An old friend of mine is currently living in the Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. While keeping up with the goings-on in her life over there, I’ve gotten a clear sense that she’s growing progressively more frustrated with how things are done in a country run by a fundamentalist religion. I genuinely feel for her in that predicament.
Moral pantywaist apologists notwithstanding, I would hope most clear-headed people are aware of how culturally backwards things are in any country which allows itself to be governed by something as nebulous as faith, and ruled by something as archaic as a monarch.
But my contempt for that situation leads me down a path of thought that intersects with something else that I hold in great contempt; the fact that many (most?) people have a deep-seated need to subject themselves to some form of peonage, be it governmental, ideological, religious, or all three.
I get it, life is already hard enough as it is, and it’s extremely convenient to buy a pre-packaged set of morals, laws, or beliefs. It’s even more convenient when they’re either free, or in some cases, you’d have to literally fight not to accept them.
I’m also not putting myself above this either; I consider myself a patriot, a Skeptic, and a futurist, all labels that provide others a certain set of expectations as to my values and actions. However, when I do label myself, for the sake of convenience, I also make an effort to “hang a lamp” on the fact that it’s precisely the convenience factor that compels me to do so. Few people would actually care to know anyone’s entire set of values and convictions in casual conversation. So the act of labeling oneself is useful to allow others to get a sense of who you are at the ten-thousand-foot level.
But just because you stick a label on your forehead that reads “Libertarian”, that doesn’t require you to cast a straight-party ballot, any more than wearing Joe Snuffy’s name tag makes you Joe Snuffy. Too many people, however, do make this mistake and confuse their self-stuck labels with their core identity, instead of using them as tools for communication. And when this happens, you start down the road towards the dangerous kind of group-think that destroys individuality, an ultimately, individual sovereignty.
A label isn’t a brand; you should never be so attached to your convictions that you make them permanent, inescapable, and requiring vigilant devotion. By doing so you fail to allow yourself the opportunity to examine new evidence, consider new points of view, or ultimate, even think for yourself. You also put yourself in a position where you are obligated to defend views in the face of evidence that refutes them.
The reason this issue concerns me is because of a trend I think I see emerging. As religious faith in the western world is on the decline, it seems to be being replaced with a religious-like attachment to another ideology. This is most noticeable in the Skeptics movement, of which as I’ve referenced, I consider myself a part.
If you follow a lot of “Skeptics” online discussions, you often get a sense of a “party line” to be followed, which is counter to the fundamental nature of “Skepticism” in the first place. And when you do run into this counter-intuitive phenomenon, it can be extremely frustration.
(For the record, I’m making this criticism as more of a “heads-up”, than an assault on the Skeptics movement, lest some of the conspiracy theorists, paranomalists, or garden-variety looneys try to reference this in an attempt at validating their nonsense.)
I think I owe anyone who reads this, examples of this happening. Unfortunately I’m pressed for time a bit on what should have been a short jotting of things bouncing around in my head at the moment. I’ll try to revisit that later, and include my observations about the subjects on which self-labeled Skeptics likely to suspend their critical thinking as well as the types of individuals who seem prone to doing so.
But the most important thing to take away from this is that, you are not your name tag, your labels, your government, or your religion. You are you, and when you chose to stop being you in exchange for falling in-line with a label, you renounce your individuality. A human being is not a hive insect; cultural, spiritual, and moral laziness should never be allowed to devolve him into one.