Sunday, February 27, 2005

Skepticism vs. Cynicism

I think there is a misconception out there, well, maybe it’s more of a mis-perception. I think when people hear the word skeptic they think the word cynic. A cynic is no fun. A cynic pooh poohs everything. Nothing is good. We’re all going to hell in a hand basket. Everybody is a liar. All politicians are crooks (well, they be right on with that one), all athletes are assholes, all modern art is crap, etc. That’s a cynic.

A skeptic on the other hand is not annoying. A skeptic just asks the question, “Really? Are you sure? How do you know that? Can it be duplicated? Can it be made to happen at will? When somebody says, “You know a spaceship landed in my yard and the little guys inside came out and beat my ass at chess.” The skeptic asks, “Really? Any pictures? Burn marks in your yard? Did you resign or get check-mated?” We all agree that those and others would be reasonable questions.


When somebody says, “Yeah, this bush was burning and yet not consumed and a voice came out of it.” and the skeptic says, “Really? Any pictures? Can it be made to happen again? What was the bush like when it was over? Was it real fire?” he is considered to be a cynic. Or worse…a heretic! Why? Why in our everyday life is it generally considered a good thing to be a little skeptical but not when it comes to questions of religion? Someone who is not a little skeptical is the brunt of jokes. Like every joke about a country bumpkin coming to the big city or jokes about people getting fleeced by a used car salesman. Nobody wants to be that vulnerable, country bumpkin piece of meat. No, we’d like to think we are all a little sharper than that which means we view the world with a nice dose of skepticism. Then why not be a little skeptical with the huge and life changing claims made by religion?

This goes back to the two world problem of wanting the real and the magical to exist at the same time. It’s like people who are all for equal rights for all people…as long as they don’t buy the house next door. Be as skeptical as you like but not with my religion buddy!

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