Letter to the Editor: Strawmen, James Randi, and the Skeptic Religion

Letter to the Editor: Strawmen, James Randi, and the Skeptic Religion

Editor’s Note: this post was sent “letter to the editor” style to WF by one of our favorite regular contributors. The letter comes in response to several lengthy twitter exchanges that began over a month ago, beginning with this tweet, the aftermath of which resulted in numerous semi-angry blogs written by skeptics and paranormalists alike. The argument on twitter continued after skeptic godfather James Randi outed himself as a “Social Darwinist” in Will Storr’s new book Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science, prompting merciless ribbing from believers, and a lot of hand wringing from disappointed skeptics.


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As many of you have probably noticed by now, there’s a twitter feed, a veritable window in the play by play actions in our corner of the paranormal community, on the right side of the Who Forted homepage. Doubtless, some of you who also have no life and work at a soul sucking office job often read the messages there and have noticed lately that our brave editor has been trying to talk to the skeptic community about maybe trying to tone down the high and mighty rhetoric that they spew at those of us who don’t accept that “science” (and James Randi) knows all. I’m overly familiar with the skeptic community and I haven’t even been active in this part of the “anomalous” world for that long. The hypocrisy and dogma that seems to be inherent in that particular group sickens me.


I grew up in rural West Virginia, and thanks to the colorful country churches with their self-appointed pastors, I quickly came to the conclusion that there wasn’t a demographic quite as full of hate and blind hypocrisy as Christians. I became an apostate from the religion I was raised in when I decided that no loving god would ever create something as sadistic and childish as an everlasting place of torment. I was nine and my life has been a long career of irreverence and heresy ever since. Eventually I started joking to friends that I was an occultist and one morning I woke up and it happened to be true. Throughout college I was still quite positive that religion was the biggest threat to the freedom of the individual. I disliked the internet and had as little to do with it at the time, so I didn’t realize how noisy atheists, materialists, and skeptics really were.

SAGANLOLOLOLWhen I joined the Who Forted writing staff I considered myself a skeptic. I didn’t believe anything at face value and enjoyed the tongue in cheek tone of the website. Although I was never a big fan of bathroom humo (I never could appreciate the bean eating scene in Blazing Saddles even as a young child) the title of the website assured me that these people knew where it was at. I still believe this about my editor and some of my fellow writers to this day. It’s just that I quickly realized that I wasn’t a skeptic, or more properly, that I’d never fit in with the types that call themselves skeptics on the web.

Firstly I’m not an atheist and I don’t view science as an the infallible method of arriving at the truth. Secondly, I certainly don’t take reality at face value and stopped believing that it was possible for humans to know everything a long time ago. Thirdly, I’m not some arrogant horse’s ass who believes I have a god (or Randi) given right to troll around scolding people for speculating about strange things in the woods or sonic booms. In fact, I could care less what people believe as long as they don’t go around preaching it. When one writes about aliens, ghosts, or various other strange happenings on a website dedicated to those things, that isn’t preaching. However, when one devotes their time and efforts to tear into others for believing anything that diverges from the status quo, that is preaching. I generally think that pulpit pounding and evangelism are bad things, or at the very least they’re obnoxious.

So “skeptics”, who are avowed missionaries of science, spend their time insulting people who believe in Bigfoot (because you could trip over a log while searching for it, you know. What’s the harm folks?!?!?! THIS IS THE HARM!!!!) instead of using their immense “scientific” knowledge by trying to do something useful. When you say you love science, and then summarily can’t find anything better to do with your time than bitch about people believing in wolfmen, your intelligence is not very impressive. In fact, you sound more like a whiny Christian complaining about the gay couple down the street than you do a scientist (but they could get AIDS and burn in Hell!!! WHAT’S THE HARM?!?!??!!?!).

What’s the harm?

Cross out "demonic possession" and replace it with "unscientific thinking" or "woo woo." Sound familiar?

Cross out “demonic possession” and replace it with “unscientific thinking” or “woo woo.” Sound familiar?

Isn’t that a great question? Luckily the skeptic community has provided us with an excellent and well researched site that has cataloged every bad or unfortunate occurrence that has ever happened with the words like “witchcraft” attached to it. Having had this particular website offered as evidence against my position in my last post (where I suggested that, on some matters, that it’s best to just fuck off and let people think for themselves) I investigated it. The laughable premise and the meager collection of data on that site overlook two very important facts:

Fact one? Life is dangerous. One would be able to set up a website about the danger of riding in cars or travelling by plane with a much more impressive record than the deadly mistake of believing in faeries.

Fact two? Humanity is, historically, not the brightest species and do a lot to hurt ourselves no matter what we’re working with. Families turn against each other. Governments start wars. Science can be used to create atom bombs and biological weaponry as well as vaccines and adding on the the body of human knowledge.

Everything has two sides. The argument that something is dangerous ergo one shouldn’t be allowed to think freely is disgusting, and moreover, cowardly. I’d also like to point out that in the category concerning magic, something near and dear to my heart, most of the “horrible consequences” concern people killing others for supposedly practicing said magic. So, may I humbly suggest that, instead of continuing to vilify the subject and merely adding to the superstition and hate surrounding it, we encourage others to, once again, mind their own fucking business and let their fellow humans believe what they want?

I’m just saying. 🙂

FSM_and_Raptor_JesusSo how should we, those of us who sit anywhere on the left side to the middle, look at these skeptics? Well, let’s start in one of the best places to begin with any concept; at the etymology of the word “skeptic.” What it originally meant was “member of an ancient Greek school that doubted the possibility of real knowledge,” or an attitude that was inquiring and reflective. Does this sound like the skeptic community? Well.. no. They all seem to believe consensus reality is the definite answer. Some of them even follow the advice of such clown-hat organizations as the American Medical Association just because it comes from a place of authority. In fact it would seem most skeptics and their supporters are members of the growing religion of atheism.

“But S,” you say with that endearing slack jawed attempt at incredulity, “atheism isn’t a religion!”

Wrong again, asshole! Back to the dictionary!

Religion comes from the word ‘religare’, meaning “to bind fast” or to be “bound together in one belief.” It shares the same roots as the words ‘ligature’ and ‘ligament’. Atheism therefore is undeniably a religion in this form, as is “skepticism”  insofar as these good people believe in it, and they really seem to want you to believe in it too. They very fervently believe in their superstitious and unquestionable form of “science” that they assert what they are doing is justified and moral. Some even raise their children to believe the same system that they do. Christian, Islamic, Atheist, Raelian, whatever, it’s spiritual or mental rape to tell your child what to believe or disbelieve. That should be a choice every person gets to make for themselves.

If it looks like a religion, talks like a religion, walks like a religion… well, it’s not very skeptical to belong to a religion, guys.. c’mon!

Some skeptics are so sure of themselves that they do not allow dissenting opinions on their website or decide to pick and choose which objections they will listen to. That’s certainly in keeping with being inquisitive, right? Cutting out opinions and voices just because you don’t like them or they don’t sound enough like you is certainly a testament to the scientific method. I mean, I don’t appreciate most of the comments that appear on my articles, but I’m happy that Greg lets them through. It would be ridiculous not to open my writings to public scrutiny. I’m sure I’ll regret this position as I peruse some on the lovely messages that may be left for me in response to this particular writing, but hey, I’m human and fallible and don’t think I should be able to tell anyone what they should believe. I do, however, think that we have the right to tell people to piss off when we’ve heard enough and they won’t stop talking in our ear.

Burning the Skeptic Strawman


Another term which these skeptics keep bringing up is the infamous “strawman”. You’ve heard it before.  They really want to protect strawmen because they are terrified as hell that someone is going to burn them. The strawman is the go-to complaint whenever a skeptic is being criticized, especially if that skeptic is being called “mean”. I’m sure I’ll get at least one accusation myself.

The strawman argument in regards to the skeptic movement is that they are a nasty and obnoxious group of people that won’t mind their own business. Hm, sure seems that way a lot of times. In fact one of the tenents of the “New Atheism” movement that scientists such as Dawkins, Dennett, and, it would seem, Randi exemplify is a widely outspoken criticism of religion. That’s fine, to a point. We all need to be reminded of our flaws and shortcomings, occasionally. It makes us better people. The flip side of that is knowing when people have heard you, and just don’t care. That’s what we call a social cue. It means it’s time to move on.

