We live in a world with a dizzying array of intellectual options.
The beginning of the 21st century is unlike any other period of history, with the ability of people to discuss, debate, and argue about any topic with people anywhere in the world.
While it is easier than ever to find like-minded people who share our ideas, it is also easier than ever to find people who disagree with them.
In a world made so much smaller by the internet, we have become far more exposed to ideas and philosophies that we may never otherwise have given a second thought to.
When it comes to the topic of religion, it never seems to take much time to find people arguing on social media, whether it be Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or others.
Of course, this conflict is not confined solely to the online world. In many countries throughout the globe, people are persecuted and may even lose their lives for their religious beliefs.
Does it have to be this way though? Would we be better off in a world without religious dogma?
Agnosticism can be defined as belief (or the possibility of belief) in God, gods, or the supernatural, without defining or explaining its exact nature.
In our relativistic age, it is easy to see why this form of belief can be very appealing.
Unlike other major religions or atheism, it is an inclusive form of belief. Agnosticism can, to some degree, affirm all religions. It doesn't seem to endorse any one faith, or judge them for their different systems of belief.
But is agnosticism as impartial as it seems?
While agnosticism is often framed as a neutral and judgment-free alternative to organised religion, the very nature of the agnostic's philosophy is loaded with assumptions about God and the supernatural.
God is unknowable
The first major assumption that agnosticism makes, is that whatever exists in the supernatural realm—is unknowable and inexplicable to us as humans.
Because we can only reliably perceive things with our natural senses, those things that exist beyond those senses cannot be comprehended.
The supernatural (or metaphysical), by definition then, is outside of the bounds of our understanding.
This understanding is not dissimilar to a Christian understanding of God. While in Christianity God is the creator of the universe, he is also separate and distinct from it.
No matter how far humanity might explore the universe, we will never 'find' God, because he does not exist in a physical form that we can sense.
We cannot reach God
The second agnostic assumption flows from the first. If God is completely different and incomprehensible to us, there is no way for us as humans to understand the mind or purposes of God.
From an agnostic perspective, any attempt by humans to attempt to divine the nature of God is ultimately a futile exercise.
While it may be possible to argue that God does indeed exist, because of our physical limitations, any conception of the supernatural will ultimately be the reflection of the mind of humanity rather than that of God.
Again, the logic of this argument is not dissimilar to Christianity.
As the prophet Isaiah proclaimed in the Old Testament, "Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counsellor?" (Isaiah chapter 40, verse 13)
Left to our own devices, we cannot presume to know anything about God and the realms beyond our understanding. To attempt to do so is the ultimate in vanity—putting ourselves on the same level as God.
Can God reach us?
The third assumption of agnosticism, however, marks a major departure from Christian thought.
While there is consensus that God is beyond human understanding, and that humans cannot ascend to comprehend the mind of God, the final assumption of agnosticism states that God does not want to make himself known to humanity.
If, as agnosticism maintains, that there is no way to know the truth of the world outside our own, then this also means that God is either unwilling or incapable of communicating with his creation.
In short—this means that the agnostic god does not love us.
Neither, presumably, does he hate us. Rather, a god which refuses to communicate with his creation suggests he is indifferent towards it.
While there may be a purpose and meaning to the universe, for an agnostic there is no way to know what it is— or how to live accordingly. The truth may be out there, but we are not deemed important enough to know what that truth is.
The God who cares
Christianity, however, provides a way to know God that agnosticism cannot match.
While God is beyond our comprehension, and we cannot reach him—the Bible teaches us that God can reach us.
God chose to make himself known to us, so that we may be able to relate to him. Although we cannot fully understand his purposes, we can know who he is, who we are, and what his plan is for his creation.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John chapter 3, verse 16)
Tim Newman lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. He holds an MA in History (focussing on attitudes towards warfare in Islam and Christianity).
Tim Newman's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-newman.html