Van Harvey reflects on Huxley’s and Clifford’s reasons for not believing. are from Thomas Henry Huxley: Agnosticism and Christianity and other Essays. I recently posted 2 answers on the Christianity Stack Exchange regarding the Admittedly, I know very little about Huxley’s Agnosticism-(I believe it is Thomas. In this selection of his most important writings, renowned scientist and philosopher Thomas Henry Huxley () discusses his views on.
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The people who call themselves “Agnostics” have been charged with doing so because they have not the courage to declare themselves “Infidels. To this wholly erroneous imputation, I have replied by showing that the term “Agnostic” did, as a matter of fact, arise in a manner which negatives it; and my statement has not been, and agnosricism be, refuted.
Moreover,  speaking for myself, and without impugning the right of any other person to use the chrostianity in another sense, I further say that Agnosticism is not properly described as a “negative” creed, nor indeed as a creed of any kind, except in so far as it expresses absolute faith in the validity of a principle, which is as much ethical as intellectual.
This principle may be stated in various ways, but they all amount to this: This is what Agnosticism asserts; and, in my opinion, it is all that is essential to Agnostciism.
That which Agnostics deny and repudiate, as immoral, is the contrary doctrine, that there are propositions which men ought to believe, without logically satisfactory evidence; and that reprobation ought to attach to the profession of disbelief in such inadequately supported propositions.
The justification of the Agnostic principle lies in the success which follows upon its application, whether in the field of natural, or in that of civil, history; and in the fact that, so far as these topics are concerned, no sane man thinks of denying its validity. Still speaking for myself, I add, that though Agnosticism is not, and cannot be, a creed, except in so far as its general principle is concerned; yet that the application of that principle results in  the denial of, or the suspension of judgment concerning, a number of propositions respecting which our contemporary ecclesiastical “gnostics” profess entire certainty.
And, in so far as these ecclesiastical persons can be justified in their old-established custom which many nowadays think more honoured in the breach than the observance of using opprobrious names to those who differ from them, I fully admit their right to call me and those who think with me “Infidels”; all I have ventured to urge is that they must not expect us to speak of ourselves by that title.
The extent of the region of the uncertain, the number of the problems the investigation of which ends in a verdict of not proven, will vary according to the knowledge and the intellectual habits of the individual Agnostic. I do not very much care to speak of anything as “unknowable. But whether these things are knowable by any one else is exactly one of those matters which is beyond my knowledge, though I may have a tolerably strong opinion as to the probabilities of the case.
Generation after generation, philosophy has been doomed to roll the stone uphill; and, just as all the world swore it was at the top, down it has rolled to the bottom again. All this is written in innumerable books; and he who will toil through them will discover that the stone is just where it was when the work began.
Hume saw this; Kant saw it; since their time, more and more eyes have been cleansed of the films which prevented them from seeing it; until now the weight and number of those who refuse to be the prey of verbal mystifications has begun to tell in practical life.
It was inevitable that a conflict should arise between Agnosticism and Theology; or rather, I ought to say, between Agnosticism and Ecclesiasticism. For Theology, the science, is one thing; and Ecclesiasticism, the championship of a foregone conclusion 3 as to the truth of a particular  form of Theology, is another. With scientific Theology, Agnosticism has no quarrel. On the contrary, the Agnostic, knowing too well the influence of prejudice and idiosyncrasy, even on those who desire most earnestly to be impartial, can wish for nothing more urgently than that the scientific theologian should not only be at perfect liberty to thresh out the matter in his own fashion; but that he should, if he can, find flaws in the Agnostic position; and, even if demonstration is not to be had, that he should put, in their full force, the grounds of the conclusions he thinks probable.
The scientific theologian admits the Agnostic principle, however widely his results may differ from those reached by the majority of Agnostics.
chriistianity But, as between Agnosticism and Ecclesiasticism, or, as our neighbours across the Channel call it, Clericalism, there can be neither peace nor truce. The Cleric asserts that it is morally wrong not to believe certain propositions, whatever the results of a strict scientific investigation of the evidence of these propositions.
