Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Whachu doin’ here?

Sam is off getting penis reduction surgery today, so I’m taking over. We wish you a speedy short comfortable recovery, Sam!

We’re all here for a reason. I don’t mean that in an existential way. I mean here, at Skepchick, and other skeptical sites online, connecting and socializing with other skeptics.

I am not a “natural” skeptic.  I’m gullible to a fault. I’m naive as they come. Skepticism is my weapon against me getting myself killed.

It was only 7 years ago that I was afraid of ghosts. I prayed them away at night. I took herbal supplements. I believed Atkins worked (just not for me). I knew psychics existed. I never missed an episode of Crossing Over. I paid Chip Coffey to talk to my dead sister. I was pretty sure God created the universe in 7 days (but that days weren’t 24 hours yet). I thought the government did unimaginably evil experiments on aliens at Area 51. I took Communion. I thought smoking wasn’t really bad for you. I watched Oprah, for fuck’s sake! In other words, if you presented some crazy shit to me, I’d buy it… in bulk… and insist on paying you at least 10x your asking price.

Somehow, I escaped myself… and I ended up here. It was a bit of a hazy journey. And it was hard for me to clean out my brain – almost entirely – to start from scratch. But holy hell am I glad I did.

Like I said, though, I’m not here because it intrigues me… I’m here because I have to be. If I don’t stick with you people, I’m doomed. That it’s fascinating and I love it is just some really rewarding awesome-gravy.

What brings you to skepticism? Why are you part of this community? Why do you stick around?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. I’ve always been the guy who was interested in oddball things and didn’t necessarilly want to go with the crowd. As a kid and early teenager, that meant that I was into ghosts, UFOs, various shades of creationism (just not the standard young-earth kind), etc.

    By my mid-teens, it meant that I was evaluating even those claims more carefully, and by my early 20s, it meant that I was pretty much what people would now call a “skeptic.”

    It also meant that I was not receiving much in the way of invitations to parties – being the guy who is willing to call bullshit when someone starts talking about the wonders of transcendental meditation when you go to college in a town that attracts psuedo-hippy kids like shit draws flies is not a recipe for popularity.

    Now in my 30s, I stick around because it’s nice to know that there are others who are just as likely to call bullshit as I am. However, seeing many (perhaps most) self-described skeptics fail to be as critical about their current beliefs as their past beliefs (or other people’s beliefs) leaves me lurking on the outside most of the time.

  2. Oddly enough? Religion brought me directly to skepticism – in a way.
    Was raised “southern” baptist, but I also enjoyed reading books on mythology (greek, egyptian, norse, etc). By the time I was about 12 it extended into studying other religions as well. At that point I started noticing fallacies in all of them, as well as seeing contradictions and hypocrisies in those following them. It made me question why so many follow blindly. Later the study of science and logic caused me to pretty much question everything not just religion.

    I’m part of the community because my patience with bullshit has shriveled somewhat as I’ve gotten older, and it’s refreshing to see a community where those therein speak plainly and have (mostly) rational thought behind their opinions. It’s nice to see a group of people that – instead of reinforcing and enabling each others bullshit – they’re quite willing to call bullshit on each other.

    I lurk a number of blogs, but I find myself posting here more frequently than any other site. Mainly for the stuff above, but also that this blog tends to show more class and respect in the comments than other sites. Yes that opinion holds true even when factoring in the penis/boob references.

  3. Age and life wisdom, as much as anything else. I used to believe a lot more in my fellow humans when I was younger. I also was (dare I say it) much more gullible and naive. As I got older, I started getting more science in school, plus I was gradually becoming more disenchanted with Catholicism. I was also reading Isaac Asimov’s popular science books and essays, which were having an effect on me. Eventually, I began to understand that most of the “woo” couldn’t possibly be true.

    Remember, when I was in my early teens, the “Age of Aquarius,” part of the counter-culture which I personally regard as the beginning of the current New Age woo craze, was in full flower. For awhile there, everything was considered “possible,” whether it really was or not. Emotions were elevated, logic demoted.

    By the mid 80’s, my transformation was complete. I had realized that I didn’t believe a word of anyone’s religion and that critical thinking was necessary (if not vital) for success in life.

    I didn’t share that with anyone for a long, long time. Most of the places I lived were highly religulous and to admit that I wasn’t a fellow traveller would have brought lots of grief to my family. (The Amish aren’t the only ones that love shunning “heathen non-believers.”) The pressure to conform was hard enough on my family (especially my then-young children), so I mostly kept my peace until they were almost out of high school.

    These days, I have few illusions about the world around me. I try to use critical thinking as much as I can. I still hold out hope for the possibility of an FTL drive, though.

  4. Exactly what you said, Elyse. And I used the “who says how long a day is for God!” dodge myself.

    I’m here to avoid utter madness. That you people crack me up when I need it helps too.

  5. My story mirrors Elyse’s in a lot of ways.
    Catholic? Check. Believer in sCAM? Check. Government paranoia? Check. And so on.
    I was, however, mostly immune to general superstitions. And I have very nice memories of my folks pushing science-y goodness on my brother and I as kids.
    I started reading some popular science books in my early and mid 20’s. Ditched religion around that time as well. But then…
    …a few years ago, my wife turned me on to the Radiolab podcast and I was hooked. That’s how I found SGU, Skepchick, etc. And everything started falling into place. And after seeing the power of science and how much fear surrounds it, it makes me want to be an advocate to the best of my abilities. I love the community that surrounds this ‘movement’. As an artist I have been involved with community based art and have seen how powerful it can be in influencing people and in getting things done. And that’s why I feel so comfortable here. All the passions I have in my life can come together here, in this community. And hopefully I can help some folks along the path, just as you all have helped me.

  6. I find that being a skeptic is good for my wallet and my health. Actually, it can be good for the wallets and health of those around me too.

    Much more importantly, it gives me a reasonable and mature excuse for sitting in the pub for hours (SitP).

