Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I'd rather you think than not believe

It is definitely true that we all hold on to our own irrational beliefs - that applies to even the most seasoned skeptic. I once believed that if I could simply show people the evidence, they'd change their mind (that's pretty crazy!) - and I still try, to this day, to present the evidence to people in hopes of them seeing the light.

The point of this posting is more out of frustration - simply because you're an atheist doesn't mean we're anything alike. On top of that, being an atheist doesn't make you a skeptic. It makes you an atheist - and as they say, atheism is nothing to believe in. It's a non-belief - we simply share a lack of something.

As a fairly outspoken atheist in my social circles, I'm often confronted by "believers" or "friended" by other atheists and I'll, shamefully, admit that I'm not, often, impressed by the beliefs (or non-belief, in a sense) of some atheists. And, for that, I must explain.

Atheism, as I've mentioned many times is a non-belief - a lack of belief - and hardly suggests a true commonality. With atheism, there are no dogmatic beliefs, there is no doctrine and there are no core elements. We simply don't believe that a god or gods exist.

I would like to associate "atheism" with the idea of real "truth" and rational thought. I would like it to be the hallmark of properly applied skepticism but it is far from that.

The sad reality is that I know (too many) atheists who are not at all skeptical - some believe in homeopathy and naturopathy and others in psychics and other forms of the paranormal. You are "my kind" of atheist when you've reasoned yourself into non-belief and you use reason as your primary method of navigating through the non-sense. Mind you, as my wife can tell you, "my kind" of atheist probably can seem "cold" or to lack feelings at times. Oh well, sometimes the truth isn't all that pleasant but I'd rather the truth than some false sense of comfort.

Whatever other beliefs (or non-beliefs) that you hold, if they make you vote irrationally, spread falsities and lies and distort science and medicine out of sheer ignorance, I'm probably going to suggest to you that you're not a skeptic or a "reasonable" atheist. Because you can see the absurdity of sky-fairy belief does not make you a rational thinker or an expert at discerning the "truth".

No matter what it is that you accept or "believe", what is it that leads you to "believe" that? If you don't have reason to believe something, speaking about it with certainty makes you a fool - no matter what god/gods you do or don't believe in.

Just think - it'll do us all a whole lot of good.


Tom (Point Edward) said...

I always have called myself a skeptic first and an atheist because of my skepticism.
Being skeptical often leads to atheism but less often the other way around.

sarniaskeptic said...

Wow, I have to be honest, I might have to use the last line in the future.

That is so true. I'm not sure that skepticism was really what brought me to atheism but I would suggest that my skepticism enforced my atheism and, ultimately, brought me to an intellectually honest position with regards to dismissing the god idea.

Again, welcome to my tiny corner of the internet. Contact me via email if you care to meet up with other local skeptics (

Anonymous said...

Yes, I was an atheist before I was truly a skeptic. Still, "I want to believe!" (X-Files)

sarniaskeptic said...

I'm sure there are many people (atheists and skeptics) who would like to believe that there is a god that actually cares about them or that taking vitamin c will cure a cold or even that they can predict the future. Wanting something to be true, however, does not make it true. Wanting something to be true also does not usually make people tell others that it is true or lead their lives as if it is so.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that you can't be a skeptic and wish for things to be something they aren't.

I have a problem with someone saying "I don't believe in god so I know I have to take care of myself, that's why I take homeopathic remedies.".. or "I'm a skeptic too, that's why I rely on nature to cure me and I only eat organic and rely on herbal medicines to heal me."

Believing something isn't so without reason to believe it (or accept it) is not being a critical thinker. Believing something despite the evidence to the contrary is just plain silly.

Oh, I am very much an atheist (thanks for the emails - though I'd much rather the comments on here), I just don't think that atheism is the "pinnacle" of critical thought, I think that it often comes as a result of critical thought but it does not, necessarily, encourage skeptical thinking.

Ray Dann said...

Atheism, as you mentioned isn't the pinnacle of critical fault. I have met some very irrational atheists. The only thing atheists have in common is that they reject god-belief.

I often get into political talks and am confronted with, "the communists were atheists and look what they've done". Being a capitalist myself, I always reply with, "you are defined by what you DO believe in and not what you DON'T believe in. Communists, despite rejecting god belief, had some very affirmative beliefs".

Unknown said...

I have a challenge to you and your friends. I am showing a movie at the (very classy) Sarnia Library Theatre Sunday, March 7th. at 2pm.
It deals with the very specific, already fulfilled Biblical prophecies. The event is free. Please come out and I will look forward to your review on this very blog. If you really do believe in "thinking for yourself" then come on out and see some empirical and verifyable evidence in favor of the existence of God.

See you there...
Mike Shoesmith

Sherwoodskeptic said...

Sorry for the late post, been on vacation. Personally, I became athiestic before clearing my head of a lot of other trash.
I have a 5 year old niece with brain tumors, scheduled for surgery (her second)later this week. My mom called me two weeks ago to tell me she had talked to a homeopath about the cancer, and he was willing to advise my sister. When I explained to her what homeopathy was, she was quite surprised. I told her to google it (on respectable sites), and left it at that. Sometimes it just takes a little research to corrsct silly thinking.
To Mike Shoesmith. I will not be attending. I've seen your ridiculous videos at your site, and by the desription this one was posted recently. Besides, there are bigger fish to fry on that date.

sarniaskeptic said...

Mike Shoesmith - I have a better idea - let us know the name of the movie and where we may get a copy ourselves.

I am really interested in the information that you suggest exists but I have to admit I've seen countless claims that turned out to be, at best, postdiction or retrofitting and difficult mental gymnastics and, at worst, complete lies. I'm not beyond suggesting that you (Michael Shoesmith) are an idiot (actually, I've done it before!) who has presented a questionable set of "proofs" and "facts" in the past (all demolished) but, as a skeptic, I'm willing to consider new evidence that you purport to have.

I am more than willing to change my mind but I need to see the evidence - let me know the movie and I'll watch it at a time when I can take notes, check sources and verify claims. It is either true or it isn't true.

I am not saying that I won't attend - I just have something scheduled on that day already (Robbie Thomas' Psychic Justice Tour!!!) so I might have to shuffle my schedule a bit.

sarniaskeptic said...

(In case Sherwoodskeptic is correct and the movie is the same as his youtube videos, I'll have to add this.)

Michael Shoesmith: In case people aren't familiar with who you are, you are a self-proclaimed Young Earth Creationist with a number of deluded posts and claims.

That suggests that facts and evidence are not something you understand or, if you do, they are things that you simply ignore. Science is about explaining all of the evidence - we can't simply pick and choose what we want to accept.

Your movies are horrible and create nothing but strawman arguments and/or they present completely horrendous falsities as fact. You are deluded and, as I correctly stated in an older post, you are an idiot.

If the movie you are showing at the Sarnia Library is comprised of the crap that you have on your youtube channel, I will resort to a more useful activity during that time - poking my eyes out with a fork.

You are a sad and silly example of the type of "believer" that other believers claim doesn't exist. You embody what many would consider a strawman. If I were ever to describe you to someone else, they would suggest that I am constructing a false description of a believer and they would claim that they don't believe most of that silly shit too.

Thanks for the laughs Michael and if god created man in his image, your existence presents a horrible picture of that god.

I wouldn't worship a god that is so stupid/sad/silly/incompetent - even if she did exist!