The Frustrations of Skeptical Blogging

I never wanted to be one of those people who started a blog only to abandon it when I got bored, but here I am just over a year into my blogging and I haven’t posted or responded to any comments in a couple of weeks. I have been reading the comments and I thank you for your feedback, but I just haven’t been able to find the motivation to come here and respond to anything, or to come up with any new material.

I just want to do a little bit of thinking out loud…

When I started doubting my religion and that lead me to the wonderful world of skepticism, I felt like the fog had been lifted from my brain. I was free to ponder whatever I wanted, no longer worrying about a tyrannical god monitoring my thoughts, and I began to exercise my curiosity. I felt so much joy in the clarity that skepticism was bringing me, something that I had never felt when I was held back by religion and faith. So, of course, I wanted to share that with people, so I started this blog.

I think maybe people have a tendency to assume that others think the way that they do, so when I started to think skeptically I couldn’t understand how someone could, for example, believe that psychics were legit, when it was so obvious to me that they’re lying or deluded. So when I started my blog I would just kind of post things to make fun of the silly woos without really backing up my thoughts, things that I thought other people would agree with. Now when I look back at that I’m just embarrassed, so part of my lack of motivation to blog lately has had to do with me wanting to distance myself from my past mistakes. I’m considering deleting some of that old stuff, but I don’t want to feel like I’m just hiding my errors.

It’s also a struggle to get across some of the things I’m discovering that help me wade through the vast amount of information that’s out there, to get to the true stuff. I’ve never been particularly good at teaching, but I really want people to know the things I’ve been learning in books (recent ones I’ve enjoyed are Godless, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Demon-Haunted World, and I’m currently reading Voodoo Histories and it’s fantastic). I guess I have trouble understanding that not everyone is as into these things as I am. So I’ve tried to steer my blog more in the direction of discussing my own everyday experiences and how they relate to my skeptical outlook – I hope that’s come across. I think my favourite post of mine has to be the one about my childhood Bible. I guess I’m a little unclear about what I wanted this blog to be, so maybe that’s why I’ve just opted to be silent the past little while? I don’t know…

What really frustrates me, is when people just don’t get the point of what I’m trying to say. I admit that that’s as much (if not more so) my own fault as it is the reader’s, but, okay I’ll give an example… I recently posted about some red flags that could help someone spot bullshit. One of them was about how testimonials aren’t reliable evidence, and then someone comes and posts a testimonial! I just had to laugh after I saw that, and then I started thinking “what am I even doing with this blog?” It feels like nothing!

I guess over the past couple of weeks I’ve been more and more feeling like this whole Struck by Enlightning project has been an exercise in futility. I was going to just shut the whole thing down, but now I’m reconsidering. As Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living”, and if anything this blog has forced me to examine my life, my words, my beliefs, my flaws.

So I think I’m going to keep plugging along. I overloaded a little bit and now I’m rebooting and I’m going to try to take it easy. I’m going to try to get back to blogging about things that interest me, and I hope some of you are entertained.

Alright thanks for letting me indulge in that rant!

I’ll wrap this up now but I do want to make it clear that I really appreciate everyone’s comments, there have been some thoughtful and some provoking ones lately and although I haven’t responded to them due to my little blogging detox, I have read them all and discussed many of them with my husband.

Okay I’ll shut up now! I’m not even going to read over this so sorry for any spelling errors or if it doesn’t even make sense. I just wanted to put it all out there.

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14 Responses to “The Frustrations of Skeptical Blogging”


  1. 1 Spokeshave June 18, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Hi Lindsay,

    I’m glad you’re back. Everybody gets weary at times. I think it’s great that you’ve taken time, thought it through and have decided to continue. I, for one, would miss you if you were not here. I find that I easily identify with the things you say and it’s an encouragement. I think that I’ve probably reached the same point as you – but it took me a lot longer! I’m 75 now and it has only been in the last decade or so that I have experienced my enlightening. Well done you for waking up to reality early in life.

