The following is a guest post from Jeffrey Olsson, former Anglican priest and current president of the Humanist Association of Manitoba. Jeff can be found at the Leave Faith Behind blog (from which this entry is cross-posted), and his book is available on Amazon.
Top Ten Reasons Why Being a Skeptic is Fulfilling
1. As a skeptic you love science and know that the scientific method is the best method mankind has ever invented to understand who we are, how we got here, and how we can improve our lot in this universe. You know that if we refrain from asking the hard questions we give up making a better life for mankind.
2. You know that reality is a puzzle and that it will take a lot of effort to understand it. At times truth goes against what seems to be common sense. You have discovered that the struggle to understand reality reveals truths that are, at times, deeply profound. That knowledge will keep you searching the for the truth for the rest of your life.
3. Your drive to discover the truth about who we are and what is real has revealed contradictions to your prized personal beliefs and your most deeply held prejudices. Your belief in a God (or Gods) is probably already gone. You have learned to adjust your beliefs to match reality rather than remain prejudiced. You possess a willingness to learn accompanied by a willingness to change, that’s why your skepticism makes you a better person.
4. I have only ever met one group of people who cheer when they have been proven wrong. Skeptics. Especially those who employ scientific skepticism. You may be bold when you ask those annoyingly tough questions, but underneath it all you are humble enough to know when you have discovered the truth. After all, evidence is evidence and that’s good enough for you.
5. You understand that being skeptical on it’s own just doesn’t cut it. You temper the need to be skeptical with an openness to new ideas and a willingness to let others prove themselves. This means that the road to understanding is long, complicated, potentially confusing, and sometimes frustrating. But that’s ok, real joy comes when you finally untangle the truth.
6. You understand the need to question authority. This may be the most uncomfortable part of being a skeptic, but you know that anyone who claims to know best for everyone else must themselves be subject to scrutiny. It is at this point that many skeptics realize who their real friends are. Go ahead and ask those tough questions when a politician puts forth a seemingly crazy idea using public money, or when a sunday school teacher tells your children they risk going to hell. Pull out the test equipment when someone claims there is a ghost. We’ll stand with you. We may even applaud.
7. You are willing to admit it when you don’t know and you are big enough person to handle ambiguous concepts. What came before the Big Bang? You don’t know. Is there life after death? You don’t know and you are ok with that. Which leads me to my next point…
8. Your willingness to admit you don’t know all of the answers to the many mysteries we face is your greatest asset. Why? Because it leads you to ask the questions that others miss. One day humankind may eventually tease out the answers to questions like the ones above, but you know that day will never come until some one willing to admit they do not know dares to speculate about how we can figure out the real answers. When you see others ask those questions it makes you feel like cheering.
9. You understand what it is to “stand on the shoulders of giants” and you enjoy the education it entails. Learning is fun and you are first to dig in to the books. By learning what those before you have discovered, you unfold the tapestry of knowledge that has brought so many of the advances that our society enjoys. You work to advance the knowledge of those giants who went before you.
10. Through your skeptical endeavors you have found your social conscience, a sense of camaraderie and have made friends for a lifetime. To spend your life working in the sciences is to live a life of privilege, discovery and enlightenment. Prior to the last century, only a select few of us could ever have dreamed of living such a life of discovery.
Congratulations, you have learned to think!