Skepticism and doubt are priceless tools we all use every day in our own lives to great and worthwhile effect. They help us to avoid injuring ourselves or losing our way, and they help us to be financially, socially, and relationally responsible. They help us survive in a world of liars, disasters, and diverse other uncertainties.
Skepticism is what you use to fend off the latest get-rich-quick schemes or Nigerian email scams. It helps you get a second opinion from a doctor to catch anything that might have been missed. It makes us cautious at four-way stops to avoid a life-threatening wreck with the drunk driver that just flew past. It informs our decisions about who we leave our children with at day-care. It forces you to call the cops because of the suspicious-looking character entering your neighbor's backyard in the middle of the night. It calls into question the integrity of the guy or gal you met last week at the bar. It makes you look out the peephole in your door to see who could be knocking while you are alone in your house. It helps us realize that Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy don't really exist after all. It guides us as we vote for politicians and propositions. And for many of us, it helps us reject faith claims and religious view that are different than our own (even while we are usually unwilling to turn that same skepticism and doubt upon our own views).
After centuries of observation and paleontological excavation, we would be in agreement that as of yet there is no plausible reason to believe that unicorns exist due to the total lack of evidence available to us that would cause us to believe such a claim.I would expect that any one of us would meet with skepticism the claim that unicorns are real; I would also expect that after centuries of observation and paleontological excavation, we would be in agreement that as of yet there is no plausible reason to believe that unicorns exist due to the total lack of evidence available to us that would cause us to believe such a claim. In the same way, I would hope that any one of us would meet with skepticism the claim that any particular deity exists in opposition to the god-claims of thousands of other monotheistic and polytheistic religious systems, and that we would be in agreement that as of yet there is no plausible reason to believe in any one particular deity due to the total lack of evidence available to us that would cause us to believe such a claim. After all, that is exactly what we do when we reject the specific claims of the Mormon, the Jehovah's Witness, the Baptist, the Muslim, or the Hindu when evaluating their calls to believe.
Therefore, dear family member or close friend, please do not be offended when I use these invaluable tools of investigation in questioning or rejecting your particular faith claim or religious belief system. If I should use skepticism and doubt for simple day-to-day decisions throughout my life, as you also do, would it not be extremely important for me to use them in an even bigger way when confronted by grandiose claims of the paranormal or supernatural? Especially when there are multiple competing claims that are each threatening me with eternal torment for not believing this one, or that one, or that one? Regardless, my skepticism says nothing about your own intelligence or ability to reason, and it says everything about my desire to seek truth in a world filled with countless competing and contradictory claims of reality.
After all, where would we be if we should decide to suspend our skepticism for just the every day decisions we make in ordinary life? Our survival would be incredibly short-lived, indeed. Even more so, then, are we entreated to meet with rigid skepticism and critical analysis those claims that cause people to threaten, divide, conquer, or kill in the name of one unseen supernatural deity or another.
It's really not personal; it's just prudent.
Filed Under: Opinion