Skeptics and Rationality as cult

Oh man I am really going to get it from this one. So I am an agnostic atheist and I have noticed that over time I have come to consume many different forms of media in order to educate myself on different political and societal issues. I value rationality but have noticed that there seems to be an excessive amount of rational thinking amongst those who are both on the left and right. This type of rational thinking actually reinforces the status quo. In fact one can almost call it a rationale for the status quo and for how things should be. The liberal morality of rationality, is one that values education as the ultimate form of overcoming different forms of oppression. However, rationality is never going to win any form of argument or persuasion if you do not account for different ways of thinking and what matters to people. One of religions greatest strengths is that it creates a simplistic dichotomy of good and evil. It simplifies a world in which one can, feel secure despite the changing that occurs around you. I am sympathetic to resistance to change because I am an anxious person. I understand how, if your convictions and values are completely challenged or are at odds with society at large, this can feel overwhelming. I am not alt right but I do feel at odds with the current framework of society. I believe that morality is important to statecraft but that liberal republican so called democracy is impotent at this time. The marketplace of ideas assumes that both ideas are acknowledged as equals at the beginning and assumes that the judgments of those who observe are not colored by outside biases. Liberal systems of thought make assumptions about human behavior and reasoning that are at odds with the real world. When I say liberal I do not just mean a certain political party. I am talking about liberal in the use of both classical liberals and the current dichotomy from the most right wing liberal thought and the furthest to the left that doesn’t go beyond into socialism or authoritarianism. Society is a place where certain rights are afforded to some that others simply don’t have. The problem with the new atheists is manifold:

  1. They assume because of their expertise in certain areas, that they are able to speak eloquently on other fields of which they have little experience. For example Sam Harris a neuroscientist, and yet he deigns to speak of philosophy and foreign policy. Just because one is knowledgable about one thing, doesn’t mean one can speak eloquently about another. Your mastery in one field doesn’t mean you cannot be wrong about another. Jordan Peterson for instance, annoys me because he is in a similar field to one I am passionate and well read about, and he brings his own destructive ideology and presuppositions into his work. Furthermore, these two people attach the certainty of the harder sciences to their notions about fields of which they have no mastery.
  2. This is my own personal bias but I cannot stand when someone is unable to admit when they are wrong. Atheists, because of how marginalized we are, tend to be very aggressive when combating negative stereotypes of us. I see this often when people wish to defend Sam Harris. Sam Harris can be wrong though and he often is. His expertise in one subject, doesn’t stop him from failing in other areas. Your own personal beliefs and your own personal knowledge are not perfect. The greatest test of character for me, is when someone who has a large audience or even a lot of power, is able without much difficulty, to admit fault. This almost never happens though. The same lack of humility that we mock creationists for, is something we should avoid as atheists.
  3. Social Justice Warrior seems to really be a hot sticking point for the skeptic community. It is only a major issue on par with religious extremism, if you have never been on the receiveing end of discrimination or socially a pariah. But even then, those who have been socially bullied or been loners, have a tendency to flock to these echo chambers. To be intellectually superior, is the same thrill someone might have if they are elite in a sport. The idea that you are better than someone else is intoxicating and especially so if you feel so inadequate in everyday life.
  4. I think we could all use a lot more compassion. The skeptic community has given aid to the alt right by simply misunderstanding how words and ideas can oppress other people. Buzzfeed and social media are poor substitutes for actually reading studies and actually talking to people who have dealt with these things. You are not being open minded if you start from the position of, these people will never be reasonable and are never going to put rationality above emotion. Emotion guides reason and rationality and rationality can help guide and help us understand emotion. We need both.

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