Wow. Google does NOT like us.

I’m Skeptical, But Not a Skeptic™

tl;dr

While I share almost all of their inclinations, the mainstream skeptics movement is too caustic for my tastes, often ignoring any information that doesn’t suit its needs.

The above image comes from a Google search. This should be exciting.

Before we get started, I need to differentiate between skeptics and Skeptics™. Skepticism involves being interrogatory toward the world around you, insatiably curious, open-minded, evidence-driven and quick to abdicate an untenable position. It’s about being humble and thoughtful. Skepticism™ involves going to conferences and belonging to organizations that promote atheism and addressing the finer points of a life without religion, and I can’t possibly identify as a Skeptic™.

It’s not for lack of trying. Here’s the world I inhabit: I’m not agnostic, I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in god, gods, goddesses or any divine variations thereof, and I’m not prone to any forms of mysticism. I’m very pro-proof. I vaccinate. GMOs are probably the solution to any number of global plights. There are no such things as chemtrails. Santa Claus is dead and it’s unlikely he’s in Heaven.

For all of my skepticism, I’m not a Skeptic™, because I think they’re jerks.

I have religious friends, and I don’t talk down to them. I don’t oversimplify their beliefs. I don’t call Jesus “undead” in an attempt to shame them. I don’t say things like, “Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms,” (Salman Rushdie is oversimplifying.) or “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.” (Richard Dawkins is probably being racist.) I also don’t suggest that religious people are parroting “bizarre, backwards and ridiculous beliefs” because an authority figure told them to. (Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal wrote that one, and it sounds a little better in context, but still highly judgmental. He sort of halfheartedly takes a shot at his own beliefs… but not really.)

I don’t say these things because I’m not into being a fucking asshole. These are examples of big, famous men using their big, famous influence against people who don’t necessarily deserve it. They’re coming down on everyone, not just the “dangerous radicals” they fear so much.

By the way, I think all of these guys have done some great things. Salman Rushdie is angry, and I’d be angry if I’d spent most of my adult life hiding from crazed assassins, too. Dawkins stood up for evolution when biology needed him. Matthew Inman has helped secure the modern legacy of Nikola Tesla. I don’t think it’s fair to say that people suck all of the time, but when it comes to talking about religion, I don’t like what I’m reading.

The Skeptics™ Movement at large has a lot of problems. JREF (The James Randi Educational Foundation) has had its fair share of controversies. Skeptics have time and again harassed their female membership and created an unwelcoming place for religious people. How do they expect to win people to their cause if they don’t give them a point of entry?

I think it’s great to stand up for science and freedom and all that. I really do. But sometimes, Skeptics™ need to understand that they’re punching down–that they’ve stopped being the underdogs and started being Big Skepticism. Our ranks need to know that they are asking folks to listen to them, all the while slapping them in the face.

I realize that the image up top does not represent a perfect data sample of public perception. There will be all kinds of skewing factors. However, it would be a mistake to ignore these very real and understandable feelings from the general public.

Stop dehumanizing religious people. Stop the sexism. Maybe then, I can identify as a Skeptic™.

3 thoughts on “I’m Skeptical, But Not a Skeptic™”

  1. I’ll start right out by saying I generally have more respect for someone who has actually taken the time to think things through and then has come to a conclusion about their religious beliefs – or lack of beliefs, no matter what they are – than for those who never question it at all. And most skeptics (of both types) tend to fall into the former category, which is good. However . . .

    I’m a woman. I identify as Christian. I also generally believe most of the same things atheists do when it comes to science, the impossibility of the existence of a higher power, etc. I will quite happily nod along as you proclaim how creationism is flawed and how religion has caused major problems in the current political landscape and how religious conservatives have ruined the Republican party and all that.

    That doesn’t seem to matter to Skeptics™. I’m female, therefore my opinions tend to be discounted anyway (the overlap between Skepticism™ and Nice Guys/That Guys is astounding), but if I even hint at the idea that I believe in God, it automatically becomes a “whose belief is more logical?” competition. And what Skeptics™ don’t seem to understand is, I don’t care. I am perfectly capable of accepting that my personal belief system involves a paradox, and that doesn’t matter to me because I’m not trying to force it on anyone else.

    Of course, the same guys (and it is almost always guys) who want me to prove I’m a big enough fan of [insert fandom here] to be allowed to have an opinion are the same ones who insist I “must” prove my religious beliefs are better than theirs to . . . I don’t know, to be granted permission to have my own opinions, I guess? I’d be happy for the option to have an informed dialogue every once in a while, because I *am* open to new ideas, but Skeptics™ are very definitely not the people I want to have that dialogue with. Which is unfortunate, because I think the intellectual aspect of skepticism (in that context) is something I’d be really interested in.

  2. I’ve seen people chased away from skeptical thinking due to the sexism and hate towards those who aren’t atheist, the idea that you can’t be skeptical if you believe in a higher power is sad and chasing people away.

    Not to mention the skeptics tm seen to have formed their own religion out of skepticism and if you don’t believe you’re wrong, making themselves just like the religious they mock. Heck they even have meetings, you know, like mass or temple? It makes me laugh

    I much prefer the non branded skeptics, the ones with an open mind and a curiosity for knowledge

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