“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.

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