I remember holding a talk in a village library a few years back. One of the ladies attending asked me loads of questions, really keeping the momentum going. Afterwards the librarian came up to apologize to me, feeling I had been under fire for part of the talk.
I explained there was no apology needed. I love sceptics. In fact, I am one myself. One of the main reasons I ended up on the path to becoming an Interfaith Minister is my endless questioning of spiritual and religious topics.
I feel the need to get answers for myself to the ‘big questions’ in life.
My inner sceptic is the voice that asks, ‘but how does this work?’
It is also the voice that is able to word that one inner question in many actual questions.
Many times I have been that lady in the library, firing questions at someone, trying to grasp whatever it is that they wish for me to understand. I remember my lecturer in economics for years after me graduating college, rolling his eyes every time he met me in the streets…the poor man.
I was reading a book the other day and in it was written, ‘if you find the ‘correct’ answer to a question, does that stop you from pondering about it?’
For me the answer to that question would definitely be ‘No’. And just imagine, if no one would have been sceptic we would still be imagining the world to be flat.
In Greek the word ‘skepsis’ means the same as ‘investigation’. Socrates, a great Greek philosopher acknowledged that when we are working on answers to important questions, we must critically examine what we, but also what others think of them, as to acknowledge what we do not know about them.
Philosophic scepticism comes back in many ancient religions. For instance Anekāntavāda (a concept in Jainism) teaches us that because the truth is perceived by different beings from different points of view, in the end there is not one truth.
Being a sceptic I often encounter uncomfortable social interactions caused by the questions I ask or statements I would like the other to comment on. From the view of a sceptic I would like to give some insight in how to deal with us ‘doubters’:
Do not take the questions personal.
In general, taking things personal is never a good way to go in life. When encountering a sceptic, see it as an opportunity. This is your chance to shine and highlight your knowledge of the subject.
Do not get defensive.
A true sceptic is not asking you questions to pick a fight. I often find that people get defensive when they doubt their mastery of the subject at hand or feel very personally affected by it. I am not sure who said, ‘if you cannot explain something in very simple terms, you do not have enough knowledge about it to teach about it’, I completely agree. For me, I feel that I have mastered a subject when I can explain it to a three-year-old. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from still questioning it
You do not need to have all the answers.
People often think that because they are promoting a certain idea, they need to have all the answers about it. But you don’t, you have your mind, with your mind you look at things from your perspective, there are bound to be things that you cannot see from your perspective. Again, see any gap in your knowledge as an opportunity to go and find out more.
We can agree to disagree.
Do not be put off if someone tells you they have a complete different point of view. It’s cool, we can agree to disagree and still explore each other’s point of view. You might find that you do not disagree on everything underneath the sun, just on whether Pluto should be a planet.
Tell me off.
I understand if you are not in the mood for my questions, just tell me and I will go and pester someone else.
For me, being a sceptic, I work in the most magical field. There is so much out there for me to discover. I know that I will never have all the answers. I know that there will always be other sceptics questioning my beliefs. I know that I will most likely evolve my viewpoints on everything I think I know in this moment in time, and that is just the way I like it!