  7. I was always skeptical of SOME things. I ditched faith in religions and, eventually, in God(s), more than a decade ago. I always asked too many questions, always made too many connections, that sort of thing.

    BUT, I’m kinda like you, Elyse, in some ways. I didn’t always apply that across the board. I mean, 14 or so years ago I had to write a persuasive speech about a controversial topic as a big project in 8th grade. Everyone else spoke about abortion, suicide, drugs, etc. I spoke about the government coverup of aliens and UFOs. I mean, I used the tv show SIGHTINGS as a source…

    And it wasn’t even THAT long ago that I still thought there might be SOMETHING to hauntings. I didn’t have the knowledge necessary to know that people like the Ghost Hunters were misusing equipment and abusing the words “science” and “debunking.” I took them at their word, and while I didn’t think they were encountering the actual spirits of dead people, I thought it might be SOMETHING… “energy” or some such.

    On some levels, I’ll probably always WISH that the crazy paranormal stuff were real. It’d be such a fundamental change if we could somehow know, for reals, that a person was a psychic, or that the dead were just hanging around saying the sort of gibberish we hear via EVP. But the difference between the current me and the older, more gullible me is that now I understand just how much evidence would be required in order for any of those things to be “real.”

    So, to answer the AI, I’m here (and in the skeptical community in general) because I don’t like being in a situation where I lack the knowledge needed to know what’s real and what’s BS. I’m here because I hate being fooled, just like everyone else here :)

  8. I guess I was a pretty gullible person for a long time. Grew up very Catholic and I was almost addicted to the magical and supernatural. Also, my family adheres to all kinds of superstitions and woo brought over from Korea with them…I’ve even been bled when having headaches as a kid, which worked…my fingers hurt, so I noticed my headaches less.

    I started noticing as I got older that there are all kinds of predatory individuals and groups who do nothing but profit by taking advantage of this level of trusting behavior. My family got taken for lots of money at times, and I myself have been victimized too. That taught me some very difficult lessons, and it made me re-examine all those things I just took for granted as true. I guess I just hit a breaking point where I couldn’t take being made a fool of over-and-over again while simultaneously being driven to poverty.

    My mother is still a churchgoer, and my brother is quite religious, though liberal in his Christianity, and my father still chases all kinds of financial moonbeams and get-rich-quick schemes, so I guess I just got lucky. Besides, they all believe acupuncture really works…and I’m not fond of being pricked by pointy objects any more.

  9. Edited for blahblahblah.

    What I want is a community, even when it is hard to find, and this doesn’t really do all I want, but it is a part.

  10. As my screen name implies, I’m relatively new to skepticism. Before I found Penn & Teller’s”Bullshit!”, Penn’s radio show and George Hrab’s Geologic Podcast, I was completely enmeshed in woo woo.
    I believed that I was psychic. Many of my friends did too and regularly asked me to “see” for them. I actually did trance channeling and channeled my spirit guides. I was also a practicing Usui and Karuna Reiki Master.
    I was a regular attendee at our local Church of God and while I never spoke in Tongues, I frequently gave the interpretation during Tongues and Interpretations.
    For a time I was Wiccan and did spell casting and rituals.
    All of this was an attempt to make sense of the world around me. I explored Wicca, Christianity in all its forms, Buddhism and more.
    I wanted to be “special” and “unique” so I fell into the trap of believing I was psychic. I wanted to believe there was something bigger than me out there taking care of me, so I looked for a way to fill the “God Hole”.
    I got to the point that NO religion made sense so I tried making up my own belief structure. Eventually that failed too.
    That was about the time I found Bullshit. It was hard for me to face myself in the mirror once I realize that not only was I deluding myself, but I was deluding others as well. I’m still ashamed of that.
    The good thing is that skepticism, logic and science have saved me from myself. I am now regularly writing my own skepticism blog In September I will be giving a talk called Skepticism In Daily Life at DragonCon’s SkepicTrack
    Most of all, I am grateful to James “The Amazing” Randi who, through his kind words almost two years ago, allowed me to give myself permission to leave my woo-filled past behind.

  11. I’m a skeptic because I was a scientist from the word go and realized I wasn’t applying basic scientific method to all around me.

    I’m here because of Elyse & Rebecca whom I started following on Twitter somehow.

    I stay because I love reading intelligent articles by well-written people and the comments are great.

  12. I had an early introduction to critical thinking and skepticism. My earliest religious learning in Jewish schools was to question everything. Talmudic arguments were looked upon, at least in my shul, as a positive way to use one’s time. Unfortunately (for my parents), that also led me to question my belief in god.

    By my sophmore year in college, I was a full blown skeptic atheist. Then I found the scientific method.

    Why do I come to Skepchick? To come to a place where there are other women who don’t talk about quantum vibrations, aren’t reading the Secret and aren’t convinced that if they ate right for their blood type they would lose weight…

  13. I was pretty much raised to be one. Not overtly, but the way my parents responded to my questions and comments about the world was from a skeptical point of view, and I picked that up, except for a brief fling in college and the couple of years after when I tried hard to believe in various bits of woo and failed.

    My parents were subversively skeptical – they insisted on the truth of the Tooth Fairy and Santa. At the tender age of five, I remember arguing with them, trying to present then with various bits of evidence that said beings weren’t real (“From Santa” in my mom’s handwriting, my friend seeing her dad take the tooth from under her pillow, etc.) and my parents would always have a rebuttal for me. Drove me nuts at the time, but laid a foundation of questioning.

    Now I’m still interested in the various bits of woo, but from a different standpoint – although I’m a librarian, my MA is in cultural anthropology and I love ghost stories, urban legends, the folk process, and so on, but from a more academic point of view.

  14. I’ve always been pro-science and uncomfortable with supernatural explanations, but I never really had a group to identify with until I stumbled into skepticism after reading a Richard Dawkins book suggested by my wife a couple of years ago. That led to internet searches, rage over ID, books by Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, podcasts like the Skeptics Guide to the Universe, James Randi, Phil Plait, Rebecca Watson, and the Skepchicks website.

