I am skeptical about the effectiveness of the skeptic movement.
I am concerned about the audience (or lack thereof) that the skeptic movement reaches. Let’s face it, most of us seem to be nerds and nerds only seem to attract other nerds. This is not a bad thing, but it is obvious we need to attract a larger and more diverse population if we really want to see positive change in the world.
It is old news that we, as a community, are failing to reach our desired demographic (those who consistently fail to think with reason, logic, evidence and criticality). Which is well… everyone else. Skepticism helps people live better, healthier, and more fulfilling lives. And unlike most religious doctrine and other wacky beliefs there is evidence to support this claim. So, if we want to help people, it is very clear that we need to somehow reach a wider audience instead of simply “preaching to the choir.” I want to discuss ways to both build community and improve the marketing of skepticism.
Often, when I try to share the benefits of skepticism I will get a reaction similar to “That’s too much work! Why would you want to analyze everything!?!” or “That sounds hard.” After calming down from my frustration over the slacker culture of my age group, I wonder about what possible strategies can be used to influence people who just seem too lazy or uninterested to care about improving their lives.
How does one convince another to give up their easy question-free lives in exchange for a life where most every decision involves some effort (i.e., critical thinking, etc.)? Many practiced critical thinkers fail to realize that their life involves a lot more effort than the average non-skeptic. Convincing someone to change the way they think to improve their lives is a lot harder than, say convincing them that there is a magical sky daddy that will make everything better. This is especially true when most people only meet a few practicing critical thinkers in their lives while being surrounded by non-critical thinkers on a daily basis.
How do you sell quick-fix America on the idea that they need to make an effort to think if they want to live better lives?
I am very convinced that having one conversation or interaction with a person is not going to change their world views. So I have come up with a few key points we need to remember when trying to change minds.
- Establish a positive relationship with the person before you try to change their mind
- Choose an appropriate time to offer your message and be sure to let the person know that you have made decisions devoid of logic and evidence in the past and are claiming to be perfect
- Live well. This is important because you want to be an example of the benefits of critical thought and skepticism. When I talk to people I try to be upbeat and happy. If you live a healthy and happy life, people are more likely to come to you and ask for advice on living well.
- Open up to people that are not just of the atheist, agnostic, humanist persuasion. Let some cafeteria Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Jews etc. into your circle of friends and acquaintances. I have many friends who are religious (liberal in their views). They love and accept me and I’ve been able to help them be skeptical about alternative medicine, psychics and other woo.
What are your suggestions for preaching the “gospel of skepticism?”