To that point, I’m sure no “skeptic” is going to enjoy this piece of writing. You see, just like any other religion, atheists and “skeptics” don’t enjoy being scrutinized themselves, even when it’s perfectly warranted.  If you want to be seen as the more enlightened alternative to religion, then don’t carry on the odious tradition of browbeating others for not belonging to your school of thought.

In one of the aforementioned twitter conversations, the goodly skeptics refused to back off of Bigfoot hunters because “WHAT’S THE HARM!!?!!?!” or something ridiculous along those lines. Again, it’s really none of your business either way. If you really care that much, if you really have to take time out of your day to pester others with your incessant moaning and atheistic preaching, please move to Texas and fight to do something useful, like removing their new Creationist textbooks. Bigfoot hunters aren’t ruining this country, they’re not going to drag us into the dark ages, and they’re no more a danger to themselves or others than most hunters or people for that matter. In fact, they’re pretty entertaining to watch and read about, which might be why there’s a multimillion dollar television series dedicated to them with more on the way.

While listening to an episode of The Infinite Monkey Cage, one of the hosts, Brian Cox, made a joke about setting up the rationalist tent at a pagan festival in Glastonbury U.K.. The other host responded with a quip that the tent would be shaped like a giant wicker man.

Good evening. Have you ever given any thought to the dangers of ghost hunting?

Good evening. Have you ever given any thought to the dangers of ghost hunting?

Maybe that’s the stawman they’re afraid we’re going to burn. But, my question was, why does there need to be a rationalist tent at Glastonbury? The short answer is there really doesn’t. It’s there purely to stir up irritation.

Again, let me repeat my mantra. Mind your own business. It’s okay to have a laugh or two, object if you want, but don’t devote your whole life to pissing on others. Add your two cents and move on. You’re not changing any minds; all you’re doing is proving that there is a new form of priestcraft on the rise. If you don’t, then you’re no different from a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon going door to door offering to share the “good word”.

For the most part, the paranormal community can take care of itself. There’s plenty of writers and researchers who like to have a laugh at their material and are more than willing to raise an eyebrow. Case in point: Who Forted. Let them regulate their work. We don’t need a community that is totally reliant on refuting every one of our beliefs and claims. In fact, when your whole purpose in life is to counter someone else’s interests doesn’t that make you kinda parasitic? Ew.

Are reality shows about ghost hunting exploitative and full of lies? Yes. But so are Jersey Shore and America’s Next Top Model. Undercover Boss is syndicated propaganda for corporations. That’s showbiz, and again, we have people who actually have enough interest in the original material to separate the wheat from the chaff. The entertainment industry is fraught with a ridiculous departure from the truth and overblown theatrics. I’d like to think that many paranormalists know the difference between Ancient Aliens and decent material. And the ones who don’t? They most definitely aren’t hurting anyone.

James Randi: The Golden Calf of Skepticism

obeySo, let’s return to the man of the hour, the hero of skeptics and the enemy of “grubby” paranomalists everywhere: James Randi. The guru of the truth and righteous crusader for the sorry people who don’t know The Truth as well as he does. I may swoon just thinking about him. A much better skeptic, insofar that he didn’t accept any dogma and realised the limit of his human knowledge, Robert Anton Wilson once wrote an article after seeing the “Amazing” Randi in action. Although it was authored in the late seventies it would seem that the ex-magician has done little to change his tactics.

“Finally, the high point of the morning arrived, in the form of The Amazing Randi, as he styles himself. Randi looks like Santa Claus and talks like the late Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (Rep.-Wis.) Randi is not a Liberal by any definition but a real, old-fashioned, honest-to-Cthulhu Conservative, fire-breathing variety. He wants to hit the heretics on the head with a blunt instrument.”

You see, The Amazing Randi is of the school of thought which holds that he and his friends have the only ‘real’ reality-labyrinth on the planet. All proponents of alternative reality-labyrinths are therefore, by definition, a bunch of sneaks, cheats, and liars. This is the best rhetorical stance for a heresy-hunter, since it is rooted deeply in the primate psychology… Hitler pointed this out in Mein Kampf, every demagogue knows it, and Randi, an old showman, plays it to the hilt.

Randi’s presentation consisted of saying five different ways that the heretics are a bunch of dishonest bastards who lie morning, noon and night, and lie in their sleep just to keep in practice.  Then, in case there were any dullards in the audience who hadn’t gotten his message, Randi said it again, five more ways. The Journalist [Wilson refers to himself in different ways throughout the piece to show where his mindset was at] hadn’t heard such oratory since Jim Garrison way in his heyday, finding new Kennedy assassins every second newsbreak. It was a smashing performance, and the Sociobiologist was convinced that most of the audience were breathing harder and starting to tense their muscles before it was half over. Primate mode psychology at its most primitive.”

That quote is just a small part of Wilson’s account which can be found in his book of essays Right Where You Are Sitting Now. The essay is titled “The Persecution and Assassination of the Parapsychologists as Performed by the Inmates of the American Association for the Advancement of Science under the Direction of the Amazing Randi.” I’m sure it can be found online for free for those more tech savvy than myself.

To “skeptics” I’d like to say this: until you learn to be polite and respect others instead of forcing your view of reality on them, don’t call yourself a skeptic. You are not. You are a dogmatist and the proponent of a religion. I’m sure the congregation will show up to ridicule me, accuse me of burning strawmen, but I’d like to invite anyone else to join A.S.S.: The Actual Skeptics Society, where we don’t take ourselves too seriously, don’t think we’re on a god (or Randi) given mission to enlighten the world, and are actually skeptical about ourselves. True skepticism begins at home.

We’re finally seeing Christianity and other organized religions exit stage left. It will be awhile longer but we’re in the process of throwing off the yoke. Let’s not let another religion, another mental tyranny, take it’s place. You are free to believe what you want and wonder about what you please. It is your choice. Don’t let some firebrand pseudo-skeptic tell you otherwise. Stop talking about strawmen and feeling self pity until you learn to behave yourselves and actually fulfill the requirements to be a skeptic. Or don’t. Whatever. I’m not in charge.

Neither are you.


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  1. Jason

    03/05/2013 at 9:33 AM

    Hear hear! I watched that whole exchange and couldn’t help but laugh when the only people getting angry and calling names were the ‘heroes of science’.

    Say, since Randi is officially “out” as a social darwinist who thinks weak people should be left to die, maybe he and his worshippers will shut the fuck up about “charlatans” and spoonbenders grifting cash from morons. After all, they deserve to be punished for being weak enough to believe that nonsense right?

    The hypocrisy is palpable.

    • S.

      03/05/2013 at 10:07 AM

      Sadly hypocrisy is usually not palpable to the hypocrites. They spend too much of their time telling others how to live their lives and how to think instead of taking the time for self examination.

      Randi really is no better than someone like Jerry Falwell. They’re both preachers, they both think (or thought) what they’ve done is justified, and those of a similar persuasion can’t see how they are simply arrogant windbags who don’t respect other people’s freedom.

      I was really happy to see that I actually had an agreeable comment on here. I expected to be buried under a pile of strawmen. So, thanks a lot.

      • Greg Newkirk

        03/05/2013 at 10:27 AM

        Give it time, S. Give it time.

    • Paul Keyes

      03/12/2013 at 8:52 AM

      Fundamentalist skeptics are intellectual thugs just like their fundamentalist counterparts everywhere (fundamentalist Christians, fundamentalist Wiccans, fundamentalist anything.) Smug and self-satisfied in their own ideas and opinions, they have no need for any of the rest of us except for that misguided narcissistic need to have us parrot back their limited views and thus assure themselves that they have bestowed light and wisdom to the unwashed masses and earned their place in their neurotic Universe. Meh!Fnord.

      • Karen

        03/15/2013 at 11:48 AM

        Nice to see someone savvy enough to know fundamentalists exist in the pagan community too… not that I’m one of them. Nice to see a Fnord mention, too. I haven’t kept up with my Discordian buds.

