- a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.
- a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.
- a person who holds neither of two opposing positions on a topic: Socrates was an agnostic on the subject of immortality.
- of or relating to agnostics or their doctrines, attitudes, or beliefs.
- asserting the uncertainty of all claims to knowledge.
- not taking a stand on something, especially not holding either of two usually strongly opposed positions (often used in combination): to take an agnostic view of technological progress; fuel agnostic energy policies.
- (especially of digital technology) not limited or dedicated to a particular device, system, etc. (often used in combination): platform agnostic software.
Origin of agnostic
In a more recent trend, one can be agnostic simply by not taking a stand on something. In 2010, President Obama called himself “agnostic” on tax cuts until he had seen all available options. At a forum on sustainable energy in 2008, GE CEO Jeff Immelt said he was “fuel agnostic fundamentally.” In technology, software or hardware can be said to be agnostic as well. Computer code that can run on any operating system is called “platform agnostic,” and such services as phone and electric may be considered “agnostic” if not dedicated to a particular carrier, device, or user interface.
—Agnostic Front: A New York punk band, considered at the forefront of the New York hardcore music scene. Founded in 1983, in existence for over 25 years.
- "It [agnostic] came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the ‘gnostic’ of Church history who professed to know so much."-T. H. Huxley Agnosticism Collected Essays, Volume V; Science and Christian Tradition: Essays (1894)
- "In theory he [Prof. Huxley] is a great and even severe Agnostic,–who goes about exhorting all men to know how little they know."-R. H. Hutton Spectator (January 29, 1870)
- "Militant Agnostic: I don't know, and you don't either"-Bumper sticker Northern Sun (Accessed 2010)
- "Melville is a political agnostic in Billy Budd—he ‘doesn't know’ with finality—not because he is indifferent, but because he sees too much."-Robert Midler Exiled Royalties: Melville and the Life We Imagine (2006)
- "The whole point of it is to make sure that all ideas are on the table…So what I want to do is to be completely agnostic, in terms of solutions."-President Barack Obama by Rich Miller Obama ‘Agnostic’ on Deficit Cuts, Won't Prejudge Tax Increases Bloomberg Businessweek (Feb. 11, 2010)
- "Our view has always been technology agnostic."-Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila by James Aley and Ann Harrington Heads We Win, Tails We Win As cellphones continue their takeover of the world, one company is certain to succeed: Here's how Qualcomm does it. Fortune Magazine (March 3, 2003)
Examples from the Web for agnostic
She is agnostic and a firm supporter for gay rights and birth control.The World Would Go to Hell Without Nuns
September 4, 2014
In general, MBAs are agnostic about how cost cutting can be achieved.Burger King Invades Canada to Save His Faltering Kingdom
August 26, 2014
According to Pew, close to two-thirds of those who identify as atheist or agnostic are men.Are Atheists the New Mormons?
April 18, 2014
For the record, I believe in God but am an agnostic about therapy.Anthony Weiner and Other Democrats in Sex Scandals Don’t Mention God
July 25, 2013
Street savvy but compassionate, mystical but agnostic and above all, brilliantly idiosyncratic, Fly is a rambling poet of sorts.This Week’s Hot Reads: June 10, 2013
June 10, 2013
I saw, too, that from a certain point of view the stand of the agnostic is a right one.The Conquest of Fear
His wife could not help the sudden thought, "But if we had had an infidel or agnostic son?"The Coryston Family
Mrs. Humphry Ward
He may remain a Monist, and nothing more; in which case he is an agnostic.Mind and Motion and Monism
George John Romanes
In the sense which would have made belief a solace and relief, I was agnostic.A Daughter of the Middle Border
But we are human souls, after all; and no one is an agnostic for the fun of it.Brother Copas
Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch
- of or relating to agnostics
Word Origin and History for agnostic
1870, "one who professes that the existence of a First Cause and the essential nature of things are not and cannot be known" [Klein]; coined by T.H. Huxley (1825-1895), supposedly in September 1869, from Greek agnostos "unknown, unknowable," from a- "not" + gnostos "(to be) known" (see gnostic). Sometimes said to be a reference to Paul's mention of the altar to "the Unknown God," but according to Huxley it was coined with reference to the early Church movement known as Gnosticism (see Gnostic).
I ... invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of 'agnostic,' ... antithetic to the 'Gnostic' of Church history who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant. [T.H. Huxley, "Science and Christian Tradition," 1889]
The adjective is first recorded 1870.