Afternoon Inquisition 9.21

I have a confession to make: I’m bored with the whole skeptic movement.

I kindof feel like it’s no different than going to church had been for me when I was a Christian. Yeah, I’m an atheist, a materialist, a bright, a humanist, whatever you want to call me. I don’t believe in God or the supernatural and I love science. But I am not in the mood to make fun of people who believe in strange things, to laugh at pictures of Jesus on toast, or to argue about pet psychics, religion and politics, or who’s a good or bad parent. I’m not into attending skeptical church services (even if they’re at bars), or tent meetings like TAM. I don’t want to fawn over PZ or Richard Dawkins or even Rebecca the way so many people I knew at church fawned over preachers and televangelists. When I was a Christian, I wanted to be one of the Christian stars; but today I don’t want to be a skeptic or atheist star. I don’t even want to hang out with famous or infamous skeptics. In fact, I am not interested in only hanging out with people who are just like me and who believe all of the same things that I believe. It’s all so not scratching my itch right now. 

My question for you is, What do you get out of participating in the skeptic movement and blogs such as this one?


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. Good question. I can’t speak for everyone but I personally get a sense of relief in the confirmation that I’m not alone in seeing the world in this way. That and for the sense of fellowship that humans – as social animals – tend to crave.

    Having grown up in the bible belt, I had become accustomed to being the odd man out when it came to irrational beliefs. So for me, discovering the skeptical movement was like spending years stranded on an island only to find a tribe of natives that spoke my language.

    I’d say that ultimately what I get out of it is comfort in knowing that the entire world isn’t insane.

  2. I’m with Detroitus on this one. I have felt so alone for such along time. I came to atheism alone. I had always had a lot of doubts but did my best to ignore them. I was always a big reader and reading Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan alowed me to admit what I was. I was an atheist. But I was the only one. Or at least the only one willing to admit it. These blogs allow me to talk to other people like me. I feel much less alone. I could do without the anger and friction that show up sometimes. I stop reading the lines when Rystefn and Sethmanpo or True Skeptic start tearing into each other. I can get that in any church.

    When I get links to neat new stuff in science. Or I get to exchange ideas with other people who have ideas similar to mine. At this time. The blogs are my only opportunity for this. So I’ll be sticking around for awhile yet.

  3. Wow- that’s a good one! I guess it’s not so much what I get out of it personally but more what would happen if I didn’t. I don’t think that there are many doctors out there that truly enjoy slicing people open and looking inside of them (ok, creepy thought, for sure, but just go with my analogy for a second on this one), but without them where would we be? Many of us would be dead already. Just being a skeptic yourself changes just that- yourself. Being an active skeptic who reaches out to other skeptics and non skeptics alike is how you make change. I guess I’m not so much involved because I am worried about being conned by BS thinking myself (although this is always a concern) but more because I cringe at the thought of other people, especially loved ones (no matter how few they are, but I digress), who don’t know any better, end up like that poor girl in India who committed suicide over misinformation about the LHC experiment (see recent events). I heard somewhere that those who can not find the time for exercise and a healthy lifestyle will sooner or later have to find time for illness. I suppose the same law applies- those who can not find the time to help educate the populous and do their part to help people think critically will sooner or later have to find time to drown in a world or morons. And seeing as how one of those morons might be the guy slicing me up, I’ll take my chances with putting in my time with the Skeptic movement. Hope this helps. If not, just remember, there are many people who would love to be in your shoes, with your connections to the skeptic community and your voice within it. Don’t take that for granted.

  4. According to every other media outlet, the world has gone COMPLETELY INSANE.

    Thanks to the Skeptical movement, I now understand that the world is only about 99% insane.

    And it reminds me of Sturgeon’s Law… 90% of everything is crap… but the remaining 10% is worth dying for. The numbers aren’t quite the same, but the sentiment is.

    Finally, here I’m spared the heartbreak of hearing pretty girls say things like: “Oooh, you’re awesome…. you must be a Leo!”

  5. Validation. Vindication. Solace. Escapism.

    You don’t have to be in the mood to engage in any mockery or skeptic fawning, but I think that’s more of an epiphenomenon of social groups rather than some reason for which people flock to them. And I think others might want to associate with influential skeptical figures simply because they’re inspirational.

    I think anyone can find all of the above an any kind of social group to which they feel suited, like a book club or a Furry convention (barf). But the skeptical movement brings much more to the table. Defending the light of reason from the darkness of superstition? How exhilarating! I think through participating in the movement, whether it’s through an internet forum or Capitol Hill, we are putting our beliefs into action–and that’s infinitely fulfilling.

  6. I see skepticism and skeptical blogs as an antidote to the pervasive influence of magical thinking in our society. Even if all my time online was spent exchanging ideas with rational, evidence-minded individuals (and I can assure you that it isn’t) I’d still have friends, relatives, co-workers, TV, movies, newspapers, magazines, news organizations and politicians feeding me feelings as fact and faith as evidence.

    I hang out at Skepchick because it’s a place where other people (mostly) care about the evidence. It’s an aid in girding my mental loins against the daily grind of living in a world where blind belief and dogmatic discipline seem to be increasing, rather than waning, in influence. It’s a sort of safe haven from woo, and it lets me recharge my sanity shields before I head back into the trenches and subject myself to another attempted brain-buggering.

    Incidentally, that’s why I tend to stay away from the more contentious debates. I’m here to put my feet up and chat with fellow skeptics, not precisely define subjective terms. If I’m going to get more stressed out by a discussion, I just give it a skip.

    Also, you people keep laughing at my jokes, and I am a total sucker for positive reinforcement from strangers. =)

  7. @Detroitus:
    I also am with Detroitus on this one. Every day at work, I have to bite my tongue and keep my mouth shut at lunch while others go on about god and church. I have to stay “in the closet” there. So it’s nice to know I’m not alone and there are other rational people in the world. I thank people like Richard Dawkins and James Randi for having the guts to call a spade a spade. In my field of work, I can’t do that.
    Although my spouse is also a skeptic, she’s like Donna – she doesn’t want to hear me go on about it. So online is my only outlet.

  8. Hi writerdd,

    I agree with the above. I do it for the knowledge and comfort that there are others in the world that see things as they really are, without magical thinking or the belief in personal intervention in human lives by various deities.

    I imagine everyone on this blog has felt like the “odd one out” because most of the people around you are relying on superstition and close encounters of their religious kind for their worldview. How often have you kept your mouth shut and stayed in the background because a group of people were talking up what you know is BS, but you just don’t want to pop their bubble? I do it frequently – I can sympathize with how you feel , dd.

    I come here for the conversation on topics that would leave most of my peers looking at me as if I were Mr. Spock should I mention them. (I really don’t give a damn what happened on the last so-called “reality show.” And it matters to me if the latest so-called SF series is founded on complete BS.)

    If I mention something like the new super collider, I most likely will get an irrational response about scientists destroying the world (Yes, this happened at work. One co-worker said that “someone should stop those scientists before we all get killed.” Really.)

    I guess I come here for the company and a reality check. It really heartens me to see so many sharp minds on here talking about important scientific matters and controversies. It’s all too easy for me to be caught up in what one SF writer called “The Marching Morons.”

    The interests of most of my peers in this area runs only to NASCAR and the latest sitcoms. Now, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying those things, but you can’t build your entire worldview from them any more than you can build a healthy body from eating junk food. I know all too many “mental diabetics” that have been raised on a mental life of junk science.

  9. You love science but don’t want to talk to people about it? Well i guess this post is just beyond my comprehension.

    As for “only hanging out with people who are just like me and who believe all of the same things that I believe.” Was i supposed to be doing that? Part of the reason I’m interested in skeptics movement is so I’ll know how to avoid being scammed or doing something harmful to myself. But the other part is because i care about others and want to prevent them from being scammed or hurting themselves. How would i do that if i only talked to people that already know it?

  10. I keep coming to skeptical outlets because like everyone mentioned above, I find places like this to be watering holes of sanity among all the crap getting thrown around on the rest of the interwebs and in the rest of the world. I also love finding people who share my love, respect and even reverence for science that most of the world reserves for religion and magic. Skeptics gather for the same reasons all other groups gather: fitting in with those who agree with you.

  11. If one insists upon viewing any gathering of more than one skeptic in a given place as “the skeptical version of religious activity X“, then they will all sound quite boring indeed. I have no use for an “atheist church”; to a fellow like me, branding an organization as a “Humanist Chaplaincy” is a marketing disaster.

    Now, the Society for the Appreciation of Science, Steampunk and Sobriety Failures — that’s an organization I can get behind. I like stuffing my face with pub food, getting laughs for wisecracking on the Misanthropic Principle — “If the constants of physical law were the tiniest bit different, evil could not exist” — and watching the conversation across the room about proper strategies for science communication devolve into an impromptu performance of Richard III.

    Joshua and Expatria know what I’m talking about.

  12. @LOLkate: I should add to my last statement, we all don’t necessarily agree on everything, and that’s what makes these gatherings interesting, but we all share some basic principals and philosophies. we’re friends, not robots.

  13. I dream of a better world, and I do something about it every day, even if its only to change something little inside my 4 walls.

    So I do it for the ideas, a sense of belonging and mostly for the fun. I try not to be confrontational (my honey is a believer) but if I have to, so be it. The world won’t turn to be what I think it should by itself alone.

  14. I agree with pretty much everything that has been said so far. So many of us have had to “raise” ourselves in isolation that this rising skeptical community feels like a sanctuary, ironically.

    In addition to living in rural South Texas where very few people share my views (though in general I must say are more accepting of those who are different than where I grew up in the North), I also have anxiety issues that don’t really allow me to speak out forcefully on a subject in public. Because of that, I admire people like Dawkins and Rebecca who can. I don’t worship them or anything like it. But from Rebecca, I learned about Skepchick and the great folks here, including you.

    I lurked here for a few months before actually making an account and saying anything. I like to hear what others say, but I don’t like to argue. As I said in the previous thread, I also don’t like to ridicule individuals, regardless of their beliefs. There are topics I pass on. But this forum gives me hope for intelligent and reasonable people being more numerous than I had been previously lead to believe. Thanks to all of you for the light you shed, even if heat is also generated occasionally.