        S, this was a GREAT article. I’ve forwarded it off to other friends of like paranormal mind. For the record, I do consider myself a skeptic in the true sense of the word, and am totally ready for close-minded debunkers to STFU and go crawl back under a rock.

  2. Ron Don Volante

    03/05/2013 at 10:23 AM

    I don’t consider myself a skeptic but I also don’t believe in things like bigfoot as much as I enjoy reading about them. I think the biggest reason that I wouldn’t ever commit to skepticism is because its become such a dirty word (and i actually enjoy having fun and dont have any desire to party poop). You know its gotten bad when skeptically slanted news websites are nothing more than cntrl+c, cntrl+v plus a paragraph sarcastically explaining why the previous paragraphs are stupid. It’s like Perez Hilton for pseudo-intellectuals.

    To quote the fine gentleman at the beginning of the article:

    “You’re not wrong, Walter. You’re just an asshole.”

    • S.

      03/05/2013 at 10:35 AM

      I can relate. I actually don’t have any particular thoughts on Bigfoot or ghosts myself. Now faeries, the Gentry,…that’s a different story. I’m a simple man who wants to be left alone so they can read stories about men trying to impregnate horses or bigfoot hair samples.

      Pseudo-intellectualism for pseudo-skeptics- the glove fits. Thanks for the additional quote.:)

    • Cherie

      03/05/2013 at 3:30 PM

      S – HAHAHAH! Gosh, guys, it’s good to know someone else isn’t getting their panties in a twist. I was afraid I’d be reading the fun stuff alone ‘with the door closed’, trying to ignore the skeptics/non-skeptics/psuedo-non-skeptics (oh, whatever) in the other room ripping each others’ philosophical jugulars out over ego issues.

  3. J. R. Keen

    03/05/2013 at 10:52 AM

    oh joy. i cant wait to read sharon hills ten response blogs cc’d to half of twitter.

    “ghosts still not caught, skeptics still right, i am crucified for my intelligence CC: @anomalistnews @forteantimes @CNN @barackobama RT please”

    • Evil Eyes

      03/05/2013 at 12:33 PM

      nahh theres too many compliments to retweet

  4. a REAL free thinker

    03/05/2013 at 11:28 AM

    I’m so sick of all you stupid paranormal faggots being so jealous that you dont have any real heroes to aspire to that you have to write overly long blogs complaining about us being right. There is a reason spiritualism died in the 50s… JAMES RANDI KILLED IT. WE WON. Now stop crying about itstop believing in make belive and help us make the world a better more rational place for humans.

    “One of the biggest problems with the world today is that we have large groups of people who will accept whatever they hear on the grapevine, just because it suits their worldview – not because it is actually true or because they have evidence to support it. The really striking thing is that it would not take much effort to establish validity in most of these cases… but people prefer reassurance to research” -Neil deGrasse Tyson

    • S.

      03/05/2013 at 11:40 AM

      Considering that the email and website attached to this is reddit I’m not sure if this is a parody or not.

      If not, I would like to point out that using slurs such as “faggots” isn’t in good form at all for someone who is so far ahead of the common heard and that you’ve just played into the whole stereotype of the “reddit atheist.” I really wish I was there to see Randi kill spiritualism, I’m sure it was an epic battle.

      Overall I’d have to say that this response was sophisticated and intelligent.


      Paranormal Faggot

      (Oh, and telling people that they should stop thinking one way and think the way that you do isn’t “free thinking” by any definition of the term.)

      • S.

        03/05/2013 at 12:52 PM

        Wait, I just thought of something. Could a “paranormal faggot” be someone who is attracted to ghosts, aliens, or North American monkey men of the same sex?

        That’s guys right! There needs to be more heroes for sexually experimental mediums and Bigfoot Hunters in the world today.

        It’s the 21st Century! C’mon!

        • Cherie

          03/05/2013 at 3:34 PM

          S. – Is it too late to congratulate you for making me laugh? If not, thanks. That was really clever musing. (Snickering out the door and into the snow…)

          • S.

            03/05/2013 at 6:56 PM

            It is never too late to congratulate me. I’m glad you found it funny.

      • Matt

        03/06/2013 at 3:51 PM

        It wasn’t until five lines in that I stopped reading aRft’s post in an ironic tone of voice.

        I thought I was laughing along with them, but then found that I could not laugh at. Over the years, people like that have edged me closer to believing in fairies.

        • S.

          03/06/2013 at 6:33 PM

          Same here. I had a friend who was a big conspiracy theorist and I’d point out how one could see the Illuminati anywhere if you squinted your eyes and tilted your head but now…good god there’s enough people who would scold and belittle them for me to want to say much.

    • Greg Newkirk

      03/05/2013 at 11:44 AM

      Holy shit, that was beautiful!

      • S.

        03/05/2013 at 11:55 AM

        Thanks Greg, however I’m still not entirely convinced that was real. (If it was then…jesus, man.) So many obvious faux pas.

    • Evil Eyes

      03/05/2013 at 12:28 PM

      Do you skepticism with a potato?

    • Chew

      03/05/2013 at 12:34 PM

      You call someone stupid and a faggot and then you quote Tyson? With allies like you, who needs enemies?

  5. Nicholas Robbins

    03/05/2013 at 12:19 PM

    While I wouldn’t have said it just like that (especially use of the homophobic slur), I think you’re on the right track, “freethinker”. You just need some work. I’m going to guess you’re either relatively young or new to the growing skeptic movement in which case I believe it’s permissible to forgive you for acting like it.

    To expand on the wonderful quote by the awesome Neil deGrasse Tyson I’d like to point out that this article is a prime example of everything wrong with the world today. You would accuse us of not being open-minded enough, but you and your cohorts like Greg Taylor, Steve Volk, and other popular peddlers of nonsense don’t bother to listen to skeptics when they genuinely have something important to say, simply because they call themselves (or are called) skeptics.

    “Case in point: Who Forted. Let them regulate their work. We don’t need a community that is totally reliant on refuting every one of our beliefs and claims. In fact, when your whole purpose in life is to counter someone else’s interests doesn’t that make you kinda parasitic? Ew.”

    But that is entirely the purpose of the skeptic movement, to BE SKEPTICAL ABOUT THINGS! That is what we do, whether it is to try and make a positive impact on society by educating the public about questioning unhealthy beliefs, or because we enjoy picking apart silly things like bigfoot. Being skeptical of the things other people widely believe is what binds us together. Not in a religious way, but in more of a social club way.

    As for James Randi, he has done a lot of good for the world, far more than people like Robert Anton Wilson or any paranormalist has ever done. Who cares about what his motives were or what his personal beliefs are? The positive impact he has made on society by arguably starting the skeptic movement more than cancels out any antiquated beliefs he might have. Do we worship him? No more than the people who visit this site worship Charles Fort. I liken him to having a wise old grandfather. Sometimes they’re accidentally racist but they’re just a product of their time period. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a good person and we can’t learn something from them.

    In short you tell skeptics to “mind their own business”, when thinking critically IS their business, and this whole post comes across as a “boo hoo don’t think critically about me and the things that I like.” If you’re going to believe in nonsense then you don’t have the luxury of ignoring it when people call it what it is.

    • S.

      03/05/2013 at 12:35 PM

      I love having my point proven for me. First off, thanks for the sermon. “Everything wrong with the world today?” What the fuck man? You do know there’s people dying and suffering right now, right?

      You really do sound like a fundamentalist Christian talking about homosexuality or Jack Chick talking about D&D! “Everything wrong”…I swear.

      You see, you are automatically coming from the view point that you, Randi, and Neil deGrasse Tyson are indisputably right and that you have every reason and a god (or James Randi) given right to enforce your beliefs upon others. You even condone the incredibly sloppy attack above and excuse the use of “faggot.”

      So maybe the reason you are okay with Randi’s unattractive personality is that you are also a bigoted person?

      People are entitled to personal beliefs. As long as they’re not trying to convert anyone or make others believe what they do. You are not so much more incredibly intelligent and righteous that you may tell people what they can and cannot believe in. Nobody is.

      On that point I’d like to say that you’re free to think about me and the things I like all you want. Just don’t get offended and claim that you’re being persecuted when you won’t stop talking and I ask for some peace and quiet so I can think for myself. It’s not my job, my duty, or my punishment to sit and listen to you preach without complaint.

