Agnosticism, based on various definitions that I have seen, is defined as one who is beliefs that G-d or supernatural powers cannot be proved or disproved.

Other definitions I have seen explain it as either doubt or non committal to the idea of a G-d.

Is one who is doubtful ie. Does not make a definitive statement about the existence of G-d or the Torah’s divine source classified halachically as a min (a heretic)?

The presumption of this question is that we find in Rashi (beginning of the 10 perek in Sanhedrin 90a) about who denies the belief of תחיית המתים מן התורה, that there is no proof from within the torah about the rising of the dead in the Messianic times is considered a Kofer. Rashi explains, even if one were to belief in the concept but deny that it has a source in the torah is also considered a heretic. The suggestion being that the torah requires a clear and definitive proof that stems from the torah, and not just a logically based belief.

This Gemara and rashi’s explanation connects to agnosticism in the sense that it, per the definitions above, is inherently an doubtful stance. But we see clearly that one cannot even logically deduce such a belief, all the more so if one is not even sure.

Thus, is agnosticism included in the category of heresy?

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/27776/5514 – Shoel U'Meishiv Nov 10 '17 at 13:26
  • Note that that is a pretty poor presumption on which to base a question, considering that Rashi and the Gemara likely never said that. See for example Mekhon Mamre which doesn't have the words "min haTorah". Rambam Teshuva 3:6, similarly makes no mention of it. Numerous othee manuscripts don't have it. Even Rashi is far from simple, as many such as famously the B'er Sheva write that it is a later addition into Rashi – mevaqesh Nov 10 '17 at 16:20
  • He might be considered an am ha'aretz rather than an apikorus as he does not know enough to rise to the level of an apikores like Acher. – sabbahillel Nov 10 '17 at 19:45
  • @sabbahillel I am not aware of Rambam or any other classic codifiers stating that apilores is a level one rises to that requires understanding, etc. etc. That's just a popular thing people like to say with limited if any support... – mevaqesh Nov 10 '17 at 20:00

Having doubts is not only normal, it is proper and good. Even the מלאכים ask "where is the place of his glory." Yirmiyah lambastes the priests of his times for not asking "where is Hashem" (see Jer. 2:10). Prophets prophesied about the destruction of those who did not seek Hashem and search him out (see, e.g., Zeph. 1:6). You don't seek or search out something you already have. The first step to knowledge of Hashem is acknowledgment of doubt.

The foolishness of the fool is in the egotistical complacency of accepting doubt as an end in itself. His foolishness is egotistical because it is his great adoration of himself that blinds him from the understanding of the obvious, that his doubts are just questions he has merited to realize, they are not answers. He imagines that his great questions which put him above the common unquestioning crowd are a good stopping point, because all he is really thinking about is being above the common.

If an agnostic is someone who believes there is no true knowledge, who believes that doubt is itself truth, then an agnostic is a fool. He also contradicts the words of the Torah and the prophets. "And you shall know today" (Deut. 4:39). "Have you not known? Have you not heard? The God of the world is Hashem, creator of the ends of the earth." (Isa. 40:28).

On the other hand, if the agnostic is someone who does not assert the falsehood of truth, but simply acknowledges his lack of knowledge, doubts his own self-made assumptions, and hopes and prays for truth and understanding, about such a person Yeshaya says "But those who hope for Hashem will renew their strength, will mount up with wings like eagles, will run and not be weary, will walk and not be faint." (Isa. 40:31).

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  • How do you know that the verse in Isaiah applies to such a person? Even if it does, how does it answer the question. The question is whether someone is considered a heretic; not whether one is considered one who hopes for God. – mevaqesh Nov 10 '17 at 17:40
  • "Even the מלאכים ask "where is the place of his glory" That sounds like a question about God; not a question of whether God exists. All we see is that angels don't know everything. The OP isnt about not knowing everything but about lacking belief. – mevaqesh Nov 10 '17 at 17:42
  • It seems that the only part of this that answers the question is the vague unsourced assertion that "Having doubts is not only normal, it is proper and good". – mevaqesh Nov 10 '17 at 17:43
  • Do you mean Jeremiah (2:8)? || Regardless, even accepting your interpretation of these verses (although you bring no proof for them), we still see nothing about the question. Just that if someone doesn't believe in God he should seek out God. Okay. How does that tell us whether or not he is considered a heretic? – mevaqesh Nov 10 '17 at 18:19
  • Unsurprisingly, this derash does not seem correct. As rav aharon Lichtenstein writes, in varieties of Jewish experience, page 16: "Rambam evidently rejects agnosticism as well as atheism". And as he writes on page 133: "the blandishment of Tennyson's faith that lies 'in honest doubt,'...is to many, appealing. The cadences of the Torah are pitched, however, in other voices." – mevaqesh Dec 24 '17 at 22:55

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