What is Ignosticism?
At first, you'll probably think I've made a spelling booboo. "Surely he means Agnosticism?" you'll ask. Well it's definitely in the same ballpark. Ignosticism is related to agnosticism, as well as atheism and other forms of non-belief.
I used to associate myself with agnosticism. It's one of those things that hardly anyone understands, except agnostics themselves. Agnosticism holds that, in supernatural matters, NOTHING can be "known". It's all conjecture. You can't test if there is a God or gods. Agnostics are therefore called fence-sitters; normally in a derogatory manner. Theists (believers) and Atheists (purist non-believers) both, ironically, agree that Agnostics are simply copping out of the debate by not being confident in their decision. This is not true.
ATHEIST DEFINITION: One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.
AGNOSTIC DEFINITION: One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.
IGNOSTIC DEFINITION: <see picture above right>
The reason I aligned myself with Agnosticism is purely a logical one. The absolute extent of human knowledge - which like the Universe is continually expanding and dynamic - is confined to science. The etymology of the word science is from the Latin: Scio - I know. Hence, it means knowledge. Human knowledge is what we know. It is all we know. Everything beyond that is either hypothesis or simply fantasy. Sometimes fantasy and hypothesis are proved correct. However, they are only proved correct through scientific method. It is therefore logical that one can only define their world and the universe through science.
Science can not ever prove the existence of a God or gods. This theological conundrum is confined to the area of philosophy and not science. Someone who is a scientific purist will maintain a neutral position in terms of theology. A neutral position is agnosticism.
Atheists, on the other hand, are determined to DENY the existence of a God or gods. They simply say that it is an impossibility. However, I have a problem with atheism. A number of problems actually. Firstly, you can not, from an ontological or epistemological point of view maintain an absolute knowledge of anything (See: Solipsism). Theory is not absolute truth. Theories whose subject matter exists outside of empirical data, but rather in the realm of ideas are called philosophical theories as opposed to scientific theories. At least some of the elementary theorems of a philosophical theory are statements whose truth cannot necessarily be scientifically tested through empirical observation.
Even scientific theories that have been proven "true" simply mean that we have enough evidence at hand that aligns with the theory and we have no other pertinent opposing ideas about the matter. With enough evidence and lack of alternative theory, we then "assume" it to be proven true. The theory of gravity for example.
Atheists deny the existence of God, but it is not the same as denying... say someone's theory that gravity doesn't exist. We have evidence that gravity exists, we have no evidence that God or gods exist, and therefore you can't deny it, because you can't prove it. Sure, we have evidence that the ideas of Christianity that are garnered from the Bible are incorrect, but the philosophical idea of a "supreme being or power" can not be denied (nor proven).
This is where agnostics are often then lumped with being theists, because they do not deny the existence of a God. Incorrect! Agnostics simply say that you can not deny it, nor can you accept it, because there is no proof for either standpoint.
Secondly, by maintaining a position of denial, you actually give the theists more credence. By offering any form of opposition to something, by its nature, actually validates the opposite opinion in a way. You're offering an opposing theory, which means that the theory is still something that may have validity.
Agnostics, on the other hand, would prefer not to give either position validity.
Now that's my stance on agnosticism as it relates to atheism and theism, but now what in God's name (yes, a little theistic humour thrown in there) is Ignosticism? And why do I now prefer to align with it?
For clarification, I'm going to post the Wikipedia definition of Ignosticism:
Ignosticism, or igtheism, is the theological position that every other theological position (including agnosticism) assumes too much about the concept of god and many other theological concepts.
It can be defined as encompassing two related views about the existence of god:
- The view that a coherent definition of god must be presented before the question of the existence of god can be meaningfully discussed. Furthermore, if that definition is unfalsifiable, the ignostic takes the theological noncognitivist position that the question of the existence of god (per that definition) is meaningless. In this case, the concept of god is not considered meaningless; the term "god" is considered meaningless.
- The second view is synonymous with theological noncognitivism, and skips the step of first asking "What is meant by 'god'?" before proclaiming the original question "Does god exist?" as meaningless.
This makes perfect sense to me. I have engaged in hundreds of theological debates, both in real life and online, and what often happens is that people go round and round in circles trying to argue their position:
- God doesn't exist
- My God exists
- Catholicism is the way
- Creationism and Intelligent design is correct
- I'm Muslim and Allah is the greatest
The problem arises that each of these people is not comparing apples with apples. As they say, we are all unique, like snowflakes... just like everybody else. Religion and spirituality are extremely personal issues. Everyone has their own personal idea about what they define as a God, or gods, or superior power, or whatever.
For example, Christians love saying that Einstein was a Christian, since he would state things such as "God does not play dice with the universe". But, as it has come to be known, Einstein's "God" is not the personal God of Christianity. In fact, it can't really even be defined as a God, or can it? I believe that Einstein saw the awesome beauty of the universe and its laws and, to him, this feeling of awe is what he described as a God. It's not even a supreme being. It's just the universe, or existence, or EVERYTHING. Is that a God? Maybe.
So everyone sits around debating the existence of something and nobody actually agrees on what that something is. Nobody ever will. We can try. It reminds me of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the the Galaxy", when the computer "Deep Thought" is asked for the answer to life, the universe and everything. The answer - according to the computer - is 42. Humans, finding this quite unacceptable, are told by the computer that they don't even know the meaning of the question and thus will not comprehend the answer. The computer is then directed to find the question.
As an Ignostic, we simply ignore ALL discussions as to the nature of or existence of a God, gods, or supreme power. Sometimes this is called apatheism, where you are apathetic about the whole thing, but not necessarily. An ignostic does care. Firstly, because religion is a powerful human force. It affects humans in fundamental ways. Wars are waged over one side's definition of a God versus anothers. This is, quite simply, a form of insanity.
To sum it up, an ignostic feels that theists, atheists and agnostics are ALL committing themselves to useless standpoints. Each of them, by even defining a stance on the existence or non-existence of a God, or gods, or superior power, are actually giving credence to the notion that one could exist at all.
The question is meaningless. The answer, on the other hand, is not. Should we explore these concepts philosophically? Without doubt. But should we convict ourselves to a position either for or against? Absolutely not.
So, as much as I dislike putting myself in to a pigeonhole when determining something so amorphous, I align my lifestance with Ignostic Humanism, which is basically Secular Humanism. I feel this lifestance is both defensible and acceptable by everyone.
Despite not being an atheist myself, I highly recommend reading "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins
What Is Secular Humanism?
Secular Humanism is a term which has come into use in the last thirty years to describe a world view with the following elements and principles:
- A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith.
- Commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.
- A primary concern with fulfillment, growth, and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.
- A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.
- A concern for this life and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.
- A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.
- A conviction that with reason, an open marketplace of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.
I hope you all apply these principles in your daily life. I also hope that this Hub has helped many of you to more closely formulate your convictions, whatever they may be. You have a right to believe whatever makes you happy. Above all, one love amongst all humanity and peace be to all mankind.
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