  15. I hang out here because:

    a) I’ve made a few good friends through this site, so surely THAT can’t be a bad thing?

    b) Far from only being around people who agree with me, I am almost NEVER around people who agree with me aside from when I participate on sites like this or attend events.

    Most people I know are completely uninterested in anything scientific, don’t care about the scams or quackery to which they are exposed, and still believe in at least one or two forms of woo.

    And, even here, I have different opinions about most things than the others…it’s not like we’re some auto-agreeing hive mind.

    c) If a debate turns ugly or is about something not relevant to my interests, there is nothing that says I have to read all of the comments on that thread and/or particpate. Being here doesn’t automagically remove my freedom of choice.

    d) It is important to have someplace to turn for answers, or at least discussion or further links to more detailed sites, whenever some random bit of woo (or even poorly-reported science) hits the wire. Sites like Skepchick help spread good information (even if it comes with a side of snark).

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but those are just a few of the reasons why I participate here. I disagree heartily with Donna‘s comparison between the various conferences/pub events and church… I think the differences are more or less manifest. There are few “authorities” speaking down to us all, and most of these things end with lots of questions, debates, and friendly arguments rather than the brainwashing and hope for conformity that’s often the aim of religious meetings.

    That said, I’ve been here long enough to know there’s just no arguing some things, so if that’s how Donna sees it, well, I’m sorry to hear it. Even though I rarely agree with her, I wouldn’t want her to stop coming around. But if it’s as much of a drag as she says, I won’t try to stop her.

  16. And yes, precisely what Blake Stacey said. How else would I get into discussions about what qualifies as a “-punk” style.

    I still think Clovispunk is an untapped niche awating exploitation. Clovispunk is the new Steampunk.

  17. @ writerdd
    I don’t promote skepticism to entertain myself or anyone else. I do it to make a difference in the world. Entertainment for the sake of salvation is exactly what so many Christians sold themselves out on and is why Christianity is spiritually a dying religion. To get entertainment, I watch TV or play games. Making a better world for all is hard work and being bored about it is not an issue if you keep yourself busy.

  18. Also where else can I brag about what I am cooking for dinner tonight. Roast chicken with root vegetable, stuffing, and rustic bread. Ice cream for desert.

  19. I was waiting for writerdd (or someone) to write that post, I just didn’t know it.

    What I got from it was that vague sense of relief others have described. I guess for me, ‘Skepticism’ without metacognitive regulation is rather empty.

    Thanks writerdd!

  20. I get so much from the “movement,” if you will.

    I feel like I have no one in my life who even partially shares the views I have. I know most everyone replying before me has mentioned that. I feel the same.

    When I met Carrie and Maria and their friends for dinner a few weeks ago, it was the first time I had ever been in proximity to greater than two people who did not believe in god at once.

    To know that I did not have to watch what I said (in the traditional way) and to not fear being judged or not taken seriously was so…. it just felt really good.

    Coincidentally, I am upset at the moment over some problems I am having with my Catholic significant other. One of the topics is his loss of “god in his life.” I am frustrated.. I feel defeated. I feel like there is nothing I can say, because I love him and can’t stand that he doesn’t agree with me (oddly, he doesn’t feel as frustrated that I am not Catholic).

    Every day, I am glad to be able to get on the internet, and read about things that I agree with. Is it just like religion? Maybe. That is what we are all saying about religion. “Duh, it makes people feel good, but it doesn’t mean it is right.”

    But maybe I would be losing my mind… myself… or so much more if I didn’t have connections like this to turn to – to regain a little “faith” in my fellow human beings.

  21. Anthony Robbins* believes there are six basic human needs. I think two of them are derivatives of the first four, so I’ll skip them. In a nutshell, they are:

    * Comfort
    * Novelty
    * Individuality
    * Inclusion

    I get all four here.

    I feel comfortable voicing my opinions here. That’s positive. I’m also pushed into considering things I wasn’t comfortable believing. Not all conversations on Skepchick are peaches and cream: you yourself have initiated some of the most contentious.

    Calling myself a “skeptic” both gives me a feeling of individuality (most people aren’t), and inclusion (you guys are).

    I think it’s a pretty worthwhile passtime.

    And remember: I don’t–and I suspect others don’t–hang out here and ONLY here (and other Skeptical sites)… the internet is vast and wide, and we spend some time among skeptics, some among conspiracy theorists, and some with

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in my bunk.

    * Go ahead and laugh, he’s got his on woo going on, and I admit (and dislike) that. Straw man doesn’t invalidate the point.

  22. I’d like to make one more point, sorry: I chose Skepchick (and Bad Astronomy, by the way), out of ALL the other Science blogs out there because I thought they offered:

    a) The most entertaining dialogue,
    b) the *least* amount of christian-bashing (compare to, say, Friendly Atheist or–eesh–PZ’s), and
    c) a good bead on the world of actual science.

  23. dd’s question got me wondering:

    Should everyone be skeptical?

    …I think the average Christian, when asked a similar question (should everyone accept Christ) would answer with a resounding “yes”.

    I’m not so sure everyone should be skeptical.

    In fact, I don’t think most people need to be. I think more people should be… and, more importantly, I think those of us who are should be better-respected.

    But I don’t think everyone needs skepticism.

    …I wonder what everyone else here thinks. ‘Cause if the consensus is “no: a healthy minority of well-respected skeptics is enough”, then I think our “movement” (and I don’t think that term is well-applied here anyway: I was startled the first time someone used the damn term) is governed by very different motivations. In fact, it’s got more of a “equal rights” feel to me, than a “convert everyone” feel.


  24. I feel this issue, big time. I’ve not been to my local atheists meetup in months partly because of schedule issues but partly because it’s boring to always be against a thing. I’d rather be pro- a good thing than anti- a bad one.

    That said, though, in October I’m headed to Shawnee, OK (home of a Baptist and a Catholic university) to do a one person show I created about being in recovery from having been raised fundamentalist. I’ve been invited by some religious leaders of the town to, as one of them said, to say things they can’t say because they live there.

    So, you know, there’s good and bad to this whole skeptic movement. We do good things, we do them a lot.

    The community might ought to take itself less seriously, but it makes me smile, writerdd, to know you’re out there and I’m glad to see everyone else, too, here and at other blogs.

  25. I’m late to this but I’ll write something anyway.

    Like many have already said, being in the closet sucks. When I grew up and didn’t believe in God, I thought something was wrong with me because no one around me was like that. When I found other people like me, it helped me realize that *I* wasn’t the problem. It’s nice to be with people who don’t look at me with pity in their eyes because they think I’m going to hell.

    Putting up with infuriating ignorance all day that could be solved with 2 minutes of Google time gets to a person after a while, too. I can’t tolerate ignorance any longer when there’s so much information at people’s fingertips. It’s nice to have other people around me who wouldn’t tell me to go take a dangerous unregulated supplement or an ineffective overdose of vitamins when I’m sick.

  26. Two things:
    1) true self empowerment. The skeptical community has been instrumental in increasing not only my knowledge of science and the scientific process, but has also inspired me to get out there and learn on my own (my education is in History and Political Science, two fields which are at best ambivilant towards science, at worst hostile, so this is extremely intellectually rewarding).

    2) A sense of community. But this is largley available because of the internet. I don’t need a community of thinkers/activists to be a skeptic, but it is nice to get that kind of affirmation that I’m not a negative-nancy.

    Also, my name isn’t nancy. It’s Steve.

  27. > What do you get out of participating in the skeptic movement…

    Nothing… I don’t.

    > and blogs such as this one?

    Ah, now the blogs, they provide me an source and an exercise yard for my theist- and woo- smashing arguments.

  28. I hear what you’re saying, Donna. Someone who primarily self-identifies as a skeptic, like anyone who feels comfortable hanging a label on themself, can sometimes develop a tendency to split the world into Us and Them, Skeptics and Idiots. I’ve seen it happen in the vegan community also. So much so, that I now prefer to use the adjective form of “vegan” over the noun form, when describing myself. I’d like to do that with the word “skeptic” also, but “skeptical” doesn’t seem to capture all that’s involved with being a skeptic, so I continue to (uncomfortably) use the noun form to describe myself.

    What do I get out of the skeptical movement? Not a whole lot that’s new anymore, considering that I’ve been a skeptic for about 20 years, and viewing the world critically has become pretty much second nature to me by now. But in the beginning, when first introduced to James Randi and Skeptical Inquirer, the skeptical movement saved me from a lifetime of woo, and for that I’m really grateful.

    What do I get out of Skepchick? Quite a bit, actually. Skepticism is a virtue, and I find the words of virtuous people to be interesting and inspiring. The one thing that bugs me about this place is the constant glorification of drunkenness. I can’t figure out why so many skeptics seem to be booze-hounds. I wish there were more people like George Hrab (i.e. outspoken teetotalers) in the skeptical movement.

  29. Dear writerdd,

    I grew up with an inherited faith. As I grew up though, that faith went through many manifestations – I went to a crapload of different Christian denominations, seeking a better ‘fit’. Where I could question (without being denied Holy Communion – Thank you Fr F%$nton and the Catholic ‘faith’), raise my doubts, argue about the inconsistencies in the Bible etc.

    I eventually landed in the Anglican (AKA Church of England/Episcopalian in the USA?) church. I won’t bore you with all the gory details, but suffice to say I was more or less happy with the doctrine, and the sense of Grace (as in homosexuals were not considered abominations, women could participate as Ministers, contraception supported etc etc etc) and the open spirit of debate that was allowed. Bloody hell, I even started a Ba of Theology so I could become a priest…

    But I have come, via a painful exposure to Atheism, to terms with my underlying “problem” I have had since a child with God ie, that he is not an interventionist God. Obviously this put the nix on the BA of Theology, and basically, me going to Church. I am an honest person, and deeply not into hypocritical acts.

    I now have a horror of going to Church, or treating any form of belief as a religion. It is incredibly hard to cope with, as I now have no comfort, or in other words no crutch.

    A few times in the past months, I have been faced with great problems. I cannot turn to God anymore.

    I have found great relief in ‘finding’ skeptical blogs/podcasts, in that, like so many of the above posters, I am not alone.


    I am deeply uncomfortable when I feel that “Skepticism” is becoming more and more like a religion. Mainly this is because I don’t really want another crutch. I didn’t give up a life long belief system to substitute it with another.

