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To Believe or Not Believe… or Not Decide: A Decision-Theoretic Model of Agnosticism


  • Tigran Melkonyan

    () (Department of Resource Economics, University of Nevada, Reno)

  • Mark Pingle

    () (Department of Economics, University of Nevada, Reno)


Using basic decision-theory, we construct a theory of agnosticism, where agnosticism is defined as choosing not to choose a religion. The theory indicates agnosticism can be supported as a rational choice if (a) adopting agnosticism provides in-life benefits relative to any religion, (b) the perceived payoff for agnosticism after death is not too much less than any religion, (c) no religion has a high perceived likelihood of truth, (d) probability of death is neither too high nor too low, or (e) it is less costly to switch from agnosticism to a given religion than from one religion to another, while at the same time there is a reasonable likelihood an informative signal may be received in life as to the truth of various religions.

Suggested Citation

  • Tigran Melkonyan & Mark Pingle, 2010. "To Believe or Not Believe… or Not Decide: A Decision-Theoretic Model of Agnosticism," Working Papers 10-005, University of Nevada, Reno, Department of Economics;University of Nevada, Reno , Department of Resource Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:unr:wpaper:10-005

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cheung, Yin-Wong & Chinn, Menzie David, 1996. "Deterministic, Stochastic, and Segmented Trends in Aggregate Output: A Cross-Country Analysis," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 48(1), pages 134-162, January.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Being rationally agnostic
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2010-11-25 21:32:00

    More about this item


    Agnosticism; Decision theory; Religion; Procrastination; Signal; Uncertainty;

    JEL classification:

    • C44 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Operations Research; Statistical Decision Theory
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty

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