards of a thousand lies.
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Mark Twain
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Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?
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Carl Sagan
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To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
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Thomas Aquinas
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We have a choice. We have two options as human beings. We have a choice between conversation and war. That's it. Conversation and violence. And faith is a conversation stopper.
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Sam Harris
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I do not consider it an insult, but rather a compliment to be called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure β€” that is all that agnosticism means.
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Clarence Darrow
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As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.
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Bertrand Russell
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The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.
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Carl Sagan
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Objection, evasion, joyous distrust, and love of irony are signs of health; everything absolute belongs to pathology.
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Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil)
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In terms of doing things I take a fairly scientific approach to why things happen and how they happen. I don't know if there's a god or not...
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Bill Gates
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What I'm asking you to entertain is that there is nothing we need to believe on insufficient evidence in order to have deeply ethical and spiritual lives.
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Sam Harris
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Interviewer: Didn't Sagan want to believe? Druyan: he didn't want to believe. he wanted to know.
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Ann Druyan
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Are there any religions on your list that include the slaughter of noblemen as a holy duty?
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Brandon Sanderson (The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1))
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It is taboo in our society to criticize a persons religious faith... these taboos are offensive, deeply unreasonable, but worse than that, they are getting people killed. This is really my concern. My concern is that our religions, the diversity of our religious doctrines, is going to get us killed. I'm worried that our religious discourse- our religious beliefs are ultimately incompatible with civilization.
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Sam Harris
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Thus, as far as he is a scientific man, as far as he knows anything, he is a materialist; outside his science, in spheres about which he knows nothing, he translates his ignorance into Greek and calls it agnosticism.
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Friedrich Engels (Socialism: Utopian and Scientific)
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Doubt is a question mark; faith is an exclamation point. The most compelling, believable, realistic stories have included them both.
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Criss Jami (Killosophy)
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I am an Agnostic because I am not afraid to think. I am not afraid of any god in the universe who would send me or any other man or woman to hell. If there were such a being, he would not be a god; he would be a devil.
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Clarence Darrow
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What we do in every other area of our lives (other than religion), is, rather than respect somebody's beliefs, we evaluate their reasons.
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Sam Harris
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The faith of religion is belief on insufficient evidence.
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Sam Harris
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A good psychologist will take already-traumatic events in your life and work with you to contextualize them as non-traumatic. A bad psychologist will take non-traumatic events in your life and twist your narrative to both make them traumatic and connect them to your current problems. The problem is that good psychologists solve your issues while bad ones create dependency and thus recurring revenue streams.
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Simone Collins (The Pragmatist’s Guide to Crafting Religion: A playbook for sculpting cultures that overcome demographic collapse & facilitate long-term human flourishing (The Pragmatist's Guide))
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The whole war between the atheist and the theist comes down to this: the atheist believes a 'what' created the universe; the theist believes a 'who' created the universe.
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Criss Jami (Killosophy)
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A belief is not true because it is useful
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Henri-FrΓ©dΓ©ric Amiel
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You don’t have to be brave or a saint, a martyr, or even very smart to be an atheist. All you have to be able to say is β€œI don’t know”.
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Penn Jillette (God, No! Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales)
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The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake.
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Philip Pullman (The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3))
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I have always considered myself as an Agnostic...
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Alexander Graham Bell (Bell: Alexander Graham Bell and the Conquest of Solitude)
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The Copenhagen Interpretation is sometimes called "model agnosticism" and holds that any grid we use to organize our experience of the world is a model of the world and should not be confused with the world itself. Alfred Korzybski, the semanticist, tried to popularize this outside physics with the slogan, "The map is not the territory." Alan Watts, a talented exegete of Oriental philosophy, restated it more vividly as "The menu is not the meal.
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Robert Anton Wilson (Cosmic Trigger: Die letzten Geheimnisse der Illuminaten oder An den Grenzen des erweiterten Bewusstseins)
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We all ought to understand we're on our own. Believing in Santa Claus doesn't do kids any harm for a few years but it isn't smart for them to continue waiting all their lives for him to come down the chimney with something wonderful. Santa Claus and God are cousins.