      Thank you Pastor Robbins. I’m sure you’ll be awarded many virgins in “skeptic” Valhalla.

      Oh, and who are Greg Taylor and Steve Volk? I’m sorry they got roped into this. Apologies all around.

      • Red Pill Junkie

        03/05/2013 at 1:06 PM

        >Oh, and who are Greg Taylor and Steve Volk?

        Oh, just some grubby anti-science dudes 😛

    • Red Pill Junkie

      03/05/2013 at 1:05 PM

      >”But that is entirely the purpose of the skeptic movement, to BE SKEPTICAL ABOUT THINGS! That is what we do, whether it is to try and make a positive impact on society by educating the public about questioning unhealthy beliefs.”

      Define ‘unhealthy beliefs.’

      >”As for James Randi, he has done a lot of good for the world, far more than people like Robert Anton Wilson or any paranormalist has ever done. Who cares about what his motives were or what his personal beliefs are?”

      Well maybe we should care. After all, we sure wouldn’t want him to have beliefs that are… unhealthy, now would we? 😉

  6. Hayley Stevens

    03/05/2013 at 1:08 PM

    This article jumps all over the place insofar as to say ‘some skeptics’ and then, in the next breath, to lump all self identifying skeptics in together, which is unfair.

    Some sceptics are assholes, some of them are smug and not very open-minded, and as a sceptic myself who is also a paranormal researcher, I get the crap from these people too. When I talk at sceptic conferences people snidely comment that paranormal talks are just “filler talks” between the important stuff. However, someone who calls themselves a sceptic but isn’t open-minded enough to be sceptical of themselves as well as others isn’t truly using scepticism.

    It’s infuriating, and it feels like some people are just out to parade around their superiority and ego. However, not everybody is like that, and the majority of people I know who identify as a sceptic just want to counter dangerous misinformation.

    People like Randi are held in high regard by many who came to scepticism watching his work on cases like Peter Popoff, and do you know why they irrationally defend him? It’s because they’re human. Just like you, just like me. Those who read The Heretics by Will Storr should know more than anyone how easy it is to be so sure that you are right.

    It can be funny to watch happen, but personally I use it as an example to remind myself of how I too am a fallible human, how I have had to rethink things I thought were true in the past, and I hope that if I get caught up in irrational thinking or “hero worship” nobody will laugh at me and use it as something to beat me with over and over.

    But hey, that’s just me.

    • S.

      03/05/2013 at 1:17 PM

      “Some sceptics are assholes, some of them are smug and not very open-minded, and as a sceptic myself who is also a paranormal researcher, I get the crap from these people too. When I talk at sceptic conferences people snidely comment that paranormal talks are just “filler talks” between the important stuff. However, someone who calls themselves a sceptic but isn’t open-minded enough to be sceptical of themselves as well as others isn’t truly using scepticism.”

      Hey, sorry about that. The reason I tried to put quotation marks around “skeptic” in my article was to differentiate between those who are able to apply their skepticism to themselves and those who seemingly can not. Feel free to join A.S.S..

      The thing is though, if you’re going around parading how much more intelligent you are than others than you’re kinda open game for criticism. Especially when you act like a missionary for atheism/materialism and hero worship some hack magician while claiming to use “critical thinking.” These people don’t think they’re fallible humans but they seem pretty sure that everyone else is to a fault. I’m not harming innocents by reminding them of their own irrationality.

      Besides, it’s not like any of this is going to sink in. They’re waaaaaaay too convinced they know what’s real and right.

    • Red Pill Junkie

      03/05/2013 at 1:27 PM

      Hayley, I can only say that I’m glad the Internet has someone like you commenting on these issues. And that if something I’ve written or Tweeted has particularly offended you, then I apologize.

      Maybe we need to come up with a new term for people who, although skeptically minded, don’t feel identified with what is now known as the ‘skeptic community.’

      How about free thinker? 🙂

      • S.

        03/05/2013 at 1:34 PM

        I really think ASS is out best option. 🙂 We can advertise ourselves as a branch of CSICON- The Committee for Surrealist Investigation of Claims of the Normal.

        • Red Pill Junkie

          03/05/2013 at 1:43 PM

          Man, you’re really are an ASS! 😛

    • DapperAndroid

      03/12/2013 at 3:45 AM

      Excellent response. There’s nothing inherently wrong with skepticism, just as there’s nothing inherently wrong with believing in UFOs or bigfoot. It’s when you become blind to the possibility of being wrong that you become an intolerable ass, claiming to be amongst the elite few who know the real truth.

      Let’s face it, if it’s not a skeptic claiming all paranormal events are bunk, it’s the tinfoil-hat wearing guy on the street corner telling us Jesus was an alien, and when the Second Coming happens he’ll be riding a bigfoot.

  7. Greg Newkirk

    03/05/2013 at 2:03 PM

    I should probably go ahead and toss my two cents in the bucket, seeing as how up until now all of my comments on the ordeal were just a bunch of half-serious, pot-stirring responses pooped out on twitter. Responses that lost me a handful of friends and followers who didn’t think it was all as funny as I did.

    First off, I DO think that there are plenty of skeptics who are doing a bang up job at, well, their job. Take Bob Blaskiewicz, who spent the last several months raising some $15,000 for children’s cancer research as a way to combat a guy who preys on cancer sufferers. THAT is making a difference in people’s lives. I have nothing but the utmost respect for people like Bob, even if they might think that I’m “silly” for hanging out with people who chase monsters. At least they’re good natured about it, and save their real fire for serious challenges, like (and I realize this has become something of joke but I’m dead serious here) fighting cancer and the people who would exploit it.

    Now, on the other hand, I can’t help but groan a little when I come into contact with people who go to what some would call unreasonable, perhaps even obsessive, lengths to tear apart stories of ghosts, flying saucers, or cryptozoological beasts like Bigfoot or the Chupacabra. They critique the media and it’s coverage of these events, they critique the people who make it a hobby to document and share these events, and they ESPECIALLY make a point to criticize the people who would dare to actually believe in these things.

    We get it. You think it’s stupid. Noted. Let’s move on.

    But no, instead, we’re constantly reminded, via all manner of snarky diatribe, that there is always, in each and every single situation of unexplained phenomena or extrasensory abilities, a “reasonable explanation” and anyone who believes otherwise is wrong.

    Noted. Thank you.

    “No, you don’t understand.. the media is SO WRONG on this. Why is this story even on the air? Why didn’t they consult a skeptic? Why would you believe THAT when you can believe THIS?” Etc, etc, ad nauseum.

    That’s just annoying, and serves to do absolutely nothing remotely positive for anyone. I’ve often likened it going to the movies with that one guy who loves to sit there and explain, in the middle of the film, why none of it is real.

    Here’s a secret: most paranormalists (at least the ones that I know, anyway) actually don’t believe most of what they read, watch, or hear. So why are they paranormalists, forteans, or anomalists? It’s a simpler answer than you might think. They enjoy the stories. Literally, that’s it. In the back of their minds (some deeper than others), they know how incredulous some of these tales are, but they’re fun to explore, fascinating to imagine, and we enjoy talking about them.

    So, when “that guy” decides that he needs to explain, in painful detail, why that particular story is “bullshit” while everyone is busy trying to actually enjoy the story, no one wants to take that guy to the movies anymore. These kinds of skeptics don’t need an outreach program to create dialogue with believers, they need a lesson in reading basic social cues.

    Why does the media love to report on the paranormal stories without approaching skeptics? Because the stories are supposed to be fun, and surprise, most news stations consider those pieces a joke, and like any great joke, it ceases to be funny when it’s explained to you *why* it’s a joke. They don’t want to invite “that guy” to the party, because he’s a drag and makes everybody so miserable they leave.

    That about sums up my feelings. I was given a great piece of advice awhile back that seems so simple, but rings so true: “Never be the only guy complaining. If you are, you damn well better be sure it’s worth it, because that’s the only thing you’ll be remembered for.” Would you rather be remembered as the guy complaining about a man taking advantage of sick people, or would you rather be the guy complaining that too many people thought they saw a UFO?