    I wasn’t frustrated by my religion. As an evangelical christian I had good friends and wanted to convert the world. However, gradually I found that the answers that I gave to other people’s questions didn’t satisfy my own need for answers. It was a slow process but I finally found the wonderful freedom from belief that you describe and the joy that comes with it.

    I, too, found that I wanted to share what I had found. An atheist friend said that I had a responsibility to ‘spread the word’ but I don’t agree whith him. I’m more than happy to express my views with anybody at any time but, having evangelised for many years I think that it’s a mistake to treat ones new-found freedom as yet another religion.

    Relax and enjoy saying whatever it is that you want to say. What you are doing with Struck by Enlightning is far from futile. Don’t make a burden of it. Just post as and when you want to share. We’ll be waiting.

    By-the-way, I suggest that you add Richard Dawkin’s, ‘The God Delusion’, to your reading list.

    Best wishes.

    Terry

  2. 2 EnlightningLinZ June 18, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Hi Terry,

    Wow thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement! It’s good to know that other people identify with what I’m saying.

    I’m not too sure how I feel about “atheist evangelism.” Some people (like Dan Barker) really go all out and talk about atheism to anyone who will listen! I think this blog is my halfway point between evangelism and keeping my mouth shut…this way I can just put out my thoughts and whoever wants to read them can!

    I actually have read the God Delusion, it was the first atheistic book that I read! I’ll have to update my reading list to show that I’ve read that.

    Thanks again for the feedback, cheers!
    Lindsay

  3. 3 Mom June 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Lindsay, what you’ve said here makes perfect sense to me. I have a few thoughts I’d like to share with you with regards to this post.

    When anyone looks back and wonders “what was I thinking?” that is an indication that they are maturing, continually learning, growing, evolving and expanding their creativity and thinking processes. You did that when you were looking back at yourself as a Christian and now you are reflecting on your evolution as a skeptic.

    This whole blog is a fabulous record of a very important part of your life’s journey. It is a record of the process you went through as you morphed your identity so I think it would be a pity to erase any of it. You won’t ever have to wonder how you got to this particular point in your life because you have this amazing record of what was important to you, what you were thinking, how you responded to others, what you were reading, and what personal, religious, political and world events were happening while you were trying to sort out the meaning of your life. I’ll bet you’ll really appreciate this blog some day as it’ll give you an amazing perspective on your life.

    I think it’s great that you are now at a place of regrouping, re-examining and redefining your goals for this blog. I also think you’ve hit on a great way to examine your life. Self-examination is very similar to the training cycle of an athlete. The athlete must first set a goal to learn a skill, then practice it, then practice even longer and harder to the point of over-reaching and exhaustion, and then rest. The athlete then gives it their best in a competition. Finally, and most importantly, the athlete must reflect, recover and set new goals. You’ve learned a lot about scepticism and yourself through reading and discussions. You’ve worked hard, put forth your best efforts and now it seems the time has come for you to relax and take a breather. Perhaps it is time to give your mind a break and read some fiction? You’ve done an amazing job of this blog. Perhaps it’s time to take that essential rest and recovery time so that you don’t burn out? Take your time before setting some new goals for this blog. Just a thought.

    Another thing, this blog provides a lot of insight for yourself and others, into how recording your thoughts and ideas, sharing them, and allowing others to challenge, validate, and reinforce them, helps you to further clarify them, expand them, and perhaps even change them.

    I’m glad you haven’t shut this down. I’ve learned a lot from your blog. I don’t contribute very often because I do see you as the teacher in this context and as the student I am busy absorbing and mulling things over. I don’t often think I have much to offer.

    Anyway, I wish you a peaceful recovery and I hope you come back energized and mindful of what you want to accomplish in the next chapter of your blog. Take your time though:)

    Cheers!

