Most of my mornings are filled with top 40 hits of pop music as I commute to work, kids in tow. This radio station is a clear favorite for all of us with its variety, and usually I can ignore the music and let the kids enjoy a little be bopping before going to school. Recently though, we discovered that on Sunday mornings there is a half hour of programming starting at 7:30 a.m. that is evangelical in nature.
"We are going to tell you how to improve your life."
"Through God all things are possible."
"Cynics find a way to eliminate all the good in their lives...but I am here to bring Jesus to them."
Insert the sound effect of a record being ripped off the player as I heard that last line above being mentioned. Wow, huh? Cynics find a way to eliminate all the good in their lives..but I am here to bring Jesus to them. Being in reference to non believers and doubters, apparently he is confident in the converting power of the Lord and his much celebrated Son. Because, you do know that a skeptic and a cynic are totally the same?
That small thirty second sound bit was enough to send my pot of coffee fueled brain into overdrive, and I realized it is important to clear the air yet again about a skeptic's thought process. Even further than that, I think it is high time it is made clear that religious folk, especially Christians, that love to misuse a word's meaning in order to make their case, are truly the cynics here. Probably more so than any other group out there.
First off, let's break down blatantly obvious differences between one who is a skeptic, and one who is a cynic. In general terms, a skeptic is one who is willing to question just about anything out there, including accepted opinions. Notice the key word "opinion" at the end of that last sentence. Most skeptics are not going to question facts. We aren't going to call bullshit on the theory of gravity. Falling from a building hurts and has been clearly demonstrated as deadly.
Tell us men came from dirt and women from a rib? Well, that is an awfully vague creation account. We might need more information on that. Skeptics do not just immediately doubt everything out there. We are open to the idea that nothing is above questioning. Questioning doesn't mean something is automatically suspect or false. Questioning is essential to the learning process, and without it we would have a difficult time differentiating between fact and fiction or purpose and process.
It isn't our fault if religion in particular doesn't hold up to genuine scrutiny. Skeptics don't simply outright deny a belief the first time they are exposed to it only because personal bias wants them to do so. Skepticism requires a certain level of rational knowledge, which we even, at times, have a hard time being sure is truly rational. And philosophically speaking, religious arguments do not accommodate for this type of thought.
Still, when confronted with a skeptic, many religious believers like the preacher on the radio, try to turn skepticism into something sinister. A normal human learning process transforms into an unyielding denial. Skepticism turns into a a crusading philosophy laden with allusions to unreasonable suspicions of the intentions of everything in the world. A skeptic is hell bent on the idea that there is no selflessness in the world, and that anyone can have anything if they are willing to only put their own motivations above all else.
The skeptic is a cynic.
That is what the majority of the religious world have their masses believe about myself and others with agnostic belief sets. After all, they have to be a cynic if they are skeptical of God, creation, and the morality guidelines set out by the Bible. Skeptics are just like cynics is the war cry of the religious clergymen. They can't handle the Christian's desire for eternal ease and pleasure in Heaven. Hell, the skeptics have utter contempt for getting everything easy. Pleasure? Hah! Skeptics only want misery since they clearly want to go to Hell.
Skeptics are cynics!
The mental contortions that some believers in faith must perform is astounding, isn't it? In reality, this exercise is yet another projection to avoid a long hard look in the mirror. I would postulate that the true cynics, are and always have been, the religious. Rigid in belief. Suspicious of anyone's motives who are not part of the same faith. Shit, one of the biggest characteristics of believers would be their insistence on anything pleasureful, like masturbation for instance, or enjoyment of a Sunday in bed instead of prostrated in church, as too easy and sinful.
Apparently, without God and His omnipotently planted morality chip in our being, there is no way skeptics could do anything without a selfish motivation being involved. If we do somehow manage to save a kitten from a tree, breaking a leg in the process? It's because Satan is using us to trick that little girl it belonged to into trusting us so we can blacken her soul and molest her.
We are the evil influences of Lucifer's demonic forces, out to poison the faith of others with our mere presence in the same office space.
I hate to break it to you believers out there who think about skeptics like this, though I do enjoy supposedly being in Satan's upper management team, but that type of thinking about skeptical people is a cynic's school of thought. We aren't out here trying to poison your belief, we just want you to keep it to yourself. Quit forcing it on others. We aren't going to convert, and you shouldn't be try to force us to sign up either.
You have to understand we just want everyone to have the right to decide on his/her own if religion is a good program to base an entire lifetime on. If you get to apply pressure to convert via legislation, in classrooms, in the media, and in your home, how is this allowing for a fair discussion? To automatically call disbelief misguided, an easy way out, an avoidance of accountability, a clear sign of evil in one's life? That is cynicism. And it's abusive at that.
One has to understand what skepticism ultimately provides that cynicism does not. To be a skeptic is more than just exploration of thought. It is examining of authority. Skepticism does not demand that a guilty verdict be handed down. It isn't a judgment process, it is a learning process. It allows for the final conclusion that everyone was right after all to stand. See, falling off a building will probably kill you. But it also allows for disagreement on whether Justin Timberlake really had his dick in that box.
Cynicism doesn't care if anyone was right or not, or if that singer's penis really held that box up. Cynicism says that there is only one answer, and that answer has to be what you want it to be no matter what anyone else says because disagreement means there is a selfish motivation behind it, and people cannot be trusted on their own merits anyway. Cynicism eliminates the exploration of further explanation and understanding, instead happy to just keep following a path blindly because it fits whatever agenda that is in mind and doesn't deviate from it. To be a cynic is to automatically treat everyone in the world as a guilty party to a selfish plot.
It is true that both of the words skeptic and cynic involve questioning. The first questions how a belief/practice/opinion is accurate and true, and then determines the veracity of the claim, the latter questions a person's motivations only and subsequently makes a judgement based on personal biases. As I have come to understand it, religion has become about questioning motivation of yourself and others, automatically handing everyone a guilty verdict to madly spend a lifetime expunging from their Heavenly records so they don't burn in Hell. That's a very cycnical world view if I ever saw one, and just one more reason I am glad to not spend time in organized religious environs anymore.
You've gotta be a die hard cynic to keep rationalizing such thought processes within organized doctrine.