    To explicitly state this one last time before another half a dozen of my online friends tell me they’re “disappointed in me” for “skeptic bashing”, I do not think all skeptics fit the mold of the annoying theater guy, and I realize, just as with any community, that it’s always the loudest ones who get the most attention. But on that same note, when the theater is half filled with those guys, I’d say there’s a problem worth addressing and a pretty solid reason that enough people think your community is made up of a bunch of dickheads to warrant the writing of detailed press releases saying otherwise.

    • S.

      03/05/2013 at 2:22 PM

      Wow Greg, I’m really impressed. You have a much more balanced approach than I do in my “letter.” I would like to note that I am only talking about the “skeptics” that seem to be hung up on disproving monsters that not that many people believe in anyways. Sadly, most of these skeptics- the arrogant ones who are oblivious to their own hypocrisy are the ones that are the most visible on the web. At least from my angle. They’re also the ones that go on and on about strawmen and how they don’t worship James Randi while defending his prejudice.

      Like you, I don’t believe most of the things I read or hear. I actually end up rolling my eyes half the time. But damnit, like I said in an earlier comment, I’m just a guy who wants to read about some weird stuff and be free to speculate with some shrill atheist (also- I don’t hate atheists, just loud evangelical people) screaming in my ear about how “awful” it is that people can possible buy into all this.

      I think there’s enough levity to prevent anyone from taking this too seriously on Who Forted and in the general community. It’s partially about the fun, y’know.

      As my best friend said when I had him read over this; the whole letter was me trying to correct the improper application of the term skeptic.

    • Dale

      03/07/2013 at 3:38 PM

      I’d just like to thank Greg for eloquently summing up how I feel the situation. I love the stories, they are enjoyable. I have Mulder’s poster in my office. I don’t need people coming in and telling me a thousand reasons why it can’t be true. I don’t tell you why you cops/hospital/forensic show is rubbish. Let me have my stories and enjoy them.


  8. Red Pill Junkie

    03/05/2013 at 3:35 PM

    >”Here’s a secret: most paranormalists (at least the ones that I know, anyway) actually don’t believe most of what they read, watch, or hear. So why are they paranormalists, forteans, or anomalists? It’s a simpler answer than you might think. They enjoy the stories. Literally, that’s it. In the back of their minds (some deeper than others), they know how incredulous some of these tales are, but they’re fun to explore, fascinating to imagine, and we enjoy talking about them.”

    I think the reason why the Mysterious Universe guys –with whom I proudly collaborate, I should clarify– have been so successful with their podcast, is because when vetting the stories they discuss in their show, the ones who make the cut are valued by the entertainment value, rather than the chance said story is actually true or not.

    That’s why even people who are mainly skeptic about all these issues love to download the podcasts anyway 😉

    As for me, I’m glad I was able to get my hands on Jeffrey Kripal’s book Mutants & Mystics last year, because it made me consider the idea that what we loosely call the ‘Paranormal’ –a term I particularly dislike– is better understood in narrative terms, rather than rational ones.

    “The outrageous is the reasonable, if introduced politely.”~Charles Fort

  9. BenSix

    03/05/2013 at 5:03 PM

    We’re finally seeing Christianity and other organized religions exit stage left. It will be awhile longer but we’re in the process of throwing off the yoke.

    Really? It doesn’t look like it to me. One of the ironies of evangelical atheism, indeed, is that the only faith whose adherents are liable to convinced in large numbers is liberal Christianity – the faith that their critique is least applicable to. Islamists, Pentecostal Christians and ultra-Orthodox Jews, meanwhile, are seeing their ranks swell.

    • S.

      03/05/2013 at 7:01 PM

      That looks like an interesting book. I guess from my very Western perspective I feel that religion is on the decline and has been for a long while. I’ll keep an eye out for these trends. However, I’d stand by my statement that we don’t need to let atheism grow into its own powerful dogma, if it hasn’t already, just because there are still others in the world.

      Love the pic.

  10. Marc

    03/05/2013 at 6:02 PM

    I went through an atheist phase when I was in my teens. It was liberating. I could make up my own mind, and conduct myself as I saw fit.

    It never occurred to me that I was smarter than anyone else, nor would I have felt justified in calling someone stupid for their spiritual beliefs. I still said “One nation under God” at the end of the pledge without it bothering me now that “God” was just another name like Spiderman. A few years later I changed my mind after a couple of personal experiences that are important only to me.

    The problem today is exactly how you’ve framed it. Atheism/Skepticism has become a religion as it is practiced today. The editorial lists a bunch of examples, so I’ll boil it down to this:

    The belief in no God, or supreme being, or universal intelligence is equal in weight to the belief in a God. To deny this fact is intellectually dishonest. Why? The burden of proof is equal upon atheists to substantiate their claim of a non-deist universe.

    So instead of taking their freedom of non-belief and enriching themselves intellectually they turn around and troll on the internet like any tent-rivalist would.

    • S.

      03/06/2013 at 11:38 AM

      I think it’s a good thing for people to go through an atheist phase. I went through one when I was in my early teens, didn’t enjoy it, and moved on. Hell, I’ve went on a (more satirical than not) Satanist phase, a Shaivist phase, a phase where I worshiped a deity from Michael Moorcock’s Elric books, all for fun. I’ve had a lot of friends, some of whom I “helped” (depending on how you look at it) move away from the religion of their parents, go through an atheist phase. I’ve also mocked them mercilessly when they think they’ve found The Truth by reading Marx and then claiming religion is worthless and “the opiate of the masses.”

      It’s a fine thing to be atheist, or Christian, or an aboriginal shaman. If that’s what makes you happy and helps you find meaning than I am happy for you. As you said, it’s not okay to build a pulpit and start preaching. It’s especially not okay to start screaming about heresy, stupidity, fire and brimstone, or charlatanism just because you can’t step out of your own ego long enough to recognize that others have a right to their own minds.

      You put it nicely, love the input.

  11. Toe-D

    03/05/2013 at 7:29 PM

    What could possibly be more grubby than leaving your solicitations for sex in a video arcade- frequented almost exclusively by adolescent boys- then making up a string of lies about it when proof of said action surfaces? How about stealing the Social Security number of someone so your very young lover-cum-Boy Friday can avoid the immigration system and then lying about it for 25 years? Or belonging to an organization- filled with old MK Ultra hands- created by a minister who gushed that pedophilia was “God’s will.”

    I mean, purely hypothetically, of course.

    There are more lies, and more interesting stories ready to surface when the Grim Reaper voids all those gag orders.

    Gag orders- how appropriate.

    • S.

      03/06/2013 at 11:39 AM

      Sounds interesting.

    • Ben Dover

      03/07/2013 at 12:24 AM

      LOL… and that’s just the intro to the book.

  12. Vicar Lee

    03/05/2013 at 10:20 PM

    S. – This is a rare work of genius. You should be proud.

    Ideally, true skeptics must not even believe that they are skeptics. They cannot believe in their own existence. Not only do they not believe in the Moon Landings – because they were not there on the actual Moon to see it – they also do not believe in the existence of the Moon. After all, they have not been there. For all the skeptic knows, the Moon is a hologram projected into the sky by paranormal, cryptozoologist-UFOlogists who are attempting to bilk people into funding NASA, which of course does not exist. Neither does Barack Obama, because the skeptics have never met him – and those who have cannot prove that they met the actual man and not his double… An irrational notion, given that one cannot have a double of a person not verifiably real to begin with.

    We often forget that skepticism is not a nomenclature that automatically equals Randians or even reasonable people who work from evidence. The 9-11 Truth movement is skeptical. The Flat Earth Society is a skeptical organization. These people are fine examples of skepticism in action: they disbelieve official narratives because they hold that the evidence offered is unreliable, fabricated, or otherwise in error. It does not fit with their expectations.

    Skepticism is in short not a reasonable position at all when it verges into the territory of Nihilism, and S. has clearly demonstrated this and I have to say that I teared up at least twice while reading his brilliant piece.

