Gnostic vs Agnostic: Difference and Comparison

Ancient Gnosticism was a collection of various spiritual ideas that endorsed the existence of a supreme divinity prevailing in the form of an esoteric light. This mystical power is believed to have created the materialistic universe in which humans live.

On the contrary, agnosticism is the belief that there is no way to tell whether God exists. People who identify with the ideology believe that God’s existence is unknown since no scientific testimonies clear the doubt.

Key Takeaways

  1. Gnostic refers to the belief in having knowledge or a higher understanding of spiritual or philosophical concepts. In contrast, agnostic refers to the belief that knowing or being certain about such concepts is impossible.
  2. Gnostics claim a direct and personal connection to a divine or spiritual reality. At the same time, agnostics believe such a reality is unknown and perhaps unknowable.
  3. Gnosticism is associated with a more mystical and esoteric approach to spirituality, while agnosticism is associated with a more rational and sceptical approach.

Gnostic vs. Agnostic

The difference between gnostic and agnostic is that a gnostic person accepts the existence of a supreme ethereal power or God. In contrast, an agnostic person believes that the existence of God can neither be proved nor disproved.

Gnostic vs Agnostic

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonGnosticAgnostic
Meaning‘Gnostic’ is a term designated to people who identify with Gnosticism.‘Agnostic’ is a term designated to people who identify with agnosticism.
BeliefA Gnostic person believes that God or a supreme ethereal power beyond human reason exists; this power is believed to have created the materialistic universe, which is burdened with illusion and temptation.An agnostic person believes that whether or not God exists is unknown or unknowable and that human reason is incapable of justifying either of the beliefs.
ApproachGnosticism emphasizes an ‘inward feeling’ relating to the perception of God, which is created through personal experience. Agnosticism emphasizes the principles of science, which demand a theory to be proved or disproved before it is considered factual.
KnowledgeGnosticism asserts that humans can attain salvation from the materialistic universe by gaining knowledge of the supreme and divine God.Agnostics believe that there is no such knowledge with scientific grounds, and thus, there is no way to conclude; they deny the existence of anything beyond material phenomena.
OriginThe place where Gnosticism originated is uncertain. However, some scholars believe it has Judaeo-Christian roots; the recent discovery of the Nag-Hammadi manuscripts suggests that Gnosticism existed in Ancient Egypt.The term ‘agnostic’ was coined in 1869 by the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley.

What is Gnostic?

‘Gnostic’ is a term attributed to a person who identifies with the ideology of Gnosticism. This ideology is believed to have developed alongside Judaism and Christianity over 2000 years ago.

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The concept involved various religious beliefs and ideas around God at that time. However, the lost Coptic manuscripts discovered near Nag-Hammadi, Egypt, shed entirely new light on what was considered a gnostic belief in ancient times.

Instead of trusting in the Authority of the Church and Orthodox teachings, Gnosticism emphasized gaining spiritual knowledge in that period. ‘Gnostic’ was derived from the Greek word ‘gnosis,’ which translates to ‘knowing.’

Gnosticism revolved around the belief in knowing the existence of a supreme ethereal power beyond the physical realm. It meant believing in one’s perception of God that was created through personal experiences.

On the other hand, Modern Gnosticism has no specific features that can help identify or categorize the group. However, many groups have one or more features that relate to the ancient belief system.

gnostic

What is Agnostic?

‘Agnostic’ is a term attributed to a person who identifies with the ideology of agnosticism. This ideology is confused with being a religion or creed. However, agnosticism means whether God exists is unknown and possibly unknowable.

The term ‘agnostic’ was coined in 1869 by the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley. He mentioned it in his speech at a meeting of the Metaphysical society while rejecting the idea of the existence of anything beyond material phenomena.

Agnosticism was laid out to be a method of scientific inquiry based on proof and evidence. It inspired many great thinkers and philosophers, including David Hume and Immanuel Kant.

Moreover, it has been observed that agnosticism has many similarities with Hindu Philosophy, such as in the Rig Veda, which cites an agnostic view regarding the creation of the universe.

