Does Agnostic Theism Exist?

It's a Myth that Agnosticism and Theism are Incompatible

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Agnostic theism can't exist because no religious faiths allow a person to believe without knowing for sure.

Agnosticism is the label applied to not knowing for sure if any gods exist; theism is the label for belief in at least one god of some sort. Some people argue that the two aren't compatible because every religion demands believers to know for sure that their god exists. If any believer says that they don't know for sure, even though they continue believing anyway, then they cannot remain good adherents of their religion anymore. This is not a valid objection to the concept of agnostic theism.

Theism, Religion, and Faith

In fact, there is nothing valid whatsoever to this objection — it gets everything wrong at every stage of its weak analysis. First and most obvious, notice now "theism" is replaced with "religious faith." No one who knows what they are talking about would make such a mistake. Theism is not the same as a religious faith; theism is simply belief in some sort of god while a religious faith is a religious belief system which incorporates or revolves around belief in a god. For example, monotheism is a type of theism while Christianity is a religious faith based around monotheism.

So even if we accepted for the sake of argument that no religious faith allows a person to believe without knowing for sure, that isn't a valid objection to the concept of agnostic theism because theism can easily exist outside of religion. The truth is, though, we can't accept for the sake of argument that no religious faith will permit a person to believe without knowing for sure. Some do and some don't — after all, it is faith we are talking about and if a person does know for sure, then why call it faith?

Theism & Religious Orthodoxy

Even worse, so what if a religious faith doesn't permit a person to believe without knowing for sure? It's arguably the case that every religious believer has, at one time or another, done or believed something which their religion doesn't technically permit. I suppose there have been a few Americans who have managed to uphold perfect orthodoxy all their lives, but I doubt that it's been very many.

To cite a simple but obvious example, consider astrology in America. Christianity technically doesn't sanction astrology in any form — or other sorts of divination, like psychics and fortune tellers. Americans believe astrologers and psychics in large numbers, though, without any apparent problem. They don't experience any noticeable distress at the contradictions and they certainly aren't being tossed out of their churches.

So if American Christians can actively follow beliefs which are technically condemned by their religion, how hard would it be for them to adopt a more passive perspective which their religion may not explicitly care much about? American Christians believe all sorts of things that their religion technically doesn't sanction, so why not agnostic theism as well?

Agnosticism & Theism

We can have agnostic theists outside of religions who don't care what a religious faith might say about agnostic theism. We have religions which don't necessarily condemn agnostic theism. And, finally, we have the fact that adherents of religions which don't permit agnostic theism can still have adherents who may be agnostic theists anyway. All around we have options for people to be agnostic theists, and nowhere do we have any justification for the idea that agnostic theism can't exist.