    I’d like to throw in that from a clinical psychology standpoint, skeptics sometimes appear to be suffering from a depressive disorder or at least bouts of acute dysthymia. Anger is a component of these conditions, and skeptics often appear to be angry with those who have a differing view. The refusal to imagine, speculate, wonder, or explore seems a very sad worldview to adopt. It is empty and hopeless in many ways – though not in every way. Science and reason are terribly useful and bring us much good. But absolute unbelief is just absurdity masquerading as intelligence.

    The Vicar continues to believe that the ultimate root of skepticism is fear of the unknown, though. That sudden rush to explain away every anomaly betrays them: rather than run toward the unknown, they insist that it isn’t there. This is the adult version of a child hiding under the covers in terror of the boogeyman.

    • S.

      03/06/2013 at 11:31 AM

      Those are certainly some interesting ideas. One of my biggest “fears” in life is the nihilistic worldview which I also feel can arise from materialism or when a person begin to imagine themselves as some sort of biological computer. Computers can’t love or have any greater meaning than to simply operate. But that’s just me.

      The Patron Saint of Skeptics (and I’d like to think myself) is St. Thomas but even he moved on and didn’t spend his life complaining about how this doesn’t make any sense. Maybe he was skeptical enough to imagine they were all in a story where the knowledge of the characters wasn’t equal to the whole truth.

      Thanks for the kind remarks and additional information!

    • Ben Dover

      03/07/2013 at 12:34 AM

      Ahhh yes. See what you have hit on there though is what I have said before is at the heart of what drives them to be skeptics.

      Don’t you find it amazing that “skeptics” generally all believe the same thing.

      – Psychics and Mediums are fake.
      – The moon landings were real.
      – WTC was not a controlled demolition.
      – UFO’s are not extraterrestrial in origin.

      Most “skeptics” hold the same belief system…. but when you look at each one they contradict eachother. They state there is no sufficient evidence for Psychics and Mediums being real, yet there is sufficient evidence to show WTC was a controleld demolition… and there is sufficient evidence to show UFO’s have been seen for 100s of years displaying technology we do not possess on Earth.

      That is because their skepticism is not based on DATA and FACTS… their skepticism is based on EGO. If it is something they don’t believe in… then it must not be true… because then they would suddenly not be the educated know alls that they believe they are!

      Imagine admitting that the science you have been taught your whole life has more holes in it than swiss cheese… and that maybe it is YOU that has been gullible and brainwashed your entire life! Yeah… the academics can’t go for that!

  13. Paul Garrigan

    03/06/2013 at 12:01 AM

    I just want to say that this post cheered me up today. I’m agnostic when it comes to the paranormal, but I also feel agnostic about the materialist reductionist worldview – I find the proponents of the paranormal more interesting because they are at least willing to consider things outside of the scientific consensus.

    I don’t really believe that anyone has a clue what this life is all about, and I struggle with those who are convinced that they have cornered the market on truth. As far as I can see, modern skepticism is doing more harm than good – it seems to be a mix of people who either want to evangelize or gloat because they are so superior to the rest of us dumb asses.

    It amazes me how skeptics fail to see that they are just another group of believers. Their dogmatic insistence that science is the truth(and the rest of it is all woo woo) indicates to me that like all fanatics they are unable to handle the uncertainty of life – their claims for science makes them seem like people who are just scared and whistling in the dark to keep their spirits up. I suppose the other great attraction is that you get to feel like an intellectual superman or superwoman by just repeating what all the other skeptics are saying. One of the dangers of skepticism is that these people will often only be knowledgeable on one area (if that), but they will make pronouncements on all aspects of knowledge. I always find it funny how there can often be a significant gap between a news event and the skeptic response – they are obviously waiting to hear from the big guns in the skeptic world, so they know how to react to the news.

    I say all this, and I know that I’m being a bit unfair to the skeptics. I think the problem is that all of us humans are prisoners to our own beliefs. We can all become convinced that we are being skeptical, and we are probably all wrong.

    • S.

      03/06/2013 at 11:24 AM

      I feel that these criticisms that you, I, and others have pointed out are only unfair to some skeptics. All in all being skeptical is a good thing. The impetus to write this post came from watching some skeptics be consistently hypocritical and oblivious to their own dogma or one could say it came from my own skepticism. I don’t know how one can truly be skeptical without being agnostic about most things. As it seems that a particular set of skeptics operate solely from a atheist/”scientific” materialist worldview they discredit the whole idea of skepticism and are blatant parodies of themselves. Stop the preaching and actually start thinking for yourselves!

      I’m happy that this cheered you up. I appreciate the commentary and all the points you raised. There are so many good ideas that I missed out on mentioned in the comments, it’s makes me want to go back and incorporate them in the piece.

  14. CC

    03/06/2013 at 3:48 AM

    “Being skeptical of the things other people widely believe is what binds us together. Not in a religious way, but in more of a social club way”.

    That’s one of the truest quotes about institutional skepticism I’ve read. Fifteen guys drinking beer and complaining about how everyone else is doing it wrong. Just like every other social club. And we’re supposed to take skepticism seriously?

  15. Conquistador3

    03/06/2013 at 4:12 AM

    Since I am one of those with both a life and no job in a soul sucking office, I was only marginally aware of the ongoing Twitter feud.

    Mr S. (or should it be His Majesty S. since he’s Viceregent of God on Earth?) hit the nail right on the head with hypocrisy being a cancer. I’ll contribute my experience. 2013 marks my 30th year of involvement in UFOlogy. Today I am not as deeply involved as I was in the days, but I still follow the community, read the odd book etc.
    I have a formal scientific education and people ask me all the time why I “believe” in Grey Aliens, underground bases and all that jazz while I naturally ought to be a “skeptic”.
    My answer is I don’t “believe” in any of the above. I know for certain there are certain physical and psychological phenomena which are so intriguing as to warrant investigation. Curiosity is the basis of science: without it we would be still roaming the savanna stark naked and being eaten by leopards.

    I also warn the so called skeptics would probably have handled Galileo worse than the Inquisition did and probably burned al-Khwarizmi at the stake for good measure because both challenged the established “scientific” knowledge of their times.
    The so called skeptics have already closed the book of science. They already have all the answers.
    Luckily for us they are not scientists. Perhaps in fifty years our grandsons and granddaughters will study scientific systems and theories which we cannot even fathom right now.

    The so called skeptics do not challenge academics for their “shaky” theories. They do not challenge revolutionary thinkers currently working on new subatomic models. They are very careful around firebrand Christians and Creationists. Like the bully who knows he’ll be beaten to a pulp by the tough farm boy should he ever pick a fight with him, they choose their victims carefully. They pick the nerdy, rail thin kid with thick glasses who barely knows how to raise a hand. An easy target. What can the nerdy kid do? Easy, go the farm boy and ask him for lessons, all the while playing fool with the bully. Then one day, squarely land a punch in the bully’s stomach without warning.

    • S.

      03/06/2013 at 11:13 AM

      You may call me your Majesty…I have very low self esteem and anything helps. 😉 (That’s a straight lift from Crowley. It’s how he introduced himself to a surely bewildered/annoyed Austin Osman Spare.)

      I really wanted to fit something about Galileo and Bruno into the piece but couldn’t think of a place to put it. I always like to mention Bruno, one of the greatest scientific minds of his time who was also an occultist, when talking about how a truly scientific mind is interested in everything. Not just what their preconceived notions of how the universe runs demands. You whole comment said a lot of things I wanted to say myself. Especially “The so called skeptics have already closed the book of science. They already have all the answers.
      Luckily for us they are not scientists. Perhaps in fifty years our grandsons and granddaughters will study scientific systems and theories which we cannot even fathom right now.”

      So thanks. I always enjoy your take on things and you didn’t disappoint this time around!

  16. Dave

    03/06/2013 at 11:49 AM

    I’m all done being a skeptic…I’m a paranormal BULLY! That’s the new cool.

