Agnostic

Robin Le Poidevin argues for the continuing importance of doubt:

When the philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz opined that God had created ‘the best of all possible worlds’, his view was mercilessly lampooned in Voltaire’s satirical novel Candide. ‘Best’ here, however, does not mean most agreeable, but rather where the greatest variety is produced by the simplest laws. And indeed it is a requirement on scientific explanation that it not involve needless complexity. Elegant simplicity is the ideal.

Perhaps God is like that: his understanding and capacities may be infinitely complex, but the underlying nature that gives rise to that complexity may be relatively simple. If so, then it isn’t a given that the probability of such a being is enormously improbable. And if God is not clearly improbable, then atheism is not the default position. Rather, agnosticism is. If, before we start to look at the evidence, the hypothesis that God exists is initially no less probable than the hypothesis that he doesn’t, that neither atheism nor theism has a head start, so speak, then we should keep an open mind, rather than be atheists until presented by overwhelming evidence for God.

So what is the point of agnosticism? That it stands for open-mindedness, for a willingness to consider conflicting perspectives, for tolerance and humanity. It may even be the basis for a religious life.

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