  4. 4 Carolina Maine June 19, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    LoL! Mom, I was thinking the same thing about maturity. I feel that way too about my blog-and I do delete stuff when I know I have outgrown it.
    Lindsay, I looked up transubstantiation-and I was okay with a metaphysical mystery, but I saw this Julia Kim- a supposed mystic-and realized-it is just sick. She said the host turned to blood and flesh in her mouth. The Church supports this and other eucharistic “miracles”.
    That combined with teaching my kids that their dad will go to hell has me seriously thinking that I can’t go on as a Christian.
    I do believe in a G-d. G-d did help me when I was very ill, but I think we are all creations-and all are on journeys-spiritually.
    This is part of your journey-this blog-when you outgrow it-hit delete and never look back 🙂

  5. 5 Sharmin June 19, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Hi. I can relate to what you’re saying. I’m really bad at keeping up my blog and also other writing projects that I plan to work on. Your blog has some really interesting posts, so I’m glad you’re back and I hope that you get more ideas about where you want the blog to go and where you want to go in the future. I’ve also had times when I go back and read over something I wrote in the past (whether on my blog or elsewhere) and think to myself that I should have changed many things. The way I see it, the journey is just as important as the destination, and there’s always time to look back and improve.

    All the best!

  6. 6 Chelsea June 23, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Lindsay,

    I would certainly miss your blog if it went away. Even though you don’t post frequently, I still have it bookmarked and check it every day for updates. I just love having an intelligent female (and CANADIAN) blogger on my atheist blog list. I really enjoy your posts and find them very insightful.
    Don’t worry so much about sounding silly in the past (or even sounding silly now), or not offending people or whatever. If you write too carefully, you’re not true to yourself anymore. The blog is about YOUR ideas and it’s to satiate whatever reasons YOU have for keeping it. If other people don’t agree or don’t get it, well, they’re free to speak up and disagree, but mostly they can stick it. It’s YOUR blog, and no matter what you do, lots of people will just never get it. But know that there are plenty of us that do, and who get a lot out of your writing.
    (FYI, It don’t think it’s your fault that some of the commenters don’t get it. I’ve read over a lot of the back-and-forth debates and you’re always very clear. It’s all because of their own cognitive biases. However, that’s not to say that it’s not still frustrating! ;))

  7. 7 EnlightningLinZ June 24, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Mom – I think you’re right about keeping the older posts around…I just cringe at the thought of someone getting here through a Google search and ending up on a post that is not representative of me now. I’m thinking I might re-visit some of the things I talked about in the early days of the blog. I think I will take your advice and read some fiction once I’m done reading Voodoo Histories…I still have four books in Douglas Adams’s Hitchiker’s Guide series to get through!

    Carolina – that’s interesting, the last time you visited my blog you were a pretty fervent Catholic if I remember correctly…are you no longer a Catholic? I think it’s great that you’re approaching the things you believe in a critical way. It’s important to examine your beliefs, whether that strengthens the belief or changes it.

    Sharmin – thanks with your comments and good luck in your own projects!

    Chelsea – thank you so much, I’m very pleasantly surprised by the kind comments on this thread, I didn’t expect it!

    (I hope I got everyone!)

  8. 8 Chris June 24, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Lindsay, I’m guessing that by saying that “It’s important to examine your beliefs, whether that strengthens the belief or changes it”, you are referring to looking at all the evidence surrounding your beliefs – is that correct?

    If so, I completely agree – “Look at ALL of the evidence” is a great idea.

    That said, the tendency to toss out any evidence that does not meet an individual’s expectations of certainty, and/or any evidence but that which supports one’s fundamental worldview, is rampant, whether you believe God exists or that He doesn’t.

    Your note about how “testimonials aren’t reliable evidence” is true, but they ARE evidence. Just because there cannot be 100% certainty that testimonial evidence is completely (or even partially) true & correct (the same can be said of any type of evidence), does not mean that it can be or should be discarded & ignored. It simply should be verified to the extent it can be & weighed accordingly. How truthful is the person making the claim? How much do they know about the issues the claim involves? Is the claim 1st, 2nd, or 3rd hand?

    I do note that testimonial evidence IS accepted by people on both sides of the “God” issue – most commonly in the “Appeal to Authority” & “Appeal to ‘Everyone Knows'” fallacies.

    The “Appeal to ‘Everybody Knows'” fallacy is the widespread belief in the false claim that “Everybody Knows that the Catholic Church supports any crazy sounding miracles that comes with a good story!”

