Faith Vs. Agnosticism. Who wins?

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Answered by: Daruth, An Expert in the Skepticism and Cricital Thinking Category
Before the question of Faith vs. Agnosticism can be addressed it is necessary to establish a baseline definition for both faith and agnosticism. I will briefly take each in turn.

Rather than quote Merriam-Websters or some other authority on definitions, we can summarize the definition of faith as strong belief in something without proof usually accompanied with strong conviction. It is for the latter part of the definition that most conversations with people of faith generally make no progress.

Most systems of faith are based on the concept that there is an unseen deity to whom faith is a requirement. Any lack thereof or even acknowledgment otherwise implies some form of displeasure or punishment from said deity. For this reason there is usually a considerable amount of trepidation and considerable resistance to any argument against faith no matter how reasonable.

Most faiths have integral arguments against what most would consider conventional wisdom or common sense. For example, in the Christian faith, the Christian bible contrasts 'the wisdom of man' with 'the wisdom of God' thus implying that any conventional wisdom presented by man's reason would be subservient to statements established by 'the wisdom of God'. This 'wisdom of God' is usually presented by a man designated as God's representative on Earth.

Faith by definition does not have to be in a deity. Faith can be applied to anything for which there is no proof, therefore it could be said that belief in evolution would require faith since it can be argued that there is no definitive proof for the theory as yet. In addition, even atheism could be considered a system of faith since it requires the belief in the non-existence of God, for which there is no and can be no proof. Interestingly, atheism is usually accompanied with the same kind of strong conviction or dogmatism that accompany other forms of faith.

Because of the strong emotional conviction persons with faith have, it also becomes necessary to define the word 'proof'. For the sake of this argument the definition that describes physical evidence and not that which describes validation of statements derived from other statements or perceived reason will be used. The reason for this is that proof of a statement based on other statements or perceived reason is necessarily circular as the proof for the other statements would then have to be provided and reason can be subjective (ie. one person might consider it reasonable to believe in God while another may not). Only physical or empirical evidence will be considered 'proof' for the sake of this argument.

'Proofs' of a personal nature also cannot be used in this argument since the statement that, 'God appeared to me in a dream' cannot be validated by outside sources.

Finally, to conclude the argument and provide an answer to the question we must define agnosticism. Agnosticism by definition is refusal to believe or disbelieve in things for which there is no empirical proof. By this definition it could be said that an agnostic neither believes in nor disbelieves in unicorns because no proof for nor against them can be presented. Of course, the issue of unicorns is not usually applied to the concept of agnosticism. So for this reason the definition most used for "agnostic" is one who neither believes nor disbelieves in God (the presumption being that no empirical evidence can be presented for nor against the existence of God).

Many perceive agnosticism to be synonymous with atheism but agnosticism is at much at odds with atheism as it is with theism. There is no more empirical evidence disproving the existence God than there is proving God's existence so atheism requires a leap of faith.

So in short, faith, belief held without empirical proof, and agnosticism, the refusal to hold beliefs without empirical proof, are exact opposites and in this sense faith is at odds with agnosticism.

However, agnostics do not disbelieve in God as atheists do and therefore can acknowledge the possibility that God exists should empirical evidence become available. Agnosticism is not as abrasive a position to persons with faith in God as atheism is, so may not be as contentious to them as atheism is.

Agnosticism is the most open-minded stance of the three mentioned in this argument so in the case of Faith vs. Agnosticism, agnosticism wins.

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