Skepticism can be healthy

Allison Pritchard

Many people believe their religion is the one true religion just because they happened to be born into it. They refrain from eating certain meats, or eating meats certain days, or eating anything certain days. They have passed laws banning black and white people from marrying, and then, years later, repealed those in exchange for new laws preventing others from marrying based on their gender.

The question I dare to ask is why do so many people accept hearsay, stories and cultural traditions as literal fact, but at the same time, if someone told them he saw a ghost, they would laugh in his face. How can grown men believe tales solely based on words that were passed down, especially when they go against sensibility and the entire natural world around them? I won’t say for sure they didn’t happen, but I won’t hesitate to wonder if they did.

It befuddles me that people who are healthily skeptical of stories are considered deviant or abnormal, but blindly accepting stories that would otherwise qualify someone who believes them as a nutcase is considered the norm. If I told you I saw a flying spaghetti monster who told me not to eat bananas on Tuesdays and wrote a book about it for people thousands of years later to take literally, I would be laughed at – especially if there were other versions of the spaghetti monster flying around with different adjoining tales.

It’s healthy to question religion. One is just as “irrational” to believe in God as to claim to be sure that God doesn’t exist. I do not claim to know the unknowable.

I believe that religion, although sometimes draconian, is a great cultural phenomenon beneficial in promoting community, family and love. I believe in keeping tradition alive and celebrating holidays. I don’t think religious displays should be banned, but teaching religious concepts as science is absurd and detrimental to children’s critical thinking ability. (On a side note, gravity is still considered a “theory” as well.)

It saddens me when I see people who hate “crazy Bible thumpers,” and it also saddens me that people think nonbelievers are evil. People have numerous reasons for morals, such as societal norms, law, and simply common sense to get through life, aside from religion. When someone doesn’t steal a TV, it’s not because she is consciously thinking that God will smite her, but because it is what normal people do to easily navigate through life.

I grew up in a church that valued educating children about the world around them. As a Unitarian Universalist, I was taught what adherents to all the world religions believe, sex and contraception facts and evolution, along with the Bible, and it was left up to me to decide what from the numerous beliefs, tales and ambiguity to believe.

What most people don’t recognize is that the religious and skeptical alike want to see less killing, less abortion and more kindness in the world. Religion should only be used to bring people together and never to tear people apart. Ethical behavior and compassion are more important than specific beliefs. I don’t know for sure and you don’t either, but I still have faith – and most of all, faith in humanity.

Allison Pritchard is a junior TV-Radio production major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]