Agnosticism versus Christianity
Huxley, Thomas H., Free Inquiry
The people who call themselves Agnostics have been charged with doing so because they have not the courage to declare themselves Infidels. It has been insinuated that they have adopted a new name in order to escape the unpleasantness which attaches to their proper denomination. . . . Agnosticism is not properly described as a negative creed, nor indeed as a creed of any kind, except insofar as it expressed 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: that it is wrong for a man to say that he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty. This is what Agnosticism asserts; and in my opinion it is all that is essential to Agnosticism. . . .
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 champion of a foregone conclusion as to the truth of a particular form of Theology, is another. With scientific Theology, Agnosticism has no quarrel. . . .
But, as between Agnosticism and Ecclesiasticism, or, as our neighbors 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 [Cardinal Newman] tells us "that religious error is, in itself, of an immortal nature." He declares that he has prejudged certain conclusions, and looks upon those who show cause for arrest of judgment as emissaries of Satan. 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 be 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. "Faith," said this unconscious plagiarist of Tertullian, "is the power of saying you believe things which are incredible."
Now I, and many other Agnostics, believe that faith in this sense is an abomination; and although we do not engage in the luxury of self-righteousness so far as to call those who are not of our way of thinking hard names, we do not feel that the disagreement between ourselves and those who hold this doctrine is even more moral than intellectual. …