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Andy Rooney (Sincerely, Andy Rooney)
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A culture that has a moral compass which always points toward the elite’s conception of goodβ€”or a society’s default conceptions of β€œgood”—has a broken moral compass. Compasses have value because they point toward a single magnetic North, not a moving position.
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Simone Collins (The Pragmatist’s Guide to Crafting Religion: A playbook for sculpting cultures that overcome demographic collapse & facilitate long-term human flourishing (The Pragmatist's Guide))
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Skepticism is my nature. Free Thought is my methodology. Agnosticism is my conclusion. Atheism is my opinion. Humanitarianism is my motivation.
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Jerry DeWitt (Hope after Faith: An Ex-Pastor's Journey from Belief to Atheism)
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It is often said, mainly by the 'no-contests', that although there is no positive evidence for the existence of God, nor is there evidence against his existence. So it is best to keep an open mind and be agnostic. At first sight that seems an unassailable position, at least in the weak sense of Pascal's wager. But on second thoughts it seems a cop-out, because the same could be said of Father Christmas and tooth fairies. There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can't prove that there aren't any, so shouldn't we be agnostic with respect to fairies?
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Richard Dawkins
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We should be agnostic about those things for which there is no evidence. We should not hold beliefs merely because they gratify our desires for afterlife, immortality, heaven, hell, etc.
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Julian Huxley
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If faith is what you have to go on, if faith is the link between your beliefs and the world at large, your beliefs are very likely to be wrong. Beliefs can be right or wrong. If you believe you can fly, that belief is only true if indeed you can fly. Somebody who thinks he can fly, and is wrong about it, will eventually discover there's a problem with his view of the world.
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Sam Harris
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If God existed (a question concerning which Jubal maintained a meticulous intellectual neutrality) and if He desired to be worshiped (a proposition which Jubal found inherently improbable but conceivably possible in the dim light of his own ignorance), then (stipulating affirmatively both the above) it nevertheless seemed wildly unlikely to Jubal to the point of reductio ad absurdum that a God potent to shape galaxies would be titillated and swayed by the whoop-te-do nonsense the Fosterites offered Him as "worship.
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Robert A. Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land)
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God's relationship with man does not work in a way in which man stumbles and then God has to drop what he is doing in order to lift him up; rather, man stumbles so that God can lift him up. Hence it is utterly impossible to truly diminish his glory.
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Criss Jami (Killosophy)
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The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbeliefβ€”call it what you willβ€”than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counterattractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course.
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A.A. Milne
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Atheism and agnosticism signify the rejection of certain images and concepts of God or of truth, which are historically conditioned and therefore inadequate. Atheism is a challenge to religion to purifiy its images and concepts and come nearer to the truth of divine mystery.
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Bede Griffiths
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When the stakes are this high- when calling God by the right name can make the difference between eternal happiness and eternal suffering, it is impossible to respect the beliefs of others who don't believe as you do.
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Sam Harris
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I believe in God the way I believe in quarks. People whose business it is to know about quantum physics or religion tell me they have good reason to believe that quarks and God exist. And they tell me that if I wanted to devote my life to learning what they've learned, I'd find quarks and God just like they did.
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Mary Doria Russell (The Sparrow (The Sparrow, #1))
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We rely on faith only in the context of claims for which there is no sufficient sensory or logical evidence.
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Sam Harris
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I pity the man who praises God only when things go his way.
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Criss Jami (Healology)
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The Fundamentalist Christians have told me that I am a slave of Satan and should have my demons expelled with an exorcism. The Fundamentalist Materialists inform me that I am a liar, charlatan, fraud and scoundrel. Aside from this minor difference, the letters are astoundingly similar. Both groups share the same crusading zeal and the same lack of humor, charity and common human decency. These intolerable cults have served to confirm me in my agnosticism by presenting further evidence to support my contention that when dogma enters the brain, all intellectual activity ceases.
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Robert Anton Wilson (Cosmic Trigger: Die letzten Geheimnisse der Illuminaten oder An den Grenzen des erweiterten Bewusstseins)
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Who knows for certain? Who shall here declare it? Whence was it born, whence came creation? The gods are later than this world's formation; Who then can know the origins of the world? None knows whence creation arose; And whether he has or has not made it; He who surveys it from the lofty skies. Only he knows- or perhaps he knows not.