He tells us “that religious error is, in itself, of an immoral huxpey. It necessarily follows that, for him, the attainment of faith, not the ascertainment of truth, is the  highest aim of mental life. And, on careful analysis of the nature of this faith, it will too often christianitj found to be, not the mystic process of unity with the Divine, understood by the religious enthusiast; but that which the candid simplicity of a Sunday scholar once defined it to be.
Now I, and many other Agnostics, believe that faith, in this sense, is an abomination; and though we do not indulge in the luxury of self-righteousness so far as to call those who are not of our way of thinking hard names, we do feel hxuley the disagreement between ourselves and those who hold this doctrine is even more moral than intellectual.
It is desirable there should be an end of any mistakes on this topic. If our clerical opponents were clearly aware of the real state of the case, there would be an end of the curious delusion, which often appears between the lines of their writings, that those whom they are so fond of calling “Infidels” are people who not only ought to be, but in their hearts are, ashamed of themselves.
It would be discourteous to do more than hint the antipodal opposition of this pleasant dream of yuxley to facts. The clerics and their lay allies commonly tell us, that if we refuse to admit that there is good ground for expressing definite convictions about  certain topics, the huxoey of human society will dissolve and mankind lapse into savagery. There are several answers to this assertion. One is that the bonds of human society were formed without the aid of their theology; and, in the opinion of not a few competent judges, have been weakened rather than strengthened by a good deal of it.
Greek science, Greek art, the ethics of old Israel, the social organisation of old Rome, contrived to come into being, without the help of any one who believed in a single distinctive article of the simplest of the Christian creeds. Again, all that is best in the ethics of the modern world, in so far as it has not grown out of Greek thought, or Barbarian manhood, is the direct development of the ethics of old Israel.
There is no code of legislation, ancient or modern, at once so just and so merciful, so tender to the weak and poor, as the Jewish law; and, if the Gospels are to be trusted, Jesus of Nazareth himself declared that he taught nothing but that which lay implicitly, or explicitly, in the religious and ethical system of his people. Here is the briefest of summaries of the teaching of the prophets of Israel of the eighth century; does the Teacher, whose doctrine is thus set forth in his presence, repudiate the exposition?
Nay; we are told, on the contrary, that Jesus saw that he “answered discreetly,” and replied, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. So that I think that even if the creeds, from the so-called “Apostles'” to the so-called “Athanasian,” were swept into oblivion; and even if the human race should arrive at the conclusion that, whether a bishop washes a cup or leaves it unwashed, is not a matter of the least consequence, it will get on very well.
The causes which have led to the development of morality in mankind, which have guided or impelled us all the way from the savage to the civilised state, will not cease to operate because a number of ecclesiastical hypotheses turn out to be baseless.
And, even if the absurd notion that morality is more the child of speculation than of practical necessity and inherited instinct, had any foundation; if all the world is going to thieve, murder, and otherwise misconduct itself as soon as it discovers that  certain portions of ancient history are mythical; what is the relevance of such arguments to any one who holds by the Agnostic principle?
Surely, the attempt to cast out Beelzebub by the aid of Beelzebub is a hopeful procedure as compared to that of preserving morality by the aid of immorality. For I suppose it is admitted that an Agnostic may be perfectly sincere, may be competent, and may abnosticism studied the question at issue with as much care as his clerical opponents.
But, if the Agnostic really believes what he says, the “dreadful consequence” argufier consistently, I admit, with his own principles virtually asks him to abstain from telling the truth, or to say what he believes to be untrue, because of the supposed injurious consequences to morality. We leave the practical application of the convenient doctrines of “Reserve” and “Non-natural interpretation” to those who invented them.
I trust that I have now made amends for any ambiguity, or want of fulness, in my previous exposition of that which I hold to be the essence of the Agnostic doctrine. Henceforward, I might hope to hear no more of the assertion that we are huzley Materialists, Idealists, Atheists, Theists, or any other ists, if experience had led me to think that the proved falsity of a statement was any guarantee against its repetition.
