Preserving Life, Liberty, and Skepticism

By Courtney Atlas

Quick Quiz:

After watching the Invisible Children video, you were:

A) Crying.

B) Motivated to share on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.

C) Leaned back in your chair, arms crossed, muttering, “Hmph.”

If you answered C, congrats; you’ve made it to the next round:

Do you greet Tim Tebow’s kneeling with a smirk?

Are you less concerned with the Mayan calendar and more concerned with the intelligence of those that believe it marks the end of the world?

Does the term “superfood” make you super-roll your eyes?

If the answer to all of these was an emphatic “yes!”, then congratulations! Please accept my exclusive invitation to the club— the Eternal Skeptics Club that is, on which the world has turned its compassionate back, because we are the jerks that dare to question motive or authenticity. And while we gladly keep the world’s optimism in check, our icy reputation isn’t gaining us any popularity. So I’m here to clean you up into the smooth talking skeptic that will soon swiftly be converting the happy-go-lucky to the sullen, miserable intellect such as yourself. So let’s begin the makeover! Although I can’t do anything about those frown lines you’ve already developed.

Skeptical Is Not Latin for “Asshole”

What’s that? No, I don’t actually know if that’s true or not, but ju—okay, asshole. Go look it up if you’re so concerned. Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. It is the tendency of us naysayers to get so outraged at others’ idiocy that we lash out using an attitude so jam-packed with bitterness it repels any rational audience we might be trying to persuade. I once read an article (that I can’t cite because I just lazily took a screenshot of it on my iPhone once) that said:

“It is not hard to offend people, and it doesn’t take any skill. There is nothing narrow-minded about being offended by stupid and horrible things, or by simple rudeness.”

When people are offended by something you’ve said or done, it isn’t always because they are overly sensitive babies that were hugged too much during childhood. Sometimes it’s because you’re genuinely acting like an asshole, adding snarky little jabs where it is unnecessary. Yes, I know that part of being an Eternal Skeptic means thinking faultfinding is next to godliness, but be careful that you know when to say when; your line of logic can run away with your anger, and soon your initial disapproval over that ASPCA commercial turns into “you know what, those puppies probably fucking deserve it anyway!” And come on, man. It’s Sarah McLachlan that we’re skeptical of. Not those puppies.

Don’t Kick and Scream

What we often get mad at others for is their tendency to spout off an uninformed, emotional reaction to something. Make sure you’re not essentially doing the same. When it comes to expressing an opinion, people tend to think that if they say something loudly enough, it makes it true. However, just having a sharp tongue towards an issue doesn’t necessarily make your opinion valid. We often justify our sharp tongues with the “hey, I’m just telling it like it is” argument. But to an Eternal Skeptics outsider, you’re not telling it “like it is”. You’re telling it like a brash, inconsiderate jackass would tell it. And even though you’re usually proud of your brash inconsideration, when you use this attitude in expressing an opinion you lose any audience you have. They have dismissed you as irrational or cruel. Stirring up controversy doesn’t require talent. What requires talent is discussing a controversial topic and not stirring up a huge shit storm. And remember, you’re trying to convince people to hate things with you.

So if you wish to express an opinion on an issue, wait. Let the idiots hash it out first, and once they’re tired from preaching their undigested garbage, you can present your side. But REMEMBER WHAT WE TALKED ABOUT! Tone down the bitterness.

Be fucking polite.

For the Eternal Skeptic, this is probably the hardest one. Yes, this means throwing in the occasional “I understand where you’re coming from”, even if you kind of don’t. While this is a sign of courtesy, it also keeps everyone from getting incredibly defensive and stubborn. You can’t expect your audience to absorb something you’ve said if you refuse to at least pretend like you’re listening to why someone thinks polar bears have long deserved the right to vote. Debating an issue with someone often ends up only engraining his original perspective even deeper, because he has spent the entire time shielding his argument from the rocks being hurled at it. Remember that you are trying to open someone up to skepticism—and while killing someone with kindness is not our style, maybe focus more on the “kill” part to get you through the pain of smiling.

So there you have it. Using these few simple tools, we can start planting the seeds of doubt in others’ minds, and soon the world of saps will let us freely scowl amongst them. Now, come in for a hug and—God NO I was kidding, what are you doing?