    A couple of examples of the “Appeal to Authority” fallacy that is also commonly subscribed to by both “sides” are the idea that college credentials mean the person automatically must know what they are talking about, or the idea that Carolina brought up, when she stated her (quite common) belief that the Catholic Church says that “you must be a good practicing Catholic or you will go to hell.” This idea, which is & always has been incorrect, is based on the “authority” of an individual priest who made that claim 60 years ago in defiance of repeated orders by the Church to “knock it off because it is incorrect.” He was excommunicated for insisting on teaching something that was contrary to what the Church really teaches – that no one knows the final end of anyone – only God does.

    Finally, subjective views & visceral reactions are often held up as “evidence” that is used to lead people to hold or change their beliefs. Carolina gives an example of this one at the same time she implies that the Church supports things that “can’t happen”, relating her seeming decision to reject the concept of transubstantiation not because she looked at the evidence supporting the reported miracle, but based on the principle of “Eeewwww! Ick!”

    In any case, yes, I agree – Don’t look at your feelings about a question, look at the evidence surrounding it – ALL of the evidence surrounding it. Additionally, I would add – learn as much as you can about the issue, from all sides, not just one, so you can actually use the evidence you find.

    Frustration happens – Persistence means you keep going anyway!

    Good luck!

  9. 9 Chris June 24, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    1) A Correction:

    The “Appeal to ‘Everybody Knows’” fallacy statement SHOULD read:

    “An example of the “Appeal to ‘Everybody Knows’” fallacy would be the widespread belief in the false claim that “Everybody Knows that the Catholic Church supports any crazy sounding miracle that comes with a good story!”

    2) A Clarification:

    The example of the “Appeal to Authority” fallacy which refers to assuming that any “expert” with college credentials must know what they are talking about, includes assuming that having having a PhD in Biology means you can expertly pontificate on the electrical issues of artificial intelligence programming, or on the gravitational fields of black holes…

  10. 10 Spokeshave June 25, 2010 at 5:44 am

    “Why do writers write? Because it isn’t there.” – Thomas Berger

    Perhaps atheists write for the same reason.

  11. 11 EnlightningLinZ June 28, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Chris – it sounds like you’re saying that people who don’t believe in god use testimonials by people like scientists to support their non-belief. Can you clarify if this is accurate? If so, I completely disagree. I don’t need anyone to tell me “there’s no such thing as god and here’s why”, I can evaluate the evidence given for the existence of a god (which basically amounts to testimonials) and if it doesn’t convince me I don’t believe. Simple as that. Nobody’s testimonial for the existence of god would be good enough for me to start believing, even if it were the person I trust most in the world, without some sort of empirical evidence to back it up.

  12. 12 Ani Sharmin June 29, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    I would agree with Mom that you should keep your older posts. They show how you have grown as a person. What I’ve seen another blogger do is put up a disclaimer of sorts, saying something to the effect that her views have changed over time. Once, when she wrote a piece that directly contradicted something else she had written in the past, she acknowledged that she had changed her mind and linked to the previous piece that she now disagreed with. More than anything, I think it would show that you are willing to learn and that you’re being honest.

    All the best!

  13. 13 Chris June 30, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Hi Lindsay,

    Do all people who disbelieve that God exists base their views on testimonials? No, but certainly more than is admitted, or probably even realize.

    The common demand that “only empirical evidence is acceptable” typically comes in one of two ways:

    1) The slogan “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence!” is based on extreme subjectivity, & is completely inconsistent, given the way that “extraordinary evidence” is only demanded for certain extraordinary claims (like the heavily witnessed Miracle of the Sun at Fatima), while other extraordinary claims are allowed to proceed without any evidence at all (like Dawkins unsubstantiated assertion that this miracle was a “spontaneous mass hallucination”, unprecedented in history, before or since.)

    2) The other way it is phrased is in the form of the “Argument from lack of evidence.” This is a bit more consistent in theory (if not in practice), but is just as irrational, given several obvious realities.

