Essay:A Guide to Skepticism for non-Skeptics
One trait that humans all share when we are first brought into this world is our insatiable quest to understand what is going on in the world around us. Children ask repeated and often heartwarming questions which betray their innocence, almost following a non-systemic Socratic method. As we grow older, our beliefs become more fleshed out, our understanding of how the world functions becomes solidified in our learned minds. We stop asking questions, we know that certain natural laws govern, for instance, if you drop something it falls towards the Earth. In this essay, I want to introduce the non-skeptic to some basic principles of scientific skepticism. It should be abundantly clear from here that this is meant to be introductory, pushing towards further research on the part of the reader.
Before we can properly examine any premise, understand that your emotion towards any particular idea is irrelevant to whether it is "true" or not. For example, it doesn't matter if you are sad that gravity exists. Gravity just exists. Your emotions or feelings on the matter are irrelevant. Essentially what I am getting at is that there is an objective truth to any belief or premise. Our brains might process the world subjectively, but the medium world itself contains objective truths. This isn't to say that there are easy answers and that everything exists on a binary black-and-white scale, but its important to shed the idea that there is no objective truth to be gained from our universe and to end the concept of wedding our beliefs to our emotions.
Science is a great tool for understanding, because of its various methods of bias reduction and its razor-like ability to cut to the objective truth on any subject. I couldn't give a proper treatment of the scientific method here without greatly enlarging the scope of this essay, so I strongly encourage you to research the scientific method and the philosophy of science. Its also important to understand failures of reasoning, known as logical fallacies. When someone is trying to convince you of something, a good tool to figure out whether they have arrived at a belief or premise in error is to examine their reasoning for fallacious arguments. Its also important to minimize them with your own argumentation and reasoning. Once you understand the scientific method and logical fallacies, you can become a potent skeptic without even trying that hard or even needing to be a super intelligent person. Understanding how to think scientifically goes a lot further towards general understanding than rote memorization of scientific facts and again, doesn't require you to have an abnormally high level of intelligence.
In closing, I urge you to read. Read everything, all the time, even things you don't agree with, even fictional stories or merely for entertainment. As our society becomes increasingly more scientifically and technologically advanced, less and less people are reading and by doing such a simple action, you can set yourself ahead of an ever growing mass of unliterate people. I contend that actually reading the Bible is the easiest way to become an atheist, because the vast majority of people who call themselves Christian have never sat down and read the Bible on their own or have not had verses spoon-fed and interpreted for them. Reading fuels skepticism and is food for the brain.