I'm providing this letter sent to the editors of Skeptic Magazine for any who may be troubled by a new awareness that their faith was/is shattered by disillusionment. This is a profoundly difficult realization for nearly all who have had this experience. Yet lie does go on, in fact with time and reflection life for many is much improved after discarding belief in God. -SKEPTIC FOR APRIL 15, 2003 Copyright 2003 Michael Shermer, Skeptics Society, Skeptic magazine, e-Skeptic magazine (www.skeptic.com and [email protected]). Permission to print, distribute, and post with proper citation and acknowledgment. We encourage you to broadcast e-Skeptic to new potential subscribers. Newcomers can subscribe to e-Skeptic for free by sending an e-mail to: [email protected] ------------------------ ------------------ GREAT LETTER ON SKEPTICISM AND BELIEF From: Susan Kawa To: James Randi and Michael Shermer Dear James and Michael, I've been reading, steadily, the small library of books you've produced, and felt it was time to register some of my comments. I may represent the "average" convert from conventional thinking to skepticism and nontheism. I am a college graduate in my late 30's, married, two kids, a dog, cat, and nice little suburban brick house. While I understand that some people are "born skeptics", my migration toward skeptical thinking has occurred over a period of several years. I notice that you both repeatedly express dismay that upon a particularly illuminating event or conversation, a person doesn't smack her forehead (V8!) and see the light. I think you should recognize and acknowledge that people who will change their life philosophy based on such a single conversation or event - are NOT the sort of people you want championing the cause of critical thinking. I think I understand why, when you present a compelling case to "believers" (of paranormal phenomena and/or theism), that they reject it outright or (later) weasel an alternate explanation that aligns with their original thinking. (For the purposes of this explanation, I will lump paranormalists with theists. I realize this is a blatant simplification, but the psychological motivation is perhaps similar.) You have to appreciate how invested people are in their belief system(s), even when they don't THINK they are. I was not raised in a particularly religious family. We did not go to church, but we celebrated Christmas and the other major Christian holidays. I never thought to question the existence of God - as I was busy having hormones, spending hours on the phone, and doing homework. (Incidentally, I never thought to question what I read in the newspaper or in textbooks either.) As an adult, my mindset is a direct result of my experiences; my knowledge base built on what - by study or by osmosis - I "accepted". How much of that foundation was true, and how much false, I still cannot hazard a guess. My transition (to skepticism/nontheism) has therefore been arduous. It is a heart-rending path, very similar to my other experiences of profound loss and grief. I'm not sure I would wish it upon others (though I believe the eventual payoff - clearer thinking - will be worth it for me.) This incident provides a nice metaphor: When my son was 7 or 8, he came to me asking about the real scoop on Santa Claus. He had it pretty much figured out, but felt it necessary to appeal to his ultimate authority (Mom) for the last word. I let him down easy (spirit of giving, spreading the joy, blah blah blah) and he was okay with it. Over the next week, he turned the concept over and over in his mind, and periodically approached me. "Easter Bunny?" .Yes, Hon. He went off to percolate some more. "Tooth Fairy?" .Yup. "April Fool Imp?". (long story) . Yes. All me. Even that thing with the water balloons. And in the end, he sat in my lap and confessed miserably, "I wish you hadn't told me." This is sometimes how I feel. I wish I could hold onto the belief that I will see my dead mother again, or that my spirit will live on for eternity, or that the really long life-line on my palm constitutes a guarantee. I don't LIKE knowing otherwise. And I frankly have not enjoyed the domino effect this skepticism has had on my entire belief structure (I'm still trying to replace religious references in my vernacular - with very limited success.) The one exception to this is the realization that my thoughts are my own. It may seem a small distinction, but let me tell you, it was Earth-shattering for me. To expect a single conversation or event to cause this profound transformation is unrealistic. The impact it has on a person's life can be devastating, and may require a grieving period. It is much easier to stop at "denial", when that is an option. (I certainly would have liked to stop at "denial" when I heard that my mother had died in an accident.) Voluntarily slogging through a reconstruction of one's psychological, and philosophical foundation, I think you will agree, lacks appeal to all but the most personally motivated. People gravitate toward the "skeptical movement" when they are strong enough or open-minded enough to accept the responsibility, effort, and personal sacrifice (socially, and spiritually) that it requires. A change in cultural climate is the best hope scientists and skeptics have to propagate this way of thinking. In the mean time, there is a percentage of the population that will espouse skepticism on their own, and in their own time. I'll end this with a sincere "Thanks!" for your continued and tireless efforts to provide people like me with books, articles, and commentaries to keep us thinking. I find them very helpful, even when I don't agree. Very Truly Yours, Susan Kawa
What does it feel like when leaving belief in God?
