May 6, 2013
Isn’t it weird that so many self-proclaimed “skeptics” and “freethinkers” seem so self-assured of everything they believe in, just like the “ignorant Christians” they spend so much time attacking? “Question authority,” they proclaim out one side of their mouth, while vomiting rigid and sometimes archaic scientific formulae out the other. “Think freely” they bark, only to chastise those who don’t live up to their (often contradictory) standards. In practical experience, very few atheists actually seem willing to question or think freely, when it really gets down to it. Just like true believers, atheists hold to plot points on a narrative–only their’s is backed up by evidence and reality (at least in their own minds). We’ve heard it all before, right?
Rather than rehash the obvious, let’s take a different approach.
Contrary to the cries of those who perpetuate the “belief and skepticism are incompatible” trope, reasoned skepticism is an essential piece in the believer’s toolset. Now, it’s important to note just what I mean by “skepticism” here, for I’m not referring to today’s knee-jerk postmodern scientism. I’m not talking about the “thoughtless doubt” or pseudo-skepticism reserved for teens and new atheists. By “skepticism” I mean genuine, reasoned doubting of one’s self and others.
To a certain degree, believers should be skeptical! After all, the Bible is (among other things) one giant recollection of human faultiness. The Bible doesn’t make any prohibition against healthy trust, but it definitely seems to prescribe against cocksureness.
“No matter how strong our convictions may be, we must learn to distrust ourselves, for we are all prone to err; and the more self-assured we are, the more liable we are to go astray.” —Watchman Nee
Preach on, Brother Nee! This is why I’m an equal-opportunity skeptic: because man is so often wrong, and this brings up an interesting point, one (a)theists can agree on. Like the Bible, science is also a recollection of human faultiness. Right? Right.
Since every human institution is, well, human, reasoned skepticism must extend itself equally in all directions. Don’t let any self-proclaimed defender of “reason” fool you. To say that belief and skepticism are compatible would be an understatement. One can’t have healthy beliefs—either scientific or religious—without reasoned skepticism.