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Anonymous (The Rig Veda)
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The only thing that guarantees an open-ended collaboration among human beings, the only thing that guarantees that this project is truly open-ended, is a willingness to have our beliefs and behaviors modified by the power of conversation.
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Sam Harris
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People are invariably surprised to hear me say I am both an atheist and an agnostic, as if this somehow weakens my certainty. I usually reply with a question like, 'Well, are you a Republican or an American?' The two words serve different concepts and are not mutually exclusive. Agnosticism addresses knowledge; atheism addresses belief. The agnostic says, 'I don't have a knowledge that God exists.' The atheist says, 'I don't have a belief that God exists.' You can say both things at the same time. Some agnostics are atheistic and some are theistic.
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Dan Barker (Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists)
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A totally nondenominational prayer: Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that I be forgiven for anything I may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness.Β  Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which I may be eligible after the destruction of my body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.
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Roger Zelazny (Creatures of Light and Darkness)
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It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity.
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Francis Chan (Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God)
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As a society, we assume that humans naturally run from emotions like suffering, helplessness, and hopelessness, but the truth is these emotions are highly addictive and far easier to indulge in (in a perversely satisfying way) than positive emotional subsets. Better yet, when you convince others of your helplessness, some people begin to regard you as a victimβ€”someone to be adored and protected.Β 
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Simone Collins (The Pragmatist’s Guide to Crafting Religion: A playbook for sculpting cultures that overcome demographic collapse & facilitate long-term human flourishing (The Pragmatist's Guide))
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I am an agnostic on most matters of faith, but on the subject of maps I have always been a true believer. It is on the map, therefore it is, and I am.
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Tony Horwitz (One for the Road: An Outback Adventure)
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I don't differentiate much, except in degree, between people who believe in religion from those who believe in astrology, magic or the supernatural.
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Andy Rooney (Sincerely, Andy Rooney)
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All religions are man-made; God has not yet revealed himself beyond doubt to anybody.
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Bangambiki Habyarimana (Pearls Of Eternity)
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As to the gods, I have no means of knowing either that they exist or do not exist. For many are the obstacles that impede knowledge, both the obscurity of the question and the shortness of human life.
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Diogenes LaΓ«rtius
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If I were to construct a God I would furnish Him with some way and qualities and characteristics which the Present lacks.
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Mark Twain
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Good gods are scarce because the majority of gods are created by evil men
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Bangambiki Habyarimana (Pearls Of Eternity)
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Science is agnostic when it comes to God - not atheistic, as some people prefer to read that laden word wrongly - just agnostic.
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Eric Chaisson (Epic of Evolution: Seven Ages of the Cosmos)
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I don't know what I believe. I guess that makes me a Christmas Tree Agnostic.
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Stephanie Perkins (Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3))
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There was a time when skepticism was an act of rebellion. Since to a degree I both believe in evolution and have faith, I can only conclude that, as prophesied, to have faith will someday be an act of rebellion.
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Criss Jami (Killosophy)
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No man will say, "There is no God" 'till he is so hardened in sin that it has become his interest that there should be none to call him to account.
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Matthew Henry
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The agnostic does not simply say, "l do not know." He goes another step, and he says, with great emphasis, that you do not know. He insists that you are trading on the ignorance of others, and on the fear of others. He is not satisfied with saying that you do not know, -- he demonstrates that you do not know, and he drives you from the field of fact -- he drives you from the realm of reason -- he drives you from the light, into the darkness of conjecture -- into the world of dreams and shadows, and he compels you to say, at last, that your faith has no foundation in fact.
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Robert G. Ingersoll
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Agnosticism is of the essence of science, whether ancient or modern. It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe. Consequently Agnosticism puts aside not only the greater part of popular theology, but also the greater part of anti-theology. On the whole, the "bosh" of heterodoxy is more offensive to me than that of orthodoxy, because heterodoxy professes to be guided by reason and science, and orthodoxy does not.
