Being skeptical is hard. I mean, every human seems to have natural skepticism trained, sometimes we see stuff and we go ‘I don’t know if that is quite right’, but everything beyond that point is just a crapshoot.
Maybe if we lived in the past, some golden era of no internet and no photoshop, being skeptical would be that much easier. Imagine living in a time where people don’t spent all day taking legitimate scientific graphs, changing the titles, and posting them as internet meme pictures so that they can get away with hoaxes.
Plus there would be no facebook, so you wouldn’t have to hear people yammer on about it unless you, you know, actually had real friends.
Atheists are supposed to be skeptical. We are supposed to have arrived at our position because we are willing to look at authority, and be like ‘I dunno bro’. Like, that whole thing with the talking snakes, or the 8 armed blue woman, maybe we should double check our sources on that. That isn’t the whole story, of course, because it isn’t like there haven’t been skeptics before now. There have been skeptics for as long as there has been human society. Many of our religious brothers and sisters are skeptical as well. If that wasn’t true, then there might be a lot more stoning of women in our daily lives. We can check that one off as a victory.
There are also times when atheists aren’t skeptical enough (gasp, say it ain’t so!). Anyone who has been in the middle of an argument of fans of PZ Myers and youtuber Thunderf00t, should know what I mean. Both communities turn to absolute trash when they rub against each other, instead of anyone actually investigating the situation and coming to their own conclusions. Whenever either of them are mentioned, I usually tune out the conversation immediately. Not that anyone would make the claim (well, someone probably has), but being an atheist doesn’t make one a paragon of skepticism. We fall into bad internet fact-checking, buy terrible ‘as seen on TV’ products, wear magnetic bracelets, the whole shebang.
Has to be some of that human psychology in action. I mean, the first sign that something is good, is seeing other human beings confirming it is good. This works with food, activities, toys, and even metaphysical concepts. I mean, George next door seems to like this God guy, and George is a good guy, how bad can it be really?
The opposite is possible, and there can be those who come to atheism without ever arriving there on their own. You see the bad behavior of religions, and some religious people, and you throw away the idea of religion without every investigating what you are doing. This is fine, we cannot control the minds of human beings after all, but it can be dangerous in its own right. Nothing more enjoyable than arguing with an atheists about the existence of ghosts, or karma.
On the internet, I generally take a ‘BS’ first, believe it later stance, which makes the internet hard to deal with. I scroll past stories, especially ‘science’ stories from popular media, and I have to just ignore it all. I know that the first read is wrong. A lot of this is the fault of my brothers in composition, journalists. I would rub some of the blame onto their readership, but it really is their fault.
If I have to read one more article that makes it sound like the sun is going to cook us all alive tomorrow, I will… screw it, I’m not going to do anything. The point is that it is hard to just browse the internet, and come away with hard fact, even when we have so much access to ‘news’. Everything is going to give you cancer, everything cures cancer (glad that works itself out), every celestial object is going to kill us, and every single day we discover the secret to eternal life. Now and again we have to take a step back, accept that sometimes people want our money more than they want to give us clear information (surprise), and all we can do is double check our facts.
Sometimes triple check them, sometimes you just have to wait on the truth.
I guess that is the hard part. When you feel like you need to know the facts now, there may not be a fact. What happens after we die? What is dark matter all about? Will the Michael Bay TMNT movie suck? There are questions we have to wait on, sometimes for forever, and instead of accepting the first answer that sounds nice, we need to learn to live our lives without the answer until the answer comes.
Alternatively, just flame anyone that disagrees with you.