  15. My uncontrolled curiosity brought me to skepticism. I questioned everything my entire life. As I have stated in the past I’ve always been an Atheist, when ever I was forced to go to church I would question the information presented to me and they could never answer, well other than the standard “because that’s what god wanted” or some other version of that cop out. Yet if I took the time to look up other sources for things such as how the earth was created, and when science always had a detailed plausible answer. When I went through the Ghost/UFO phase I really wanted to believe but the more I looked into them the more I found a lack of any evidence to support the reality of either.

    I stay because the current trend of people that seem to latch on to one idea and refuse to accept that it may not be correct no matter what evidence is presented to the contrary. Such as the current immunization/autism panic, and the never ending list of conspiracy theories. I would rather be associated with free thinking, intelligent, people with the critical thinking skills that everyone is capable of if they would just expand their horizons… Oh and hot skeptical women are a plus too.

  16. @Expatria: I did a grade 9 research project in English class on spontaneous human combustion. Our teacher said we could pick any topic that was researchable, not something ridiculous like spontaneous human combustion. I, of course, took that as a challenge, and it was quite possible to research things like documented cases and various explanations. I figured it was researchable whether or not it was real. I think I got a pretty good grade – thank goodness for open-minded teachers!

    I’ve always been a skeptic, though that hasn’t always stopped me from being a bit gullible. I don’t think anyone has all the answers, so just about everything is at least a little plausible. But I never all-out believe anything, so I don’t get into too much trouble.

    What I am I doing here? Lurking…

  17. I too have been a skeptic since almost the beginning. My parents were not religious, but believed that a little religion wouldn’t kill me, so they sent me to church camp in the summer (in reality, it was their only option to send me to camp since we didn’t have any secular kids camps in the area). I even went to a Pentacostal one once (that was the only one that stood out as truly weird). As a teenager my feeling about religion morphed from “well, it’s a common theme around the world, so maybe something about it is true” to “people developed religion to try and explain the things they couldn’t… and eventually to control people”. I read “Conversations with God” and thought that it would be nice if that’s what were really taught in church, but it wasn’t. gradually, I just renounced it all. I realized that there were so many different versions of the same story, that if there really were a god, he should just get his ass down here and sort it all out. And since it hadn’t happened, it couldn’t be real.

    I think that most religious people are there mainly for the community and because they have some sense that they should believe in something.. they treat it more as a culture than a religion, and sometimes I can see their point. I often wish there was a “church” for atheists.. a gathering place to get together, have potlucks, weekly lectures about skepticism, send the kids to Sunday Atheist School… (I know, most people will tell me that there are pub nights for this, but I live in a bible belt up here…)

    Anyway, I’m here because it keeps me sane to know that there are other reasonable people out there. I’m a terrible debater, and when someone tries to argue a point with me, I often panic and completely forget my argument, so reading the articles and comments here helps to stick the atheistic arguments into my head. I always run into someone who comes at me with some creationist debate that I’ve never heard of and can’t rebut, so I like to come here to read about what’s being said so that I can improve my own side of the debate.

  18. *shrug* I grew up with parents who were disenchanted with the Catholic Church.

    My mother’s pregnancies were more and more stressful with each one (she even miscarried once). Upon having a tubal ligation after me, her parish priest informed her she was no longer welcome. (Okay – they said “excommunicated”, but I don’t think they ever formalized it.)

    So my parents raised me just to believe in being a good person, without the necessity of religious teachings. As such, I grew up with what I think is a healthy moral code. And I observed, and I learned, over and over again – it’s my nature.

    So I really hate when people read an article endorsing woo-type behaviour and try to tell me how “it’s true!”. Perhaps it’s true in a philosophical sense, in that it’s your truth based on your experience. But if you want to talk about scientifically tested truth? Nyuh uh.

    (My recent favorite – some woman advised my cousin to put colloidal silver on her 7 month old infant’s rash, which was caused by an allergic reaction – it involved broken skin. ‘Cause she and her family ingest and apply colloidal silver all the time and they’re so healthy! A smack-down occurred.)

    Observe, test and learn (within reason). It’s human curiosity quantified.

  19. on my twitterstream just now:

    skepblogs AI: Whachu doin’ here?

    FakeAPStylebook When considering whether to write in dialect, please don’t.

    As to your AI: I’ve got authority issues, am terribly opinionated, and like to think I’m always right.I also have an insatiable appetite for knowledge in an incredible range of subjects. In order not to be regarded as an idiot as well as the pain in the ass people think I am for spouting my opinion whenever I can, I have to constantly check that what I say is in fact based on fact, or at least sound reasoning.

    This does not exactly solve the issue of being a pain in the ass, it does at least give me the impression I was being a right pain in the ass.

    This will have to do.

  20. After playing “happy, nice, ok with everyone elses beliefs, we can’t criticise religion but goodness isn’t that nuts but maybe God *does* exist” for most of my life, in order to really understand xtianity, I started listening to a series of xtian podcasts about “Why people don’t believe” where the pastor tried to convince people that their concerns about religion were rubbish.

    Unfortunately, all he convinced me of was that this smart, charismatic, personable young man was spending his life misrepresenting others combining it with evidence he *must* have known was tenuous and convincing others he was right.

    That night I went home and told my long-suffering athiest-scientist partner I’d had a serious revelation about God… and it was that he didn’t exist.

    6 months later, we’re going to the Athiest Convention Down Under in two weeks and I find myself getting into arguments about the validity of chiro with a friend who’s studying it at the moment. And then actually going home and looking on PubMed for articles about topic’s he’s mentioned. I think I’m converted.

