The other night I was a little tipsy and I decided to have some fun in Photoshop and make a little picture. I tweeted it with the caption, "I'm drunk, so I've decided we should be the new Four Horsemen."
The original Four Horsemen of the skeptical community have all but disbanded. The great thinkers, skeptics and reasonists that were once at the helm of the Atheist Movement no longer participate in the great debate of our time. Daniel Dennett is in his 70s, Richard Dawkins has recently suffered a stroke and his Doctors wouldn't even let him attend the Reason Rally (not that he missed anything this year), Sam Harris essentially walked away from the public spotlight and The great Christopher Hitchens is no longer with us.
What does all of this mean for the Skeptical community? The biggest take-away is not that they're outdated and washed-up, but instead that the debate has changed; DRASTICALLY!
We all very much appreciate what these great men have done for secularism and free-thinking. Their efforts, speeches, books and debates are forever immortalized on the internet, in our memories and in our hearts. My fondness for the Four Horsemen can not be over-stated; I love these guys! I could never live up to the standard of intellectual prowess they've demonstrated, nor the activism they've done. We could never replace these great gentlemen, nor would I ever try such a foolish thing. But, perhaps we can use them as inspiration for what is now a completely different debate within our society.
The great debate of our time is more complicated than before. It used to seem so simple; Liberals loved science and skepticism and Conservatives loved Jesus and we would all fight over the validity of both. These days, it's not so simple. The Atheist community has split in half. There was a great schism after the inception of Atheism+ and the final effects of that are just now becoming fully apparent.
First, we all have to admit that despite all the figures, statistics, studies and articles that we all hold so dear to our hearts, the great social debate is based more on opinion and ideological positions than it is on plain facts. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule, but whether we want to live in a free and equal society that is based on a center-left Meritocracy or an authoritarian "equal" society based on the regressive-left (Social Justice) model or a free and unequal society based on the alt-right model is really up to us as individuals. Though we may all be completely sure that our opinion is the right opinion, it is up to us to demonstrate that our opinions have merit or are correct. It is on us all to make a case for our positions and convince others that we as individuals are correct. It is not up to the people we are debating to correct their mindset to better accommodate our worldview. Though this may seem obvious to some, I feel I have to hammer this point home because more and more people like to think that despite not having made a proper case for their position, they are entitled to bully, brow-beat and force others to accept their own particular ideological position as the correct one.
Yes, I do have my own particular camp that I seem to agree with the most. I feel I would be doing you all a great disservice if I did not make it clear that I am an individual-freedom loving man who wants to live in an Egalitarian-Meritocracy, but as a skeptic I am open to being convinced that initiatives that don't fit that particular mold still have merit. Your task will be a difficult one but I am not a close-minded person; neither are many of my contemporaries, but there are certain things I absolutely refuse to live without. I like to distance myself from ideologies as much as possible but I am starting to feel that if I don't make a stand and make it clear that there is a particular position I hold then I may lose my freedom to do so. I am not crazy, there are people who legitimately want to take away my freedom to speak about Egalitarianism; and that's kind-of the point.
I grew up with a somewhat liberal mindset. Equality under the law and social-standing based on merit were just accepted as the way things were. Sure, there was some debate about particular issues that may sway me back and forth to more authoritarian ideas and more libertarian ideas, but individual freedom was never hanging in the balance. I knew I could work hard and achieve greatness through determination and skill and that the person I was when I was born didn't matter to society and wouldn't affect the outcome of my goals. I knew I could chose to succeed or choose to be a fat tollbooth attendant that plays video-games all day. I knew I had freedom, equality and choices. This is what the liberals were when I was young. These days are all but over. This is no-longer what a liberal is. The term Liberal has been hijacked by the authoritarian regressive-left and it now better reflects a Marxist worldview. The current Liberal idea of equality requires those who are born with a particular gender, sexuality and race to handicap themselves in order to maintain some delusion that there is some form of hierarchy that makes it impossible for those born into a particular skin to succeed. Basically, they want us to believe that White Heterosexual Men can never experience a difficult life and anyone who does not fit that mold can never experience a successful life. This is their narrative. This idea spits in the face of true equality because it assumes that true equality is impossible. The more they strive for equality the less "the same" we all become.
