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Jun 19, 2018
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Coined words

This week’s words

Agnostic Cemetery
Cartoon: Dan Piraro

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with Anu Garg



noun:1. One who believes that the existence of god is unknown or unknowable.
 2. One who is noncommittal about something.
adjective:1. Believing that the existence of god is unknown or unknowable.
 2. Noncommittal.
 3. Compatible with many platforms: not limited to a particular software, technology, etc.

Coined by the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley in 1869. From Greek a- (not) + gnosis (knowledge). Ultimately from the Indo-European root gno- (to know), which also gave us knowledge, prognosis, ignore, narrate, normal, know, can, notorious, notice, connoisseur, recognize, diagnosis, ignore, annotate, noble, narrate, anagnorisis (the moment of recognition), prosopagnosia (inability to recognize faces), and gnomon (raised arm of a sundial). Earliest documented use: 1869.

Once people realize there’s no evidence for a god or gods, they often take the position that since they do not know whether there is a god or not, calling oneself an agnostic is the best option. Some believe it’s arrogant to be an atheist and declare that there is no god.

The way I see it, it’s not arrogant to be an a-loch-ness-monster-ist, one who believes there’s no Loch Ness Monster. It’s not arrogant to be an a-bigfoot-ist because we haven’t found any evidence. No entity is more searched for than god and if there’s no evidence for her/him/it, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that you are an atheist.

That said, those of you who are at the agnostic station, don’t feel bad for stopping there. This train goes forward if you continue asking questions.

Those of you who haven’t boarded the train yet, well, ask your religion the same hard questions you ask other religions.

“It is also hardware agnostic, and can be used with analogue as well as digital phones.”
Pulling the Plug on Robocalls; The Economist (London, UK); Jun 23, 2016.

See more usage examples of agnostic in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

If all men knew what others say of them, there would not be four friends in the world. -Blaise Pascal, philosopher and mathematician (19 Jun 1623-1662)

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