  21. @Chasmosaur: Don’t you know? Things are always bigger in Texas…

    Now, while it may be fun to think about Sam’s penis, that’s not what brings me here. I’m here because, like Elyse, I’m a bit guillible. I used to believe in a lot of paranormal stuff…because they were using science to find it-the EM detector, the video of Big Foot, eye witnesses of UFO’s, and pictures of Nessie. But, now I’ve learned what is science, what is sort of science, and what wishes it were science. And the lines are blurry. So, I’m leaning on the sort of science of the wisdom of crowds, and figuring out for myself, how to tell the difference between science-based medicine, and crap-based medicine.

  22. I started on a very similar path as Elyse, though it was more a knee-jerk reaction to the Southern Baptist bs spewed at me almost daily in my schools and extended family. I dabbled in most woo, though could never *quite* convince myself that it actually worked. Somewhere around the time a well meaning friend told me that I was wrong to visit a doctor about my night terrors since I was really dampening my psychic powers, I decided that woo could be dangerous . So I changed my approach: if I wanted to believe woo, it needed to pass a few tests first. I’ve become more rational as time has passed.

    I stay for the snark. Actually, I stay because I work in one what seems to be the most religion-heavy professions, and I need something to counteract all the annoying crap I encounter daily. You guys are my lime sherbert.

    Btw, turns out I am not psychic. Just have an ongoing mineral deficiency. One little supplement, and I no longer hallucinate dead people. Science, it rocks.

  23. I always thought I was an informed well read rational skeptical sort who just happened to believe Jesus was the one true god. (Now I realize my belief was an artifact of adolescent insecurities and group think, but that’s another story.). About five years ago I was confronted with a relative who went to a Laetrile Clinic for breast cancer treatment. I knew this was crap but I started doing some reading and that reading led to more reading which led to some self examination of my religious beliefs. In the end the religion did not hold up to the light of a little rational assessment. I came upon Skepchick from SGU and JREF and stuck around for the company and quality of discussion.

  24. My parents were not religious, but I was dragged along by various Catholic and Lutheran Aunts and I was always disgusted by the hypocritical nature of religion. You can do practically whatever you want during the week and suddenly on Sunday you’re forgiven. The molesting Uncle was also a Deacon in his church. The Aunt who smoked pot at night worked in the church office during the day. The baptist church down the street offered free hot dogs every week and helicopter rides for x-amount of consistent Sunday school attendance. The Aunt’s sister who was actually a Sister spent her vacations drinking and smoking.

    Because I could see the bullshit in religion I could see the bullshit in other areas. Except when it comes to the spectacular cleaning properties of the vacuums demonstrated in the privacy of my own home. I always seem to fall for those and it gets rather expensive.

    Specifically got here by knowing one of the staff and following what she’s interested in.

  25. I think it’s because I always wanted to know more about things. I was curious how everything worked, and a lot of woo and religion really fall apart under scrutiny. I didn’t believe in ghosts because there was no proof other than the word of people who were in a dark already creepy place when they saw them.

    I didn’t believe in psychics because they never showed off their powers in ways they couldn’t fix (which, I know now they do occasionally to the James Randi foundation, but it never works then…), I was canny enough to read about herbal supplements, etc.

    So it’s not so much that I’m a natural skeptic as it is I’m naturally curious about how things work, which happens to work well as a form of skepticism as it lets you pick holes in things that are bunk.

  26. I was always a fairly skeptical thinker, but not all-the-way skeptical. I was raised as a Christian in a fairly liberal church, and at the age of 15, my dad told me that it was time for me to explore the world and come to terms with my faith. He knew I’d come back to the fold, but wanted me to know that this was the right decision.

    Whoops. The more I saw, the less I could accept and believe. I started by exposing myself to other philosophies, and eventually found them all to not make sense to me. It took a long time to accept the way I actually saw the world, but the more I found out about scientific thought and the way these things could be tested and understood, the more I replaced my childhood wonder at God’s awesome power with a more legitimate wonder at the incredible natural world we live in.

    The process of questioning and ultimately rejecting my faith honed the skeptical part of my mind some, and I began to question the things I’d always assumed or took for granted, and I’m infinitely glad I did. I love seeing the world through as clear eyes as I can.

  27. @Ashley.Ele: I had similar experiences growing up with strange dreams. Some people took them to be meaningful and I liked the attention. I used to read tarot and such to impress these people. As an adult I realize that I just suffer from regular insomnia and have REALLY weird dreams due to poor sleep cycles.

    For instance, the other night I dreamed I was inside of a co-ed locker room and after we all showered and stood around getting dressed John Cleese gave a lecture on how to do a bad impression of John Cleese. Then Scottish poet Robert Burns gave a lecture on how to survive in the Australian outback. I’m really not sure how I would have interpreted this one back in the day.

  28. I was always interested in science. In elementary school we’d go to the school library once a week. While everyone else was checking out Goosebumps novels I’d be checking out books on either science or Greek mythology.

    However I didn’t really start reading non-fiction books until someone online recommended that I read Sam Harris’s The End Of Faith. So i did and discovered that I really like reading non-fiction. So I started reading more of it. Then I bought an iPod and decided to look up some podcasts and see what they were all about. So i immediately checked the science section and came across the SGU and some others and just got hooked.

  29. @Joshua: Thanks. Now I have “Up Where We Belong” playing over and over in my head. I hate you so much right now.

    Anyway, to answer the AI, I was also lost in a world of woo from early on, but it was mostly of my own making. I grew up in a reform Jewish family with an agnostic, scientific father and an emotional, literary mother. Mom wanted to believe in the stories she had read and heard in temple, so she filled my head with them as a child, and I believed. I think my skepticism was always there under the surface, but, like Elyse, my personality is such that I am gullible to a fault, so it left me open to suggestion. I remember my dad always admonishing me for believing too easily the claims of people I hardly knew. I would just laugh and say, “You’re such a cynic, dad.” But, he was right in the end, most of the time.