I created the Skeptic persona to defend reason and what I thought was the basis for Western Society, but it's starting to dawn on me that this position, MY position, is no-longer the default position. I want to treat it like it is, but it feels more like it's some old, forgotten ideal that has been left in the attic to collect dust. The left has slid so far left that my old-school liberal mindset is now seen as being a right-leaning position from their perspective, and the right has slid so far right that anything that promotes equality is seen as regressive left from their perspective. Yes, these are generalizations, but the point I'm making is that there is a lot of confusion about what is "classic" liberalism. It's treated like the enemy of both the left and the right and is almost never seen as a middle-of-the-road ideal. Despite my best efforts to stay out of the ideology game, I feel I have to make it clear that this position still exists and I want to fight to maintain this ideal. Call this grass-roots if you want, but I know there are others who feel the same and I know that we all want the world to know that our worldview is being marginalized to make way for sensationalist reform based on emotional arguments. I want to make a stand.
What am I saying? Let me tell you in Jesus-style parable:
A man is standing in a flat desert. To his right stands a woman in red and to his left stands a woman in blue. The three all seem to have different ideas about what direction they should walk. The woman on the right wants to walk on a rocky road, difficult enough that only the strong can survive. The woman on the left wants to walk on a paved road, smooth enough that even the most disenfranchised person can travel. The man in the middle wants to chose a beaten trail, easy enough that a weak person can travel, but hard enough that the strongest will travel the fastest. No matter how much they bicker about HOW to travel, they all seem to agree that they want to go North.
As time goes on, the sand beneath their feet starts so slide. The woman on the left slides further away from the center and decides she wants the path to be even easier for those who are disenfranchised to travel, but wants obstacles for those who are fit, making it harder for the strong to travel. The woman on the right slides further from the center and decides she wants to travel a path making it even easier for the strong to travel and even harder for the weak, making it impossible for those who are disenfranchised to get to their destination. The sand continues to slide faster and faster, before they know it the three travel companions are not even headed in the same direction anymore.
The man in the middle, afraid of the sand sliding beneath his feet too, decided so plant a stake in the ground and hold on tight as he watches the two ladies drift further and further away.
This stake is where I stand.
So, what do we call ourselves? What ideal do you identify with if you too feel that you stand in the center somewhere? Who do you call your brothers and sisters as you participate in this great debate?
We don't have a proper name... yet, but for now we like to call ourselves The New Skeptics.
What is The New Skepticism? What exactly are our ideals?
- Freedom of Expression
- Universal rights
Freedom of Expression of course includes Freedom of speech. This one is the most important of all. If we can't live in a world where we can say whatever we want without legal punishment, then life is meaningless. We must also allow artistic freedom, freedom of association. It can not be understated how pivotal these forms of freedom are to a free society. If we can't be who we are and say what needs to be said, then we are but sheep in a field.
Universal Rights include inviolable individual rights which make us all equal as individuals in a free society. We can't allow people to make claims about who we are and who we should be and what we're capable of achieving based on anything other than our own merit as an individual. This included an absence of Group rights and democratically elected representation.
Egalitarianism is the most misrepresented position of them all. Our society requires equality of opportunity for EVERY PERSON and equality under the law for EVERY PERSON. Yes, some will achieve more than others, but that is where the meritocracy comes into play. Those who achieve greatness will do so through merit or through inheritance; which is exactly how the law is set up today. Also, those accused of breaking the law will maintain a presumption of innocence before guilt is established through a fair trial.Skepticism, the name-sake of the grassroots movement, celebrates and requires the Scientific method and empiricism when making decisions that affect others and society. Reason, objectivity and a toleran
Secularism is not just for the atheists. Secularism includes the freedom to worship along with the freedom to refrain from religious practices. Whether god exists or not should not deter us from getting along and striving to achieve mutually beneficial goals.
What is important to remember is that these freedoms allow us to live our lives the way we want to as individuals or as self-determined groups, but these freedoms end as soon as they make it impossible for others to live their lives freely as-well. Almost all of these ideals are how our society is legally set up today, but these same ideals are under attack by ideologues who want to change what it means to live in western society.
This is all just in it's starting stages, but Sargon, Thunderf00t, The Amazing Atheist and I (Armoured Skeptic) are planning on creating a website where some of the more established and intellectual individuals within our community will have a place to write articles and Blogs. We will likely invite people you know and love to be voices for reason, which is becoming less and less popular in the mainstream.
Sargon, TJ, Thunder and I all have things we disagree on. This is not a movement to achieve specific goals in society. We just all agree that whatever happens, we must all keep walking north. No matter which roads we choose, freedom of expression in an Egalitarian Meritocracy is the direction we want to head.