    I don’t fawn over well known skeptics. I am really upset by Mr Dawkins’ (AND THIS IS ONLY IMHO!!!! Put down the napalm) militant atheism. I don’t agree with a lot of what PZ does, but that is OK. They are just as entitled as any of the more prolific and vindictive religious nutjobs, Christian, Muslim or calathumpian.

    I venture to think that this may be what causes your itch not to be scratched… But then again, I could be very wrong. Either way, I really appreciate your honesty and bravery in telling it how it is for you and asking this very challenging question.

  30. Not the first post where you seem to echo some sentiment of mine that I hear little or none of in the skep community. I figure I owe it to you to finally end the lurking and chime in.
    I have gotten some bad cult of personality vibes from around PZ, et al, and even though I agree with nearly all their ideas, I don’t want to be a part of it (James Randi, however, almost always makes me feel better about humanity). It’s probably about three years I have been following various skeptical outlets, and the endless parade of things like deity pareidolia have long since lost their novelty.
    So what do I get out of it all? Well, I take it where I can get it. I failed to get a career in the sciences, but I am endlessly fascinated by science of all sorts and here I can find people enthusiastically sharing insights into physics, neurology, bugs, etc. that the rest of the world inexplicably ignores. Also, it seems to me that to champion critical thinking is exactly what this country needs right now. This seems like a good place for that.

  31. Arrrgggghhhhh Ack!,

    So sorry about the above post, I hit submit instead of preview. How embarrassment! So sorry. I was just going to re-edit through the waffle to state that I find fundamentalists of ANY ilk, be it Atheist, Christian, Agnostic or any other belief system unbearable.

    That can cause us to be uncomfortable even with our fellows, where we are supposed to feel ‘as one’.

    Again, my apologies for the waffle, ‘yelling’ and typos…

    PS. I was not accusing PZ and Dawkins of being prolific and vindictive religious nutjobs, just pointing out that they are in the minority and are usually drowned out by said more prolific and vindictive nutters.

    PPS. PZ and Dawkins are not nutters…

  32. I don’t feel like part of any movement, and I’m not here (or there, or anywhere) to belittle, mock, or necessarily educate anyone, except maybe by example. (Mock by example?)

    I read stuff that interests me, and don’t read stuff that doesn’t. I have a couple of blogs that I write mostly for my own enjoyment. A few people seem to have tagged along for the ride, and that’s kind of nice, but not terribly important.

    I say if you’re tired or burned out, quit doing whatever it is that has you burned out for a bit. Give yourself a break. Sometimes batteries need recharging.

  33. I haven’t been part of the movement long, and from what I’ve seen of it so far… it just makes me shudder. I don’t believe in making fun of others, no matter how “stupid” or illinformed they might be. People believe in whatever, and as long as they don’t harm others I don’t have a problem with it. I’m a skeptic, as in.. I’m a critical thinker, but I’m not mean. :)

  34. Anyone who thinks skepticism means mocking the people with nutball ideas and chasing celebrities is not paying attention.

    The feeling of community that events like TAM and blogs like Skepchick foster is vital to anyone who seriously wants to promote science and critical thinking in today’s world. You don’t have to cloister yourself around other skeptics full-time (in fact, most of us don’t have the option), but getting together regularly online or occasionally in person is invigorating and recharging.

    I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t get to (or doesn’t choose to) share in that.

    Also, these communities pool our intellectuaal resources. If I encounter an anti-vaxxer, I am happy to have Steve Novella’s words at my fingertips.

    It *is* a fight to promote science. If you aren’t prepared or aren’t willing to resist the antiscience nonsense that’s threatening to wash over us, then all your love of science or reason won’t matter.

    I enjoy talking to people with different POVS too. I find them fascintating, and it’s always a good time. But when they try to dump their horseshit into our constitution, or try to convince people to not vaccinate their kids, or any of dozens of other HARMFUL things (it’s not all bigfoot and palm reading at carnivals), then I not only want to fight, but I think it’s morally reprehensible to NOT fight.

    If any of you can’t see that, fine. If you find value in sitting quietly in your atheism as the candle gutters and goes out, fine. I hope you just need your batteries recharged. If not, I hope you find the fulfillment elsewhere that I get being part of all this.

  35. @phlebas:

    And yet, most of the people I’ve talked to who do do those things (hang out with other skeptics, promote science, etc) also tend to make fun of the ones they’re trying to convince. I too enjoy a good debate every now and then, but I simply don’t have the hatred in me to bash others. I’ve grown up in a christian family and had to deal with all the same BS everybody else does, but it doesn’t give me the right to talk behind their backs about how evil I think they are. I rather ignore them. They can’t exactly “force” things on me and others if we aren’t listening.

    Yes, anti-vaxxers and the like are doing harm, but I refuse to call them evil. They do what they believe is right, it is up to us to correct them, not hurt them. As I understand it the original post was about how the community acts, in many ways, like that of religious sects. When I think of churches and christians, I think of gossiping two-faced people who believe they are the only ones in the right.

  36. I can’t consider myself a part of any movement. I don’t group very well, and I rail instinctively against almost any perceived authority. There are no leaders I follow. There is no agenda I play to.

    I am a creature of passion. I run to the extreme in almost everything I do. This may be why I’ve been occasionally described as a “militant atheist.” If I think someone is wrong, I will tell them so. For this reason, many people tend to lump me into opposition groups.

    Why do I really run more or less in the same direction as much of this crowd? Because I’m the sort of person who tests a bridge by piling weight on it. I’ve no sympathy for the worldview that doesn’t hold up. In the Skeptics Movement(tm), I find people who don’t mid that so much. I find more than a few who want their ideas tested at every turn, and I find a handful who are more than willing to pile some weight onto my bridges. That’s why I post to blogs. That’s why I go to the occasional meeting. That’s why I participate inasmuch as I participate in any movement.

    What do I get out of this blog in particular? Pretty girls that don’t make me want to stab my brain out with an icepick every time they open their mouths. I’m a sucker for beautiful women. Smart is super-sexy. This place is so full of hot that words can’t express the on-turning.

  37. I have become so deeply disillusioned about much of contemporary existence, in particular such things as the way so many people are willfully intellectually lazy and profoundly uninterested in expanding their knowledge, exercising critical thinking, and observing some healthy skepticism, that when I found BadAstronomy, and through it this joint, I felt it was all a deeply appreciated breath of fresh air.

    What I get out if this place is some sense of community, an exchange of usually interesting ideas, and an opportunity to tell myself I am, in a very small way, a part of something that is promoting and making a change for a better world.

  38. In response to the worry of whether or not skeptical/atheistic ‘movements’ are becoming too much like a religion: I think people have a tendency to despise all similarities with something they longer like to associate with, and in the case of religion I do not think this is entirely wise. There are many ways in which the skeptical movement should beware being more like a religion, but having a community to go and relate to other people who share your views (skepchick) I do not think is a demon we should associate with religion, though it happens to share that quality.

    Beyond that, I love places to go that filter through daily science/political/whatever news and pick out the tidbits that I will likely find most interesting. Blogs are great for this. I comment sometimes, but my favorite part of the site is often just the links to articles. I originally loved the scandalous, intrigue of Richard Dawkins talks. Ever since I’ve seen him live, I’d much rather listen to something else and have stopped running home each day to check for updates.

  39. I think that peoples’ concerns that skeptical groups are ‘religious’ stems from an over-generalization of what ‘religion’ is. Quite frankly, the behavior that so many people seem to find reprehensible (i.e. mockery, making fun of others, elitism, whatever…) are not exclusive to or even necessarily characteristic of religion.

    It all has to do with the way people behave in groups. It’s human nature to foster an Us vs. Them mentality. We can’t help it. You see it everywhere from schoolyards to boardrooms to – yes – churches.

    If your reasons for leaving religion are because of the way people behave toward those in the ‘them’ group, then your reasons are misguided. As I said before, this is not a characteristic of relilgion, but of people, and as such I think the skeptical movement (if you want to call it that) is catching unfair grief over it all.

    Sorry for the rant.

  40. I’m relatively new to the skeptic movement ( 2 years ) and truthfully, I don’t usually like labels of any kind, except it is a convenient, short handed way of conveying information. But like any label or form of shorthand, information is lost. I’ve learned that skepticism takes many, many forms and has varied content.

    Why do I participate? Because the people in this “movement” TEND TO BE uniformly intelligent. Discussions and arguments are often open ended, critical, and science based which leads to interesting discussion … for ME.

    But I enjoy speaking with intelligent people of faith as well. I’d enjoy speaking to a one legged , asparagus chewing , Bonobo monkey if it could hold an intelligent conversation ( I haven’t met any … yet ). It’s organized religion and it’s power brokers I have trouble with,not the people who necessarily follow it. I also have problems with people who belittle others merely because of differences of race, creed, religion or opinion, as long as those differences and especially actions of these “other” people do not directly threaten or endanger my world.

    I have often felt as an outsider within the “skeptic world” because I have not chosen to define myself as an atheist. I feel a great spiritual connection to this world, but it’s personal, it’s undefineable ( even to me ), it’s definitely not part of any organized religion, but it is part of me and how I relate to people.

    The more I read here, especially in Skepchick, it’s nice to know that we aren’t a bunch of clones, that some ARE more sensitive about issues of religion, that some are cold hard empricists on the topic, and that religion is not the only aspect of the movement.

    For if it were ONLY about anti-religion, this wouldn’t interest me one bit.

    One last thing – I do think that much of the mockery that takes placed is merely a Don Rickles-ish ( an old school reference )attempt at humor. When humor is cutting or biting, not everyone will laugh. Tough humor is often satrirical and that often will offend, but it doesn’t mean it’s vindictive. Only the person telling the joke knows intent. Often that intent is to underscore the obvious, yet twist it so it no longer is as ordinary.

  41. @halincoh: I agree with you there. I usually assume humor in any attempt at mocking or satirical wit.

    And the tricky part about Bonobos is that they HATE asparagus. With a passion. You might consider not being so closed-minded in your pursuit of only the Bonobos that chew asparagus. It’s an unfair expectation.

  42. I always seem to come late to these discussions. In fact, I don’t even know if anyone has ever read a word I’ve written, but yet I still write. This is the first topic where I’ve read EVERY word by everybody. Eclectic group we have here. Well done people. It’s nice knowing we are NOT clones.