    About 15 years ago I was at a low point in my life (living alone, no steady job and no sex for a while) and a beautiful woman approached me with an offer to help me go into business for myself. I was seduced by her smile and her (seemingly) sincere offer of help and went down the rabbit hole of network marketing for 3 years, chasing after a dream that would never become reality. When I finally came out of the haze I was heavily in debt and without a real business to speak of, so I cut and ran. It was a real eye-opener for me. I began investigating the group that we had called “the business” and found out some very disturbing things. This lead me to investigate many other claims and products that I had previously thought were beyond reproach. I found that this process was very liberating and made me feel more in control.

    As I progressed in my skepticism I eventually threw of the bindings of god belief and have never felt so free. I began reading books by atheist authors, going back to the scientific method to understand things, and having discussions with people of a like mind who were, unfortunately, few and far between in my small circle of friends. So I turned to the intertoobs and found youz guyz (and gals). It was a gradual process, but now I can’t imagine going back.

    I love the freedom of the internet and a blog like Skepchick. Keep on truckin’, ladies and gents!

  30. I have always been somewhat skeptical of things, although in a dumb teenager kind of way. I was really into science and all (which is why I thought all sorts of supernatural woos were misguided), but because the school I went to was religious (a US missionary school in Venezuela), I held various views which I find myself quiet weirded out when remembering it, including Creationism, which ironically enough, is woo. Trust me, you wouldn’t have wanted to argue with creationist me, my arguments were really dumb. Anyways, I didn’t subscribe myself to as much religious stuff as my classmates. Because I was into science, I thought that things like religion and evolution were well worth looking into. After all, if literal Christianity is right, then there was nothing to worry about. Well, in three months I changed my mind on the whole religion thing, pretty much. Plus, I got to find blogs on science and skepticism (badastronomy rules! of course, skepchick rules too :) ) which entertains me ’til this day.

    Say, did anyone get weirded out by changes in perspective? Suddenly, having the cross as Christianity’s symbol didn’t seem right to me because it was a torture device. Arguments for creationism seemed extremely illogical. Etc etc.

  31. Good question!

    Unlike most of the people here I was not raised in a religious family. My family did believe in every piece of woo out there though. From astrology to Zen with everything in between. You just assume all those things are true because that’s what your family think. You don’t think your parents and grandparents are liars. (I still don’t, I just think they are misinformed).

    I think I just figured out it was rubbish as I grew up. I remember ‘discovering’ the Forer effect as a kid, when I read out the ‘wrong’ horoscope to my mum to see if she could tell the difference. Obviously she couldn’t and thought it was an accurate description of her personality.

    Then as a teenager during my rebellious phase, I became a Christian. Pretty funny huh? I became disillusioned with Christianity when I became interested in evolution. Not because of the obvious, I easily reconciled the two. But because the rest of the community ostracised me for it. I became frustrated because they had this bizarre idea of EVILution and would not listen to me when I tried to explain it.

    The more education I got, the more of a skeptic I became. Now I’m a skeptastic atheist feminist commie and I love it. I love learning. I love finding out the truth. I love making decisions based on evidence. I love not being scared of displeasing the sky bully or having a native american spirit guide watching me pee. Skeptics FTW.

  32. Not much of a story for me. I’ve always been pretty scientifically minded. My pet issue the last few years has been concern about scientific and statistical literacy of the general public and the next generation of kids. So far, I’ve been a lazy do-nothing on that front. This is one of my initial baby steps towards participating in some kind of community.

    What community? There’s a community?

  33. Oddly enough, I was part of a fundamentalist religion that taught me critical thinking skills – they just created social barriers to applying them against their religion, but I could easily tell you why every other religion was just a fairy tale at age 8. So, for many things, I was a “natural” skeptic.

    Unfortunately for them, my (at the time, undiagnosed) Asperger’s rendered the social pressure somewhat moot… and then I spent a few years “trying out” other religions to see if any of the fairy tales had substance beneath. Despite an honest effort, and many years of constant prayer to “find God”, I didn’t.

    I revealed this to a dear friend of mine, who then explained that she, too, was an atheist. She decided to mentor me in applying my skepticism in a structured manner, and thus helped me disabuse myself of some silly notions (I believed in homeopathy), bigoted ideals (I used to believe gay people were ill), and misguided distrust (I didn’t understand how scientific consensus worked).

    I’m a member of this community for two reasons: I find it enjoyable, and I want to support other female skeptics — after all, I owe at least one a great deal.

  34. It was fun to read everyone’s stories. I’m here because I love online communities where I get to think and write about my thought process without being considered “annoying” like I often am in real life. Specifically I found Skepchick through the SGU. The SGU I found while I was moving into my apartment. I was all by myself and going a little crazy so I tried to find science podcasts. Once I listened to the SGU I found out I’d been a skeptic for years. I felt like I found a group with the same worldview and interests that I had. It felt like such a relief to have an outlet. Rebecca quickly became my favorite- I loved her sense of humor- and so I checked out Skepchick.

  35. I actually believed in stuff like psychic phenomena at one point, was quite religious (Methodist, at least a fairly liberal bunch, sadly a rare bunch in modern Christianity). In HS I had an “Aha!” moment when I read an OMNI interview of James Randi and said, “Hey! It’s all b*llsh*t!”

    Then I went into science & mathematics, and all was lost. All downhill from there. Tragic story of a boy gone astray.

    My brother’s gay, and he’s more religious than I am. Go figure …

    But why I am posting to this forum? A lot of conventional skepticism came to bore me. Too dogmatic, as holier-than-thou as most Christians. This bunch is snarky, just like me, and willing to laugh at itself.

  36. I’m a skeptic for more or less the same reason as Elyse, that is, as a defense mechanism. During my first year of college (a really, really hippy-ish one) I took entirely too many hallucinogens and ended up believing in things like the ancient race of giants responsible for megaliths, the aliens who helped out building the pyramids, the usefulness of Aleister Crowley magick rituals, the global freemasonic conspiracy, “9/11 was an inside job”, etc. etc. etc. For me, the cure for all that was to invest myself into a wholehearted sort of skepticism, a universal application of doubt. It worked like a charm, I didn’t go crazy, I spent the remainder of my education studying lovely things like literature and art instead of new age David Icke nonsense, and I’ve since been able to invest my imagination into much more interesting things, and can do so without carried away.

