Atheism And Skepticism

Yes, I know. I’m talking religion two days in a row. I promise we’ll return to normal skeptical programming soon.

Today’s post was prompted by DJ Grothe\'s article in the Swift. I’m very glad he addressed that concern because it was a concern I have had, myself. It was my impression that in recent months the JREF has taken a slightly more atheist bent in it’s communications. I had thought perahps I was being overly sensitive and I cannot, unfortunately, bring to mind a specific example. But it seems that, according to DJ’s article, a donor has left the JREF because he or she felt the same way.

Now, why is this a big deal? As long as I have been writing Fledgeling Skeptic, it has been my firmly held thought that new skeptics should not be forced straight out of the box to examine the big questions. Learning to be a critical thinker is difficult enough without having your safety net yanked out from under you.

I’m starting to re-think that view a little bit. I still feel that new skeptics should be introduced to the small questions first. Those are easier to deal with mentally and emotionally. But the problem here is that both times in recent weeks I have started introducing someone to basic critical thinking, they have gone straight for the big one: How can i say there is no God?

Both of these people know I’m an atheist so that was the first thing they wanted to ask me about. I tried to ease them into it. I tried to explain the evidence for the lack of a divine being. I tried to explain that THAT is the criteria I go by: What does the evidence say? And both of them ended up bolting on me.

What I find VERY odd is that a few weeks later, one of them came back to me and said they wanted to talk to me about religion. The other, I gave a copy of Michael Shermer’s “Why People Believe Weird Things”, so I’ll have to wait and see where that goes. But regardless of how difficult it was for that one person to continue to contemplate the lack of a higher power, they still came back.

So now I am reconsidering my position on leaving the hard questions out of my posts. My own journey into skepticism was extremely painful and difficult. It has been my goat to try to make this process as pain-free as possible for my readers. I should be writing these posts based on what you want to learn and know. So I will leave it to you, dear reader.

Should I be asking you to look at the hard questions or should I continue with how I have been running this blog with just the focus on critical thinking?



  1. sgerbic said,

    September 13, 2010 at 10:36 am

    That is a difficult question and no easy answer. It just depends on where your readers are in their skepticism questioning area. Some may come to you that are already atheists that are into the woo in other areas. Some might have never considered challenging the big God question.

    Don’t hide your atheism. Mention it in other articles if it needs mentioning but probably just keep your focus on skepticism topics that are woo related.

    IF you want to write about a religious topic that has some sort of testable evidence then religion is fair game. If we are just talking about faith, then we should probably leave it alone.

  2. Martin said,

    September 14, 2010 at 6:39 am

    The problem with discussing the existence of God is surely that there is no evidence for or against and so the only possible answer must be “I don’t know whether it exists or not.”

  3. dgraham said,

    September 30, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    It’s not a prerequisite to be an atheist to be a skeptic.

    Skeptics are people who want proof before they believe things, and if someone makes an outrageous claim, they are the ones who must bear evidence.

    I would wager most skeptics fall into the agnostic or atheist camp, but it’s not a requirement. Belief or faith in the supernatural is an individual’s choice, however it seems curious one would be skeptical about UFOs and Big Foot but believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster without question.

    I would suggest people read Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” if they’re fence sitters or skeptical about any god’s existence. Most people are atheists in regard to gods they don’t believe in, why does their god get an exemption from scrutiny?

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