  43. I visit Skepchick and similar blogs to help remind me not to become cynical in my disbelief in … the things I don’t believe in. It is easy for me to forget that being correct isn’t always the best approach.

  44. You know, I’ve been rolling this idea over my tongue since it was posted. …It’s not a new subject; it has come up before. So I don’t mean to pick on anyone here for what they’ve said today… but I have a fucking bone to pick.

    (Oh yeah, that’s right. I’m droppin’ the f-bombs now.)

    What do people really have an issue with here? Cause, as I see it, there are only two things that you can be complaining about, here:

    1) Pointing out to the religious people that their beliefs are wrong, or
    2) The use of (ostensibly demeaning) humor.

    If your beef is of the #1 variety, than you are the type who feels we must “tip tow quietly away” when anyone invokes the words “I believe”. Is this truly productive? Why, really, aren’t we allowed to question people’s most fundamental, core beliefs? It insults the very “free will” and “intelligence” that their deities or our evolutionary processes have endowed us with. If this is your problem, I cannot agree with you.

    If your problem is with the humor… lighten up. Really, I threw this option in there as a ruse, because I honestly have trouble believing anyone really has trouble with someone berating another group for a laugh. That’s 90% of all humor, everywhere.

    So, if you thought it was the humor, then ask yourselves, in earnest: had Rebecca been completely serious about the whole affair, would it have offended you less? If she calmly explained that, no, this is the not the body of The Christ that you think you’re eating: it’s just a cracker… if she then took a sacrificial wafer and did something “scariligious” to it, a’la a science experiment…. would that be okay? If she imbibed the beer and prezels just to point out that, hey, it’s the same thing, and I’m doing it in the name of a flying sphagetti monster, and clearly this strikes you as odd… does that make it okay?

    I doubt it. I think it’s just this idea that religious beliefs have, for lack of a better word, sanctity.

    And I think that’s Bullshit, people.

    Alright, bone picked. I’m going to bed.

  45. Living in the Bible belt, my interest in the skeptical movement remains because [1] I enjoy talking to people who don’t make monkey chatter and/or try to convert me to their (take your pick…) pet belief system, and [2] that here in Virginia, my online contact with other critical thinkers is a microworld of sanity in an otherwise completely batshit commonwealth, welcome solace to fend off the madness just one more day, that I’m not just the lone voice crying in the wilderness, and [3] to bolster my proficiency with critical thinking skills and my ever-evolving attitude as a skeptic, for which there is always room to improve.

  46. Dido to pretty much what everyone else has said; a place to stretch my mental muscles and much more. (Astronomy and science in general makes me horny, and it’s a very pleasant experience being able to converse with like minded people).

    As for fawning over Dawkins and PZ, i entered the online skeptical scene largely in part from reading the book “The God Delusion” which somehow led me to the SGU podcast (after joining, which led me to Astronomy Cast which then led to Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy ect.. so I respect their honesty and truthfulness as they put me on the path, a path from which i have never looked back on.

    P.s. Plus the most important reason of all..


    so much so that i had to write that on it’s own line, and that alone is reason enough ^^;.

  47. Perhaps reading blogs and such that align with your own beliefs aren’t floating your boat, but I enjoy it.

    If you want the ‘skeptical movement’ to give you the same feeling as your church did, then I don’t know what to tell you.

    Rather than pine over the petty details, I’ll just say that the skeptical movement has been worth my time. Whether or not this post was rhetorical, if someone really did have this attitude then I don’t care.

    If your motivation for being involved in the skeptics movement is to satisfy your boredom, well, I don’t understand how you are bored.

    I personally read newspapers, blogs, magazines, various news sites and columns that are written by people who’s interpretations of information and grammatical skill drive me to near insanity. I hold weekly skeptics meetings, socials, and organize community service events in my town. I’m constantly researching, fact checking, and working. Right now it is about 3AM on Sunday and I have a lecture to attend at 8AM, yet here I am still going through blogs and tomorrow’s newspapers.
    Perhaps this post caught me off guard (and not to mention its internal consistencies where first the skeptics movement is like going to church, but then it isn’t because it isn’t exciting enough), but if you’re bored and need something to do – then maybe you really aren’t a part of it to begin with.
    By the way, only closing yourself in to the skeptical community is not ‘movement’ in any sense. Not getting skepticism out there or promoting these ideas outside of your friends who will laugh with you at Jesus on toast is a skeptical ‘stand still’ (as opposed to a movement).

  48. I have been carefully re-reading this thread and am enjoying it immensely! Thank you!

    @halincoh: Loved #50’s comment COTW worthy!

    @Detroitus: #51 also COTW worthy.

    @JRice #54 Well put. Whilst I personally question everything, and will wade in if I am personally challenged, I am careful not to debate people’s beliefs that often. Falls under the ‘first do no harm’ rule…

    But your post reminded me to answer the point of the thread.

    Overall, I love this site for the debate (when they’re not out and out brawling), and I do love the humour. I love the wonderful new terms that are being introduced into my vocabulary… jizzing (especially in rerefence to a sock), douches, batshit crazy, the list goes on. Ya gotta laugh.

  49. @AmberEyes:

    I think much of the “making fun” you’re railing against is more venting than anything else. If you deal with this nonsense regularly, being able to let off steam to those who understand can be therapeutic. (Especially since we tend to suffer so much more similar abuse at their hands.)

    When you encounter these people, then yes, dealing with them calmly and rationally is good. If their problem is simply a lack of information, you may be able to shake them loose. Not always, of course, but I tend to let them be the ones to lower the discussion level first.

    However, sometimes a satirical look at their views taken to an extreme end is useful. A site like the God Hates Amputees one is an example of a darkly humorous look at a glaring problem in the belief that God intervenes medically.

    In any case, if you’re truly a skeptic, removing yourself from the community because “OMG some of you are so impolite” is a little juvenile, IMHO. (Though not as juvenile as being disgusted that some of us were excited to meet, say, Neil deGrasse Tyson. There’s a reason some people are luminaries among skeptics, and attending their talks and reading their books and making a point to shake their hands and let them know you appreciate their work is a good thing.)

    BTW, AmberEyes: You said “They can’t exactly ‘force’ things on me and others if we aren’t listening.” That might be true of your Christian family in particular, but when their BS is shared by a legislative body, that becomes no longer true. Either resist it openly and vocally at every turn, or you deserve to lose exactly what you’ll lose.

  50. No sooner does AmberEyes say that the woo folks aren’t evil do we get an example of some who are. Check out this story, which PZ mentions in his latest post:

    Right in the first paragraph, we hear about some evil anti-vaxxers trying to intimidate Dr. Offit. Direct threats to him, implied threats to his kids — these are things that we polite skeptics should not be expected to respect. That shit should be mocked, derided, ridiculed, excoriated, and a bunch of similar things.

    But if that stuff can be mocked, and your average workaday antivaxxer can’t, where do we draw the line? I’m sure Jenny McCarthy means well, but the disinformation she’s spreading helps inflame the behavior that Dr. Offit gets to witness. For that matter, I’m sure the guy who threatened to hang Dr. Offit would say he was working towards the greater good.

    As would the people who sent the death threats to the kid with the cracker in Florida. As would Ben Stein when he made his hateful little movie equating a belief in evolution to the Nazi concentration camps.

    And yet we rarely, if ever, hear from the more mild and peaceful anti-vaxxers or creationists calling for an end to such behavior from their more enthusiastic followers. And the best we got from the Catholics during Crackergate was a serious of “yes, but…” statements.

    And we have people here who think WE are being too mean? Hell, given the things we experience, I think some venting and mocking shows remarkable restraint. Do you think Michael Behe or Sylvia Browne get death threats from skeptics? For all of his rep as a hardline, hate-filled militant atheist, the most uncivil behavior we ever see out of Richard Dawkins is when he says “you are wrong.”

    Every slight you ignore, every punch unreturned… this just gives them the impression that we’re laying down and taking it. I would never issue death threats or even throw a physical punch, but I’m not going to leave the fray because someone somewhere might think I’m being rude.

  51. @Rats Acre: I actually have to agree that I’m not particularly fond of PZ and Dawkins. As much as I adore Mr. Dawkins accent I’m not big on the whole militant approach. As for PZ, I got uncomfortable with how he handled the story about the kid who stole the wafer from the church. I think he just added too much fuel to the fire by responding to people who were angry with him. He’s a tad disrespectful in my opinion. I’m such a huge fan of Michael Shermer because he’s not militant and expresses his views in a firm but not ‘omg you disagree with me? Are you a complete idiot? Here let me blog about how evil and twisted your opinions are.’ kind of way. Shermer <3

  52. Writerdd:

    Well … I am not really qualified to address your question, because I never joined the “skeptic” group, movement, religion … I looked into some of these blogs out of curiosity. I wondered wether these groups really lived up to their claims concerning skepticism and critical thinking.

    Alas … not even close. The skeptic groups are as faithful to skepticism, critical thinking and science as religious groups are faithful to beliefs espousing peace, love and charity above war, hate and greed. Both camps are very soundly grounded in hypocrisy.

    In any event, I share the sentiment that you have expressed: boredom. Nothing new here, and I am sure the *group* will be happy to see me drift away.

    As best as I can tell, it is a social club with all the characteristics of such, which is fine. But the idea this group is smarter than others or performs some important educational function is funny.

  53. I don’t participate here to find agreement. The only thing I expect from my peers in the skeptical movement is rational and open discourse on any and all topics.

    I find it interesting because the people in this community are intelligent, open minded and most tend to be consistent in their application of rational inquiry. I love hearing contrary views, and it would be beyond cool if some paranormal, etc. thing were actually true. But there is this problematic thing called evidence …

  54. I get news out of blogs like this. Following the various skeptical blogs and podcasts is also a good source of science information.

    And it is intellectually stimulating to argue with thinking people about complicated subjects.

    Except when they too become dogmatic and absolute.

  55. My avatar wants FriendBot5000 to share the wealth. “Brain the size of a planet and I can’t even get a hug.

    Detroitus: “Mind the lemurs, mate!”