    The most obvious reality is the obvious fact that we accept all kinds of information on a daily basis without demanding supporting evidence of any kind; all based on the testimonial of others who we consider “acceptable authorities.” (Whether those people are really as authoritative as thought is another matter entirely – belief that they are is sufficient for most people to accept their testimony.)

    No big deal; there’s far too much information in existence for anyone to examine all of it, and even then, much of the evidence supporting many realities are indirect only – the heliocentric system can only be directly observed in theory – that doesn’t change anything. Most people have never seen the evidence supporting the existence of half the animals on the planet, or for quantum mechanics, nor are there many people capable of accurately understanding & evaluating the evidence for quantum mechanics anyway. Those things still exist, & most people simply accept them on the testimony of others.

    There are even everyday things that people believe solely on the basis of human evidence – like the fact that your mother loves you. Does love have a color? How long is it? How much does it weigh? Has such a claim been tested in an independent laboratory? What about the many men who believe the extraordinary claim that their wives love them? Yes, you can play semantic games to try to explain it in a materialist fashion, but even the appearance of such games isn’t tolerated in the least when the topic has anything to do with the possibility of the existence of God.

    I have to wonder why is testimonial evidence so widely accepted except in relation to God? In any case, aside from the fact that testimonial evidence is a logically valid & commonly accepted type of evidence, it is not the only type of evidence supporting the existence of God.

    Miracles provide another type of evidence. For example, there were 70,000 eyewitnesses to the aforementioned “Miracle of the Sun” at Fatima (including atheists & skeptics.) There have been many scientifically documented miraculous (aka “unexplainable”) healings at Lourdes. A Eucharistic miracle occurred in Venezuela in the 90’s, in which a host began to bleed. It was rigorously tested in Caracas where the blood was confirmed as human (IIRC, type AB), & it continues to occasionally bleed to this day. In 2005, a nun with Parkinson’s disease was miraculously cured – her cure in 2005, while unexplainable, has been scientifically verified.

    So called “rationalists” blow these things off by claiming that “the only possible explanation is one that will personally satisfy my preferred outlook”, like Dawkins attempt to dismiss the miracle in Fatima – Note, he doesn’t dispute the occurrence, he just dreams up an explanation that he can live with, even though there is no reason to give the explanation any credence. Others, like Hitchens simply refuse to look at all, instead calling any claim of a miracle “absurd” & changing the subject with a rant about a perceived injustice of Christianity.

    My point is not to argue for or against the existence of God, but to point out that the claim of “rationality” becomes pretty dubious when one who claims to “only look at the evidence” actually limits what is allowed only to that evidence which supports a predetermined conclusion, & rejects any evidence that might contradict it.

    If one truly values inquiry, rationality, & finding the truth, then one cannot refuse to look at all of the evidence, whether it seems “tedious”, or because it sounds “funny”, or “weird”, or “gross”, or “outlandish”.

    Following the lead of people who refuse to even look at such things, instead waving them off as “ridiculous” isn’t rational, it’s blind trust, & it happens much more often than many people care to admit.

    Good luck in your search for truth. Don’t give up – I sincerely hope you find it. And by all means, keep your previous posts – they are a fantastic means to look back over your path.

    Take care…

  14. 14 Kemp July 2, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Hi Lindsey, great blog.

    Call me simple but your’s and my existence, is the empirical evidence that convinces me that there is much more to this Universe than Dawkins, Sagan and their descendants, will ever be able to get their minds around. The fact that we can even have this discussion or admire the beauty and intricate design around us (Oh yes, all evolution..I forgot :))

    However, I admire theirs and your basic tenet that you are after the truth and are rightfully skeptical until convinced otherwise, whereas it often seems that organized religeon is intellectually lazy, survives on gullability and is afraid of what the truth may reveal.

    What becomes apparent after awhile on both sides, is that whether a believer or aetheist, both are a “religeon” and each require faith..to me being an atheist requires much more.

    Further evidence for me is the life of Jesus Christ as chronicled in the Gospels. There is more irony in these accounts than a thousand Shakespears could ever make up.

    …not very empirical I know.

    Kemp


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