“No Sacred Cows” Means No Sacred Cows (Because Skepticism is for Everyone)

Atheism is a religion in the same way that not-stamp-collecting is a hobby. In a similar way, skepticism is an ideology about not using ideology. Not when we want to know the difference between what is true and what we simply want to be true. Mysticism is about answers; skepticism is about questions. It’s not so much criticizing your conclusions, as it is the methods you used to get to them. If you evaluate a claim using methods that decrease bias and account for error, you are being skeptical.

So, when I hear people who self-identify as skeptics say that “______” needs to be applied to skepticism, I wonder how they can so fundamentally misunderstand the point of skepticism (insert your worldview in the blank). The absolutely most important thing about skepticism is that it is doesn’t investigate through ideology. Claims about reality should be tested free from our personal views because reality has demonstrated over and over again that it doesn’t necessarily align with those worldviews.

But the world we live in is so devastatingly lacking in critical thinking skills that it’s necessary to band together and promote skepticism through local groups and organizations…a movement. What people like PZ Myers, who claimed to “divorce” himself from skepticism because he feels it is anti-atheist, don’t seem to realize is that there are going to be people in the skeptic movement with different philosophical, social, and political views from your own because skepticism is for everyone.

“Beliefs are what divide people. Doubt unites them.” —Peter Ustinov

Skeptics are united, not by belief, not by denial, but by doubt. We promote the fact that it’s even easier to be deceived by ourselves than by others. The hard part is actually applying this to ourselves (realizing we may indeed be deceiving ourselves, instead of simply noticing self-deception in others). But we all have different worldviews and sometimes these views make us purport ideas which are testable claims, and sometimes they are value judgments. The challenge for those of us who want to promote science-based thinking is to realize that the price we pay for having skepticism be for everyone is that we must work together, even with those we may disagree with.

What’s really going on when you want ideas from your social or political views added (+) to skepticism is that you want those ideas protected from skepticism. But the point and greatest strength of skepticism is that it is critical of all -isms. All of them. When you start wanting your ideas protected from criticism, that’s when you stop being a skeptic.

19 Responses

  1. saramayhew Says:

    “No Sacred Cows” Means No Sacred Cows (Because Skepticism is for Everyone) – http://t.co/fMD2UdTLMc

  2. Funkmon Says:

    RT @saramayhew: “No Sacred Cows” Means No Sacred Cows (Because Skepticism is for Everyone) – http://t.co/fMD2UdTLMc

  3. Hilary Mark Nelson Says:

    I tend to agree with P.Z. to a certain extent. I think that religious beliefs are without any rational foundation, and saying that they’re not testable claims is beside the point — they should be rejected due to their utter incoherence until someone can come up with some solid evidence to support them.

    For that reason, I think that anyone who hangs onto a religious belief is not being as skeptical as they could or should be. If they insist that skeptics shouldn’t address religion, then they’re doing exactly what you describe in your last paragraph: they’re asking for their personal beliefs to be exempted from criticism.

    But the fact that I think religious skeptics are “doing skepticism wrong” doesn’t prevent me from being willing to join forces with them on the issues we do agree on. I’ll happily work with them to expose psychic frauds, fight anti-vaxers, debunk conspiracy theories, and so on.

    And I won’t insist that all the skeptical organizations take on religion. I agree with Jamy that there are other organizations whose focus on that issue makes them a more effective force in that arena.

    But because, as you say, skepticsim is for everyone, I will respectfully disagree if anyone tells me I shouldn’t express any skeptical criticism of religion.

  4. rjcaufield Says:

    Well said. “@saramayhew: “No Sacred Cows” Means No Sacred Cows (Because Skepticism is for Everyone) – http://t.co/1nibJhiuNd

  5. danielwaddell17 Says:

    RT @saramayhew: “No Sacred Cows” Means No Sacred Cows (Because Skepticism is for Everyone) – http://t.co/fMD2UdTLMc

  6. ElevatorGATE Says:

    RT @saramayhew: “No Sacred Cows” Means No Sacred Cows (Because Skepticism is for Everyone) – http://t.co/fMD2UdTLMc

  7. LenFirewood Says:

    RT @saramayhew: “No Sacred Cows” Means No Sacred Cows (Because Skepticism is for Everyone) – http://t.co/fMD2UdTLMc

  8. Sci_Phile Says:

    There are no sacred cows in skepticism, but it’s a tool for everyone, not an ideology http://t.co/TurexfRpr1 by @saramayhew

  9. teehom Says:

    RT @Sci_Phile: There are no sacred cows in skepticism, but it’s a tool for everyone, not an ideology http://t.co/TurexfRpr1 by @saramayhew

  10. teehom Says:

    RT @Sci_Phile: There are no sacred cows in skepticism, but it’s a tool for everyone, not an ideology http://t.co/TurexfRpr1 by @saramayhew

  11. teehom Says:

    RT @Sci_Phile: There are no sacred cows in skepticism, but it’s a tool for everyone, not an ideology http://t.co/TurexfRpr1 by @saramayhew

  12. teehom Says:

    RT @Sci_Phile: There are no sacred cows in skepticism, but it’s a tool for everyone, not an ideology http://t.co/TurexfRpr1 by @saramayhew

  13. Daurmith Says:

    RT @Sci_Phile: There are no sacred cows in skepticism, but it’s a tool for everyone, not an ideology http://t.co/TurexfRpr1 by @saramayhew

  14. Daurmith Says:

    RT @Sci_Phile: There are no sacred cows in skepticism, but it’s a tool for everyone, not an ideology http://t.co/TurexfRpr1 by @saramayhew

  15. Daurmith Says:

    RT @Sci_Phile: There are no sacred cows in skepticism, but it’s a tool for everyone, not an ideology http://t.co/TurexfRpr1 by @saramayhew

  16. Daurmith Says:

    RT @Sci_Phile: There are no sacred cows in skepticism, but it’s a tool for everyone, not an ideology http://t.co/TurexfRpr1 by @saramayhew

  17. Will Radik Says:

    Well said!

  18. surreptitious57 Says:

    Of course there should be no sacred cows = Nothing should be exempt even the most sacred cow of all namely the right of the human race to carry on existing = Everything should be taken to pieces = Everything = It is the only way

  19. DarkSapiens Says:

    RT @Sci_Phile: There are no sacred cows in skepticism, but it’s a tool for everyone, not an ideology http://t.co/TurexfRpr1 by @saramayhew

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