    Sometimes I think Dawkins and Co. get a bit too shrill, but they do perform a valuable function to the Skeptical community in that they put the evangelicals on notice that we aren’t going to put up with slander, innuendo and character assassination anymore.

    As far as I’m concerned, when churches openly mock agnostics/atheists, they are as guilty as those that use the “N” word or other racial/religious/etc. slurs. A slur is a slur and the victim is the one making the determination. The same goes for threats.

    At least here, I can drop my defenses and say what I really think with the expectation that I will be heard and respected. I frequently learn from people here, too. And yes, I think that erspecting dangerous beliefs just because the adherant claims that they are religious beliefs is a crock: such as a Muslim cleric cutting off a little kid’s hand because he stole a loaf of bread because he was starving. That’s bullshit and it’s not a belief that I can stomach, no matter what the justification.

  56. @QA: I don’t think anyone is asking you to respect beliefs, I think they are asking you to respect the person and to engage them as you would wish to be engaged.

    @phlebas: I would prefer to raise the level of discourse rather than just waiting for them to lower it then declaring victory for ‘taking the high road’. At that point it is war. War is failure on everyone’s part. Its what they want and how they prefer to be. It is their comfort zone.

    I agree with your points whole heartedly for the most part, and acknowledge more than a little rage on my part. My favorite isn’t Jenny, though it is the smirking Kirk Cameron holding up his idiotic picture of the lizardfish or the banana.

  57. @JRice:

    What do people really have an issue with here?

    You didn’t mention the possibility of taking good ideas too far. This alienates many people from many cultures. Few want to play chess against a grandmaster who is playing his A-game.

  58. I see some very nice sentiments expressed here about community and making new friends. But that is not why I read these posts.
    I have posted in here before my belief that you cannot be a true skeptic and an atheist at the same time because atheism requires you to believe in something that cant be proven; to believe that there absolutely is NO God. That cant be proven so IMO atheism requires the same kind of faith practiced by the religious communities. But actually, Im fine with that. I am also fine if people want to believe in religion. I cant myself but I dont begrudge people who do. Who am I to mess with their kharma?
    No, the reason I come to these skeptical sites is largely to keep abreast of what the militant fundamentalist movement is doing. In order to get a comprohensive picture, I go to many of these sites where people post about the Christian right peeing on the Constitution by continually trying to penetrate our government with their own brand of morality and force it down everyone’s throat. I can very much relate to what PHLEBAS has been saying here. I consider this movement to be the most dangerous challenge to freedom in this country since the Civil War. Much more dangerous than terrorism in fact. I can see another Civil War on the horizon. It may not involve battalions on the battlefield with cannons and rifles but it will be a civil war which will destroy America nonetheless.
    I think skeptics have to keep a sharp eye on the religious community and openly challenge any attempt to legislate things like the teaching of ID in science classes, posting the 10 commandments in schools, and any other thing they may come up with where the fundamentalists are trying to teach kids that its ok to mix religion into our governement. Its not ok and you people KNOW it.
    I dont come here for a sense of community. I dont feel alone. I come here to be informed and support any effort to keep religion in its place. Religion belongs in the heart, in the home, and in the church. It doesn’t belong in the House, the Senate, the White House, or the universe forbid, in the Supreme Court. I think if freedom of/from religion and freedom of speech is important to you, then take a stand and fight back with the weapons we have available to us. The spoken word, the written word, and most importantly, the Vote.

  59. Hear, hear: if I want to go to a revival meeting, I ‘ll do that; if I want to go to a pub, I really don’t need a “skeptic church service” as an excuse (good ale is its own reward [and punishment]!).

    On the other hand, my circle of friends only includes a couple of like-minded skeptics. And, while I love all my friends dearly, their tendency to get swept up in fad diets, alternative medicine, hokey religious rituals, etc. can get a little tiresome. I come to skeptical blogs because it reminds me that I’m not alone in valuing critical thinking, and because it provides me a respite from woo that I sometimes need.

    I come to Skepchick for those reasons, and one more: I think it’s fantastic that there exists a community for skeptical women, and I want to support that.

  60. I’m not sure if I count as a participant on this blog – I’m pretty new, and I tend to be a little more…cautious on the commenting than most. But I read it every day, if that counts.

    It’s a great thing because a) it’s good to know that there are other skeptical women out there and b) because we live in a rural-ish, quite religious area… well, it gets lonely out here. Being pretty shy IRL doesn’t help matters any.

    Someday, I’ll feel brave enough to actually go to a Skepchick meet-n-drink. Maybe.

  61. writterdd, thank you for posting this.

    What it has really done is show me why so many people come here like I do. And I feel less alone..

    And that is another answer to your question.
    Is that why a lot of people go to religion? Yes yes yes. I get to hear from people that want to give me proof.. not just wax poetic about salvation and invisble friends.

  62. le sigh, atheism really can’t be called a religion T_T . Militant atheists may get abnoxious at times but….

  63. @bug_girl:

    Actually, Teek doesn’t drink at all either.


    Getting drunk is not a skeptical thing. I remember getting quite sloppy drunk (and more) with my believer friends in my pre-skeptic days. The fact is, no matter what your world view, getting drunk is generally considered fun.

    Penn & Teller are both teetotalers as well and are not shy about it, either. (Actually, Teller doesn’t really talk about it much. HAHAHA)

  64. Man, what a great thread. Thanks to everyone who has contributed. It really helps to reinforce to me that Skepchick has a lot of value to readers, which makes me want to keep making it even better. Thumbs up!

    On a side note, there have been a couple references (including in the initial post) to our pub meetings being like a skeptical church service. This has to be one of the least-connected-to-reality ideas I’ve heard this week, and trust me, I hear a lot of irrational BS.

  65. I’m not a scientist, I’m a science fan. That strikes a lot of people as odd, though no odder, I think, than being a sports fan while not participating in the sport. I like watching smart people do smart things and this is a pretty good place to find out what the smarties are up to. The fact that it’s not a boy’s club feels good too.


    I’m in the same boat as you are. I have a lot of highly educated friends whom I adore for many qualities, but who seem somehow to get sucked into a lot of pseudo-science–particularly about nutrition and woo–alt medicine, astrology, etc.

    Unless I see someone really getting ready to harm themselves with this thinking or behavior, I let it go. We’ve got other things to talk about. I have found that being here has given me a lot of resources for when one of those friends does ask what I think about some new health fad or bad science reporting (they DID have to hear my rants on the LHC so-called controversy) so maybe in my own gentle and non-judgemental way I am becoming a source of valid scientific information for them. The howls of laughter and eye-rolling that I cannot direct at them (because I care about them and don’t want to hurt their feelings) I can express here. Everybody wins. I am reassured by the collection of other intelligent women (and men) that post here. Again, that community thing that we humans have evolved to participate in.

    I do label myself a skeptic because I think it is broader than simply atheist and suggests that critical thinking and the scientific method are valid ways of looking at the world. It isn’t a “religion” but it is a philosophy and I won’t shrink from that.

  66. @spyderkl said:

    Someday, I’ll feel brave enough to actually go to a Skepchick meet-n-drink. Maybe.

    Let me heartily recommend that you screw up your courage and venture to one if it’s happening in your area. I’m not the most social creature either, but I went to the one we put together in Philly this summer, and I had one of the best (fully-clothed) times ever.

  67. @Elyse:

    Getting drunk is not a skeptical thing. I remember getting quite sloppy drunk (and more) with my believer friends in my pre-skeptic days. The fact is, no matter what your world view, getting drunk is generally considered fun.

    Yes, I understand that people drink because it’s fun, and I don’t necessarily think that skeptics drink more than the general population. But I would expect that any group of people that takes pride in their clear, disciplined, rational thinking skills would be less likely to purposefully fuck up those hard-earned thinking skills, even temporarily, with mind-altering drugs.

    Does anyone else see a contradiction here, or is it just me?

  68. @flib: Living in such a nonsense-stuffed world might make one feel the need to voluntarily abandon one’s faculties once in awhile. What better place to do that than among like-minded folks?

  69. @flib: On a purely philosopical level I understand what you are saying and even agree. On a personal level that has nothing to do with reason I like to drink. I don’t really care for being drunk. But for me, at least, alcohol allows me to relax and not be so very selfconscious.

  70. @flib: admiring and encouraging rational thinking doesn’t meant forgetting that we aren’t rational 100% of the time. So long as I’m not drinking so much that I stumble into my local Scientology center and hand over my credit card, my life as a skeptic is only enhanced by getting the occasional nice buzz.

    That said, I certainly don’t expect everyone to enjoy drinking or taking drugs. These things affect people in different ways, and not everyone has a good time with them.

    Also, you’re making a bit of a false dichotomy when you suggest that we’re only talking about mind-altering drugs that “fuck up those hard-earned thinking skills.” Carl Sagan loved pot because he felt it enhanced his creativity and inspired scientific solutions.

  71. When I discovered the “skepticism movement” I was thrilled. It was, as others have said countless times before me, such a relief to know that I am not the only person who thinks the way I do.

    I agree with the boredom, however. After listening to the podcasts, reading the blogs, and commenting on the boards (over and over and over again) I have longed to become more involved and actually DO SOMETHING.

    I wrote a letter to a prominent member of the skeptic’s movement asking for advice on how to move toward a career that would include being active in the skeptic’s movement. I was disppointed by the response which boiled down to – we are a small community and there are no career opportunities here.

    Now granted this person doesn’t know me from a hole in the wall, but I was hoping for something a little more encouraging.

    My point is that as a movement, we can only run in circles for so long before a lot of talent gets bored and finds something more interesting to do. We need to get together and find a way to try to reach people outside of our little group. We need to find action to take that has an actual effect on the world around us. We need to become an actual movement, and not just a big discussion group.

    I think that what we are doing right now (most of us) is ineffective, and is becoming boring. How many of us would actually like to DO SOMETHING? I know I sure would.

  72. admiring and encouraging rational thinking doesn’t meant forgetting that we aren’t rational 100% of the time. So long as I’m not drinking so much that I stumble into my local Scientology center and hand over my credit card, my life as a skeptic is only enhanced by getting the occasional nice buzz.

    I hear what you’re saying. I enjoy sex, music, and meditation, none of which are particularly rational pursuits. For me, these things are orthogonal to my intellect, not counter to it, as drugs and booze were. YMMV though.

