For me, it’s deeply important to question things things to find out the truth. For others, it’s similarly important to believe in something. There’s a reason why I sometimes let what’s important to them come first.
One of the important rules of talking to people with different opinions is not to question their important beliefs just because you disagree. So, for example, you shouldn’t argue with everyone who believes in God just because you think the belief is not supported by evidence.
What’s not often noticed, though, is that the skeptic who argues against a belief may be standing up for something positive that’s just as important to them.
I am usually the skeptic. I care about believing what is most likely true, not about believing in some particular thing.
This really is something that’s spiritually important to me. To embrace the universe by letting it come to me as it is, not distorted by my subjectivity. To honor truth and exemplify honesty and humility by admitting my own fallibility. To be moral and strive for something greater in the universe no matter what the universe turns out to be like.
This song captures how I feel well:
There’s another, much more common way of looking at spirituality and meaning in life that I find partly relatable but partly very strange. This is when particular beliefs are given central importance in one’s world view and sense of self. Religion is the usual example of this (leading to a somewhat confusing double meaning for the word “spirituality”). This is why, to a skeptic, the existence of God might be a mere factual question, whereas to a believer, very much in life hangs on it, and it is not to be questioned lightly.
Such important beliefs could be about other things as well, like political ideology or aliens. Something very puzzling to me is why they are so often about the supernatural. I don’t think believers know why either.
Of course, the world isn’t divided into skeptics and believers. Religious people can have a very inquiring attitude, even going as far as gladly and without vitriol debating the existence of God. And certainly some of the beliefs I do have about the universe have spiritual importance to me, though hopefully not to the point I couldn’t question them given reason.
Nevertheless, I am often the skeptic while others are believers. Religion is the most obvious field where this happens: I am fascinated by it, I want to know about it and want to understand it, I think it’s important to know about it… and my way of looking at it is apparently very threatening to a lot of the people who actually embrace religion. They don’t want to question things that, to them, have a meaning far beyond whether something is factually true or not.
If I honor others’ beliefs by not questioning them, I have to put my own deep values aside. I do think it is right to do so if nothing (else) of moral importance depends on it, if no-one’s harmed by the belief. “Uncritical” thinking is not threatening to me the same way as the questioning of some central beliefs is to some.