American lecturer and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Skepticism is slow suicide.” Yet, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Great intellects are skeptical.”
Personally, I’m a bit skeptical of both statements because in some sense they may both be true. But viewed in another context they may not apply at all.
For example, a certain amount of skepticism might save one’s life when it comes to trusting strangers or accepting radical ideas. But to insist on being skeptical in a loving relationship may reflect insecurity, not great intellect. It all depends on the circumstances.
Their insights, however, made me wonder if we can choose to believe whatever we want about anything?
In his book, “The Will to Believe,” Dr. Marcus Bach said, “The most important and most unnoticed quality in the world is the will to believe. It plays a part every time we drop a letter in a postal box or board a plane or do the thousand-and-one routine things that make up our modern life. From the money we bank to the money we borrow, from our hope for a better future to the conviction that yesterday was not without meaning, from accepting the universe to rejecting a weather report, we live in a world built on faith.”
Perhaps you have found this to be true? Then again it may still depend on the circumstances. For example, choosing not to believe in gravity could be fatal. Choosing to believe you are invisible would be foolish. But to believe in the general goodness of others is a matter of choice, and what we choose to believe will have an impact on our relationship with others.
Believing that the earth is round is a choice. Did you know there is a Flat Earth Society that promotes the idea that the earth is flat? Personally, I believe it is round. While I have never been in outer space to observe the earth’s shape, I do accept the images I have seen of our planet and the history lessons of Columbus and Magellan. It also seems logical that since the sun and the moon are round, the earth probably is as well.
More importantly, I accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God. At Isaiah 40:22 it spoke of “the circle of the earth.” — King James Version. I also accept the existence of atoms as defined by scientists and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, although these accepted beliefs may be modified over time.
But personally, I choose not to accept the theory of evolution. I choose to disregard it as a theory that runs contrary to the truths found in the Word of God. Think about it. If humans evolved from apes then man was never created sinless and in the image of God. If there was no original sin as Romans 5:12 says, then humans never fell from grace and Jesus Christ never died for our sins because there was never any need. That means no Christ, no hope of a resurrection, no reward of eternal life. I reject that hypothesis.
I believe life comes from life and all life comes from God. Scientist have yet to prove otherwise. As Hebrews 3:4 says, “Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God.” — New World Translation. Others choose not to believe this. That is their right. Those who choose to believe in evolution are not convinced by the proof offered by scientists who support intelligent design or creation. Those who choose to believe in creation are not convinced by the proof offered by scientists who promote evolution as a fact. Why? Because both groups are exercising their “will to believe.” They picked a side and are skeptical of any other persuasion.
In spiritual matters one must also choose what to believe, for there are many faiths teaching vastly different things. Most people were born into their “faith” and exercise a “will to believe” without ever examining its teachings. But to take the time to weigh the evidence, reason on the Scriptures and humbly ask for Divine guidance, a person can come to know the truth that sets them free. In this case, a little skepticism may have been helpful. But once you have made the truth your own — that search is over. Why invest time reading material that will tear down your faith and make you skeptical?
Regarding such matters, God’s Word advised Christians at 1Timothy 1:4, “They should not listen to stories that are not true. These only bring more questions to their minds and do not make their faith in God any stronger.” — New Life Version.
The Contemporary English Version reads, “You needed to warn them to stop wasting their time on senseless stories and endless lists of ancestors. Such things only cause arguments. They don’t help anyone to do God’s work that can only be done by faith.”
Believing in something in the absence of proof is not faith, but credulity. Skepticism in the face of proof is not a sign of intelligence, but paranoia. Both can be self-destructive. But so is being indecisive. At some point in life everyone must choose to believe in some things and decide how much time they will devote looking into others.
Can you choose to believe in everything? You can try. Most people, however, cannot invest time in every notion that comes along. They choose what they will believe in and then read material that supports their belief system. That is a fact of life. That is the way of life.
At a certain point, skepticism and faith end up traveling in different circles. They must. Many see this as the mark of great intellect. I choose to believe that what we choose to believe will decide who we are, how we live and maybe even how long we get to live.