I've been interested in skepticism and atheism for close to 20 years. Initially, Mrs. A.S. and I subscribed to the Skeptical Inquirer and Free Inquiry, which at the time were about the only publications out there that covered these topics. Later on, we discovered groups like the Skeptics Society, the JREF, and others around the world; and on the Internet, podcasts, blogs, a slew of websites focused on skepticism and critical thinking. What started out as a very specialized, mainly academic and fringe interest, has been growing, over the last several years, into an ever more popular cultural phenomenon.
Atheism has even more popular awareness. The number of people in the U.S. that identify themselves as atheists, or at least non-religious, has grown to the point where people are sitting up and taking notice, although there's still a long way to go to make atheism OK to most people, at least here in the U.S.
Critical thinking, the scientific method, logic, and reason are, in my opinion, crucial to the advancement of human civilization. However, I have concerns as well. How do we scale these movements in a way that retains critical thinking and reason, rather than resorting to sloganeering and rhetoric, or collecting uncritical joiners, or opening the doors to political operatives that are just looking to take advantage of an opportunity to further their own careers?
We can do this by making sure we apply critical thinking to ourselves as well as to the pseudoscientists, psychics, quacks, and purveyors of religious and New Age mumbo-jumbo. That's why I started this blog -- I've seen several instances in recent years of steps away from reason in the name of growing these movements, without much in the way of public criticism. I'm not too surprised at this; after all, self-criticism is not a very popular thing to do. It can lead to fragmentation and in-fighting that aren't very conducive to growing a movement, and possibly gives ammunition to those that would like to see us fail to grow. But I think it's important to keep it real -- growth for growth's sake dilutes the essence of a movement that is supposed to be based on the principles we're supposed to be upholding.
I'm under no delusion that I have anything of great profundity or wisdom to say, but I hope readers will at least find these topics interesting enough to think about them and offer their own thoughts in the comments on this blog or via e-mail. I will try to keep my facts accurate and my reasoning clear, but if you see any errors in either, please let me know.