Are Skeptics feeling left out in the cold?
The relationship between skepticism and atheism is complicated. For starters, skepticism is a process with which you evaluate information and claims, while atheism is merely the absence of belief in the supernatural claims of various religions in regard to a “higher power”. Despite the fact we all agree that skepticism is more of a “toolkit” to evaluate claims rather than an actual belief, invariably there are bound to be strong correlations between hard-nosed skepticism and disbelief in God.
There are serious skeptics who are religious, and undoubtedly these people are upset skeptic conventions are being dominated entirely by religious discussions. Jeff Wagg feels strongly about the fact Skepticon is being invaded with talks that, while critical of religious belief, may have too little to do with skepticism. He called his article “Are Atheists Delusional”. I’ll answer that question Jeff. No, we really aren’t.
Yes, there are many aspects of skepticism which have nothing to do with religion. I think, however, the biggest issue today is how uncritical, faith based reasoning has allowed the majority of the population of this planet to associate themselves with one religion or another. Their beliefs, unsupported by any evidence, are so sacred that society is expected to tolerate and even celebrate views which are, more often than not, in complete opposition to science and skepticism in general.
I think the bigger problem here is the inclusion of atheism is creating a divide in a community that also has religious believers as members. The perhaps uncomfortable discussion which never seems to take place, namely that faith is in direct opposition to skepticism, is now front and center, and it’s bound to leave a lot of folks angry about the “atheist takeover”.
Jeff claims skepticism is entirely a “scientific endeavor”, and God is an untestable hypothesis beyond the purview of skepticism, but that’s simply untrue. Religions make claims about the physical world that are testable: prayer has an effect, a virgin gave birth to a human, and miracles happen, to name only a few. Sure, the Spinozan God is abstract, impersonal, and untestable, but so is the flying spaghetti monster and we have no qualms about rejecting these kinds of hypothesis. Why does religion and God get a free ride on this skeptic train?
If you’re religious and a skeptic, I’m sorry to say you’re shitty at both. Rejecting the claims of iridology, homeopathy, and acupuncture but accepting a god-man was born of a virgin and resurrected after his physical death, means that you really haven’t been applying the “toolkit of skepticism” to all aspects of your belief. Odds are you compartmentalized that part of your beliefs in order to avoid uncomfortable questions about your own faith. It sucks for those skeptics out there who also have a belief in God, but as a species we can’t keep coddling childish beliefs that enslave minds. You may not like it, but trust me when I say the atheist invasion has just begun. Is it a coincidence that Skepticon is now bigger than TAM and CFI’s conferences?