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Thomas Henry Huxley
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The science, the art, the jurisprudence, the chief political and social theories, of the modern world have grown out of Greece and Romeβ€”not by favour of, but in the teeth of, the fundamental teachings of early Christianity, to which science, art, and any serious occupation with the things of this world were alike despicable.
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Thomas Henry Huxley (Agnosticism and Christianity and Other Essays (Great Minds))
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My coming brought no profit to the sky, Nor does my going swell its glory; My two ears have never heard anyone that could say, Why I came here and why I will go away.
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Omar KhayyΓ‘m
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Faith does not offer a strong link between our beliefs and actual states of the world.
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Sam Harris
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A few years ago, a priest working in a slum section of a European city was asked why he was doing it, and replied, 'So that the rumor of God may not completely disappear.
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Peter L. Berger (A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural)
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...when he kneels at other times and prays or meditates or tries to achieve a Big-Picture spiritual understanding of God as he can understand Him, he feels Nothing β€” not nothing, but Nothing, an edgeless blankness that somehow feels worse than the sort of unconsidered atheism he Came In with.
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David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest)
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The position of the Atheist is a clear and reasonable one. I know nothing about β€˜God’ and therefore I do not believe in Him or in it; what you tell me about your God is self‐contradictory, and therefore incredible. I do not deny β€˜God,’ which is an unknown tongue to me; I do deny your God, who is an impossibility. I am without God.
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Annie Besant (Annie Besant: An Autobiography)
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The present life of man upon earth, O King, seems to me in comparison with that time which is unknown to us like the swift flight of a sparrow through the mead-hall where you sit at supper in winter, with your Ealdormen and thanes, while the fire blazes in the midst and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad. The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry tempest, but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter to winter again. So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all.
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Bede (Ecclesiastical History of the English People)
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I am also atheist or agnostic (I don't even know the difference). I've never been to church and prefer to think for myself.
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Steve Wozniak
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We will bring humanity across the vast Saharas of emptiness between the stars and create a dynamic, perpetually advancing empire that spans galaxies, universes, and realities. Just as our ancestors wove fabric from organic matter, our descendants will weave the fabric of reality. Humanity’s descendants will be entities beyond our wildest conceptions of the divine. Omnipotence and the ability to create universes will be the least of their powers. Whether they are good or evilβ€”whether they even come to be at allβ€”is up to us. In that sense, we have even more power than they do.
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Simone Collins (The Pragmatist’s Guide to Crafting Religion: A playbook for sculpting cultures that overcome demographic collapse & facilitate long-term human flourishing (The Pragmatist's Guide))
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Each mind conceives god in its own way. There may be as many variation of the god figure as there are people in the world
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Bangambiki Habyarimana (Pearls Of Eternity)
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For God to prove himself on demand, physically, would be a grave disappointment, and the strongest Christians should be considerably grateful that he chooses not to do so. The skeptic endlessly demands proof, yet God refuses to insult the true intelligence of man, the '6th sense', the chief quality, the acumen which distinguishes man from the rest of creation, faith.
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Criss Jami (Killosophy)
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There is nothing behind the curtains of religions, people put there whatever their imaginations can fathom
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Bangambiki Habyarimana (Pearls Of Eternity)
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The human brain has the unique ability to doubt the reality presented to itself. To comprehend the dissonance between ideas and the truth of the surrounding world. God knows this, and it infuriates him. It terrifies him.
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Autumn Christian (The Crooked God Machine)
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As I work in the afternoon on committing to paper some of my morning's thoughts, I find myself just about to close on the knotty question of whether or not I believe in God. In fact I am about to type, 'I do not believe in God', when the sky goes black as ink, there is a thunderclap and a huge crash of thunder and a downpour of epic proportions. I never do complete the sentence.
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Michael Palin (Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years (Palin Diaries, #1))
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Man has 2 common problems with God: the one is that there is evil in the world; the other is that free will is limited. The one, he is charging that the world is too evil; the other is that it is not evil enough.
