The Value of Skepticism

skepticSkeptics walk a rough road in this world. If you are one, you know what I’m referring to, and if you are a ready believer in much of what you see and hear around you, then you simply can’t understand the skeptic’s perspective.

To a skeptic, the fact that you, a believer, are so willing to “believe” everything you encounter, is an anathema to the skeptic’s view of life.believr cap.jpg

So which am I, skeptic or believer?

Not sure but I think I’m a bit of both because I can see genuine value in skepticism and yet I know that being distrustful of everything or forcing everyone to prove as verifiable truth what they are vehemently claiming to be such, is ludicrous in itself.

Take the concept of GOD for example. Prove to me GOD exists or prove to me S/He doesn’t. Prove to me GOD is even a She or a He, or both/neither.

There is evidence that something far greater than ourselves does exist—this I do believe—I am actually very spiritual and feel directly connected into that indescribable guy w glasses.jpgSOMETHING; and yet the likelihood that this SOMETHING is anthropomorphically or even anatomically similar to people in general is a bit of a stretch to me. So I have problems believing much of organized religion’s verbatim descriptions of a chief deity with human characteristics or failings.  That’s just a bridge too far.

However I am more likely to believe that people, historically ancient and even present day people, try to relate to the great mysteries of their lives in ways that make those doors of beliefmysteries more palatable or bite-sized for human comprehension because it is a natural way to better psychologically deal with emotional and physical hardships in general—a way to maintain a sense of hope for something better in the future if the present situation is pretty awful to endure.

I think that many people are natural “believers” because during the course of our lives we sometimes tell ourselves what we most want to hear just to make it through a painful situation. Sometimes we even believe what we most want to believe because not doing so is tightrope walking across the Grand Canyon of infinity without a safety net; …and who, other than a Wallenda, wants to do that?

So I do recognize that the older the civilization, the more ingrained the belief, especially skeptic truth.jpgif people feel that believing such has helped them to survive to their present state of being. I can easily understand that aspect of religious teaching acceptance by many.

Perhaps the church’s authority in people’s lives during their early childhood development in the last century instilled that sense of bowing to the head of a religious organization who told you how you could and could not live your lives.

But a few decades ago as horrifying as public exposure became of the wide-spread Catholic Priesthood child sex-abuse crimes, it did do one important thing: It shook a lot of natural believers away from giving people of authority total control over their lives, and also helped them to more skeptically view ANY high-ranking official of ANY organization, religious or secular, as all too humanly fractured to be the perfect vessel for any higher spiritual function.politican lies

Then again, you don’t need to be affiliated with religions to be a “believer” in something or someone, especially a someone who tells you exactly what you want to hear about the subject or about yourself, as it relates to the subject—like a politician.

I think political skepticism is very healthy and truly necessary in today’s world. Perhaps it always was necessary, but we just weren’t as aware of such widespread lying and intentional deception in earlier times because we were more naturally trusting of authority figures.

boy w woman.jpgSo there is value in skepticism—in not blindly trusting what we are being shown or told.

Skepticism helps us view our lives with more objectivity so we can see more than what we want to see, and to hear something closer to the truth than what we would actually prefer to hear.escape to reality

A skeptic’s view of life may not be the fantasy that we want to believe in, but it helps to keep things more REAL—and that is the world in which we actually have to live.

God’s TRUTH

“The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. kalidescope stained glass
It fell, and broke into pieces.
Everybody took a piece of it,
and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.”
~ Rumi

 

Love this poem by Rumi, but then I usually love most of his poems. However this one really struck me after my recent experience with trying to help some friends save a dying church congregation.

Clearly I love my friends and valued our united effort to create a better spiritual environment for all involved, but I did NOT love the scripted “churchiness” requirements of the experience—the dogma, the empty ritual, the traditions of doing something a certain way because it had always been done like that, and the dictatorial manner of the pastor deciding the church’s focus.

That kind of ‘pseudo-spiritual’ experience is definitely not for me—in fact it is the very church ladyreason I shunned churches in general for most of my life—because of the phoniness and hypocrisy of the experience.

Even from the start I knew that my participation in the group endeavor would not be easy because of my personal views on organized religions (Religion and spirituality are two very different aspects of believing in something greater than oneself, and while I am deeply spiritual, I am not a fan of the restrictive, entrenched, self-perpetuating structure of religious teachings.).

