I’ve decided to rerelease this post, with minimal editing for clarity, at its original date of publishing in 2010, the end of my first blogcation. My views on the rationality, or its lack, of faith, my views of skepticism, of humanism, and of my nontheism, have evolved since then. So too has my then-naivete of the darker sides of tribalism and cults of personality involving certain skeptical thought leaders, and I hope that some of that naivete has grown by now to a more robust skepticism. My views of unproven, disproven, and untestable claims have also evolved, with the major outcome being more rigor and less anger, except when and where vulnerable people get hurt.
~ Troythulu, 2019.5.12
We live in an angry society which values blind faith over thinking, with political and ideological polarization between right and left, religious believers and nonbelievers, and a notable rise in public rejection of science and credulity toward pseudoscientific claims.
In times of uncertainty, especially with the status of the economy in this country, people tend to more easily entertain irrational ideas, and worse, accept them as fact. It’s become common for many to behave as though irrationalism is the new reason.
Kriss, in a blog post (Click Me Here), discusses this very thing, and how it applies to the rise of atheism in the last decade in opposition to the ascendance of religious conservatism and its active promotion of religious privilege worldwide.
Skeptics are motivated by a number of reasons for their being what they are, whether a passion for science, the value of truth and reason, simple doubt, the need for the promotion of better education, and any number of other reasons. But skeptics can also be motivated by anger, and a few wear this openly while others are no less honest but more discrete in expressing it.
Even Carl Sagan, in his masterpiece The Demon Haunted World, at times showed a subtle anger at the proliferation of nonsense in the last decade of the 20th century, which has only been aggravated in the past 10 years and shows no sign of abating any time soon. He wasn’t abrasive about it, but he expressed a frustration that I suspect all of us feel.
The causes of this anger come easily to mind; loved ones lost through the denial of adequate medical care caused by the pursuit of quack remedies, and the crushing despair that follows false hope; children or adults hacked to pieces or burned alive in third-world countries in the name of superstitious beliefs in witchcraft and magic; botched exorcisms that kill far more people than any imaginary demon ever could; intelligent but vulnerable people who lose thousands in return for the worthless services of psychics; political obstructionism in dealing with major environmental problems based on anti-scientific denialism; the short-term educational and long-term economic consequences of the encroachment of sectarian religious ideologies in public school science classes.
These things alone are enough to make anyone angry, and yes, especially me. The people who promote the claims we skeptics oppose sometimes get angry as well, but with much less real moral justification – they are angry because skeptics are costing them customers, cutting down on their book royalties, keeping more people than they’d like away from their seminars, retreats, and churches, and reducing their clientele for whatever “alternative” unproven or disproven medical modalities they promote – skeptics are bit by bit eroding their celebrity, their influence, and worst of all, their bottom-line…by showing people how to think for themselves and how not to be taken in by the nonsense.
The propagandists of unreason often have the upper hand, since they aren’t in any way constrained by the limits of intellectual honesty, logic, facts, evidence, or reality. They have the liberty and the incentive to make sh*t up as they please, and they are very effective at persuading people to believe them, considering that their claims, often not even arguments, only assertions, make headlines and grab ratings for the credulous and journalistically sloppy media outlets that promote them.
But sometimes skeptics win, like with Kitzmiller vs Dover in 2005, or the successful deconstruction of the 9/11 conspiracy film, Loose Change, in an issue of Popular Mechanics.
The current political turnout in the U.S. will not be conducive to making us rationalists warm and fuzzy nice-guys, so it looks like sleeves will need to be rolled up, because it’s far from over.
It sickens me to the core of my being to see people lied to, used, robbed, defrauded, hurt, even killed, all for somebody’s stupid, blind, dogmatic doctrine or ideology. Nothing that we think, believe or do is without real consequences.
There’s work to be done – I’m glad to be back in the ring, peeps.