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June 24, 2009



To "cop out" implies that there is a duty or responsibility to be fulfilled which has been shirked. Agnosticism is necessarily a cop out only if it is true that there is a duty not only to think seriously about the existence of God or gods, but to come to a certain conclusion of existence or non-existence. Someone who has put in the effort and reached a third type of conclusion, e.g., "I can't tell based on the information available to me", can hardly be said to have shirked his/her duty. In fact, the person may have worked or be continually working much harder on the task at hand than the average believer. On the other hand, those self-labeled agnostics who have, when confronted with the question, given up without a struggle, are indeed "copping out".


I think Jonimarie makes a valid point, someone who makes a valid attempt to reach their own conclusion regarding these issues shouldn't be labelled as a "cop-out". They may well be wrong, but they're not avoiding the issue.

I would add that the social situation of the agnostic has an impact. To be an agnostic in the American "bible-belt" or similar places would hardly be a cop-out and would probably be seen as making a definite stand.

Interested bystander

In 'The Case Against God' George Smith says:

"While the agnostic of the Huxley variety may refuse to state whether to state whether theism is true or false - thus "suspending" his judgment - he does not believe in the existence of god. (If he did believe, he would be a theist.) Since this agnostic does not accept the existence of god as true, he is without theistic belief; he is atheistic - and Huxley's agnosticism emerges as a form of atheism."

If agnosticism is, as Smith suggests, a variety of atheism, then if agnosticism is a 'cop out' then atheism must be too. No?

Eric Herboso

I self-identify as an agnostic, and do not feel that it is justified to call the position a cop out.

I do not see any evidence for God. It is obvious from an evidence-based point of view that there is no reason to believe in a god. But I also am skeptical on the principle of Occam's Razor. So though I live my life as you might expect an atheist would, I cannot legitimately call myself an atheist. In the end, I do not _know_ one way or the other.

I am sure that many philosophical skeptics like myself also self-identify as agnostics, and it would be absurd to call a group that have a definite philosophical position to be merely copping out on the issue of deity existence. It is not always cop out to be agnostic. It can also be a specific position.

That said, I know a lot of people that say they're agnostic even though they're really just copping out. But don't make the mistake of thinking all agnostics are like that.

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