But again, I love my friends and wanted to help them pull off this effort successfully—to rebuild the dwindling congregation for the small-community betterment.church.jpg

After sitting with clenched teeth through eight months of services/sermons over what was being said and done at the pulpit and altar, I decided I couldn’t continue what felt to me to be a ridiculous charade and poorly disguised ego-trip for the preacher.

As Rumi said above, my piece of the mirror didn’t reflect what was being said and done there, so to me, it could never be MY truth. And I don’t feel bad about quitting the group endeavor or for leaving my friends there who are still a part of it.

What I would feel guilty about is if I hadn’t quit, because then I would be betraying my own self—my own spiritual connectedness that always feels pure and direct.

A week ago someone said something derogatory to me, and I let it go without responding or feeling ill will toward the person for saying it; and my best friend said to me that I was being a good ‘Christian’ about the situation.

rumi religion.jpgI had to bite my tongue to keep from saying back to her, No, ….that was being a good Muslim, or a good Jew, or a good Buddhist, or a good Jainist, or a good Taoist, or a good Hindi.

 

What I actually was demonstrating had nothing to do with any religion in particular, but with ALL in general: I was being a good PERSON!

We throw these religious labels around far too easily to separate us from others—to make distinctions between US and THEM—and what THEY believe as opposed to what WE believe.

But the entire point of living this life is to recognize our similarities and our sameness, not accentuate our differences. character quote

So to me, if you want to build a better world and create more loving and peaceful environments for everyone, including yourselves, then be better people, not proselytizers of elite-ness and separation from those who don’t share the same piece of God’s TRUTH mirror that you have in your hand.

Let’s put all those mirror pieces back together and then look within the reconstructed TRUTH mirror because it is only God’s TRUTH when it is in Its wholeness.

gods truth

Treatise on Integrity

integrit paper.jpg“Integrity: That which shall be humanly borne and displayed as an essential aspect of truth.”

Well that’s my definition of integrity if no one else’s.

“To live with integrity is to be intimately aligned to one’s truth and core values.”

Again, that’s my take on it.

But I do know from personal experience that if you live your life with integrity and truthfulness, you will never be disappointed in yourself.

There will be others who might not be very happy with you at times, especially when your integrity blocks their intentions, but you will stay true to your own ideals if you maintain your sense of personal integrity and right-action focus.

So what does this mean in today’s integrity-starved world?

For one thing, you will definitely stand out from the crowd—you might even be the focal point of the crowd’s anger, which isn’t the most enjoyable place to be.integrit 2

For another, you will find yourself reaching very deep within for the strength and courage to keep your integrity untarnished amidst the constant deluge of complaints and insults slung in your direction.

Another possibility? You might lose a friend or two during the process of staying true to your own beliefs on the rightness of a situation or an action.

But the really strange thing about personal integrity is that nearly everyone believes that THEIR core beliefs and the courage of THEIR convictions are the only TRUE ones possible, which makes the rest of our efforts to maintain personal integrity questionable to them.

integrit 3As much as I value integrity and truth, and I definitely do value them, I also know that what I believe to be the ultimate TRUTH may not be the same as what others believe it to be. We don’t all think and feel the same.

Furthermore, in my rational mind I know that truth is often the perspective of whoever is holding that viewpoint.

But also in my being I know that what I stand for as a loving and compassionate human being is as strong and unwavering as any army’s professed allegiance to any person, place or belief.

Stubbornness is my finest trait or so I’ve been told, because to me integrity is a core value that is worthy of staking one’s integrit 1personal reputation on and/or career future. Holding one’s personal integrity firm and unbending can define us as compassionate human beings when others around us flutter in the winds of political change and collective opinion.

In the largest sense, our Nation was built on certain fundamental assumptions on rightness and fairness, on equity and justice; and when the integrity of any democratically elected official is in question or fluctuating toward non-democratic ideals, then further exposition and assessment of possible wrong-doing must be allowed to happen. The democracy that supports us depends on the integrity of those who lead it.

If we can’t at least rely on a leader’s integrity to do what is lawful and right as guaranteed to us by our U.S. constitution, then we have little firm ground on which to take a stand.

integ world

As I mentioned previously, maintaining one’s integrity is often a tough and lonely stance to take in the face of tumultuous, self-serving opposition, but sometimes it is the only stand we truly have before we are driven to our knees.