And those who appreciate the nature of our position will see, at once, that when Ecclesiasticism declares that we ought to believe this, that, and the other, and are very wicked if we don’t, it is impossible snd us to give any answer but this: We have not the slightest objection christianitg believe anything you like, if you will give us good grounds for belief; but, if you cannot, we must respectfully refuse, even if that refusal should wreck morality and insure our own damnation several times over.
Agnosticism and Christianity and Other Essays
We are quite content to leave that to the decision of the future. The course of the past has impressed us with the firm conviction that no good ever comes of falsehood, and we feel christixnity in refusing even to experiment in that direction. In the course of the present discussion it has been asserted that the “Sermon on the Mount” and the “Lord’s Prayer” furnish a summary and condensed view of the essentials of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, set forth by himself.
Now this supposed Summa of Nazarene theology distinctly affirms the existence of a spiritual world, of a Heaven, and of a Hell of fire; it teaches the Fatherhood of God and the malignity of the Devil; it declares the superintending providence of the former and our need of deliverance from the  machinations of the latter; it affirms the fact of demoniac possession and the power of casting out devils by the faithful.
And, from these premises, the conclusion is drawn, that those Agnostics who deny that there is any evidence of such a huxlwy as to justify certainty, respecting the existence and the nature of the spiritual world, contradict the express declarations of Jesus. I have replied to this argumentation by showing that there is strong reason to doubt the historical accuracy of the attribution to Jesus of either the “Sermon agnossticism the Mount” or the “Lord’s Prayer”; and, therefore, that the conclusion in question is not warranted, at any rate, on the grounds set forth.
But, whether the Gospels contain trustworthy statements about this and other alleged historical facts or not, it is quite certain that from them, taken together with the other books of the New Testament, we may collect a pretty complete exposition of that theory of the spiritual world which was held by both Nazarenes and Christians; and which was undoubtedly supposed by them to be fully sanctioned by Jesus, though it is just as clear that they did not imagine it contained any revelation by him of something heretofore unknown.
If the pneumatological doctrine which pervades the whole New Testament is nowhere systematically stated, it is everywhere assumed. The writers of the Gospels and of the Acts take it  for granted, as a matter of common knowledge; and it is easy to gather from these sources a series of propositions, which only need arrangement to form a complete system.
In this system, Man is considered to be a duality formed of a spiritual element, chrisrianity soul; and a corporeal element, the body.
And this duality is repeated in the Universe, which consists of a corporeal 5 world embraced and interpenetrated by a spiritual world. The former consists of the earth, as its principal and central constituent, with the subsidiary sun, planets, and stars.
Above the earth is the air, and below is the watery abyss. Whether the heaven, which is conceived to be above the air, and the hell in, or christiwnity, the subterranean deeps, are to be taken as corporeal or incorporeal is not clear. However this may be, the heaven and the air, the earth and the abyss, are peopled by innumerable beings analogous in nature to the spiritual element in man, and these spirits are of two kinds, good and bad.
The chief of the good spirits, infinitely superior to all the others, and their creator, as well as the creator of the corporeal world and of the bad spirits, is God. On nuxley other hand, the chief of the bad spirits is Satan, the devil par excellence.
Agnosticism – Wikipedia
He and his company of demons are free to roam through all parts of the universe, except the heaven. These bad spirits are far superior to man in power and subtlety; and their whole agnostocism are devoted to bringing physical and moral evils upon him, and to thwarting, so far as their power goes, the benevolent intentions of the Supreme Being.
By leading Eve astray, Satan brought sin and death upon mankind. As the gods of the heathen, the demons are the founders and maintainers of idolatry; as the “powers of the air” they afflict mankind with pestilence and famine; as “unclean spirits” they cause disease of mind and body.
The significance of the appearance of Jesus, in the capacity of the Messiah, or Christ, is the reversal of the satanic work by putting an end to both sin and death.
He announces that the kingdom of God is at hand, when the “Prince of this world” shall be finally “cast out” John xii. The straitest Protestant, who refuses to admit the existence of any source of Divine truth, except the Bible, will not deny that every point of chridtianity pneumatological theory here set forth has ample scriptural warranty. The Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse assert the existence of the devil, of his demons and of Hell, as plainly as they do that of God and his angels and Heaven.