    This site, in particular, is just more fun than other skepticism sites.

  37. I have had a life long interest in science, but that didn’t prevent me from believing in the paranormal and UFOs as a teenager nor giving a talk in year 8 on spontaneous human combustion.

    I did my best growing up in a religious family to embrace religion but when at age 11 you debate the elders on creationism and tell them that it’s wrong and evolution is right, there really isn’t any hope for you. Still that didn’t stop me from trying out paganism before becoming atheist. I guess I needed to prove to myself that it wasn’t just Christianity I had issues with.

    It took me until last year to find the skeptical movement. I didn’t know that there was a whole movement out there who thought the way I did about things. I’m here to embrace that movement and increase my knowledge.

  38. I was a Christian (Southern Baptist) as a teenager, an agnostic in my early 20s, a Baha’i in my late 20s and early 30s and finally became agnostic again about 5 1/2 years ago. Being torn between my spiritual, idealistic side and my skeptical side finally caused me to invent my own philosophy to replace religion and free me from its influence once and for all: Honorable Skepticism. Thus my two sides were reconciled.

  39. Issac Asimov. I was a huge science fiction nerd and Asimov’s stories spoke too me. Then when I was about 10 I started wondering if god created everything what created god? And Asimov spoke to that.

    Because you all make me happy.

    I feel like I belong.

  40. I’ve been an atheist pretty much since I was a child, despite my mom’s attempts to get me involved in her anglican church. I was a sunday school teacher and an alter boy. Seriously.

    I did fall prey to the ‘natural is better’ ideology. You know, eating organic food, going to a naturopath and an osteopath, and avoiding taking medication, to name a few.

    I fully arrived at skepticism after a major car accident 3 years ago. My naturopath brought a care package in the hospital full of things to help control my pain. Obviously I found out quickly that these remedies did nothing for actual pain and immediately asked for my percocet back. I still need a lot of pain medication daily and can’t imagine having any quality of life without it.

    My boyfriend got me listening to the SGU podcasts around that time, and I loved what Rebecca added to the show, so I stumbled over here and lurked for a few years before joining in.

    I stay around because I enjoy the smarts and the wit, and I like being part of a community. It’s a lonely world out there, combating the woo by yourself!

  41. Skeptics Guide to the Universe brought me to the movement of skepticism as it is so called. I didn’t know there was a skeptical movement until the SGU. When I listened I simply thought … “cool … I’m in.”

    But my profession as a doc, my love of science and history in general, and my understanding of statistics via graduate school in experimental psychology molded the way I view my world prior to this.

    The hardest, and I mean the HARDEST thing for me to let go of though was my superstitious beliefs as a rapid, rapid Philadelphia born and raised sport’s fan. It sucked acknowledging that if I sat in a specific seat I couldn’t cause an interception or a homerun. Truth be told … shhh … part of me thinks I still can.

  42. … as an addendum I guess my first skeptical thought occured wayyyyy back in Hebrew school when I was taught that God created the world in seven days. I remember thinking something like … “ok … they CAN’T mean that literally!!!!”

  43. I must admit, the only religion that ever made any sense to me was the True Faith of the Sacred Cat.

    It has two basic tenets: 1) the ruler of the Universe exists in the corporeal form of a sacred green cat that resides in a temple on the planet Mars; and 2) anyone who will believe that will believe anything [ I have a bridge for sale…].

    Hanging out with Da Skeptics does let me avoid being blasted with woo, which enables me to occasionally talk to friends who believe in woo without biting their heads off.

  44. I had a long journey to get here. For a long-time (since I was about 11 or so) I was an orthodox Jew. I very briefly flirted with Young Earth Creationism, but pretty strongly rejected that by 9th grade. At that point, I developed a fair number of skeptical tendencies (YECism, homeopathy, astrology and UFOs were all favorite targets) but I sort of believed that my religion had a semi-logical basis for it. By the time I got to college I was more willing to accept that I believed for inherently emotional reasons even as I spent time reading a lot of skeptical material. I had more and more issues with the clash between my emotional pull and what evidence and logic showed. I always had had major issues with theodicy and seeing a major natural disaster on live TV (the 2004 tsunami) finally pushed me more or less over the edge, with both the logic too compelling to reject and the fundamental emotional basis seriously undermined. So I transitioned to some sort of agnostic and then more agnostic leaning atheist, although some days the emotional pull still pulls me back in the other direction.

    Incidentally, one thing I’ve noticed: It is a heck of a lot more rhetorically effective to argue against YECism to an Orthodox Jew when one is an Orthodox Jew. Otherwise, it is much more likely to get dismissed. I suspect that this is true for other religions with YEC tendencies also.

  45. I enjoyed learning about logical fallacies as well as religion and found myself becoming an atheist through applying said logic. My belief in god wasn’t really strong nor was I religious.

    I found it fascinating that I and others could believe in something so obviously false. That and, when you challenge someone on that belief, how many fallacies and rationalizations they’re willing to employ instead of just changing they’re minds.

    So I thought to myself, what else could be wrong? How else can I examine things? I always loved science and my love and appreciation for it only grew as I learned more.

    This was all only two years ago so it’s still a little fresh, but I don’t think time will tear away my wonder of human actions or the incredible universe in which we live.

  46. I started reading skeptical materials (CSICOP) back in the 80s. I had been fleaced by snake oil sales people and I knew there was a better way. While crack pot cures and medicines are my top concern in skepticism, I enjoy keeping up to date on the other bs out there. I especially enjoy Skepchick for its healthy balance between hard science and a great sense of humor.

