How I Reluctantly Became a Skeptic

Article excerpt

I've been reading, steadily, the small library of skeptical books, and felt it was time to register some of my comments. I may represent the "average" convert from conventional thinking to skepticism and nontheism. I am a college graduate in my late 30's, married, two kids, a dog, cat, and nice little suburban brick house.

While I understand that some people are "born skeptics," my migration toward skeptical thinking occurred over a period of several years. I notice that skeptics repeatedly express dismay that upon a particularly illuminating event or conversation, a person doesn't smack her forehead (V8c!) and see the light. I think you should recognize and acknowledge that people who will change their life philosophy based on a single conversation or event are not the sort of people you want championing the cause of critical thinking.

I think I understand why, when you present a compelling case to "believers" (in paranormal phenomena and/or theism), that they reject it outright or (later) weasel an alternate explanation that aligns with their original thinking. (For the purposes of this explanation, I will lump paranormalists with theists. I realize this is a blatant simplification, but the psychological motivation is perhaps similar.)

You have to appreciate how invested people are in their belief system(s), even when they don't think they are. I was not raised in a particularly religious family. We did not go to church, but we celebrated Christmas and the other major Christian holidays. I never thought to question the existence of God, mainly because I was busy having hormones, spending hours on the phone, and doing homework. (Incidentally, I never thought to question what I read in the newspaper or in textbooks either.) As an adult, my mindset is a direct result of my experiences; my knowledge base built on what--by study or by osmosis--I "accepted." How much of that foundation was true, and how much false, I still cannot hazard a guess.

My transition (to skepticism/nontheism) has therefore been arduous. It is a heart-rending path, very similar to my other experiences of profound loss and grief. I'm not sure I would wish it upon others (though I believe the eventual payoff--dearer thinking--will be worth it for me). This incident provides a nice metaphor: When my son was ? or 8, he came to me asking about the real scoop on Santa Claus. …