I was raised in a non-religious household. We celebrated Christmas and Easter, but in secular form of presents, chocolate and TV specials. I was also raised with a backdrop of science (I don’t mean to present religion and science as opposites by any means) I would often watch documentaries and discuss them with my father. I see both these things as great and respect my parents for the environment they provided. It was not an anti-religious environment by any means, the one time I expressed interest as a little kid in attending church my Mum took me. That is the only time I have been to church, outside of funerals and marriages. It just wasn’t for me
The other element I was raised on, the relevance of which may not be immediately clear, was Australian satirical comedy television. Things like Frontline, Good News Week, Full Frontal, and later The Micallef Program and the various Chaser projects. If you haven’t heard of these you should look them up. What these shows taught me was to never take anything on face value, to think against the grain and question everything. Initially this might seem like a huge claim to make about satire, and some of these shows in particular. I do believe that this sort of stuff played a role in moulding me as a person, and should at least be an indicator of the sort of family to which I belong.
I wouldn’t change the way I was raised for anything, but sometimes I get frustrated with the way I think. Being skeptical is great, questioning accepted truths and what people say is valuable, but there is a fine line between being skeptical and being cynical. Often that line disappears, and they are the same.
Cynicism is an important skill if you are producing a satirical comedy show, particularly one which is dealing with current events. Sometimes it is useful for cracking jokes at the pub. But it can become an all-pervasive force that stops you believing anything and leaves you jaded and depressed. It is hard to switch off when it becomes such an integral habit. Sometimes you are rude because you don’t take other’s beliefs serious. Whether it be on their opinion on the healthiest breakfast cereal or their reading of a political scandal. I’m not defending being rude about others beliefs, but I know I have done it many times, and it is something I would rather not do.
Whilst I am not religious, I do find myself jealous sometimes of people who are. It seems like they have their values all sewn up, with a set of rules written in whichever book they have chosen to commit themselves to. This is an over simplification, I know there is plenty debate, both internal and external. When one is being skeptical about everything it can be hard to believe. It can be hard to believe without knowing the reasons why you are believing. Do you realise how difficult it becomes to look up peer-reviewed journal articles for every little fact you hear, or decision you need to make? It is impossible.
Cynicism Makes it Difficult To Trust
Exactly who are you meant to believe? There doesn’t seem to be an answer to this. Inevitably we will not all have the time, resources or ability to do first hand science based research on every little fact we might want to check. So in the end we have to take someone else’s word for it. But when you are approaching everybody as a skeptic it makes this process much more difficult.
Cynicism Breeds Inaction
If you know that you shouldn’t be making any decisions or following through with any action without being sure that you are acting on the correct side of a problem it makes it very difficult to start. There is a point at which this simply becomes impractical. In the end what you end up doing is not acting on anything until you have a complete understanding, or at least until you think you have a complete understanding. Often times a bit of knowledge will only show that you know even less than you thought about a specific subject. And having a bit of knowledge can also send you off in the completely wrong direction. This is particularly true if that knowledge sounds like it must be right because of the fact it is different to what the generally accented ideas are, often these things are simply contrarian statements that might well only exist because they are blatantly wrong.
Most of the Time it Doesn’t Matter
In all reality most of the things that we end up being skeptical about are going to have very little impact on ours lives regardless of what we believe and how that relates to the truth, should such a thing even exist. If we strongly believe in aliens are we going to live a considerably different life to that which we’d live if be strongly believed aliens don’t exist? Now there are obviously many other areas and matters which aren’t as inconsequential at a personal level, but next time you are really worried about something, or accidentally find yourself in an argument over these sort of things, take a step back and ask does this really matter? Does this affect my life any differently regardless of the answer actually is here? My guess is that most of the time the answer is no. Most of the world’s problems, issues, or bad science don’t change your, or most other people’s, daily life. So set back take a breath and just get on with the things that do matter, and that aren’t as confusing or conflicting.
Don’t be evangelical about anything
Whether it is religion, politics, science or anything else, remember that people have their own opinions. You might consider that science based reasoning shouldn’t be seen as an opinion, and yes in an ideal world it wouldn’t be, but that doesn’t stop most people from treating it, at least to some degree, as an opinion that they hold, and that is beyond challenge in their mind.
It is not your place to tell other people what they should or shouldn’t believe about anything, because guess what, you aren’t going to change what they believe regardless of how convincing you think your arguments are. Accept your own opinions, be open to questioning them, and you should also accept other people’s point of view
Sometimes you just need to believe, sometimes you need to distrust. It is striking that balance which is so hard.