  47. I was always interested in science (big dinosaur nerd). In middle school i watched a horribly one sided moon hoax documentary on TV and for the next couple years if you’d have asked me I’d have said it was probably a hoax I mean where were the stars?!?! Any way I was watching the discovery channel a few years later and say a debunking of some of the things elements of the moon hoax and realized at that point i had been pretty gullible.

    A few years later I was looking into wicca as a brief stint at trying to find a religion I could accept (I never did find one….) when i saw a section in one book on aura reading. I was pretty sure I’d seen that torn apart somewhere but couldn’t remember exactly so I googled a bit. That brought me to the JREF and then the skeptics guide and things took off from there.

    So two years later I like to think I’ve learned a lot and am far better prepared the next time someone proposes something fantastical.

  48. This is where the cool people are.

    I was a closet skeptic from day 1 but for most of my life I tried to convince myself that I was a Catholic. Life Without God Is Meaningless and all that. The “wishful thinking” fallacy, is that what it’s called?

    In my mid-forties, not too many years ago (a bit late in life for a major paradigm shift, perhaps), I finally got tired of pretending like it wasn’t all nonsense. All the arguments against religion you all know perfectly well. As an engineer, I’m all about evidence and rational methodology. I finally decided, if God is out there and wants me to know about him, surely he has the power give me some evidence for his own existence, instead of endless evidence to the contrary. Until that happens, count me out. And don’t even get me started on all the ridiculousitudes in the Bible.

    The weight of all the, shall we say bovine turdocity finally fell from my eyes like flies on rice. Or something, it’s a little too early in the day for good metaphors. I’m an atheist and I’m not going back.

  49. Just a few years ago I accepted everything, and I was a mess. I was generally scared of the unknown to the point of having trouble falling asleep at night and walking from my car to the house in the middle of the night. You could say skepticism saved my life.

    For example:
    I’ve had one hell of a bad year, and I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t made me depressed at times. However, at no point have I been suicidal, unlike at similar points in my past before skepticism. Everything I know and everything I’ve read tells me that we have this one life and that’s it. I’m not ready to check out because frankly, there’s no home to take my ball to. Being a skeptic led me to that conclusion, and frankly, I’m much better for it.

  50. Several years ago, I was online looking for science/nerdy podcasts to listen to while I cleaned. I landed upon SGU, and was hooked. Then I discovered Skepchick.

    It all kind of clicked, really. I’m from a pretty conservative, religious small town, but my family wasn’t particularly religious. Sure, god was mentioned, we went to Sunday School, and I occasionally went to church with friends, but it wasn’t really a big deal, especially since I don’t remember my parents going to church outside of funerals and marriages (though my mom apparently goes regularly now). I had friends that were super into the religious thing, but it wasn’t really ever made into a big deal by family, though I do remember once my older half-sister talking about god and wondering how people could be atheists. I was pretty young, but I remember thinking, “Why does this seem weird to you, sister? This makes sense to me!” But I wasn’t really able to voice or articulate that, so I kept mum. I felt almost embarrassed about it, I think. Like an odd duck.

    But because it wasn’t a big deal in my family, really, I didn’t really think about it fully until well into adult-hood.

    I also was never all that into woo-things. Most of it seemed silly. Ghosts, horoscopes…I never believed in any of it. I felt a bit out of place sometimes, but tended to keep mum.

    (This is also similar to how I felt regarding LGBT stuff when I was younger; the confusion or disdaine some people voiced never felt right to me, but I was unable to voice why this was until I moved away and met new people. Then it all clicked.)

    But it wasn’t until I found SGU and then Skepchick that it all clicked. It was then that I was able to articulate why all this gobbly-gook never felt right.

    I get the feeling I was never made for small town life.

  51. I was raised by religious fanatics. I was brainwashed. I was treated dismissively because I am female. My father told me he didn’t want to pay for my education because I was a girl, and therefore lacked the discipline and mental toughness to be successful in university (boy was he wrong!)

    Once, during some travels, my hotel-resort was held up. I was robbed by guerrillas with AK47s. I was terrified, and I remember wondering if I would die and go to hell. This was AFTER I had quit fundamentalism. I felt so angry that I had been so indoctrinated, that our scary experience had to be so much worse than it actually was because of some BS I was told when I was a child.

    I have suffered from depression and crippling anxiety since my early teens. I had an eating disorder. I was told various things: that I needed to get right with God, that I was being attacked by demons, that I needed to repent of my sins of rebelliousness and pride. When I was a teenager, I went to meetings where faith healers prayed over people and tried to exorcise their cancers. Later, I tried Reiki, homeopathy, and healing touch recommended by some well-meaning friends. I also saw some good doctors, and did some cognitive behavioural therapy, which was much more helpful. All this happened over the course of 15 years. I guess the breakthrough happened when I went to a psychiatrist who prescribed me Paxil. My life changed almost overnight. No bad spirits, no bad energy, no personal failure, no lack of mental discipline. Just something that was corrected in under a week with a low dose SSRI. I’m such a happier person.

    I love the Skepchick blog. The community seems really welcoming. The comments are of a very high quality, and as I think someone else already pointed out, the commenters don’t get nasty like they do on other skeptical blogs. You guys rock!

  52. I had to give my answer some thought and hmm… it’s quite simple, really. Without you guys, or other skeptic blogs, I wouldn’t be able to see trough the bunk. You’re like… my reality gauge! (And I thank you for it!)

    I am not a “natural” skeptic. I’m gullible to a fault. I’m naive as they come. Skepticism is my weapon against me getting myself killed.

    I can totally relate to that!! lol

  53. I’m with Elyse and a number of other commenters here. I can be quite gullilble naturally, though I often try and pass it off as “giving people the benefit of the doubt.” God, UFOs, I was all there until I began to put the scientific method i was learning in school to real life. Much thanks to Sagan’s “Demon-Haunted World” for that.

    I came to organized skepticism through Phil Plait’s blog, and it gives me yet another chance to rock out with science outreach. I love Skepchick for the insightful articles, the snark, and the thoughtful commenters!

