A common freethinker category consists of agnostics. Thomas Huxley
coined the term agnostic in the late 19th century. It is formed
from two Greek words: the root gnosis meaning
"knowledge" and the prefix a meaning
"without." Agnostics are those who say, with regard to a given
subject, "we are without knowledge concerning it."
Huxley put his concept this way—"Positively, the
principle (of agnosticism) may be expressed: In matters of the
intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard
to any other consideration. And negatively, in matters of the intellect
do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated
or demonstrable." 1
An agnostic, therefore, neither affirms nor denies the
existence of God. Today’s agnostics will simply say that, despite all
the arguments pro and con, one does not know, and perhaps cannot know
whether or not there is a God. Thus the person claims the right, in the
middle of strong social authority that there is a God, to
conclude that one cannot decide whether or not that claim is true.
Agnostics do not acknowledge the presence or the reality
of the supernatural, and so while their mental and scientific commitment
is to agnosticism and open inquiry, in reality their way of life is hard
to differentiate from atheism.
1 Huxley, Thomas Henry,
"Agnosticism," Science and the Christian Tradition. London:
Macmillan & Co., 1894. Reprinted in Gordon Stein, An Anthology of
Atheism and Rationalism. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1980, pp.