AGNOSTIC: “a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God.” – Oxford English Dictionary

Derived from the Greek a (without) + gnosis (knowledge), agnosticism preaches that we don’t and can’t know the nature and existence of the Divine. As Bertrand Russell put it:

An agnostic thinks it impossible to know the truth in matters such as God and the future life with which Christianity and other religions are concerned. Or, if not impossible, at least impossible at the present time.

Thomas Huxley, who may not know about God, but knows more than you.

Thomas Huxley, speaking before the age of plausible deniability, summed it up even more succinctly: “I neither affirm nor deny the immortality of man.”

Of course, Huxley is just some old dude who died before 2010 and didn’t even have a Twitter account, so what does he know? In our modern, enlightened age, agnostic simply means “impartial.” Exempli gratia:

The JPMorgan service will draw unneeded money and securities from however many clearing brokers an investor uses, Portney said. “It’s clearing broker agnostic,” she said. (“JPMorgan Bank to Hold Collateral After Futures Firms’ Losses,” Bloomberg Businessweek, August 14, 2012)

Spare Backup, Inc. (“Spare Backup”), a provider of data backup and security software for smartphones, tablets and PCs, which is carrier and manufacturer agnostic, announced today that it has successfully completed an agreement… (“Spare Backup Reaches Agreement on Principle Business Terms for Major International Telco Launch in 2012,”, August 9, 2012)

Aetna ‘Agnostic’ on Acquisition Size, CFO Zubretsky Says (headline, Bloomberg Businessweek, July 31, 2012)

What’s most interesting about this shift is that it seems so logical, but actually reflects the tortured, imprecise associations that have given rise to other lexicides. Just because one is agnostic (as a religion), it doesn’t mean one is impartial or accepting of any religion. Agnostics profess only a lack of knowledge in supernatural matters. True agnostics have arrived here through a process of thought, not through apathy or the desire to sleep in on Sunday, and do not profess neutrality in matters of faith. The Freedom From Religion Foundation claims to be “the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics and skeptics),” and no one would call them impartial. (Read their website and see if you can disagree.) So where did this idea that agnostics are the disinterested stakeholders come from?

Who knows? Maybe the Apple-PC “religious” wars. Or maybe I’m wrong, and companies who claim to be platform-agnostic really don’t (and can’t) know which system is Diabolic and which one Divine. Seriously, though – in a knowledge-based economy, why would anyone hire a know-nothing company? I’d be looking for the ones who preach predestination. They’re the ones you want on your side.

– Otto E. Mezzo


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