  54. These are wonderful!

    I’m really happy to know I’m not the only gullible skeptic out there! I always feel like I’m surrounded by people who were questioning everything while still in the womb and telling their parents at age 4 that they’re atheists.

    Naive hugs all around! I mean it!

  55. I am a born, or at least trained believer. Did the Catholic/Pentacostal thing for almost 30 yrs, then the Witch thing for 12 yrs. At about age 39 I began to slowly fall away from religious beliefs and the garbage, especially Wicca, espoused. Just after my 40th birthday I found Penn & Teller’s Bullshit and the rest as they say is history.
    I still find that I am very gullible. I have to try and catch myself mentally. Either due to my inborn (limited) abilities or my early childhood training, I am not, nor will I probably ever really be, a critical thinker.
    No, I don’t find skepticism as satisfying (as my religious woo woo beliefs).
    No, I would not go back if I could (the mental gymnastics I would have to do).
    “Satisfying” or not, skepticism (critical thinking), is the best way we (as a species) have for living and learning.
    I’m not going to give up my ability to think again, even if it’s up hill all the way, just for an illusion of satisfaction. Hemlock might taste good but it’s still poison.

  56. I was born a skeptic. I am a scientist and I am here because there is a lot of good information on this site. I also need ammo to shoot down my friends who pray it way, think yoga cures everything, take herbs, wont vaccinate their kids, etc… I can’t just call them idiots because then they would not want to hang out with me. Gentle education and a smile seems to work better. But they all cling to their magic when they are scared.

  57. @Izzy: I have a cat named Isadora, known as Izzy. As she is very bright and loves walking on the computer keyboard [as well as dialing my phone], I was somewhat disconcerted the first time I saw your name/photo. But I am a skeptic, yes I am. So please tell me you’re not my cat.

  58. While being a skeptic for a really long time, it wasn’t until about four or so years ago when i started getting involved in the skeptic circles.

    It truly was amazing when I first realized there were many many other people like myself, and the connections with most of these people have enhanced my life so much. Listening to podcasts like Point Of Inquiry, or SGU, or Skeptic Zone (among others) almost feel like a weekly comfort food for my mind. If that makes sense. After spending 2/3rd’s of my life living as though I had to bite my tongue due to being in a small-town and getting picked on, I now feel like I can be myself in all my sciency & geeky glory. And that is why I choose to be part of this community.

    Okay, time for me to end this before it comes off as a total sappy love-letter here.

  59. I’ve really always been a bit of skeptic, and ended up a “militant” atheist with my enrollment in Catholic School. Helps me deal with the BS I get.

  60. Wow do I wish I saw this one closer to the time it was actually posted.

    My parents are just about the least skeptical people on the planet. My father is a member of Rush Limbaugh’s Brainless Army, a climate change denier, and an Obama “birther.” My mother is a religious nut, believes in psychics, and is expecting an eternal reward for all of the “suffering” she’s experienced in life.

    Sadly, I was the same way for a decent percentage of my life, up until I had that glorious “oh shit” moment at age (this is just a guess) 14, wherein I realized that my parent weren’t perfect, and that a lot of stuff they were talking about just didn’t jive. I guess the little logic demon in my ear finally woke up right around then and started screaming at me for being so stupid. Of course, I was quite stupid. For a few years, I told the little logic demon to shut up. I had my doubts, though, and decided to go to a Catholic college, just to restore my faith.

    Big mistake.

    Going to a Catholic college really woke me up. I saw people behaving in the most un-Christian, immoral ways; people who subsequently headed off to church every Sunday to be “forgiven,” then went back to their debauchery for another week. I started doing research about everything before I made a decision about anything, and my life’s gotten better because of it. I became an agnostic, eventually an atheist, and the world got a little brighter.

    Then, one day sitting bored at work (my job was to upgrade Windows 2000 computers to XP… there was a lot of downtime) I stumbled across Bad Astronomy. Best. Day. Ever. It rekindled my long-forgotten interesting in astronomy, plus it introduced me to skepticism. There are other people like me! Didn’t see that coming.

    I’m terrible at concluding stories, but let’s just say I’m happy to be here.

  61. Can’t remember how old I was but when I was a kid my dad called me to the tv.

    “You should check this guy out, he’s a magician but he’s different”.

    It was Randi on the tonight show talking about psychic surgery. I knew enough about magic to not be that impressed with the gag but I was stunned that anyone would believe that crap.

    Thanks to Randi and my dad for showing me that you can look at the world without just accepting everything you hear. And for warning me that some were actually out to rip me off.

  62. I heard It Ain’t Necessarily So when I was twelve. I read Why I Am Not A Christian and The Rubaiyat somewhere in my teens. Decades of soaking in it didn’t convert me to Methodism.

    As I grew older and less surprised by the behavior of my fellow men, I became reconciled to my own oddity. I went into the closet.

    Then, at sixty, I came out. Now, I consider myself a militant, prosyletizing atheist pacifist.

  63. After my Dad died in 2000, Crossing Over came on TV and I’d never heard of psychics talking to the dead in modern times. That show became an obsession for me. I couldn’t figure out how he did it. How did he know about that lady’s hats??? Is it real? Is he real? Could he be fake? Can I afford a meeting to talk to my Dad?

    Then, years later, I made friends with a man on the internet and we had a close friendship. After 6 months of talking and getting to know him, he scoffs and laughs at me when I say how much I love fossils because it’s like holding a piece of ancient, millions of years old history. He said “Millions?? Where do you get that? The Earth is only 6000 years old.” WTF??? I’d never heard of creationists nor realized something so ignorant could exist. Trying to refute these silly ideas brought me to skepticism as well as full blown atheism.

    I’m so thankful for John Edward and that backward Creationist because without them, I might still be ignorant too.

    I’m here because it’s so very cool to find other women who find this malarkey compelling and amusing and horrifying and as frustrating as I do.

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