What an intriguing question Pete. I wish I could have read what you posted but when I face a screen full of solid words with no paragraphs I kinda go blind and feel weird (weirder than normal). Maybe it's a form of epilepsy. If you could break it up a bit, I might try again. JamesT
Pete, try to edit and add some paragraphs
Click on the topic, go to the bottom of your screen and you will see the edit button, click that and your post will open.
BTW, if it were epilepsy you might froth at the mouth, eyes go blank, start to *shiver* and convulse. Afterward you will be in a deep sleep and not remember where you are or why you are there.
Tina of the *I have epilepsy* class....
Teen, Sorry to hear about your seizures. Do you have them under control? Do you ever have Absence or Petit Mal Seizures? JamesT
Mine are pretty much in control...I have only had grand-mal and at night. I did have one about 3 weeks ago and it was after I woke up in the morning. I did not sleep well and once my husband got up, I finally drifted off. Then I had one. Very weird.
I don't think I have had absence, but I don't think I would remember....I have zoned out a few times, but not often enough to qualify.
Hi PEACEFUL PETE,I am at an impasse and I feel awful.Here is why.I so much want to believe in the existence of God for selfish reasons.I want life and I want it forever in the best of conditions.
That belief in the existence of God used to be based on the belief that the Bible is his inspired word.Now after reading other sources,ie.the errancy of the Bible etc.I have my doubts.
Deductive reasoning for me at least says God exists even though I can't prove such.I have never experienced any personal awareness of his existence.
So too, with the identity crises of Jesus,is he or isn't he God,Man etc.Was he even real,historical etc.
As in all life and death decisions there are usually two camps or opposing views when it comes to discussing these issues.Some have been able to resolve these matters and are at peace with themselves either way.
I am still at an impasse and I think it's because I want God to be there,but have a need to confirm it without basing it on a belief system.
After many years in the Catholic faith and many more in the JW"S adding up to some 60 odd years you would think I would be able to make a decision about all this .I read and read and read all sorts of information and my mind is spinning.
I am restless all the time for my dead loved ones,my living loved ones and my own demise in the near future.It's a feeling of being on death row all the time,not only for me ,but the human family too.
How can a God let us live like this,not knowing for sure?????
And I frankly have not enjoyed the domino effect this skepticism has had on my entire belief structure (I'm still trying to replace religious references in my vernacular - with very limited success.) The one exception to this is the realization that my thoughts are my own.
of course this is entirely from your own experiences on your journey through this life.... you have found that skepticism works for you. However, there are others whose lives have taught them powerful 'truths' that are contrary to yours, and can not be dismissed with 'they are just being blinded'. To these 'others', skeptics pumping up other skeptics can be thought of as the blind leading the blind.
How can a God let us live like this,not knowing for sure?????
I guess if life is thought of as 70 plus years that would be a good question. However, in terms of 'eternity', 70 years is a 'blip', and timewise it's meaningless. To me, the importance of this life isn't in the 'knowing for sure', - that will eventually come - all questions will be answered, which leaves me with what I "do" with my life during this 'blip' on this wonderous earth.
That was a GREAT article...echoed a lot of my own feelings and beliefs.
It was a period of mourning for me when I realized I didn't think there was a God. I tried for six long years to try and figure it out, to make it work for me, and in the end it didn't. I have grown to be comfortable with the fact that there is no hereafter. In fact I have come to be downright happy. It makes much more sense to me.