Religion is a gateway drug. Well, drug, in the metaphorical sense, as in an anesthetic for critical, rational, logical, skeptical thinking. But it is a gateway also, in the sense that when you assent to the claims of a religion, you thereby make it much easier to assent to other dubious claims. Claims against which, if you hadn’t tied up your critical thinking and thrown it down in the basement, you would have had some defenses.
This is a conclusion I’m beginning to form as I join skeptical Facebook groups and investigate their perspective on those things I used to believe, those dubious claims and conspiracy theories. As I listen to skeptical podcasts and read skeptical blogs and websites, and follow skeptic Twitter feeds, and read books by skeptics, I’ve had several cherished conspiracy theories and pseudoscience claims dissolve before my newly revived rationality. It’s not always been a pleasant sensation, but I can’t help feeling that it’s for the best. If I hadn’t accepted membership in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination (a Christian church) at the age of twenty, I’m fairly certain I would have had a much easier time detecting the BS in the following (all of which I not only accepted as fact in my believer days, but did as all bloggers do, promoted their causes through my internet activities):
- Trutherism. The popular legend that 9/11 was a vast government conspiracy
- Anti-GMO due to pseudoscience about its dangers
- Anti-vaccination due to pseudoscience about autism causes
- Anti-fluoride due to one-sided conspiracy writings about water fluoridation
- Magical cancer cures, such as Burzynski’s
- Alternative medicine in general (there is medical science, and then there’s pseudoscience)
- That the following were cults and/or religions: Darwinism, evolution, secularism, humanism
- That the following were trustworthy authorities: Rush Limbaugh (I was young, and conservative, okay? so shoot me), Ron Paul, Alex Jones (hard to admit, that one)
- That “Jesus was all about free will” (actual blog post title from my now-defunct jimblog.net)
- That academic accreditation doesn’t have any positive impact on educational institutions (wait; I think I came up with that one all by myself)
- I thought so highly of Ben Stein’s film, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” I had many of my classes watch it and take notes. I cringe now at how successfully it demonized Richard Dawkins, at least in my own mind. (I have now done the grown-up thing, read Dawkins for myself, and all the ‘demonness’ of Dawkins has fallen away)
This list may grow. I remain dedicated to the process by which I am untying all the critical thinking tools I had managed to tie up in the metaphorical basement of my brain, and letting them do their proper job, maintaining a healthy skepticism of any and all claims. There’s one born every minute, you know!