Can one be a skeptic and still have faith in God? There is a whole skeptical movement whose goal is “resisting the spread of pseudoscience, superstition, and irrational beliefs”. These all seem like worthy goals. I listen to various skeptical podcasts where they debunk homeopathy, crystals, copper bracelets, ESP, etc.
One might think that you have to be an atheist to be a good skeptic. But Daniel Loxton, a staff writer for Skeptic Magazine, makes a terrific point by defining skepticism this way:
Skepticism is an approach to testable physical claims. Atheism is a conclusion regarding an untestable metaphysical claim. These are not the same thing.
I really like this. It helps explain how I can be a skeptic, yet still have faith that there is a God. While some famous skeptics are atheist, they don’t have to be. I can chose to not believe in essential oils, which has a testable claim, but I can believe in God, an untestable claim.
While there are lots of “irrational” beliefs in religion, I don’t have to believe them to have faith in a God, and to want to do good to others. I don’t have to believe in Noah’s world wide flood which fails all testable claims. While the metaphysical claim that Moroni visited Joseph Smith and gave him Gold Plates is untestable, I can chose to believe or reject it while still maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism.
Which leads me to wonder if religious people are less skeptical as a whole, and are thus more prone to buy into pseudoscience? Does accepting religion in general, and Christianity in particular mean that one is less questioning, and more susceptible to “snake oil salesmen”? Do highly religious communities have more people that believe in pseudoscience, use essential oils, and sell Medaleuca? Does believing that Joseph Smith received heavenly visions and translated gold plates by putting his head in a hat and using a “seer stone” that had magical power make the person more likely believe that a copper bracelet can help his/her arthritis?