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Is Agnosticism Cowardly?

May 7, 2010

Jeff Mason in The Philosopher’s Magazine:

Is it respectable to be agnostic about the existence of God, or is it simply a form of cowardice? The agnostic suspends belief on the question of God’s existence because neither theists nor atheists can prove their claims beyond a reasonable doubt. Not even our contemporary atheists claim to prove, deductively, that God does not exist. However, sensible atheists try to show that God’s existence is so unlikely that we have no rational warrant for belief in God. The key, here, is to decide how important it is to have rational grounds for believing in God. If one agrees with a logically minded philosopher like Bertram Russell, then we ought to believe only that for which we have good reasons. Not having good reasons for believing in something will count against believing in it. Traditionally, philosophers commit themselves to finding the best reasons for their beliefs.

The question of God’s existence is a metaphysical one, and this is part of the problem. Metaphysical questions do not find firm answers in the history of philosophy. Though individuals may stand firm until they die, the arguments go on. Critics have complained that there is no apparent progress in metaphysics. Philosophers are still arguing about God, and the same old arguments go round and round under different reformulations. [More]

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