Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Beyond Belief: Skeptic or Believer?

For a long time now, I've avoided blogging. I haven't had time and have let the daily grind wear me down to the point of apathy and exhaustion. It's hard enough feeling creative enough to research and write new articles for WhoForted? let alone constantly post on here. But this year has had some rough patches and drama that I just can't stay totally silent on. And since I'm sick to death of most social media these days, I figure that here is the best place to hop up on my soap box and openly express my opinions, beliefs, and disbeliefs. While I've done this a few times before, everyone's views and opinions are subject to change at a moment's notice. Life effects our views and stances on everything.

First, I would like to say that I'm still stubbornly clinging to my position on the fence between complete belief and utter skepticism. It's honestly one of the most difficult positions to be in; everyone wants you to choose a side as though this is some grand battle to the death where a winner will emerge victoriously. Unfortunately, that's not what I see happening. Die-hard skeptics will always dismiss anything weird as natural and explainable, even if they don't have the concrete answer to what caused it (which generally ends up being "it's a hallucination, of course"). And the adamant believers will continue to rally behind every absurd nonsensical idea or conspiracy and rally behind the blurriest of photos as concrete proof that every manner of paranormal thing absolutely exists without question. Personally, I try to observe the statements and evidence from both sides before weighing in, and even after that I'm not naive and arrogant enough to claim to have the definitive answer.

Let's face it; both sides can make valid points. But both sides are too busy badmouthing and ridiculing each other to ever sit down like grownups and come to a logical consensus. Why? Because both sides believe they're "right" and won't budge an inch. They're either trying to be the ultimate buzzkiller by eradicating all that's highly improbable but not impossible or acting like gullible lunatics who would probably elect Sylvia Browne as queen of the universe if they had the chance. And both of those extremes annoy me. There is room for skeptical, rational, logical thought and application of science in the paranormal realm. But there is also a need for open-minded willingness to examine the evidence on the side of complete skepticism. "I saw it, therefore it's paranormal" is just as silly as "it can't exist, therefore it doesn't."

But there seems to be a greater divide, and it has everything to do with religious beliefs. Most skeptics are atheists in the same way that most believers are religious. I break that mold a bit; I may be an atheist, but I don't think that removing religion removes all logic when it comes to unexplained phenomena. But it is important to examine things without getting religion all knotted up in the nix. That just clouds the path to definite answers and leads to unsubstantiated conclusions based on mythological concepts.

A lot of people I know are religious and I don't mind what anyone believes. I'm not a militant atheist. Personally, I see religions as antiquated replacements for law and justice giving false hope and promises to people and being used as weapons more often than guidelines for being a better person. But if someone feels comforted by the idea that some deranged puppeteer is messing with the strings and controlling our lives, then more power to them.

For those who don't understand my stance, I can't necessarily expect you to. But we live in a world where gay marriage and abortion--issues that would not be debated were it not for religious beliefs--are still argued over not as basic human rights but political matters of faith. So much for separation of church and state, right? For all my straight friends, family members, and readers, it's not so easy to understand the concept of being hated and told you're a "sinner going to hell" constantly by obnoxiously vocal members of society simply for being your own honest self. People are bullied, attacked, slandered, and even murdered every day for being who they are... and their sexuality would be completely irrelevant were it not for religious beliefs. There is no argument against homosexuality that isn't entirely based on faith and religion. Between the illogical hatred of others by some religious interpreters and the lack of any tangible anything related to faith, I just can't buy into it.

In many ways, I know there are plenty of people out there who would call be a skeptic. And to some extent, they would be right. I do believe reason is important; I agree with the ideals of some skeptics. I even like them. Yet I feel ostracized by them for even acknowledging the possibilities of unexplained phenomena. Because I can't dismiss thousands of cases of unexplained lights and objects in the sky, voices and human images appearing around the world, bizarre creature sightings, and so much more as all misidentification, hallucination, or swamp gas, I'm not following the herd. And it bothers me that people who promote critical, independent thought fail to recognize herd mentality when it's blatantly there.

The brilliant humorist Mark Twain once said, "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect." I take those words to heart, because Twain really understood people. It's important to ask yourself whether you hold opinions because they are how you feel or you're just falling in step with the masses. Good fences don't always make good neighbors. The fact that no one has a Bigfoot, ghost, or alien spaceship under glass in a lab doesn't mean they can't possibly be real. The final answers to all questions of unexplained phenomena won't be found by shutting the book on them and proclaiming "real" or "fake" without all the facts and evidence laid out on the table.

People on both sides could have a common ground if they would just admit it to themselves. The only honest answer anyone can give to the existence of anything is "I don't know."