It is plain that the Messianic and the Satanic conceptions of the writers of these books are the obverse and the reverse of cchristianity same intellectual coinage. If we turn from Scripture to the traditions of the Fathers and the confessions of the Churches, it will appear that, in this one particular, at any rate, time has brought about no important deviation from primitive belief.
From Chrisfianity onwards, it may often be a fair question whether God, or the christianiry, occupies  a larger share of huxlley attention of the Fathers. It is the devil who instigates the Roman authorities to persecute; the gods and goddesses of paganism are devils, and idolatry itself is an invention of Satan; if a saint falls away from grace, it is by the seduction of the anosticism if heresy arises, the devil has suggested it; and some of the Fathers 6 go so far as to challenge the pagans to a sort of exorcising match, by way of chridtianity the truth of Christianity.
The masses, the clergy, the theologians, agnosticisk the philosophers alike, live and move and have their being in a world full of demons, in which sorcery and possession are everyday occurrences. Nor did the Reformation make any difference.
Whatever else Luther assailed, he left the traditional demonology untouched; nor could any one have entertained a more hearty and uncompromising belief in the devil, than he and, at a later period, the Calvinistic fanatics of New England did. Finally, in these last years of the nineteenth century, the demonological hypotheses of the first century are, explicitly or implicitly, held and occasionally acted upon by the immense majority of Christians of all confessions.
They are fain to conceal their real disbelief in one half of Christian doctrine by judicious silence about it; or by flight to those refuges for the logically destitute, accommodation or allegory.
The allegory pit is too commodious, is ready to swallow up so much more than one wants to put into it. If the huxlej of the temptation is an allegory; if the early recognition of Jesus as the Son of God by the demons is an allegory; if the plain declaration of the writer of the first Epistle of John iii.
As to accommodation, let any honest man who can read the New Testament ask himself whether Jesus and his immediate friends and disciples can  be dishonoured more grossly than by the supposition that they said and did that which is attributed to them; while, in reality, they disbelieved in Satan and his demons, in possession and in exorcism?
An eminent theologian has justly observed that we have no right to look at the propositions of the Christian faith with one eye open and the other shut. Jesus is made to say that the devil “was a murderer from the beginning” John viii. To those who admit the authority of the famous Vincentian dictum that the doctrine which has been held “always, everywhere, and by all” is to be received as authoritative, the demonology must possess a higher sanction than any other Christian dogma, except, perhaps, those of the Resurrection and of the Messiahship of Jesus;  for it would be difficult to name any other points aggnosticism doctrine on which the Nazarene does not differ from aand Christian, and the different historical stages and contemporary subdivisions of Christianity from one another.
And, if the demonology is accepted, there can be no agonsticism for rejecting all those miracles in which demons play a part.
The Gadarene story fits into the general scheme of Christianity; and the evidence for “Legion” and their doings is just as good as any other in the New Testament for the doctrine which the story illustrates. It was with the purpose of bringing this great fact into prominence; of getting people to open both their eyes when they look at Ecclesiasticism; that I devoted so much space to that miraculous story which happens to be one of the best types of its class.
And I could not wish for a better justification of the course I have adopted, than the fact that my heroically consistent adversary has declared his implicit belief in the Gadarene story and by necessary consequence in the Christian demonology as a whole. It must be obvious, by this time, that, if the account of the spiritual world given in the New Testament, professedly on the authority of Jesus, is true, then the demonological half of that account must be just as true as the other half.
And, therefore, those who question the demonology, or try to explain it away, deny the truth of what Jesus  said, and are, in ecclesiastical terminology, “infidels” just as much as those who deny the spirituality of God.
This is as plain as anything can well be, and the dilemma for my opponent was either to assert that the Gadarene pig-bedevilment actually occurred, or to write himself down an “Infidel. So far as I can judge, we are agreed to state one of the broad issues between the consequences of agnostic principles as I draw themand the consequences of ecclesiastical dogmatism as he accepts itas follows. The demonology of the Gospels is an essential part of that account of that spiritual world, the truth of which it declares to be certified by Jesus.
Agnosticism me judice says: There is no good evidence of the existence of a demoniac spiritual world, and much reason for doubting it.