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I’ve been identifying as a Skeptic for a relatively short amount of time.
I found out about this Skeptic Movement only a few years ago through the magic of podcasts. In fact, I can trace it back to a pedometer.

I bought a pedometer to track my steps while I was working in a sheet music warehouse. With it came a small radio and headphones. By chance, I happened to catch a little bit of Penn Jillette’s radio show. Interested in hearing more of it, I found the podcast and started downloading it and listening on my iPod. His podcast led to other podcasts, mostly ones about science. I listened to science podcasts all day long and in particular got interested in this Skeptic Movement. I started becoming the token Skeptic at work, and started researching everything I believed and the scales fell from my eyes as I saw the world in the cold light of reality.

I started calling myself a Skeptic and was excited to be part of a “Movement.” It was so cool to be part of something big, a cultural uprising that was going to change the world!

Now, as I’m sort of moving away from the Skeptic Movement, I’m not sure why I still call myself a Skeptic.
It’s a label that I’m still comfortable using, but at a party the other night, someone asked me, “What exactly is a ‘Skeptic’?” And I waffled a bit about evidence and epistemology, but in the end I found myself wondering why I still use that term.

Among the Skeptics, we all seem to know what it means to call ourselves Skeptics. We are doubters, questioners, lovers of evidence and logic and science. It’s a positive thing to us, and we proudly wear the badge that challenges the dominant culture of blind faith and unquestioning consumption of information.
But to those outside the movement, it’s a bit of a puzzle. They don’t see the point. It’s like, “Oh. Ok. I believe in that stuff too, but I guess I’ve never seen myself as a ‘Skeptic.'”

So I guess I retain the label to identify myself as part of the in-group to fellow members. It’s my version of a Freemason ring (or whatever they wear).

But now I feel like maybe if I’m interested in outreach, I don’t need to wear this label. I could call myself a Rationalist, a Free Thinker or something that better expresses these things. A Skeptic only covers one aspect of my beliefs, my worldview, my lifestyle and too often it’s seen as simply being a denier of things, rather than a positive worldview. I’m more than a Skeptic. I’m a Mother, a Feminist, a Gamer, a Geek, an Atheist, an Actress, a wannabe teacher, the list goes on. But, like many people, I  think I still want a shorthand label that encompasses what I believe. I think there may be other Skeptics out there who also wish for a new brand.

Which brings me to my next topic.
(Can I segue, or can I segue?)

My husband (who has a great new blog, The Tribal Scientist) told me the other night that he’s started referring to the Skeptic Movement as part of a greater phenomenon he called The Rationalist Surge. I like it. It lumps together several things, modern Feminism, New Atheism, the Skeptic Movement, and I’d even add Polyamory (which I joked could be called Monogamy Skeptics) , which are all based on questioning the dominant culture with passionate reason. Passionate reason? Well, why not? I know lots of passionate feminists, passionate atheists, passionate skeptics and of course passionate polyamorists. I think many people see themselves as part of all of these new-ish uprisings and an inclusive term might also welcome those who don’t feel themselves a part of any of them individually.  Maybe my ideal Skeptopia is a place where we all come together in rational passion. Um, actually, maybe not. That sounds…messy.

  1. Tom permalink
    13/07/2010 11:03 pm

    Messy but fun!

  2. Ticktock permalink
    14/07/2010 2:33 pm

    I’m right there with you. For me, it’s the connotation of the term that is bothersome, and the fact that it’s been co-opted by denialists. I’ve been switching to more positive sounding labels, like science advocate and secular humanist.

    • noblecaboose permalink*
      14/07/2010 3:55 pm

      Haha, I think I read your excellent blog post on the same subject a while back and may have stolen your title subconsciously. Sorry about that!

      • Ticktock permalink
        15/07/2010 3:17 am

        Not a problem. Glad you agree!

  3. 17/07/2010 4:39 pm

    I tend to try and explain big S skepticism or sKepticism as a determined application of critical thinking to all aspects of my life. I think everyone is a little skeptical of somethings indeed I think it comes from a) a good eduction b) experiencing life’s knocks. What I like to think differentiates me from the general populace and why I don’t mind using the label, is that I try and bring that skeptical focus on my own cherished positions.

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