    Also, you’re making a bit of a false dichotomy when you suggest that we’re only talking about mind-altering drugs that “fuck up those hard-earned thinking skills.” Carl Sagan loved pot because he felt it enhanced his creativity and inspired scientific solutions.

    I used to think the same thing. I would have what seemed like incredible insights while high on pot or tripping on acid or mushrooms. In retrospect, it sounds like woo to think that the drugs were responsible for these insights. Because I can’t accept the animist belief that we channel the spirit of the drug while we’re high, I have to admit that the insights came from within me, and could almost certainly have been unlocked in other ways. Not to mention the fact that 90% of my stoned “insights” were actually a bunch of profound sounding pseudointellectual or anti-intellectual bullshit.

    I think Sagan sells himself short by imagining that he could not have had his insights without pot. Maybe he would have had much more interesting or important insights if he wasn’t stoned.

  73. Well, first, Donna, if you haven’t been to Skeptics in the pub, don’t decide you know what it is. And if you don’t hang out with other sketpics, don’t assume that they believe the same things you do. I don’t believe the same things you do, for example.

    I go to Skeptics in the Pub because we laugh a lot, have a lot of fun, discuss interesting topics, and just enjoy being out. It’s a group where I know I won’t have to negotiate some topic like, oh, evolution. Or hematite jewelry. Or acupuncture. Or Jesus. I can take off my skeptical defense suit and just relax.

  74. @JRice: Should everyone be skeptical?


    Are you fucking kidding me? Of course everyone should be skeptical! What kind of stuck up bullshit is it to think that skepticism is for the few?

    Who, exactly, is it that should not be skeptical? Is this a person who lives in a hole in the ground and is never asked to evaluate claims made by other people?

    Perhaps they are someone who needs to be uncritically guided by the skeptical people, lest they hurt someone by using their inferior brain?

    Why would you want the respect of people who do not use the awesome power of critical thinking? What kind of pseudo-religious bullshit is that?

    The whole point of the skeptical movement, from my perspective, is that every single human being on earth can be empowered by the principles we espouse. Everyone can benefit from thinking for themselves, questioning their assumptions, and applying critical thinking to other people’s truth claims. Everyone can benefit from learning about frauds and how those frauds practice their art.

    The idea that this is some sort of “religion” or that only the few need to have these skills is bullshit. Its the same bullshit that’s been shoved down the throat of the masses by every religion on earth since the first fraud told the first lie.

    Skeptics in the Pub isn’t a church service, its a strategy session in a culture war, and if you don’t want to get on board than get out of our fucking way.

  75. But I would expect that any group of people that takes pride in their clear, disciplined, rational thinking skills would be less likely to purposefully fuck up those hard-earned thinking skills, even temporarily, with mind-altering drugs.

    Sometimes it’s fun to just run with your feelings. It’s not like the beer is going to get us to convert to Scientology or start buying homeopathic hangover cures. The most irrational thing I’ve done under the influence is far less irrational than the things I do sober.

    …of course, I don’t take pride in clear thinking or discipline. I take pride in being pretty and living life to the fullest. Discipline is for people who lack the capacity to ride the edge of control without falling over. Maybe my opinion isn’t exactly the standard by which the other drinkers around here should be judged.

  76. @sethmanapio: I agree with you 100%, I’m just not so on board with the aggressive tone. I think JRice was sussing out the idea, not insisting upon his correctness.

    But yes, I totally agree with the sentiment that everyone should have basic critical thinking skills. Everyone should learn how to think for themselves, how to evaluate information, and how to not be taken advantage of.

  77. I used to think the same way about drugs and alcohol as Penn & Teller, well similarly anyway. Then i read the book The Happiness Myth by Jennifer Hecht. There’s one chapter about drugs and it has changed my views a bit. I still rarely drink or do any drugs but now i view it very differently than i did before. I highly recommend the book.

  78. @sethmanapio: [shrug] I disagree. I think personalities differ enough that many people (I would argue most) are not suited to questioning everything.

    Besides that, it’s exhausting. : )

    I mean, with exception of a few (and I would wager you’re one of them), I don’t think most people here question everything. When Phil Plait posts about black holes, I don’t go out and check his sources: I trust his judgment.

    I think there is some “critical mass” of skepticism, after which a society receives no net gain from additional skepticism. When enough people are questioning enough things that there’s complete coverage of all necessary issues, what’s the point in having more people check those same things?

    I suppose if your ideal is an every-man-for-himself society [cough cough], I can see where you would disagree.

    [duck, roll]

  79. @BriansAWildDowner: Pretty much the entirety of my view on drugs is that so long as you aren’t hurting anyone else, I don’t give a damn. Self-destruction is your own personal prerogative. Who the Hell am I to tell you how to live or die?

  80. @Rystefn: Well, this may be where we disagree though. To me, supporting an illegal activity like drug trafficking is wrong. People are dying to bring drugs in to this country. Of course that wouldn’t be true if it were legal but for right now it’s not.

    But someone arguing the other side could say that eating Alaskan king crab is wrong because people die to catch them.

    This is one of the many topics where i don’t claim to have the answers and argue with myself about regularly.

  81. @flib:

    I think Sagan sells himself short by imagining that he could not have had his insights without pot. Maybe he would have had much more interesting or important insights if he wasn’t stoned.

    It is hard to imagine that he could be either. The man was amazing. I still credit his Cosmos with exciting a life long love of science in millions of people. I can remeber running home from 3rd grade so I could catch the re-broadcast of the previous nights episode back in 1980.

  82. @flib:

    In retrospect, it sounds like woo to think that the drugs were responsible for these insights.

    On the contrary, the lack of any spirit separate from the brain is proof to me that there are many things we can do to our brains by chemically altering them. Are there other ways? Possibly. But for many people who are very depressed (for example), there are few things better than a specific drug. For nauseated cancer patients, there are few things better than a joint. Etc.

  83. @JRice:


    Where did I say “question everything?”

    Everyone being a skeptic does not mean that everyone should be their own expert. But if Phil starts suddenly saying that black holes spill out fairy dust, I might want to check with another expert. That’s skepticism.

    And society benefits from additional skeptics to the limit case, of course. Because if there is zero money being invested in woo, there is more money being invested in great microbreweries.


  84. @Rebecca:

    the lack of any spirit separate from the brain is proof to me that there are many things we can do to our brains by chemically altering them.

    Damn skippy, look at me being able to make some of the skepchicks laugh at my slightly tippsy rambles. I can’t do that straight.

  85. @BriansAWildDowner: True enough, but I don’t see any of that crime or death as being the result of drug use. In my book, it is the result of prohibition, and the responsibility lies with the lawmakers who make it illegal.

    I support a Hell of a lot of illegal activities that I don’t think should be illegal. Yeah, I know few of them ultimately put money in the hands of the most vile and ruthless bastards to walk the earth (or even in the hands of drug cartels), but that’s the world. I’ll advise people against the use of many, maybe most, recreational drugs, but I will not judge them because of their choice.

  86. @BriansAWildDowner: To me, supporting an illegal activity like drug trafficking is wrong.


    What if we were smuggling slaves out of the south before the civil war? Illegal? Yes. Immoral? No. Bad analogy? Sure!

    But the point is that legal and moral are not even in the same zip code. Drug Smuggling is dangerous, and people die in the drug war. But the immorality is on the part of those who create the conditions that make commerce in cocaine or marijuana a dangerous criminal enterprise, not on the part of people engaging in the commerce.

  87. I disagree. I think all parties involved are at least partly responsible. Certainly not all equally but at least partially. But, of course, that’s where you get in to really subjective stuff. And this is all stuff where i’m not totally sure what my own thoughts are so I don’t want to push either side too hard.

  88. @BriansAWildDowner: I can see where you’re coming from on that point. I would certainly hold myself responsible if I found that my recreation was killing people somewhere up or down the road of causality… but I judge myself more harshly than others on that. Egocentrism and all that.

  89. I have to agree with a lot of people here — what I get out of participating in the skeptic movement or reading blogs, listening to podcasts, etc, is the feeling that I’m not alone, and it’s a nice feeling.

    Like many skeptics over the years, I’ve found myself in some nasty arguments that I regret having. People’s feelings get hurt, people start to view me as a bastard, and I start to get down on myself wondering what’s wrong with me that I disagree with everyone all the time. Am I as negative as everyone tells me I am? Am I as cynical as everyone tells me I am? Do I really analyze things too much? What’s wrong with me?

    The more I think that, the more alienated I feel, and the more alienated I feel, the more bitter I get, and the more bitter I get, the more I start to become the guy that people tell me I am (negative, cynical, etc).

    As I grow older, I’m trying to relax, pick my battles, avoid arguments, avoid touchy subjects, etc. I think I’m improving, but it’s a constant struggle, and there have still been times where I’ve wondered why I can’t just be “normal” like everyone else.

    Over the last few months, though, I’ve felt a ton of relief as I’ve discovered the skeptic movement, blogs like this one, and skeptical podcasts as well. I always knew I was interested in this kind of stuff, learning how things really work, learning why people believe the things they believe, but I never quite connected it to the general idea of skepticism until I realized there were a ton of people out there already doing that. And when I realized those people were out there, I instantly felt better.

    Now, I have a healthier outlet for all of these feelings. And, I get some support for having these feelings, as well.

    Maybe if everyone surrounding me in my every day life was always skeptical of everything, it would eventually get old and I’d move on to something else. But, I find there are very few people in my immediate circle of friends and acquaintences who don’t have some kind of sacred cow that I have to watch out for.

    So, it’s relaxing to read things and listen to things from a view point that usually only exists in my thoughts — with the added bonus of having some really smart people teach me some really neat stuff that I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise.

  90. @Rebecca:

    On the contrary, the lack of any spirit separate from the brain is proof to me that there are many things we can do to our brains by chemically altering them.

    Of course there are. I used to do it all the time.

    Are there other ways? Possibly.

    That was the crux of my point. Those who give drugs the credit for their creativity are selling themselves short. You can bring about insight and enlightenment through other means that don’t have the significant undesirable side effects of drugs.

    But for many people who are very depressed (for example), there are few things better than a specific drug. For nauseated cancer patients, there are few things better than a joint. Etc.

    Very true. You won’t hear me object to using medicine to treat disease.

