Father Neuhaus, RIP

Agnosticism Is Not A Solution

Still more from Ratzinger/Benedict’s Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures. The book is concerned with the implications of our modern attempt to create a civilization that denies the existence of God, but much of it applies to the individual as as well as to cultures.

Even if I throw in my theoretical lot with agnosticism, I am nevertheless compelled in practice to choose between two alternatives: either to live as if God did not exist or else to live as if God did exist. If I act according to the first alternative, I have in practice adopted an atheistic position and have made a hypothesis (which may also be false) the basis of my entire life….

Let us leave this question here: it is clear that the prestige enjoyed by the agnostic solution today does not stand up to closer examination. As a pure theory, it may seem exceedingly illuminating. But in its essence, agnosticism is much more than a theory: what is at stake here is the praxis of one’s life. When one attempts to “put it into practice” in one’s real field of action, agnosticism slips out of one’s hands like a soap bubble; it dissolves into thin air, because it is not possible to escape the very option it seeks to avoid. When faced with the question of God, man cannot permit himself to remain neutral. All he can say is Yes or No—without ever avoiding all the consequences that derive from this choice even in the smallest details of life. Accordingly, we see that the question of God is ineluctable; one is not permitted to abstain from casting one’s vote.

This is a point I’ve sometimes tried to make in conversation, with of course much less skill. I’ve never heard anyone say “I don’t know whether there is a God or not, so I’m going to become a Catholic.” No, a commitment to agnosticism—as opposed to agnosticism still open to the alternative— is a form of atheism.



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)