This is not ignorance of a sophisticated kind

More from Paul Cliteur’s The Secular Outlook. The first chapter is an extended analysis of atheism, agnosticism and theism. At the end of his discussion of Pascal’s Wager PC says Pascal did have one strong point, which is that we cannot suspend judgment on the transcendental realm – italics his. Quite right. If there is a god and it does want us to act in certain ways and it has given us reliable and unmistakable knowledge on the subject, that does make a difference. We may well think the god is evil and that we’re not going to act in the ways it wants us to, but it would be feckless not to think about it one way or another. If there is no such god, or at least no reliable and unmistakable knowledge about it, that too makes a difference. It’s not something we can just shrug about, not if we have any sense.

The agnostic says [she] suspends judgment while in every act [she] chooses in favor of or against God…So the agnostic can be adequately defined as the [person] “who does not know,” but [her] lack of knowledge is not some superior position that goes back to the docta ignorantia of Socrates or Montaigne, but the ignorance of someone who is unable or unwilling to take intellectual responsibility for a philosophical outlook that [she] honors in [her] deeds. There surely is some ignorance here. But this is not ignorance of a sophisticated kind, as the agnostic [her]self considers it to be. This is the ignorance of the unexamined life.

I like that. I like it partly because I’m so tired of all the superior sneering from jaded non-gnu atheists who wonder why we won’t just shut up about it already. I don’t think it’s as boring as they seem to. I think the many manifestations of zealous, hostile, vituperative hatred of atheism and atheists are 1. surprising 2. interesting 3. alarming. The manifestations themselves make it clear that we can’t just shrug and say “I dunno” and keep quiet.

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