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Criss Jami (Killosophy)
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Atheists are the most honest of the human race. These people are unable to live a double life; they are unable to lie to themselves. Of course it's an evolutionary handicap, and if that handicap was widespread, our species would run the risk of extinction
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Bangambiki Habyarimana (Pearls Of Eternity)
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The problem I want to talk to you about tonight is the problem of belief. What does it mean to believe? We use this word all the time, and I think behind it lurk some really extraordinary taboos and confusions. What I want to argue tonight is that how we talk about belief- how we fail to criticize or criticize the beliefs of others, has more importance to us personally, more consequence to us personally and to civilization than perhaps anything else that is in our power to influence.
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Sam Harris
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Belief in God meant belief in the old tribal idol called Jehovah; and I would not pretend I did not know whether it existed or not.
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George Bernard Shaw
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Don't create unbelief or doubt in people's minds. When you do so you ruin their lives and you have nothing to give them in its place. It's ok if people delude themselves; those delusions keep their day running.
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Bangambiki Habyarimana (Pearls Of Eternity)
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Education levels are highly and negatively correlated to religious belief. In other words, ignorance is bliss.
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Cesar Nascimento
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Every word that comes after "And the Lord told me. . . β€œis a pious lie
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Bangambiki Habyarimana (Pearls Of Eternity)
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If I were to believe in God enough to call him a murderer, then I might also believe enough that he, as a spirit, exists beyond death; and therefore only he could do it righteously. For the physical being kills a man and hatefully sends him away, whereas God, the spiritual being, kills a man and lovingly draws him nigh.
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Criss Jami (Healology)
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He didn't like religion, hadn't liked it for years, but he adored churches, loved them like old scientific instruments whose time is long past but are nevertheless fascinating and strange.
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Bruce Robinson (The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman)
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If you describe yourself as "Atheist," some people will say, "Don't you mean 'Agnostic'?" I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god - in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It's easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it's an opinion I hold seriously. It's funny how many people are genuinely surprised to hear a view expressed so strongly. In England we seem to have drifted from vague wishy-washy Anglicanism to vague wishy-washy Agnosticism - both of which I think betoken a desire not to have to think about things too much.
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Douglas Adams
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Why do religious believers hate unbelievers? The feel threatened by them, they feel besieged by them. Religions consider themselves as separate tribes in their own rights and feel like unbelievers will one day overrun their strongholds
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Bangambiki Habyarimana (Pearls Of Eternity)
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If I am not master of my life, not sultan of my own being, then no man's logic and no man's ecstatic fits may force me to find less silly my impossibly silly position: that of God's slave; no, not his slave even, but just a match which is aimlessly struck and then blown out by some inquisitive child, the terror of his toys.
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Vladimir Nabokov (Despair)
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The typical atheist rebels against God as a teenager rebels against his parents. When his own desires or standards are not fulfilled in the way that he sees fit, he, in revolt, storms out of the house in denial of the Word of God and in scrutiny of a great deal of those who stand by the Word of God. The epithet 'Heavenly Father' is a grand reflection, a relation to that of human nature.
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Criss Jami (Killosophy)
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Think outside the box? Indeed. But to add balance to that, one should not in the process forget what the inside of the box looks like as well. Those who are best at thinking outside the box do it not to puff themselves up, but to see how small they really are. As a contented fish in its fish tank appears to have a small, boring existence to us, imagine a larger, more perceptive kingdom (even by scientific taxonomy) to whom our contented existences may appear to be small and boring. This is where true creativity and massive perceptive abilities spawn a sense of intellectual humility; the kind which God adores.
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Criss Jami (Killosophy)
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Will and George were doing well in business, and Joe was writing letters home in rhymed verse and making as smart an attack on all the accepted verities as was healthful. Samuel wrote to Joe, sayings, "I would be disappointed if you had not become an atheist, and I read pleasantly that you have, in your age and wisdom, accepted agnosticism the way you'd take a cookie on a full stomach. But I would ask you with all my understanding heart not to try to convert your mother. Your last letter only made her think you are not well. Your mother does not believe there are many ills uncurable by good strong soup. She puts your brave attack on the structure of our civilization down to a stomach ache. It worries her. Her faith is a mountain, and you, my son, haven't even got a shovel yet.
