Have you ever questioned something? Anything? It seems impossible to go through life without finding something to question. After all, people tend to say some crazy things. If you don’t have a good method to sort through the crap, you will end up getting bogged down by the sheer volume of stupid, senseless, half-baked notions flying around. Especially now that the information age is well under way.
Skeptic is an unusual term. It is unusual in that it is almost always used to refer to someone who rejects some matter of religion or the supernatural. When people express doubt in politics, they are not labeled as skeptics, and you never hear people claiming to be a “science skeptic,” or a “skeptic of economics.” People who reject the notion of Santa Clause are not “Santa skeptics.” But what about “skeptic” as simply a different form of the word “skeptical,” which basically means “doubtful.” Clearly, people are quite skeptical about a great number of political positions. Science thrives off skepticism, and every adult is right to be skeptical of Santa and his magical elves. So why don’t we call them skeptics? Why is that term reserved only for those doubtful of the supernatural?
Here is another question which will help us to answer the first. How many of you have ever questioned a religious claim, only to be answered with censorship? Or, alternatively, how many of you have ever responded to an uncomfortable question with indignation? How many people tell religious skeptics to buzz off?
The term “skeptic” is only applied in contexts of religion because that is the only place where skepticism is unaccepted. Everywhere else, skepticism is completely normal, perhaps even universal. Yet for some reason, when someone is skeptical of some religious claim, it’s suddenly wrong. Apparently we’re allowed to question anything we want… except for faith.
I am doubtful of the practical applications of such a prohibition. And as such, it is my duty as a skeptic to question it. Why? Why is it that matters of faith are so fundamentally different from everything else we come across in life? I can question the president, but not the priest? What makes faith so special?
There is a social taboo here, and I intend to shatter it. I will ask questions that are uncomfortable to many, and the answers I pose are likely to be even more uncomfortable. But that is the only way to reach the truth. If you are never willing to question your own beliefs then you will never be capable of improving them. So in the interest of reaching the truth, I am going to cut through the crap. I will take the well-tested methods of truth-seeking that have proved so useful in so many aspects of our lives, and I will apply them to “matters of faith.”
For the sake of honesty, I will inform you now that I fully expect this process to lead to atheism. Yes, I am an atheist. But that is not the point. Far too many people out there see atheism as a starting point, as if someone decided gods weren’t good enough for them and then found all these clever little ways to argue that they don’t exist. This is not the case here. I will start with the actual starting point, the very basic notion that it is okay to ask questions. That it is okay to doubt, and to expect a good, reasonable theory to answer your doubts. I will start with skepticism.
Where we go from there is not completely certain. I expect to arrive at the atheist position, but I fully admit that I might be wrong. I don’t think it is very likely, but I admit that it is possible. In short, I offer you no guarantees as to what conclusions will be reached. I am only offering a method of reaching the truth, or at least getting closer to the truth. I cannot know beforehand what that truth is. Nor can anyone else. That’s why we need a method. It’s also half the fun. It is far more exciting to venture down a road not knowing where you’ll end up. Scary, yes, but also exciting. So if you, like me, are sick of this silly social taboo, if you too have thought of a dozen little questions that religions regularly refuse to address in a satisfactory manner, then I encourage you to come along for the ride.
Welcome to The Silver Skeptic