This is an atheist website primarily. There is of course, plenty of common ground with science lovers and skeptics, since many people came to atheism after taking science courses in school, though by all means that is not the only or even most prevalent way to arrive to atheism! Critical thinking and the use of reason, and realizing that it is best to believe that for which there is evidence, has led many out of theism as well. And since critical thinking, reason and the scientific method are hallmarks of skepticism, we do discuss here subjects which have historically belonged in the realm of "skepticism" such as Bigfoot or UFOs or magnetic bracelets, etc. But besides those traditional subjects for skepticism, I honestly never could tell what distinguishes skepticism from the practice of scientific thinking. The Skeptic movement clearly states that they are separate from atheism. While they claim that the world is natural and one should shun supernatural explanations in favor of looking for natural ones, they claim that "Is here a god" is outside the realm of skepticism because it is a supernatural claim. I think this is contradictory.
Sharon Hill, a geologist and skeptic who has the blog Doubtful News and participates actively in meetings and podcasts, has written a Media Guide to Skepticism, as a draft, and is asking for comments:
This is the first draft of a document intended to serve the entire Skeptical network/community. We are soliciting comments on this document to be incorporated into the second draft. Please send your comments and suggestions to comment(at)doubtfulnews.com with “media guide” in the subject line. Comments will be open until March 1st. In March, a final draft will be published.
She lists the following tenets:
A Skeptic subscribes to a number of tenets.
She also writes about what skepticism is NOT, aiming to clear misconceptions:
This is what she wrote about skepticism not being atheism. Bottom line, god is out of bounds. It seems to me like the usual exceptionalism allowed to religion. Here it is:
Many are [atheists], but not all. Skeptics are a diverse group so lack of religious beliefs should not be assumed. Skepticism can be applied only to testable claims, not to untestable ones such as “There is a God who controls everything”. Since we can’t test for a God who is supernatural, the question of “Is there a God?” is outside the realm of science. However, more specific questions can be asked such as “How did the earth form?” Humans must accept many things on “faith” – that the people we care about will be there for us, that we won’t die tomorrow so should plan for the future, that the other driver will follow the rules of the road – so applying skepticism to everything in life is not always the best policy. There may be other factors to consider.
To me, this is contradictory to the claim that the world is natural! What do you guys think?
I prefer the Oxford definition.
Religion and religiosity should be the Skeptics' main field of inquiry, simple as that. The fact that it is not is purely political like Adriana says.
It is very telling that this is the first definition of skeptic in the Oxford dictionary.
Michael Shermer's list of defining qualities makes sense to me. Jerry Coyne has pointed out many times that any supernatural entity (like a god) that is claimed to have any influence on the natural world is, of course, inherently testable. Wherever the supernatural is said to impinge on the natural world, there must be testability. It would seem to me, too, the portion of the Oxford definition describing a skeptic as an atheist is logical enough, because a skeptic is fundamentally someone who does not accept any claim for which there is no good evidence.
I like specifically this definition which Shermer quotes:
Skepticism is the rigorous application of science and reason to test the validity of any and all claims.
If that is the case, why go the extra mile to highlight that "Is there a god" is an excluded question, out of the realm of claims that can be addressed using the skeptical approach?
I'm just throwing a ball in the air here (or metaphorically speaking). Maybe the word atheist implies some, unknown to me, bad connotations whilst skeptic doesn't? From the definition, I could,not see a,difference between sceptic and atheist.
To me skepticism implies a much broader playing field than does atheist. The term atheist tells me that someone does not believe in any god, whereas skeptic implies someone who questions all areas of life.
Is it possible to be atheist and not question other things in life as well? I doubt it!
And yet there are atheists who are also believers in paranormal phenomena, astrology, alien visitation, and homeopathy. A skeptic is inherently an atheist, but an atheist is not a skeptic.
You'd be surprised. I've seen it happen, but then, everything can happen in the internet :-)
I agree with you. Many atheists are not skeptics or use skepticism in other areas of their lives. But my question was why go the extra mile to write down that skeptics can be religious? That is the contradiction in my mind, not defining what else a skeptic may do in addition to what an atheist may or may not believe. A religious skeptic is a contradiction in terms, in my opinion, by its very definition, as Davy posted above.
I’ve noticed on some Atheist websites there is a predominantly young membership who seem to equate atheism and scepticism with cynicism, and answer every proposition with derision and spite thankfully I’ve not noticed it on this site where you can disagree with someone with intelligence and good humour, and thankfully no one keeps on calling me dude and man every other word.
I guess we are a predominantly more mature website =)
Not that we are under assault by immature jerks (of any persuasion) but we tend to moderate the place when they do show up. Glad you appreciate.