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Whether ancient or modern, agnosticism is believed to have the essence of science. The ideology means that since no scientific grounds prove or disprove God’s existence, one must not profess to know or believe in it.

agnostic

Main Differences Between Gnostic and Agnostic

  1. A gnostic person identifies with Gnosticism, while an agnostic person identifies with agnosticism.
  2. Ancient Gnosticism was a set of spiritual beliefs emphasizing attaining salvation through knowledge of the supreme divine. In contrast, Agnosticism means that any such divine power is unknown and possibly unknowable.
  3. Gnosticism emphasizes an ‘inward feeling’ about one’s perception of God, while agnosticism emphasizes no knowledge of God based on scientific grounds.
  4. Gnosticism asserts that humans need to attain salvation from this material universe and return to the divine light from which humans flow (are born). On the other hand, agnosticism denies the existence of anything beyond material phenomena.
  5. Gnosticism is believed to have developed alongside Judaism and Christianity, while ‘agnostic’ was a term coined by Thomas Henry Huxley in 1869.
References
  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40982356
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=WlwYDAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=agnostic+meaning&ots=0nhmH2BeaO&sig=tRHt-vrlIBwLtvORO6A0SH6yud4

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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26 thoughts on “Gnostic vs Agnostic: Difference and Comparison”

  1. A well-researched and articulate piece that offers a comprehensive understanding of Gnosticism and Agnosticism, enlightening the readers with its detailed content.

    Reply
    • The intellectual rigor demonstrated in this article elevates the discourse around Gnosticism and Agnosticism, contributing to a higher level of understanding.

      Reply
  2. This article is a fantastic resource for anyone wanting to understand the philosophical differences between Gnostic and Agnostic beliefs.

    Reply
  3. The article provides a valuable overview of Gnosticism and Agnosticism, but I anticipated a more provocative take on their interplay in contemporary society.

    Reply
    • I understand your viewpoint, Hill Helen. Adding a contemporary lens to the discussion would indeed enhance the relevance of the article.

      Reply
  4. I find the explanation of ‘Gnostic’ and ‘Agnostic’ thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating. A thoughtfully written article.

    Reply
    • I appreciate the historical context provided for Gnosticism and the scientific outlook for Agnosticism. It’s a well-balanced presentation.

      Reply
  5. This is a very enlightening comparison between the two concepts, Gnosticism and Agnosticism. It gives a good understanding of the differences and similarities.

    Reply
    • I appreciate the detailed explanation of the historical origins of Gnosticism and the modern views on Agnosticism. Very well articulated.

      Reply
    • I agree. The contrast between Gnosticism’s spiritual aspect and Agnosticism’s rational approach is really fascinating.

      Reply
  6. While this article presents the differences between Gnosticism and Agnosticism, it doesn’t delve into their implications on broader philosophical discourse.

    Reply
    • I see your point, Joe. A deeper exploration of the practical implications of these beliefs would indeed add more depth to the article.

      Reply
  7. I expected a more critical examination of the ideological implications and impact of Gnosticism and Agnosticism from the article.

    Reply
  8. The article offers an in-depth exploration of Gnosticism and Agnosticism, providing readers with a solid grounding in these philosophical concepts.

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    • The meticulous analysis of Gnostic and Agnostic doctrines in this article enriches the intellectual discourse, fostering profound contemplation and understanding.

      Reply
    • Completely agree, Hill Abigail. The article’s depth and clarity contribute to establishing an intellectual foundation for comprehending Gnosticism and Agnosticism.

      Reply
  9. The comprehensive outline of Gnostic and Agnostic beliefs adds depth to the understanding of these philosophical concepts, making the article an insightful read.

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    • Absolutely, James. The article’s detailed analysis broadens the horizon of philosophical inquiry, encouraging deeper contemplation.

      Reply
    • The intellectual rigor of this article contributes to fostering a profound understanding of Gnosticism and Agnosticism, engaging readers in thoughtful reflection.

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  10. The article succinctly captures the core distinctions between Gnosticism and Agnosticism, serving as a reliable reference for understanding these concepts.

    Reply
    • Absolutely, Egraham. The clarity and precision of the article’s content make it a valuable resource for academic and intellectual purposes.

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