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Weak agnosticism

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Weak agnosticism, or empirical agnosticism (also negative agnosticism), according to Graham Oppy, is "the view which is sustained by the thesis that it is permissible for reasonable persons to suspend judgement on the question of God's existence."[1]

Weak agnosticism is in contrast to strong agnosticism, in which the agnostic believes that the existence of any gods is unknowable to humanity. Neither type of agnosticism is fully irreconcilable with theism (belief in a deity or deities) nor strong atheism. Weak agnostics who also consider themselves theists are likely in a state of doubt, though they are not necessarily having a crisis of faith. Weak agnosticism often overlaps with, and is often confused with, weak atheism, as both are a lack of belief rather than a belief in lack (of either knowledge or existence, respectively).

Justification of weak agnosticism

One reason why weak agnostics may hold such beliefs is their belief that no irrefutable or sufficiently strong evidence exists proving or disproving the existence of god(s). Weak agnostics differ from strong agnostics in that they believe the existence or non-existence of god(s) CAN be proved by science and philosophy. Weak agnostics simply feel that humanity is not there yet, weak agnosticism is not a belief or faith which one can hold in the light of extreme amounts of rational coherent scientific evidence to support the existence of god(s),"godlike" entity, or non-existence, so if it can be proved, either way, then the weak-agnostic will acknowledge it.

In a western monotheistic system, it can be argued that since evil and suffering exist under an omnipotent and benevolent god, therefore this god must not exist[2]. This does not refute the existence of a non-benevolent god(s), nor does it account for many of the arguments of Theodicy, the specific branch of theology and philosophy that attempts to reconcile the problem of evil.

Criticism of agnosticism

Weak agnostics have often been accused of indecision, that is, "fence-sitters." This arises from a misunderstanding of weak agnosticism. The principle of weak agnosticism is not about a belief in God or a disbelief in God but about the belief in the statement "God exists" or the belief in the statement "God does not exist". Given that, to a weak agnostic, nothing has been shown to support either statement conclusively, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the data is inconclusive and believing in either is a leap of faith.


  1. Oppy, Graham (December 1994). "Weak Agnosticism Defended". International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 36 (3): 147–167. doi:10.1007/BF01316921. 
  2. "Atheism and Agnosticism", "Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy" 2004-3-9. Retrieved on 2009-1-17.

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