Jeffrey Elliott is an undergraduate student of philosophy at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He holds a degree in control systems technology from Ranken Technical College in St. Louis Missouri and is a licensed industrial radiographer. His experience in blue-collar jobs combined with his pragmatic approach to philosophy has informed his work in skeptical inquiry and STEM outreach. He is co-founder and president of the Freethought Society of SIUE, an associate member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
CFI founder Paul Kurtz once said of the Skeptics movement,
“…Skepticism is essential. You simply can’t refute, quote ‘debunk’, explain something and then go home. No, you need constant gadflies (that was the role of Socrates) out there examining claims and trying to find out if they’re true or false.”
The arguments surrounding religion and secularism are many and varied. Most of you reading this are likely familiar with the arguments both for and against religion, gods, and the afterlife and if you are reading this are likely in the atheist camp. There is however, an argument in favor of religious belief that has great weight and which only the most belligerent of atheists would confront: the argument from personal comfort. I have often read and heard people go back and forth on this question and have always been quite assured in how I would react in a similar situation. I never would have guessed that the test of my ethos would come so soon.
It’s strange how sometimes things seem to happen as if by design rather than by chance. Now, I have long since learned that ‘fate’ is just an acknowledgement of confirmation bias and can be ignored as such; but sometimes a human element comes in seemingly just to test my ability to think rationally about fate. I was celebrating my first posted submission to this blog (Part I of this series) by way of a few posts on my Facebook regarding some cases I am interested in investigating as a skeptic. One of these cases was a story from my local Fox affiliate telling parents, getting ready for the new school year, to take their kids to a (gulp) CHIROPRACTOR! The ‘doctor’ then explained the importance of good nerve health for children and proceeded to wrench on the neck of a preteen.
I am something of an outlier in the student freethought movement. I spent much of my life after high school, training for and working in blue collar jobs; I was a believer but not devoutly religious; liberal, but seldom radical; and happy to embrace conspiracy theories to explain away the problems I saw in my world. When I was 24 years old, I began dating a woman in St. Louis. She was the single mother of four teenagers, an anti-racist agitator, and a fellow believer in many fringe beliefs ranging from alien abduction, channeling, ghosts, and acupuncture, to 9/11 conspiracies, non-interventionist parenting, and witchcraft. I spent over two years struggling to pay our bills, support four teenagers, and to find a future for myself. Needless to say it was a very bad time in my life.