  17. John E.L. Tenney

    03/06/2013 at 12:17 PM

    Firstly, props to Greg for pointing out the “secret” of most enthusiast of anomalistic phenomena.
    Secondly, just a brief comment for me and one I think that sometimes gets lost in the “discussions” over the validity of “outrageous” claims.
    There is obviously a deep need for communication/connection between all peoples and one of the ways we gain this connection is through storytelling. We vocalized before we wrote and it seems there is an important need to continue to do so. Oral histories, family traditions and personal anecdotes are a way we draw others closer to us, recognize similarities between diverse groups and indeed learn to challenge the structure and nature of our belief systems…as well as entertain. Through our shared stories we can find common bonds which can weaken or strengthen ideas, something I have no problem with. If hardcore skeptics are right and these brief moments shared with others on this planet are all we have, then how about we use this brief time to entertain and enjoy each others company? If hardcore believers are right and there is something beyond this world how about using this time to entertain and enjoy each others company? Wait, both groups doing the same thing?
    I actually just woke up so I’m not sure if what I wrote makes any sense, on the other hand I prefer talking directly with people.

    • S.

      03/06/2013 at 12:30 PM

      Makes sense to me. 🙂

  18. Jeff

    03/06/2013 at 12:23 PM

    As I started reading this, I was thinking I should suggest the author read Wilson’s ‘The New Inquisition’, so I was glad to see the RAW reference towards the bottom.

    • S.

      03/06/2013 at 12:33 PM

      I actually recommend “The New Inquisition” in one of my earlier posts. I believe there’s a link somewhere in the above article. Always happy to meet another RAW enthusiast.

      I’m quite confident, but I’m not sure, that long after some of the “scientific” thinkers of today have been forgotten as new information has been found and they’ve been deemed irrelevant old fossils, Wilson will live on as an author, thinker, and model human being.

  19. Raven

    03/06/2013 at 12:33 PM

    Picture this> *Me standing, clapping my hands & giving a resounding “BRAVO!!!!”* Our world is made up of individuals who really are free to think what they want, free to choose their own paths, free to change their minds as they experience things and free to speak what they feel and it is sad that so many people continue to be oppressed by others who feel that only their opinions count. We should all remain flexible to other peoples beliefs and the choices they make. It really shouldn’t matter to anyone else. If I don’t agree with someone I should still be able to voice my opinion, my thoughts and even joke about it. I have heated debates with friends all the time and yet, we still hang out with each other the next day. Too bad the world can’t catch on to that concept. Highly enjoyed the article 🙂

    • S.

      03/06/2013 at 6:31 PM

      I glad you liked it. Keep an open mind and a curious soul!

  20. Kwin The Eskimo

    03/06/2013 at 5:51 PM

    To: S

    Amen (Yes, with all its religious and Biblical attachments and undertones)

    From: Kwin The Eskimo

    • S.

      03/06/2013 at 6:29 PM

      So be it!

  21. Ken Summers

    03/07/2013 at 8:16 AM

    If anything was going to unleash a torrent of conversation, it’s this topic.

    Generally speaking, I stand most behind what Greg Newkirk and John Tenney say. And that has to do with a book I bought years ago, called the Paranormal Beliefs: A Sociological Introduction. The title reeled me in (since I enjoy sociology), but when Erich Goode breaks things down into the “four types of paranormalism”, I was left out. Even in his defining of a “paranormalist”, I didn’t fit in. It read like a stereotypical view of ghost hunters, ufologist, cryptozoologists, etc. and lumped them all into some neat lunatic box. Basically, Goode was saying we all believe blindly in irrational things as we do with our religions.

    If I’m anything, Goode, I’m an atheist. And I don’t just believe crazy shit because somebody tells me it exists or shows me a hazy picture. I believe in possibilities, and I feel that searching for answers to strange events isn’t illogical either; it’s human.

    That being said, there’s a better view of everything from the fence between battlegrounds. You have your “reddit Atheists” who love having a good argument and name-calling and doing nothing constructive. Then you have your blind believers who claim every single thing is the result of “God’s hand” or supernatural powers at work. In a perfect world, we’d lock both extreme in a room together and let them put each other out of their misery. But then, there are more moderate people on either side who say rational things and make valid arguments and deserve to be listened to.

    Skeptics might be a dirty word to many, but skepticism is still extremely important when looking at unexplained events. And most of us do it. I remember being on a ghost hunt one night years ago when a group of us heard a bell ringing. It grew closer and closer, freaking us out, yet there was nothing we could see. Finally, there it was… sneaking along inside the steel rail of the tracks beside us was a house cat with a bell around its neck. We laughed. But keeping an eye peeled for a simple explanation is what sets a lot of us apart from the men wearing aluminum foil hats and Sylvia Brown devotees.

    Knowing and understanding both sides is invaluable to reaching the best conclusions. And yes, I do like Sharon Hill… I even like Richard Dawkins. And I think we have a lot more in common with them than we’d always like to admit. There are a whole lot of really stupid, insane claims, videos, and photographs out there that we love to laugh at for being so ridiculously stupid. But at the same time, there’s a lot that hasn’t all been explained to our satisfaction.

    Is that glowing ball of light a ghost, swamp gas, or something else entirely? It’s the “something else entirely” idea that drives most of us forward.

    • S.

      03/07/2013 at 9:06 AM

      I think the problem Ken is that the people you mention aren’t “moderates.” Perhaps, and I really don’t want this to come off as a cheap shot, it really is just speculation and I’m sorry if I tread on your toes, perhaps the fact that you are able to identify as an atheist makes these people seem less extreme than they do to me. I had good friends in high school who, while not the church going type, still identified as Christian and couldn’t understand my anger over fundamentalist preaching about homosexuality, evolution, why separation of church and state isn’t a real thing etc. I’m not comfortable with dogmatists, haven’t been for a long time, especially when they begin preaching and just won’t stop.

      Again, I don’t care if someone is an atheist, religious, thinks Cthulhu is going to rise up from the depths, as long as they’re able to stop pestering others after a reasonable amount of time about their beliefs. The people who inspired me to write my letter are not only unable to respect other people but have built their whole life around tearing into other’s interests. Does it make someone look silly to believe their orb photo is definitely a ghost? I think so. But does it make anyone look good to construct an idiotic website such as What’s the Harm just because they don’t agree with people who believe in ghosts? Nope, it makes them look fucking ridiculous. These people are bigoted and not skeptical at all. They’re positive that the world runs in the manner that they imagine it to run and that there is no other possible explanation other than their “scientific” materialism. Skepticism isn’t a dirty word to me; like I mention in the post, before I entered the paranormal community I considered myself a skeptic and as I conclude in the post, I still consider myself more of an actual skeptic than many of the self-identified ones who are little more than preachers for their short sighted and superstitious version of science…or atheism.

      You made a similar point on my last post that at Who Forted; we make a lot of jokes at true believers expense. I think I handle this above, and I think I did in the last post as far as I can remember, but we actual are interested beyond debunking claims and mocking others. We actually have an interest in the subject matter and do something other than bitch about other’s beliefs. We don’t idolize a prick like James Randi, talk about how much more advanced and intelligent we are, and then turn around and tell others to grow up. While everyone has an ego it seems that many in the “skeptic” school have allowed theirs to run away with their imagination. I can see some of them perceiving this post as the Church persecuting Galileo (or burning their poor strawman) rather than some guy who wants to read about weird things without someone telling me that by doing so I’m making the world a horrible place asking them to piss off. I’m more partial to “Twin Peaks” than “The X Files” but I don’t remember Scully running multiple websites about why Mulder was wrong and will always be wrong. Delusions of grandeur.

      I think you’re saying the same thing that I have when you talk about reddit Atheists and blind believers- again I just think I see some people as extremists whereas you see them as reasonable people. Skepticism has to go both ways though Ken. It’s good to laugh and look for the simpler explanation and not claim that you’re doing “science” when ghost hunting or looking for wolfmen. But let’s not slit our throats with Occam’s Razor, dump on our imaginative faculty, and forget to have fun beyond (as one commenter said above) “fifteen guys (or girls) sitting around drinking a beer, talking about how everyone else is wrong.” Let’s stop with the church building, whether it is devoted to God or NoGod, UFOs or ball lightening, reason and intuition, and kneeling before golden calves and open our goddamned minds and let others do the same.

