An interesting contribution to the discussion from someone I dialogue with regarding the issue of faith, belief, atheism and reason. An account of their position as a self-confessed Sceptic:
"Firstly, nearly all atheists are sceptics, and their atheism comes from their scepticism.
Secondly most sceptics are frightened of ghosts and of alien abduction. Sceptics never get haunted and they are never abducted, and hence it keeps us safe.
Atheists are sceptics that focus on belief in God, other sceptics (such as Carl Sagan) focus on aliens, others on alternative medicine (my friend at work asked someone that believed in homoeopathy “what do you call alternative medicine that works?” His answer – medicine), others on astrology, others on ghosts, others on creationism, others on history revision, others on moon landing conspiracies (we didn’t land on the moon – it was all filmed in a warehouse on Mars), others on…
You get the idea.
What is most interesting is that, from a sceptics point of view, all of these are the same. We say the same things to each of the groups and get the same response back.
We ask for evidence of X.
Believers of X say The evidence is there if you look at it in the right way.
We say that evidence should be objective and amenable to science.
Some say that X is perfectly scientific and there is evidence but the scientific community refuse to listen. Others say that there are reasons why, despite making claims that seem testable, science will never be able to investigate the claims (I think this is called special pleading).
Then we go round in circles.
What is actually more interesting to me is that some of these believers follow this in debating other believers but don’t apply the same process to their own belief. A sceptic is basically somebody that applies this to all their own views. What is often overlooked by people is that sceptics are nearly always tougher on their own views than they are on other peoples.
Many years ago, before I was calling myself a sceptic, My wife came up to me to tell me that she had heard a news report that showed I was right about something (I can’t remember what it was now).
The next thing I said was “what was the sample size?” and she knew, she had remembered because she knew I would ask.
Even when being shown I was right I tested the evidence.
How to become a believer
In our garden there is a group of three pots. One of these keeps on falling over.
I can imagine someone coming to our house and saying that fairies are doing this. Being a Sagan believing sceptic, I say show me the evidence. They say all you need to do is take the step of belief and then you will see.
Having been worn down by many people saying just take the first step and it will all be clear, I decide to take that step this time. I decide to believe.
Now I believe in fairies.
Now I have evidence for fairies every time that the pot falls over.
If a sceptic now comes to me I will point out that it is their lack of belief that is preventing them from seeing the evidence right in front of their eyes. I can say this because I used to be a sceptic and then saw the truth. They go to the trouble of checking the pot and see that it is a little top heavy and, with our dogs running round it will be the one most likely to fall. I point out that I can remember a time when it was upright and later on its side and I am sure that the dogs were not in the garden at that time. Can they explain that?
As they can’t provide a scientific explanation of this particular time, this proves that their science cannot explain everything and the only rational thing to do is continue with my belief."