People who are unsure whether or not they believe in God (or gods) are said to be agnostic. Agnosticism is therefore distinct in being the only religious belief system that does not, in fact, involve belief in anything. Agnosticism is arguably the most common viewpoint on religion in the Western world today.
Comparisons with Atheism
Agnostics and atheists are often lumped together due to their shared unwillingness to participate in local religious activities. The difference is that atheists have made the assumption that God does not exist. While atheism is commonly assumed to be the product of a general lack of faith, agnosticism is really a better fit to this precept.
Some agnostics are skeptical of anyone who claims to have all the answers regarding why humans exist, where the universe came from, and whether or not a higher power is responsible for it all. They view hardcore atheists and religious fanatics with equal scorn, and often attribute to them the harm that's done to others as a result of their 'fanatical' attempts to propagate their often extreme views.
Other agnostics are former theists who have lost faith in their religious beliefs, usually because of traumatic events in their lives. Yet other agnostics are former atheists whose views on the non-existence of God have been challenged by miraculous events. Such agnostics may eventually return to a previously accepted religion, convert to a new religion, or embrace atheism. Alternatively, they may remain in a wasteland of general disbelief indefinitely.
Indifferent agnostics complain that contemplating the existence of God gives them a headache and that they have far better things to do with their brief life span than just sitting around trying to figure everything out. They really don't understand what all the fuss is about. Such people likely comprise the majority of agnostics.
Finally, some agnostics argue that the comprehension of God is beyond man's capabilities. They argue that if God were in any way all-knowing, all-seeing, or all-powerful, then mankind would have virtually nothing in common with the deity or deities. Therefore, mankind is unlikely to identify him, her, it, or them as sentient even if he, she, it, or they, exists.
Some agnostics believe future evidence will someday come to light that will clear up the confusion and make agnosticism virtually obsolete. Most agree that no such breakthrough is likely to happen within our lifetime.
The Agnostic's Prayer
Agnostics generally do not pray. Nevertheless, friends and relatives may unknowingly cause an agnostic discomfort by asking them to pray on their behalf. The following is a prayer that agnostics may safely utter in such egregious1 circumstances.
Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness.
Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit.
I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.
- Roger Zelazny, Creatures of Light and Darkness, 1969