There are people who say "I don't think we can ever know whether God exists or not but I would like to believe he exists." Are they agnostic theists? Knowledge and belief are two different things right?

But then again, if you believe in agnosticism, isn't faith abomination? So it's not possible to be both agnostic and theist?

Or did I not understand Huxley's definition of agnosticism correctly?

  • 1
    Okay, first of all, please tell us what your problem is, where you encountered it and what kind of answer you're hoping for. What is Huxley's definition? You might need to focus on one question for now.
    – iphigenie
    Jan 4, 2014 at 19:10
  • This isn't about essay or anything. I have never taken a philosophy course. I was thinking about religion and being agnostic (which I believe I am) then ended up knowing about Huxley while researching then got interested in his ideas but philosophy essays online are too difficult for me to understand. I am not sure if I'm understanding ideas correctly or not.
    – user5157
    Jan 4, 2014 at 19:25
  • My first question would be: is it okay to believe in agnosticism and still believe in God? I saw this quote: "it is wrong for a man to say he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty"
    – user5157
    Jan 4, 2014 at 19:29
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    Trouble is, there are multiple Huxleys who have discussed agnosticism, including Thomas and Aldous and Julian. There are probably others. Please edit your question so that others know what you are referring to. Jan 4, 2014 at 20:45
  • There is a complication and it is that more can be known than demonstrated. Often proof is equated with demonstration. So the question needs to make clear what you mean by 'prove'. Those people who claim to know about God never claim to be able to prove what they know, just as those people who know about their stomach-ache never claim to be able to prove that they have it. This muddles the issues a little.
    – user20253
    Dec 3, 2017 at 12:38

2 Answers 2


EDITED to address specific quote

Let us first address your question in a general sense.

Let us take "I am an agnostic" as meaning "I do not know whether or not God exists".

Can you be an agnostic --as so defined --if you "want to believe" in God? I don't see any contradiction here --your desire to believe does not change your level of knowledge.

Can you be an agnostic --as so defined --if you do in fact believe in God? This is not necessarily a contradiction either. You believe, but you do not know --that is a condition many people of faith would probably identify with. The same logic applies if you disbelieve --you don't believe, but you don't know for sure. Again, many atheists could likely identify with that condition.

The situation changes however, if you take agnosticism as a philosophical commitment to suspension of belief on the question of God. That would be incompatible with either actual belief or disbelief, and arguably even with the desire to believe (or disbelieve).

Now let us consider your quote: "It is wrong for a man to say he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty."

I don't believe agnosticism commits you to this view, but let's assume that you do accept it as given. In that case, you would be "wrong" --in the terms of this proposition-- to express your certainty without evidence. It's important to note however, that you can still believe, and be in accordance with this concept, as long as you are not certain in your belief.

(Interestingly enough, that proposition itself is vulnerable to the classic anti-positivist argument that one cannot be certain of it without yielding a contradiction, given that evidence cannot be produced which logically justifies it.)


I am new to the Philosophy Stack Exchange, though I have been a member of the History Stack Exchange for 3 months. I recently posted 2 answers on the Christianity Stack Exchange regarding the questionable relationship between Deism and Christianity.

Admittedly, I know very little about Huxley's Agnosticism-(I believe it is Thomas Huxley who was the Agnostic. Aldous wrote the famous Distopia "Brave New World"). However, I write this post as someone who is familiar with Agnosticism.

For an Agnostic, the topic of God is inherently unknowable and truly mysterious. The Agnostic's position is predicated on the notion that such a Grand Entity cannot be proved nor disproved. The nature of proof is exclusively geared towards the physical, the materialistic and the tangible; even the intangibility of something, such as Gravity or Time, is still within the realm of the physical and the materialistic. How exactly one can try to prove or for that matter disprove God's existence, are questions that have been asked for time immemorial into the present-day; and yet, we always return "back to square one".......... unresolved and unanswered.

If, however, one chooses to believe in God(s), then he or she certainly has the ability to do so; a belief does not always necessitate proof or affirmation. You can believe that you are going to win the million dollar lottery, though you do not know that you are going to win the lottery-(unless you choose to validate the role of Prophecy and Presaging).

The difficulty that Agnosticism has with so-called Prophets and Clairvoyants, are their spectacular forecasts which in most cases have and continue to yield disappointing results. However, for Theists and "People of Faith", Prophecy provides an opening into the future and in turn, recognizes the magical and miraculous power that a small number of individuals have been and are still able to wield.

If one was to compare an Agnostic with a Theist, both would initially agree with the plausible premise that the existence of God cannot be known and is truly a mystery. However, The Agnostic typically stops at the word, "mystery", whereas the Theist typically continues onward and goes a step further by saying, "Yes it is a mystery, though I still believe in God's existence anyway"-(and a few Theists go a step further by undertaking the erroneous tasking of trying to prove God's existence). If an Agnostic were to continue onward, like the Theist, with regard to believing in-(or even claiming to know about) God's existence, then an Agnostic....... ceases to be an Agnostic and may as well call himself or herself, a Theist.

Now an Agnostic could hope that there is a benign or graceful God; it is certainly not wrong-(either intellectually or morally) to express one's hope for a Gracious Grand Being, as well as a Heavenly Hereafter. Again, I return to my lottery analogy; one can hope that he or she wins the million dollar lottery, but to say I believe or that I know I am going to win the lottery, is just plain foolish. And although the lottery is certainly not God, the rather plain spoken and seemingly simplistic comparison may have some profundity which underscores an Epistemological problem that has mystified humankind since our earliest known origins......and I suspect, will continue to mystify us.

Agnosticism may not be the perfect answer........though it does offer a level of intellectual honesty that few seem to welcome.

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