I’m a skeptic. This doesn’t mean anything much more than that I strive to hold only beliefs that are supported with evidence (following established rules of logic, critical thinking, and the scientific method), and I don’t put much stock in “blind faith”. The less secure the evidence, the less firmly held should the belief be.

The skeptic philosophy leads me to lack belief in God or gods, which also makes me an atheist. But atheism doesn’t particularly impress me. If you tell me you’re an atheist, it doesn’t tell me anything about you that I particularly care to know.

I’ve met a number of other atheists, and agnostics, and they run the gamut in personality, character, and basically any belief other than “is there a God?”. I’ve met compassionate, caring atheists. I’ve met asshole atheists. I’ve met atheists and agnostics that believe in the healing power of magnets, or that asthma is a medical hoax, or who latch onto every new conspiracy theory that crosses the ether.

Atheism just means you and I agree on one thing—and it’s not even a particularly important thing. I don’t care whether you believe in God—at least until you decide that I must too, or use it to justify how you treat other people, or to dictate what they ought to do. If you tell me that you believe in God, or that you don’t, or that you don’t have a positive belief either way, I still don’t know if you’re smart or dumb, kind or cruel, generous or selfish, or even if you’re capable of critical thinking, or accepting of every idea that comes down your way.

I do prize skepticism when I encounter it, a great deal more than simply “atheism”, because it at least tells me that you support critical thinking and reason, and that you’re not willing to simply accept what people tell you. This is why I was very happy to find that a nearby meetup group for freethinkers called themselves the Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics; because I find it very helpful to find a group of folks that identify themselves as skeptics, not just atheists. Especially there are plenty of things that benefit from applied skepticism, besides the question of a god’s existence.

But it still doesn’t tell me what values you hold beyond logic and reason. More than a skeptic, I’m a humanist. I believe in being “good without God”, and I think it’s important to treat our fellow creatures with respect, love, and compassion. I don’t believe that prayer is enough—though for those that practice it, it can be beneficial so long as it spurs creative thought and action, rather than serving as a feel-good surrogate to actual aid.

I wasn’t always a humanist, a skeptic, or an atheist. I was schooled at home, growing up in an Evangelical Christian pastor’s family. We lived and breathed the Bible, and my schooling featured science textbooks that taught young-earth creationism, and hammered home how ridiculous evolutionary theory is, by propping up a twisted caricature of it for tearing down, straw-man style.

I didn’t leave these ideas behind until I was 28. For more on that, see this page on my journey to atheism.

2 thoughts on “Skeptic

  1. uwe

    … that I strive to hold only beliefs that are supported with evidence (following established rules of logic, critical thinking, and the scientific method), and I don’t put much stock in “blind faith”.

    Sounds good to me. If you’re serious on that how then can you not see “how ridiculous evolutionary theory is”. There are no proofs that mammals evolved or stem from dinosaurs. If being a “sceptic” is merely another believe system, then what’s the point of it? Besides, us humans we need some belief, we cannot live without it. I cannot prove it but I’ve never experienced anything else with humans. Or did you?

    1. Micah Post author

      Hello uwe, and thanks for your comment.

      First of all, the reason there is no proof that mammals evolved from or stem from dinosaurs is because… we didn’t. Nobody anywhere believes that we did. The common ancestors of dinosaurs and mammals lived ages before there were dinosaurs. Mammals already existed in the days of dinosaurs (mostly very small ones). The extinction of the dinosaurs allowed the space mammals needed to evolve the variety we see today.

      At this point, the mountains of evidence supporting Evolution via Natural Selection is too tremendous to be dismissed. In my experience, everyone I’ve ever met who disbelieves in evolution, doesn’t actually even understand what it is, or what it’s supposed to mean. Most creationists find evolution a laughable fraud because, in fact, they have been misled into believing evolution teaches things it simply doesn’t: a false “strawman” of evolution that _is_ a laughable fraud, and also has almost nothing to do with actual evolutionary theory at all!

      So many creationists seem to think that evolutionists believe that life is just the result of random chance, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, random chance plays a role in supplying variation, but there is nothing whatsoever random about natural selection. I still see creationist books today claim that the discoverers of Lucy themselves had stated they found parts of that “single” skeleton at entirely different sites, miles apart, and at different strata! This, despite the fact that this is a provably false statement, that has been brought to the attention of some of those who make the claim, who acknowledge the error, but have still failed to actually correct it in further editions of their material (see talkorigins’ page on the subject for details).

      To ignore the mountains of evidence, most especially the very difficult-to-ignore genetic evidence, would require quite a bit more skepticism than I have energy for. Not “waiting for supporting evidence”, but in fact a willful and blind ignorance of the existing evidence, the very opposite of actual, true skepticism.

      I wouldn’t say skepticism is a belief system: where’s the belief portion? Skepticism is a philosophy about what one should not believe; it says little about one ought to believe (basically, just whatever’s left after skepticism has ruled it out).

      I do agree that humans need to believe in something. I don’t believe that it needs to be something supernatural, or something that requires blind faith, or in some “higher power”. Clearly I myself, and plenty of people I know, live quite well without any such things. But humans at least need a purpose, something that gives them something to strive for. I’ve a few such things (though some of them I have no real idea to make effective headway in, but others I make daily progress in). Better a discovered purpose with genuine effect, than an invented one, working towards some invisible purpose whose primary results one will never see until dead, and having died, will then be unable to display to others.

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