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Us Vs. Them

…the chief deficiency I see in the skeptical movement is in its polarization: Us vs. Them—the sense that we have a monopoly on the truth; that those other people who believe in all these stupid doctrines are morons; that if you’re sensible, you’ll listen to us; and if not, you’re beyond redemption. This is unconstructive. It does not get the message across. It condemns the skeptics to permanent minority status;… (The Demon Haunted World, p. 300)

I’ve seen this attitude a lot, even in myself. I hear many skeptics despair of ever convincing the credulous; that Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, Hitchens, et al. are preaching to the choir; that religious folk will never see the light.

My message for the beleaguered skeptic is to keep the faith. :) I am the beneficiary of their efforts. I am proof that people can change their minds when they hear the voice of reason. I don’t like contemplating what my life would be like if no one had bothered to make the case against my former beliefs.



  1. Lincoln Cannon said,

    January 17, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

    Skeptics, definitionally, are not keeping the faith. To the extent anyone is keeping the faith, she is not a skeptic. The better world will not be brought about by skepticism, atheism or any other ideological negation. A firm will toward and trust in the discovery and creation of that better world are essential.

    That is not to say there is no place for skepticism or atheism. I think there is. However, the “skeptic” and the “atheist”, which look at these labels as identities rather than tools, reveal as much of what they have not learned as what they have learned.

  2. Jonathan Blake said,

    January 17, 2008 @ 1:01 pm

    While I was using “faith” humorously, skeptics indeed must act in faith. The Lectures on Faith teach that all action is based on faith, which sentiment I agree with.

    If men were duly to consider themselves, and turn their thoughts and reflections to the operations of their own minds, they would readily discover that it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action in them; that without it, both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity, and all their exertions would cease, both physical and mental. (1:10)

    The skeptic has faith that truth is beneficial to humanity and that humanity is capable of drawing closer to the truth through the exercise of free thought and reason. Without this faith, skepticism is nihilism. In its aspect as champion of reason and judicious doubt, skepticism is as positive force to draw humanity to the truth. It is a necessary restraint on our human tendency to credulity and baseless hope.

    Atheism also cleanses the palate of dubious religious views. It brings us forward to a place where we can look at the world anew, without religious bias. Here too is a danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater by losing the treasure of human wisdom entrusted to religion while discarding its metaphysical dross.

    I see skepticism and atheism as positive ideologies. I liken them to the scalpel which cuts away the cancer but if applied without discretion could kill the patient.

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