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John Steinbeck (East of Eden)
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Religion does not help me. The faith that others give to what is unseen, I give to what one can touch, and look at. My gods dwell in temples made with hands; and within the circle of actual experience is my creed made perfect and complete: too complete, it may be, for like many or all of those who have placed their heaven in this earth, I have found in it not merely the beauty of heaven, but the horror of hell also. When I think about religion at all, I feel as if I would like to found an order for those who cannot believe: the Confraternity of the Faithless, one might call it, where on an altar, on which no taper burned, a priest, in whose heart peace had no dwelling, might celebrate with unblessed bread and a chalice empty of wine. Every thing to be true must become a religion. And agnosticism should have its ritual no less than faith. It has sown its martyrs, it should reap its saints, and praise God daily for having hidden Himself from man. But whether it be faith or agnosticism, it must be nothing external to me. Its symbols must be of my own creating. Only that is spiritual which makes its own form. If I may not find its secret within myself, I shall never find it: if I have not got it already, it will never come to me.
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Oscar Wilde (De Profundis)
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Of all the major religions, or lack thereof, the atheist's is one of the best pretenders: his foundation for all existences, as well as moral behaviors for the permanent good of mankind, begins at science but ends at himself, the Napoleon complex of both intelligence and imagination. On the other hand the anti-theist wouldn't survive without a deity beyond himself to hunt. He doesn't pretend, he simply nullifies his own position.
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Criss Jami (Killosophy)
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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. And, with Hume and Kant on my side, I could not think myself presumptuous in holding fast by that opinion ... So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of 'agnostic'. It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the 'gnostic' of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant; and I took the earliest opportunity of parading it at our Society, to show that I, too, had a tail, like the other foxes.
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Thomas Henry Huxley (Collected Essays, Volume 5: Science and Christian Tradition: Essays)
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How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Ephesians 4, 14). Having a clear Faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching', looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires. However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an 'Adult' means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth.
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Pope Benedict XVI
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...The Presidential election has given me less anxiety than I myself could have imagined. The next administration will be a troublesome one, to whomsoever it falls, and our John has been too much worn to contend much longer with conflicting factions. I call him our John, because, when you were at the Cul de sac at Paris, he appeared to me to be almost as much your boy as mine. ...As to the decision of your author, though I wish to see the book {Flourens’s Experiments on the functions of the nervous system in vertebrated animals}, I look upon it as a mere game at push-pin. Incision-knives will never discover the distinction between matter and spirit, or whether there is any or not. That there is an active principle of power in the universe, is apparent; but in what substance that active principle resides, is past our investigation. The faculties of our understanding are not adequate to penetrate the universe. Let us do our duty, which is to do as we would be done by; and that, one would think, could not be difficult, if we honestly aim at it. Your university is a noble employment in your old age, and your ardor for its success does you honor; but I do not approve of your sending to Europe for tutors and professors. I do believe there are sufficient scholars in America, to fill your professorships and tutorships with more active ingenuity and independent minds than you can bring from Europe. The Europeans are all deeply tainted with prejudices, both ecclesiastical and temporal, which they can never get rid of. They are all infected with episcopal and presbyterian creeds, and confessions of faith. They all believe that great Principle which has produced this boundless universe, Newton’s universe and Herschel’s universe, came down to this little ball, to be spit upon by Jews. And until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world. I salute your fireside with best wishes and best affections for their health, wealth and prosperity. {Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 22 January, 1825}
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John Adams (The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams)
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The real difference is this: the Christian says that he has knowledge; the Agnostic admits that he has none; and yet the Christian accuses the Agnostic of arrogance, and asks him how he has the impudence to admit the limitations of his mind. To the Agnostic every fact is a torch, and by this light, and this light only, he walks. The Agnostic knows that the testimony of man is not sufficient to establish what is known as the miraculous. We would not believe to-day the testimony of millions to the effect that the dead had been raised. The church itself would be the first to attack such testimony. If we cannot believe those whom we know, why should we believe witnesses who have been dead thousands of years, and about whom we know nothing? The Agnostic takes the ground that human experience is the basis of morality. Consequently, it is of no importance who wrote the gospels, or who vouched or vouches for the genuineness of the miracles. In his scheme of life these things are utterly unimportant. He is satisfied that β€œthe miraculous” is the impossible. He knows that the witnesses were wholly incapable of examining the questions involved, that credulity had possession of their minds, that 'the miraculous' was expected, that it was their daily food.
