Saturday, 13 April 2013

You got your atheism in my skepticism

So ladies and gents, there has been a lot of talk online lately in the skeptic and atheist "communities" about the overlap between atheism and skepticism, especially where it relates to conferences, gatherings, pow-wows, group huddles and the like. So here is my 5 cents on the issues. (We retired the penny in Canada, so you get the whole 5 cents, suck it down.)

Atheism, in and of itself, is either a belief (there is no god(s)), or the denial of a proposition (I do not believe in your god(s), there is not sufficient evidence to support the hypothesis that a god(s) exists). In and of itself, this is no kind of reason to hold a conference, unless your goal is to hold a big ole mixer for non-believers, and although I'm as big a fan of blasphemous keg-stands as the next guy, this is about as useful as a tit on a bull in the grand scheme of things.

Although one could hold an atheist church meet, where everyone gets up and testifies about when and how they discovered there was no god, and we all read pages from the god delusion and god is not great, insult and talk bad about the believers, most of us want to leave the cult like aspects of religion behind, and so this doesn't happen either, ridiculous attempts at "Atheist congregations" non withstanding.

Therefore atheism conferences tend to focus on one of two things, firstly secularism, and how Atheists of various types can make their way in society, especially in societies which are largely religious. This is a noble goal in and of itself, but not particularly relevant to the discussion at hand.

The second focus is skepticism and critical thinking, and this is what I'd like to bitch about today. Skepticism in the end, is a methodology and a way of thinking, the attitude that all things need to be questioned, to get at the proverbial why and how. It's close friend, critical thinking, specifically the examination of why we think and believe the way we do, teams up with the former to become the gateway most of us take on our journey to atheism or at the very least agnosticism. The reason being, that if you didn't come to atheism by way of skepticism, then you are really just a believer, or the kind of person who makes atheism into it's own "religion". One can become an atheist simply because one's parents are, but this type of atheist is not necessarily skeptical.

When applied to religious beliefs the only end of the road for skeptics and critical thinkers is either weak or strong atheism, yes this is an assertion, others have proved it better then I, but suffice it to say, if you are still a believer in the bible, or the koran, or the baghavad gita etc. Then you either have not applied your skepticism to your beliefs or you have admitted to yourself that this is just a bunch of stuff someone wrote down and you're going to believe it despite the parts that don't jive with reality.

Skepticism is the opposite of faith, and this is where the overlap of atheism and skepticism comes into play. Atheists by and large reject the notion of believing in something without cause to do so, and with the exception of the "true believer" atheists, we came to this result through a skeptical approach. So that all being said, the reason why the atheists seem to want to take over skeptic conferences is simple, they already have. Skepticism applied to religious belief results in atheism, either the weak or the strong kind, so when believers come up on stage to proclaim that bigfoot, or UFOs, or the lizard people don't exist, it looks to everyone in the audience to be the pot calling the kettle black. I'm all for people believing in whatever they want, but you can't be a skeptic, a critical thinker and one of the faithful at the same time, some things are mutually exclusive. A psychic with a the tarot deck disproving bigfoot is not any more ridiculous than a bible thumping christian disproving el chupacabra.

This is why there is an overlap, and why so many atheism conferences deal with skepticism, because the spreading of skepticism means the spreading of atheism, that's not going to change. If you want to have a bunch of believers come to your conference, have at it, as far as I'm aware all atheist conferences welcome the faithful as long as they are well behaved, I see no reason why this shouldn't be true of skeptic conferences regardless of how many atheists show up. But don't throw someone who believes in an invisible sky wizard up in front of a bunch of skeptics and expect us to take him at face value, that wouldn't be very skeptical would it?

Stand up and fight!

No comments:

Post a Comment