I suppose the time is right for me to state formally what I think many people have suspected (but chose to ignore) for several years now: I do not believe in the supernatural. I believe that there are laws of physics that guide the behavior of phenomena in our universe and when something claims to break those laws either A: More information is needed to understand the seemingly supernatural phenomenon, or B: The phenomenon has been misunderstood or C: The phenomenon has been misrepresented.
Yes, I am aware of the stereotype of non-believers as hopeless, cynical, and generally miserable human beings. I’m telling you this could not be further from the truth. My “beliefs” do an excellent job of lining up my theoretical understanding of the world I live in with what I observe in my day-to-day life, which for me, is very comforting. I do also borrow heavily from Buddhist philosophy (not the religious aspects like reincarnation) in terms of guidelines for living a contented life and managing adversity.
The term I prefer, if a label must be applied, is “skeptic.” Being skeptical is not the same as being cynical. I recently heard skepticism described like this:
Person A: Do you believe in ghosts?
Skeptic: No, but I’d love to see one!
As a skeptic, I don’t really have ”beliefs,” but rather understandings of things based on the best available information on the topic. If a more compelling explanation for a thing comes along, there is no dogma that has to be reconciled with the new information prior to adopting an improved understanding of a subject. All possibilities can be considered without prejudice. I feel like this is a very good and important thing for the continued progress of human understanding and capability.
My skepticism did not occur for a lack of trying to be like the vast majority of my friends and family who are believers. I spent 14 years trying to believe in the religion I was raised in, and over six years researching Lutheranism, Catholicism, Judaism, Evangelical Christianity, and Buddhism, looking for any small feeling that I might have struck on something ‘spiritual’ or some divine ‘truth.’ Though in practice, each had at least some values I could appreciate, the supernatural aspects always left me feeling like I was being dishonest with myself. The time just came that I needed to be honest.
I don’t think my skepticism makes me an enemy to people who do are believers; if it does, the animosity is certainly one-way. I have no problem with other people being religious, the only exception being when people use their religion as an excuse mistreat others, which I feel is a pretty reasonable place to draw that line. I agree strongly with the golden rule and respect people’s differing perspectives the way I would like to be respected. On the occasion I do engage in a debate, I do so by asking thoughtful questions to clarify the other person’s perspective, in turn, I explain how and why I see things differently. Too often, I am not offered the same courtesy. It’s not that I’m not capable of providing harsh responses to people who treat me harshly; I’m as capable of delivering a scathing remark as anyone, but I’ve learned that when it comes to important relationships, it is often more important to be kind than “right.”
So there it all is, laid out. No more strategic ambiguity about where I stand. Perhaps this will alienate some people from me, which would be disappointing in the extreme, but those who have known me the longest are probably used to my anomalous nature by now.
Also, I want to be clear that this is not an April Fool’s prank, I just have impressively bad timing.