There and back again?
Hi, my name’s Dave, and I’m an agnostic. I think agnosticism often gets a bad press – woolly fence-sitter is a typical understanding of the word, and some would go as far as to describe agnostics as cowards and appeasers, but I tend to something much more like Thomas Huxley’s original definition:
Agnosticism is not a creed but a method, the essence of which lies in the vigorous application of a single principle… Positively the principle may be expressed as in matters of intellect, do not pretend conclusions are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable.
That’s fine as far as I’m concerned – I’ve never been one for overstating the certainty of conclusions – and it’s kept me detached from the sort of mudslinging that both theists and atheists are often guilty of online, but there are a couple of problems which have prompted me to think about my position and start this blog. First, almost everyone will (if pressed) admit to a degree of uncertainty over their conclusions. And second, agnosticism in this methodological Huxleyan sense has nothing to say about the strength of competing claims. In fact, “agnostic” is a label that can be (and has been) claimed by people just about anywhere on the spectrum of belief, so its usefulness without further qualification is questionable.
That’s not to say I have any intention of disowning the label, which I think is the best available summary of my approach to religion, but I’ve come to the conclusion that staying detached like this may actually be ducking the issue. While I don’t think I’ll ever be convinced that there can be any certainty about any conclusions to theological and metaphysical questions, and I have a nasty habit of seeing both sides of an argument, I don’t think certainty is necessary before you take up a position on an issue – for example, politics isn’t a subject you can be certain about, whatever some politicians might have you believe, but political opinions aren’t exactly thin on the ground.
So having spent a number of years getting to where I am, I’m going to be trying to work my way back to some sort of actual position. I expect that to involve some discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of various arguments both for and against the existence of God, the pros and cons of different religions and traditions within them, and musings on theology, practical applications, and all things religious and irreligious. At the moment, I have no idea where I’m going to end up, or how I’m going to get there, but I hope you enjoy the ride.