... The agnostic has heard talk of God in heaven, the truth of which he can neither confirm nor deny. Huxley was not, of course, the first to climb and sit this fence. Protagoras, the ancient rhetorician, had opened his treatise on theology with a crisp proviso: “Concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not, or of what sort they may be.”
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[T]he only avowed agnostic who has made the papers in recent years was Tim McVeigh, and even he chose, in the end, to receive last rites from a death row priest. ...
It is not that the faith of the American public appears to be shifting toward indecision. Just the opposite: agnosticism itself is slowly being tugged toward faith.
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Citizens of a plural world have natural difficulty honoring the magic and heroes of one tradition over those of another. And yet the alternative -- life as the banging along of stuff -- leaves many just as cold.
Our lives, so far as we lead them, are saturated at each point with notions of purpose and aim. To concede this fact, to steadily pursue one’s ends, and yet to view them all the while as cheerful fictions requires a rather blackened sense of humor. ...
The new agnostic offers no description of this [higher] power save for its bare existence and its vague agency. Perhaps, though, this is virtually all that matters. A is greater than B. It is a claim that offers scarcely anything, and yet so much more than nothing.
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