Pragmatic Agnosticism

If There Is a God, He Doesn't Care Enough about Us to Matter in Our Lives

Humanism, Christianity or Buddhism?
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Pragmatic agnosticism is the position that you can't know for sure if any gods exist and, even if they do, they don't seem to care about us enough to justify worrying about them.

This definition describes an agnosticism based not on philosophical considerations about the nature of knowledge and evidence, but rather a pragmatic concern with what's happening in one's life and what's important as a practical matter in one's life.

Pragmatic agnosticism is not un-philosophical, though, because it is derived from the application of the philosophy of Pragmatism to the question of whether we can know if any gods exist. It does not necessarily make the positive assertion that we can't ever know if any gods do or do not exist; instead, pragmatic agnosticism asserts that knowing if they exist or not simply does not matter.

What is Pragmatism? If It Works, It's Meaningful

Pragmatism is a broad philosophical movement, but most forms center around the idea that a proposition is true if and only if it "works" and that a proposition's true meaning can only be determined through the consequences of actively applying or trying it. True, meaningful ideas should be accepted while those ideas which don't work, aren't meaningful, and are impractical should be rejected. Since what works one day may not work in the future, the pragmatist accepts that the truth also changes and there is no ultimate truth. They are open to change.

Whether or Not God Exists Has No Practical Application

Pragmatic agnosticism thus finds that the proposition "we can know if at least one god exists" is false and/or meaningless because the application of such a proposition to one's life does not "work" — or at least does not create any meaningful difference in one's life as opposed to not applying it. Since alleged gods don't seem to be doing anything for or to us, neither believing in them nor knowing about them can make any difference to our lives.

Practical Atheism or Pragmatic Agnosticism?

Practical atheism is similar to pragmatic agnosticism in some ways. A practical atheist may not reject the existence of god, but in their daily life, they live as if there is no god. Any belief they retain isn't strong enough to make them adhere to the tenets of their nominal religion. On a practical basis, they appear to act much the same as if they had no belief in a god.

Example of a Pragmatic Agnostic

You may be a pragmatic agnostic if you think there will never be evidence that a god has acted in your daily life in any way that you could detect. You don't think prayer or rituals can result in an action in your life attributable to the action of a god. If there is a god, it isn't one who would hear your prayers or be invoked by your ritual to then cause a direct action in your life or in world events. There may be a god who was a creator or prime mover, but that god doesn't care to act in the here and now.

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Your Citation
Cline, Austin. "Pragmatic Agnosticism." Learn Religions, Feb. 16, 2021, Cline, Austin. (2021, February 16). Pragmatic Agnosticism. Retrieved from Cline, Austin. "Pragmatic Agnosticism." Learn Religions. (accessed June 2, 2023).