      • Ken Summers

        03/07/2013 at 12:06 PM

        If it sounded like I was claiming folks like Dawkins are moderates, that definitely wasn’t my intention. I just meant that I agree with some of his thinkings I’ve read or watched on television and he makes some valid points. At the same time, I don’t “identify” as an atheist. We humans love our labels, and the closest fit I can come up with is that. I can’t just say, “oh, alright I’m a non-practicing Christian” because it would imply I thought the Bible was anything more than a best-selling novel. lol

        Believe me, I agree with points in your article and I’m not saying any one person is right or wrong. I always try my damndest to stay neutrally observational. I don’t hail Randi as a god just because “us gays should stick together” nor do I butter up well-known people in the field just to try to gain a little fame. I just think that over the years, I’ve heard some valid points made by some people on both sides that I agree with, even if they’ve said things I completely disagree with. There isn’t 100% of any one person I completely love and agree with, but well, isn’t that everyone?

        I just think it’s getting harder and harder to be middleground these days. It’s like being Switzerland in WWII and both sides want you to either join them or be bombed to smithereens. Naturally, I dislike when someone lambasts something unexplained and doesn’t produce any evidence to support their own theory, but I also hate those “you’re just not open-minded enough” people who pawn off extremely absurd “proof” as evidence.

        In my own little fantasy world, there would be a group of people–some exploring ideas of possible strangness and discussing it openly with a questioning group of people to reach some form of concensus–living in harmony. I just worry that warring sides keeps any advancement into finding the answers behind some events in the Dark Ages. Maybe I sound like a Hippie there. LOL I just worry about “throwing the baby out with the bath water”, as in people deciding not to question things. That’s what the goal of science is supposed to be: questioning, testing, and either going back to the drawing board or coming to a conclusion.

        Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not still in active pursuit of tantalizing clues to hauntings, werewolves, UFOs, and everything else under the sun. After all, I’m not satisfied with all the explanations I’ve heard yet… and some things still need a bit of prodding to come to the truth. It’s out there. 🙂

        • S.

          03/07/2013 at 1:12 PM

          My problem is with evangelical atheists/materialist who pretend to be skeptics and who adopt a hypocritical holier than thou, crusader for knowledge tone. I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t disagree with much of what you’ve said- not that I’m looking for things to disagree with.

          I don’t think I’m an enemy of or opposed to skepticism. I am opposed to dogma and hopefully will never grow so stale or egotistical that I’ll be otherwise. I love questions…just not pointless harassment which is how I see skeptics going after (I’m running out of examples) people who believe in Skunk Ape in the name of “science”, being told to piss off by the believers because of their tone and manner, then whining about how good and right they are and how we’re burning strawmen.

          I think part of what Greg was saying is that we (people who enjoy the stories about weird things for their weirdness and not to deconstruct them) already have a lot of questions and are naturally skeptical about these matters. We don’t need a group standing over our shoulder telling us how we should apply “critical thinking” or how fucking stupid and awful we are for even entertaining these beliefs. At least that’s how I feel.

          Oh, and I didn’t think you buttered up to people or idolized Randi. So…no accusations there. 🙂

          (I would love to be followed around what Gillian Anderson no matter what she’s saying to me.)

          • Ken Summers

            03/08/2013 at 7:51 AM

            Oh, I understand what you mean. Though when you look at some people out there, the overnight “ghost experts” who cause psychological harm to homeowners, spread heaps of misinformation that others buy into without hesitation, and generally give us decent, rational people a horrible name, it’s hard for me to say there isn’t a need for some “policing” as you put it. I really loathe certain people out there, especially “demonologists”, but I don’t openly pick fights with them. I poke fun at people on both sides, though… and often catch hell for it. lol

            But not all my experiences with skeptics has been negative. I’ve actually had a few Skeptics come to my defense when being badgered by other Skeptics. So I can’t really hate on them all. That’s stereotyping… and stereotyping is wrong. 🙂

            One well-worn saying that I still try to remember is “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” But in general, people like you, Greg, and the rest of the gang have the same curiosity balanced with journalistic questioning that I do. That’s why I’ve never left the field completely; I still have too many unanswered questions and want to find the answers. And no matter what the most skeptical person may tell me, there’s a valid argument for searching out the answers to even the most bizarre story. I always say that these events mean that something happened, even if it is just someone’s eyes playing tricks on them. The question for me in almost every situation is “What is it?”

            In my life, I’ve dabbled with just about every occult subject there is. (If I go too much in depth on that I’ll give away too many clues to what’s in “the box” I have locked up waiting for filming for Planet Weird here in Ohio.) And over the years, I’ve concluded that some things seem highly doubtful and others are still unsolved. But all of it is open to change at any moment. Even I need a little proof of some sort to believe sometimes. 🙂

          • S.

            03/08/2013 at 9:03 AM

            My main problem with my article is that it’s impetus was a reaction and reaction pieces are never completely accurate. Although, unlike my last post on the subject of skepticism, I don’t view this as a polemic and rather me callin ’em as I sees ’em. Or something like that.

            I can see where this article could have set back “the dialogue” between skeptics and believers but I would protest that the language and tone that the pseudo-skeptics were using was already forming or enforcing a large gap. I’d like to think that I make this clear in the article but I obviously didn’t. I was actually discussing your excellent “Separate but Unequal” piece last night and how demonology is an example of “researchers” with a Judeo-Christian background letting their personal prejudice influence their whole view of the paranormal. The flip side of that, in my opinion, is what I’m calling pseduo-skepticism. Where, and let me make it very clear that I do NOT think you are guilty of this, “researchers” with an atheist or materialist background let their personal prejudice influence their whole view of the paranormal.

            A perfect example is websites like Tim Farley’s (I guess) “What’s the Harm?” I’ve already made my case for why that question and that half-baked database are farcical (or, as I prefer, fucking ridiculous) and obviously based on a atheistic/”scientific” bias. When I saw that many of the pseudo-skeptics that were arguing about their right to “wreck the party” were using that website as evidence…well, that’s one of the factor’s that led me to write this piece. That kind of high-handed “now, you shouldn’t do this because x” (x usually being some variant of “my reality is better than your reality and you could get into some trouble my child” or “you’re stupid”) doesn’t help bridge the gap between “skeptics” and “believers” and will have to end, and probably won’t, before there could be an honest conversation. So, while this was a reaction piece, I feel my article was justified- I don’t think I burnt any bridges that weren’t already on fire and, as Greg said, perhaps instead of writing multiple articles and responses about why James Randi is still great no matter what other people say and mourning charred strawmen, these “skeptics” that feel affronted by the less-than-stellar assessment from the paranormal community should reassess themselves.

            I’ll wager the ones that really need to won’t though. Because they aren’t being skeptical or questioning about things that they agree with or themselves. I’ll be honest, and I know this is probably just begging for some long reprimand, but parts of this were based on Sharon Hill, who for better or worse was one of the most visible “skeptics” from the vantage point of Who Forted, and as far as I’ve been able to tell in the twitter feed- her reaction has been almost exactly what one earlier commenter jokingly said it would be. That’s not productive, that’s not skeptical, that is being so blinded by prejudice that you run behind a feeling of persecution when someone points out your flaws. Being a martyr is easier than examining ourselves, our unreasonable notions, and our shortcomings.

            All in all, I want to say I always appreciate your critiques and questions as they allow me to really flesh out my ideas. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you or any of the true skeptics out there who have read this piece. Personally, I still don’t feel that the piece needs to be offensive if one is willing to admit that they’re prone to bias and aren’t so much more intelligent than everyone else they can tell them how to think and what they can and can’t do. This turned out to be a lot longer than I had originally intended but oh well. Agree to disagree and all that, one for the road, toodle pip, etc. etc. Can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store for Planet Weird and thanks again for, perhaps accidentally, acting as a sounding board.

          • S.

            03/08/2013 at 9:10 AM

            Oh and I still cannot fathom how believing in Bigfoot is dangerous or wrong. Some instances of ghost hunting, sure, but the possible repercussions of Bigfoot hunting seem to be the same as regular hunting. And then it’s just a matter of knowing when you’ve drank too many camouflage cans of Busch Light to handle a firearm.

  22. Totem

    03/11/2013 at 5:29 PM

    Mean People Suck.

  23. Pingback: Letter to the Editor: Strawmen, James Randi, and the Skeptic Religion | Ghosts & Hauntings

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