In the strongest sense of the term, agnosticism refers to the belief that we can never know if God, the afterlife, or heaven and hell exist because all human experiences, including internal ones, are apparently subjective.
By way of contrast, so-called weak agnosticism maintains a “maybe, maybe not” position that, until some kind of definitive proof comes along, neither denies nor affirms God, the afterlife, heaven and hell.
The word was coined from the Greek (a = not, not with) + (Gnosis = knowledge) by the 19th-century British scientist Thomas H. Huxley. Huxley’s original use of the term referred to only being able to gain knowledge of the so-called empirical world.
More recently, the idea of agnosticism has undergone some philosophical refinement, as outlined at Wikipedia:
- Agnostic atheism
- The view of those who do not believe in the existence of any deity, but do not claim to know if a deity does or does not exist.
- Agnostic theism
- The view of those who do not claim to know of the existence of any deity, but still believe in such an existence.
- Apathetic or pragmatic agnosticism
- The view that there is no proof of either the existence or nonexistence of any deity, but since any deity that may exist appears unconcerned for the universe or the welfare of its inhabitants, the question is largely academic.
- Strong agnosticism (also called “hard”, “closed”, “strict”, or “permanent agnosticism”)
- The view that the question of the existence or nonexistence of a deity or deities, and the nature of ultimate reality is unknowable by reason of our natural inability to verify any experience with anything but another subjective experience. A strong agnostic would say, “I cannot know whether a deity exists or not, and neither can you.”
- Weak agnosticism (also called “soft”, “open”, “empirical”, or “temporal agnosticism”)
- The view that the existence or nonexistence of any deities is currently unknown but is not necessarily unknowable; therefore, one will withhold judgment until evidence, if any, becomes available. A weak agnostic would say, “I don’t know whether any deities exist or not, but maybe one day, if there is evidence, we can find something out.”†
- Atheism vs Theism vs Agnosticism vs Gnosticism (neatorama.com)
- Atheism vs. Theism vs. Agnosticism vs. Gnosticism, A Comic Guide to Religious Belief (laughingsquid.com)
- Theism vs Deism vs Atheism vs Agnosticism (raztheunbeliever.wordpress.com)
- Being agnostic doesn’t mean “I don’t know”: Sorting out theism, atheism, and agnosticism (heracliteanriver.com)
- Deism (mbman.wordpress.com)
- Self-Contradictory Agnosticism (trueforms.wordpress.com)
- Atheism, Agnosticism, and the Religious Notion of Creation/Resurrection (proactiontranshuman.wordpress.com)
- Inclining towards agnosticism. (warwithentropy.wordpress.com)