Every time I'm around a group of freethinkers or outright atheists the majority opinion is that people of all types are free to attend. That means atheists, agnostics, believers, you name it. I don't disagree with that part. If all we do is get together with like minded people and preach the gospel of atheism and science then we aren't really doing much for the community as a whole. However, there is something to be said about educating ourselves internally so we can be better advocates for reason and rationalism.
The more easy going and friendly part of the atheism/skeptical movement feel that it's OK that there are people out there that believe in a higher power of some type but that also identify as skeptics. Personally, I think the two are mutually exclusive. If you apply rational arguments to the god hypothesis then the entire argument breaks down before your eyes. Calling yourself a skeptic means that you apply rational thinking to ideas and concepts that are presented to you. I try to do this to every aspect of my life. At work some people know this type of thinking through the axiom, "Work smarter, not harder". This is a simple phrase that allows you to stop what you are doing, apply some critical thinking skills to a problem, and continue on in a more efficient manner. In other words, thinking skeptically.
So, why do otherwise rational people still hang on to archaic beliefs? I think it's because they feel a sense of community when they go to church. I'd be surprised if any of the believer-skeptics out there are going to those mega churches or to the really fundamentalist churches. They are likely going to small community churches where a few songs are sung, the preacher tells a story, and they all go socialize over coffee and cookies. As skeptics, we can, and do, provide this service to the community. There are local skeptics and freethinkers groups, Skeptics in the Pub meet ups, and local skeptical events such as celebrating Darwin's birthday. I have an idea for another community event that should take place on Sundays so we can provide an outlet for families that don't what to go to church but still want to do something constructive with that time. I'm devoting my next post to that idea.
So, if you are a believer that identifies as a skeptic, I ask you to step back and look at your position with the critical thinking skills that the community is trying to teach you. Does your belief really make sense? Or, are you just going to church for the friendship and heart warming stories? It's difficult to see the cherry-picking that the church does to keep people there when they cloak the scary bits of the bible in flowery "Jesus loves you" stories. Don't forget that the bible also condones stoning your children, beating your wife, and killing your enemies. Next time you are at church, look around. Are people really paying attention or are they checking their phones and watches and scolding their children? Are they just sitting there because they, and you, are just waiting for the cookies?
I welcome comments.
Written in the high desert northeast of Winnemucca, NV.