  91. @BriansAWildDowner: I think all parties involved are at least partly responsible.


    Right. Which is why everyone who doesn’t buy drugs but also doesn’t vote Libertarian is equally responsible for all the death and violence in the Drug War. In fact, since the war on drugs is paid with Tax Money, if you pay taxes, you’re immoral, whether you vote Lib or not. After all, the war = the violence on both sides. You can’t avoid buying guns for somebody.

  92. Detroitus:
    “And the tricky part about Bonobos is that they HATE asparagus. With a passion. You might consider not being so closed-minded in your pursuit of only the Bonobos that chew asparagus. It’s an unfair expectation.”

    You f’ing a-hole, Detroitus! How dare you call me close-minded when it comes to Bonobos! Prove to me they hate asparagus! Show me the evidence. I can’t stand how you amygdala-lite, asparagus haters project your own biases onto the Bonobo world, my world! Like YOU know Bonobos!!! You wouldn’t know a red assed, tongue kissin’ , oral sex lovin’ ( the latter two referenced in Wikipedia ), ASPARAGUS eatin’ bonobo from a curved beak havin, headcrest showin,’ bug eatin’ Red Vented cockatoo if it bit you on your cynical synapse center.


  93. Denver7M:

    I have posted in here before my belief that you cannot be a true skeptic and an atheist at the same time because atheism requires you to believe in something that cant be proven; to believe that there absolutely is NO God. That cant be proven ….

    This is 100% correct and practically a tautology.

    ….so IMO atheism requires the same kind of faith practiced by the religious communities. But actually, Im fine with that. I am also fine if people want to believe in religion. I cant myself but I dont begrudge people who do. Who am I to mess with their kharma?

    Well said.

    Just one of a number of contradictions existing on skeptic sites.

  94. @TrueSkeptic:

    Since the only atheists who make positive assertions about a god’s lack of existence only dwell in the imaginations of believers, then tthe argument sort of falls apart.

    Atheism = lack of belief in a god, not belief in a lack of a god. Subtle distinction, but important.

    (Sorta blurs the line with agnosticism for some, but it’s the definition I’ve heard from people time and time again, and it’s the one I use myself. Only an idiot claims to prove a broad-sweeping negative like that.)

  95. Except atheism doesn’t mean you believe there is no god, merely that you don’t believe in any god. There’s a difference, and it’s pretty profound.

    There are those who believe there is no god, but that’s a specific subset of atheism, and it is either ignorant or dishonest to apply the concept to all atheists.

  96. I like being involved in the skeptical “movement” because, ever since the days of the “moral majority”, I have felt that science and rationalism have been under attack in this country. Let’s face it – the forces of Woo are well-organized and powerful. I think we need this community so that we can stand against the anti-science tide.

    I especially like the skepchick site because I think women bring a very interesting perspective to skepticism. I think the skepchick bloggers are funny, smart and brave for being so willing to express themselves so openly.

    I don’t understand the posts that compare skepticism with a “religion” (one even called us “hypocritical” (???)). In skepticism I see no blind acceptance of any set of ideas. We trust science (even science we don’t understand) because we understand that all science is built on previously proven truth. We accept and understand that science and scientists are fallible, but that the best science will survive. It will survive, not because of “faith” or because it is “blessed” by god, but because good science survives test after test after test. Like many religious people (and political people and sports people) many of us are passionate about being skeptics (atheists, rationalists, etc…) and we get angry and emotional when we see stupid things being done in the name of religion. I think anyone who thinks skepticism is a religion doesn’t understand the basic difference between religious “truth” and scientific “truth”.

    Well, I’ve gone on much longer than I wanted to – thanks writerdd for starting a great thread…

  97. Atheism = lack of belief in a god, not belief in a lack of a god. Subtle distinction, but important.

    That’s fine if you want to make that distinction. I just have not heretofore seen it in practice on this site – just the opposite. I imagine that’s why Denver makes the point.

    I almost asked whether anyone questions Denver’s assertion, but from what I had seen, I figured it was a waste of time. I guess maybe not.

    I think maybe this fits within analogy I made that many religious faiths espouse peace, love and charity in theory, but in practice … they defend war, hate and greed.

    Your atheism distinction is fine in theory, but in practice … Denver’s point describes what I have read on skeptic sites.

  98. Sorry, but no. Religions have had uncounted thousands of years to present their evidence for the divine. Since none has been forthcoming, and since the vast majority of those presented are demonstrably nonexistent, we reject the idea.

    We’re open any evidence the believers might like to present. If we seem to dismiss out of hand, that is merely because we see the same wrong ideas spouted as “evidence” over and over. “I believe your fucking wrong” is not the same as “I believe there is no god.”

    The fact that any god consistent with the universe we perceive strains at the edges of the very concept of divinity narrows the field a lot. If your deity is much more than an invisible hand which tipped a few things in motion or wrote a few very basic core concepts and then hasn’t done a damned thing else in the last 14 billion years and more, then it’s likely already been proven to be not there, and we reject it much as I would reject the idea that an intangible, invisible monster is standing under my desk… actually, that’s rather harder to disprove than the bulk of deities claimed in the history of the world.

  99. It’s perfectly reasonable to believe that God does not exist, while simultaneously acknowledging that you may be wrong. There’s nothing counter to skepticism in that position.

  100. @TrueSkeptic: That’s fine if you want to make that distinction. I just have not heretofore seen it in practice on this site – just the opposite.

    Okay. So that’s fine if–as was just insisted on on this site–we want to make that distinction. But you haven’t seen that on this site.

    Except in the comment you’re responding to.

    The stupid. It burns.

  101. @TrueSkeptic:

    Don’t suppose you’d point to a post on this site where you’ve seen that attitude? Or any other skeptic site? You’ll see it a lot on theist sites, since misrepresenting atheism makes them feel almost as good as lying about evolution.

    Sorry if I don’t have faith that you’re remembering right.

  102. @TrueSkeptic: Okay, dude(-ette), you’ve made it clear you’re not interested in our social club. Now piss off. You have better things to do with your time.

    (And, also: I don’t believe there’s a teacup in orbit around the earth. That’s not my religion.)

  103. I don’t believe there’s a teacup in orbit around the earth. That’s not my religion

    Yeah, that’s a goofy religion altogether. Everyone knows it’s really a teapot, and that it’s in orbit around the sun between Earth and Mars.

  104. @JRice: Ummm… I think I was agreeing with your beliefs. However, your reaction shows that you’re clearly a heathen, probably a follower of the Invisible Pink Unicorn, no doubt. Fool! Russel’s Teapotism is the one true faith, and all others will fall and… ummm… have an eternity… without tea… or something.

  105. But you haven’t seen that on this site. Except in the comment you’re responding to. The stupid. It burns.

    Ummm … “heretofore” translates: Up until the present comments, I had not seen this.

    After seeing it, I said “Okay, I get the theory, but the attitude that Denver describes is what I have seen in practice.” And obviously it is what Denver has observed as well. There is nothing stupid or unreasonable on my end of this exchange. But for you to conclude that there is …. I suppose that could aptly be described as “stupid.”

  106. @TrueSkeptic: There is nothing stupid or unreasonable on my end of this exchange.


    You may not be clear what these words mean: it is unreasonable to hold a position in the absence of any supporting evidence, to the contrary of all supporting evidence.

    It is stupid to pat yourself on the back for doing so.

  107. Mom was mentally ill – but most of the time it was subtle and I grew up not knowing for sure what exactly was “off” there. Add that to my basically gullible nature and I find myself lost in a world of shifting perceptions, accepting the most recent thing I’ve heard as gospel – Bigfoot is living in nests in West Virginia, Jesus imprints his image on toast, and ghosts look a lot like bugs on security cameras.

    The Skeptic movement gives me a tool for sifting through the environmental crazy, as well as my own slight madness, and find the hard outlines of reality.

  108. @TrueSkeptic: OK, you’ve never left a single comment (that I’ve seen) on this site other than to rail on how much you hate the hypocritical skeptics and how you are the epitomy of perfection in critical thinking. If the comment threads bother you so much why do you keep on popping up? Do you just get off on being an instigator and a troll?

    Just curious.

  109. @Danarra: Your post brings up a good point — even though it’s easy to get jaded debunking the same pseudoscientific crap over and over again, there’s probably always someone out there who finds the skeptic movement when (s)he hears [insert crazy theory], goes “yeah right!”, and then looks it up. It’s probably better to get the information from a source backed up with evidence and logical reasoning than from the bigfoot sites, the alien autopsy sites, the moon hoax sites, the “truth” movement sites, etc. It’s nice that there’s a bunch of resources that have already done the hard research, summarized the issue, and cited reputable sources. And for skeptics who don’t write, it’s nice to have a source to point people to that’s already summed up the issue nicely. Most people don’t have time to do their own original research so if the people who do have time get “bored” and take off, that’s just another resource lost.

  110. @TrollSkeptic:

    Still no examples? How odd. You would think such a pervasive attitude among all these skeptic sites would bring examples by the bushel.

    A “true skeptic” who hints that he/she is skeptical of skepticism MIGHT be some sort of metaskeptic, but I think it’s more like a double-negative: someone who thinks they can claim to be a skeptic and still believe whatever woo stuff comes their way.

    So disappointing. But not at all surprising. Thanks for playing, though!

  111. Detroitus:

    Well I guess the answer is that I popped up to acknowledge that I share some like opinions with others on this particular thread. I had seen previous dissent from lock-step thinking, but not where it was initiated in the original post.

    I’m not sure if I understand why Rebecca praised this thread (while slamming some of the observations of the original post), but if her point was that it demonstrates some diversity and openness of views on the site, then I would agree.

  112. Whoa, whoa, whoa…

    …What do we think Skepticism is?

    I mean, TrollSkeptic isn’t making any clear arguments, so it’s very difficult to discern what their point is… but it seems to me that they would prefer skeptics to say “that might be wrong” to everything.

    …And, at some level, that’s true. …But I don’t think it should manifest itself that way. I think we’ll all acknowledge that (a few) beliefs are necessary for daily survival, so believing is not, in itself, a bad thing. And I think we’ll also agree that belief is a natural human tactic.