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Robert G. Ingersoll (The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, Vol 1: Lectures)
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Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle. That principle is of great antiquity; it is as old as Socrates; as old as the writer who said, 'Try all things, hold fast by that which is good'; it is the foundation of the Reformation, which simply illustrated the axiom that every man should be able to give a reason for the faith that is in him, it is the great principle of Descartes; it is the fundamental axiom of modern science. 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. That I take to be the agnostic position, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him. The results of the working out of the agnostic principle will vary according to individual knowledge and capacity, and according to the general condition of science. That which is unproved today may be proved, by the help of new discoveries, tomorrow. The only negative fixed points will be those negations which flow from the demonstrable limitation of our faculties. And the only obligation accepted is to have the mind always open to conviction. That it is wrong for a man to say he is certain of the objective truth of a proposition unless he can provide evidence which logically justifies that certainty. This is what agnosticism asserts and in my opinion, is all that is essential to agnosticism.
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Thomas Henry Huxley (Agnosticism and Christianity and Other Essays (Great Minds))
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It is debatable whether blind faith is truly faith at all. Faith is the perceptive gray area where scientific facts meet an individual's experiential truths - the extreme of the former is left feeling in the dark whereas the latter is caught blinded by the light. By proper scientific method, it is intellectually dishonest for me to declare the existence of God with utmost certainty, but to my individual spirit, I would be intellectually dishonest to deny the existence of God even for a second. This leaves the best of both worlds, as the believer is called to be able to give reasons for his faith, a deviation from mere fantasy.
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Criss Jami (Killosophy)
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Obviously, if theism is a belief in a God and atheism is a lack of a belief in a God, no third position or middle ground is possible. A person can either believe or not believe in a God. Therefore, our previous definition of atheism has made an impossibility out of the common usage of agnosticism to mean 'neither affirming nor denying a belief in God.' Actually, this is no great loss, because the dictionary definition of agnostic is still again different from Huxley’s definition. The literal meaning of agnostic is one who holds that some aspect of reality is unknowable. Therefore, an agnostic is not simply someone who suspends judgment on an issue, but rather one who suspends judgment because he feels that the subject is unknowable and therefore no judgment can be made. It is possible, therefore, for someone not to believe in a God (as Huxley did not) and yet still suspend judgment (ie, be an agnostic) about whether it is possible to obtain knowledge of a God. Such a person would be an atheistic agnostic. It is also possible to believe in the existence of a force behind the universe, but to hold (as did Herbert Spencer) that any knowledge of that force was unobtainable. Such a person would be a theistic agnostic.
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Gordon Stein
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In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis argues that human beings cannot be truly good or moral without faith in God and without submis- sion to the will of Christ. Unfortunately, Lewis does not provide any actual data for his assertions. They are nothing more than the mild musings of a wealthy British man, pondering the state of humanity’s soul between his sips of tea. Had Lewis actually famil- iarized himself with real human beings of the secular sort, per- haps sat and talked with them, he would have had to reconsider this notion. As so many apostates explained to me, morality is most certainly possible beyond the confines of faith. Can people be good without God? Can a moral orientation be sustained and developed outside of a religious context? The answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes.
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Phil Zuckerman (Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion)
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If God's love encompasses the whole world and if everyone who does not believe in him will perish, then surely this question needs to be asked: When, after two thousand years, does God's plan kick in for the billion people he 'so loves' in China? Or for the 840 million in India? Or the millions in Japan, Afghanistan, Siberia, Egypt, Burma Β·.. and on and on? Why would a God who 'so loved the world' reveal his message only to a tiny minority of the people on earth, leaving the majority in ignorance? Is it possible to believe that the Father of all Mankind would select as his Chosen People a small Middle Eastern nation, Israel, reveal His will exclusively to them, fight alongside them in their battles to survive, and only after their failure to reach out to any other group, update His plan for the world's salvation by sending His 'only begotten son,' not to the world but, once again, exclusively to Israel?
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Charles Templeton (Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith)