Doubt

Recently, a rather excitable young Christian told me that her beliefs were 'absolutely concrete and unshakable. It must feel very comfortable to be so secure and sure of yourself. Faith is very nice. It can help you keep going when times are tough. However, many people fall into the trap of using faith as an excuse not to think. Ideas are fragile things. When a new idea or possible solution comes up against an absolutely concrete unshakeable belief, it's likely to shatter and be lost. This is why I am a skeptic. My beliefs aren't concrete, they're more like plasticine. They have substance, but they can be re-moulded to suit me if the world around me changes.

Doubt is a good thing. If we never doubted, we wouldn't be open to new discoveries. We wouldn't dream. Science would grind to a halt. Society would stagnate. If some courageous women hadn't refused to accept the 'truth', once backed up by pseudoscience, that women were inherently inferior to men, we wouldn't enjoy most (though not all- we're still working on equal pay!) of the same privileges as men today, and I probably wouldn't be sitting here typing this. It was once the position of the Catholic Church that it was impossible for anyone but God to move in a curved line. This too was held to be absolute Truth until somebody challenged it. In the American South, studies were once done into the 'disease' which caused Negroes to run away from their masters, as this was believe to be an irrational act.

Organised Religion, including, but not limited to Christianity, is often guilty of refusing to accept things which do not fit in with beliefs already held by those in power. Scientists, too, are often guilty of ignoring or suppressing evidence which does not fit in with Scientific Orthodoxy. The solution is to remain open minded. Believe whatever you want, but don't dismiss new ideas without at least examining them properly first.

To quote the greatest skeptic of them all, Charles Fort, "I can conceive of nothing, in religion, science or philosophy, that is more than the proper thing to wear, for a while" (The Fortean Times, p51 Nov. 2003).