    For me, skepticism should not be shunning “believing” (either entirely or in practice). It should be encouraging belief in the rational, while at the same time acknowledging that beliefs should (even must) change in the face of superior evidence.

    The problem with this is that, well, beliefs are sacred. No one is comfortable admitting they are wrong. The process is necessarily painful. There is no good way to get someone to change their mind about something they believed in. So complaints about how we “make fun of people who believe in strange things, … laugh at pictures of Jesus on toast, or … argue about pet psychics, religion and politics, or who’s a good or bad parent” are necessarily ugly things. They must happen.

    I mean, seriously… have you seen a “nice” path from dogma to skepticism? Was yours all peaches and cream? I doubt it.

    It’s fine to lose your taste for it, but it’s wrong to think we’re making a mistake for doing it.

    …And this whole argument about the difference between atheism and agnosticism? It’s semantics, which I hate to ague. But I do wonder if it characterizes the difference: atheists bear their scars with pride, agnostics wouldn’t wish that painful process on anyone else.

    I dunno. For me, it’s more than that. Agnostics, in my definition of the word, doubt themselves. Hedge their bets. Lack conviction.

    Atheists, on the other hand, are well-convinced that the only rational position is a godless one. And, dammit, we’ve changed our mind once. If something comes up to question our position again, we’re willing to walk those fires again. Fortunately, it would take a miracle for that to happen.

    So, I keep meaning to ask this question (and almost suggested it for an afternoon):

    Are all skeptics assholes?

    …Kinda, yeah. ‘Cause changing beliefs ain’t easy, ain’t pretty, and sure as evolution ain’t nice. Is it any wonder we try to soften the edges just a little with humor? I think not.

    So, after that train of thought, I have a new-found respect for the Skepchicks and their ilk. They’re not walking an easy path.

    Errr…. godspeed. Or something.

  113. @Rystefn: Always good to see a fellow teapotarian.

    @JRice: I think I have to nominate you for COTW because of this: “Are all skeptics assholes?

    …Kinda, yeah. ‘Cause changing beliefs ain’t easy, ain’t pretty, and sure as evolution ain’t nice. Is it any wonder we try to soften the edges just a little with humor? I think not.”

    That sentiment just really resonates with me.

  114. @phlebas: I like the idea of Metaskepticism if only to see evidence of metacognitive regulation providing a feedback loop — in essence watching the watchmen.

  115. @Amanda:

    I dig the theory, but my original point about the use of humor is that when it turns into ridicule/mockery, how does it change anyone’s beliefs?

  116. I’ve just read the initial post, and haven’t skimmed the comment thread yet. I’ll just respond to the original question, in happy ignorance of whatever else is going on here.

    One thing has become increasingly clear to me the more I have learned. That is, some of the things I used to believe are actually not true. This has made me suspect quite strongly that some of the things I currently believe are actually not true. My problem is that I do not know which things these are. My hope in getting involved in discussions here is that some clear-thinking level-headed reality-minded people will help me identify the false beliefs that I hold.

    I lurked for a long time. I finally jumped in when a thread opened that was discussing one of my ‘suspect’ belief areas. (I don’t want to get into the specifics, as that happened to be a thread that turned quite nasty the other week). When I believe something to be true, I want to find the best arguments against it. If these arguments still leave me unswayed, I feel a bit more secure in my beliefs. If these arguments are compelling, I may change my mind.

    I routinely subject myself to christian apologetics websites and radio programs. After all, maybe I was wrong to discard all of that. So far, all the apologists have done is reaffirm that I was correct to discard all of that.

    I have found that a lot of people with whom I agree on issues of religion and the paranormal hold political and social opinions that are different from mine. I want the opportunity to learn from them, in case they are right and I am wrong. Also, If I am right, and they are wrong, maybe I will persuade a couple people. So I got involved in posting comments.

    I don’t like bickering at all, but I really enjoy an argument where everyone involved actually wants to find the truth.

    I am a Hedge

  117. @JRice: I think you’re basing much of your point on the untrue premise that we all used to be religious. I have no scars to bear with or without pride (at least the metaphorical scars of deconversion, anyway), and there was no painful transition to wish or not wish on others. I’m not alone in this, I’m sure.

  118. @Rystefn: [nod], because it made the point clearer. Out of context, I would still claim that the difference is one of stance: atheists are comfortable with the rational explanation; agnostics would rather hedge their bets.

    I’m clearly biased, and could probably find better terminology than bet-hedging. (No offense to I Am a Hedge.) But I did qualify everything I said with “For me”, meaning: “it seems to me”. ; )

    Which–crap–reminds me of another answer to AI 9.8: Robert Anton Wilson. He is completely bonkers, but I am endlessly amused with how he’s willing to accept everything, and I get a kick out of listening to him. I can’t decide if he’s the antithesis to skepticism, or the personification of it. Either way, he’s good for a yuk.

    Anyway, one of the many things he’s said (repeatedly) concerns the use of “it seems to me” being a nice way to escape the pitfalls of epistemological minefields. …I still find myself using the phrase an awful lot. ; )

  119. I would say that there is quite a lot of overlap in the atheist/agnostic categories, but that those who self-identify as agnostics are less willing to make a stand and say “there is no god” or even “there is very probably no god.” There are a plethora of reasons for this, and I wouldn’t presume to try to list them, since that’s not a category into which I fall.

  120. @wytworm: Maybe it’s not about changing the beliefs of the mocked.

    When I mock someone*, it’s to draw attention to the absurdity of that person’s position, so that other people–onlookers–will say “you know, that really is garbage.

    Maybe this is an underhanded tactic. I tend to think so, actually, and as a result I don’t mock people very often. …Well, that, and it comes at a price. But I think it works. Hell, I know it works: it’s what helped swayed me.

    So I can understand thinking that it’s in bad taste, but I don’t think the argument of “it doesn’t help anybody” holds any water at all.

  121. Well, I know I’ve said this before on this blog and I’m fairly certain others have too. I am both agnostic and atheist.

    I am agnostic because I logically admit that there is no way to disprove the existence of God.

    I am an atheist because I see no evidence for said God and I don’t believe he exists and I live my life as if he does not exist.

    I actually think the whole idea of the existence of something called supernatural or metaphysical or paranormal is a fallacy. It is categorically impossible.

    I don’t see a need to disprove the existence of God any more than I see a need to disprove the existence of unicorns or leprechauns.

    I think that an absence of evidence very much leads to the conclusion that there is evidence of absence. It is only when talking about God that we are asked to drop this provisional conclusion.

  122. @JRice: I don’t care about the good taste/ bad taste part, I just think it is ineffective as an approach over all. How could a ‘Skeptic’ better structure an argument to be persuasive to one who is not already a ‘Skeptic’? I wonder that the onlooker would not just say: ‘That guy is a big an ass as the Woo guy’ and just check out.

    Point taken on the rest.

  123. I figure: How would it change my outlook either way regardless to whether there is a god or not? I can’t think of how my day-to-day would change either way. So put me in the ‘Why does it matter’ category. Not sure there is a word for it.

    I am sure some suggestions will be forthcoming… ;-)

  124. @ Rebecca – Glad you got what I was trying to say. And it’s kind of a thrill to be acknowledged. Thank you!

  125. @wytworm, that would be a great topic for a book. Although I imagine the advice therein would have to be based on anecdote, which would make most skeptics gag.

  126. @Rystefn: I would say that there is quite a lot of overlap in the atheist/agnostic categories, but that those who self-identify as agnostics are less willing to make a stand and say “there is no god” or even “there is very probably no god.”

    As a card-carrying agnostic, I think we are either the least likely or the most likely to believe in the superstitious … Some of us cannot believe in anything, and thus do nothing, while some of us feel like we better hedge our bets, just in case it might ALL be right … Which is why I avoid eating pork, check my horoscope daily, and face Mecca three times a day to say 10 Hail Marys ;)

  127. Oh, and just because someone is an atheist doesn’t mean the don’t believe in other supernatural things. Plenty of atheists believe in reincarnation, homeopathy, ghosts, and so forth. They just don’t believe in God (and usually that means they also don’t believe in angels, demons, Satan, and other biblical heavenly beings).

  128. I think that where an interloper, a non-skeptic, like TS goes wrong is that he doesn’t realize that in this community, the speaker is assumed to hold the position that they could be wrong.

    Which is another reason I love SitP. Its nice to be able to have a conversation with people who aren’t afraid to tell me when I’m wrong, but who will only tell me I’m wrong if they actually have information about the topic at hand. And I don’t have to hedge every comment with “of course, this is based on my best current evidence” in order for people to know that I’m expressing a belief that is conditional on logic and evidence.

  129. @writerdd: The way I ususally describe it is that theism deals specifically with belief in a higher power whereas gnosticism deals with knowledge of something. I’ve always considered myself an agnostic atheist and catch grief over it sometimes from those who want to dispute definitions.

  130. In retrospect, it sounds like woo to think that the drugs were responsible for these insights.

    Is it woo to attribute my current state of wakefulness to the caffeine I drank earlier this afternoon?

  131. @Blake Stacey:

    I think it would be, not necessarily woo, but strange, to think that you could not achieve wakefulness without caffeine. Other ways of achieving wakefulness include getting a good night’s sleep, getting decent exercise, or taking a power nap.

  132. Wytworm ( man is that picture disturbing for some reason ) said it best for me:

    ” How would it change my outlook either way regardless to whether there is a god or not? I can’t think of how my day-to-day would change either way. ”

    I’ll even take it one step further. Because if my moral compass , my everyday behavior, my sense of responsibility for my own actions are dependant on some supernatural being’s rules, whims or consequences then somebody who took care of me and cared for me really, really reallyyyyyyyyy f’ed up badly. And they didn’t.

    Ich also bin eine apatheist.

    I don’t think , ” what would God want.”
    I do what I think is good.
    Then I judge if I screwed up or not and make the necessary changes if I did. Ta-dah!

  133. I was in a debate with someone about atrocities in Kenya, and was shocked when he said that if god or the church said that killing heathens was part of God’s plan then because God said it, it was therefore moral.

    I still get surprised at how many have no internally originating sense of morality. For them it is imposed from without rather than flowing from within.

  134. There’s a TED video about what makes otherwise nice people into monsters. It’s worth watching.

    I think the first step is making your avatar look like a half-alien, half-vampire.

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