I would like to start this column with a story. Why? ‘Cause I wanna and the story is an awesome lead-in.

When I was the president of the Pagan Student Union at my university, we had divination workshops. I and a couple other diviners in the club were teaching tarot and cartomancy* for beginners. We had a few people, none of them truly memorable except for one guy scared of touching a tarot card right after handling a cartomancy equivalent, a playing card.

But there was this one girl that a friend of mine brought. I’ma call her Patty, the friend that was brought. Oh geez, I could tell Patty was going to be a problem from her stern body language. She sat at the cartomancy table where I was teaching and she felt the sincere need to interject at every instance that she believed divination is a fraud. I remember trying to quell her and talk to the rest of the people but she was simply foaming at the mouth with a steady boil as she tried to quiz me about the history, background and validity of cartomancy. Good lord was she rampant in tuning out reason. I’m fairly used to dealing with skeptics of the moron kind (over-skeptics as I usually refer to them) so I explain she can borrow my cartomancy book as I instruct so she can read the history section and the bibliography. Newp, she wanted to know how, without aid of beakers and lab coats, can one see into the future because science said it can’t happen and gargle gargle foam foam.

To be honest, I was worried she was either going to give herself an aneurysm or her heart would give out. There’s less anger in the Middle East than what was on Patty’s face. Plenty of derp, to put it youthfully. She was not at all here to learn anything but clearly to disrupt, debate one-sidedly and foam. I probably could have told her her whole life story and everything she’s going to do for the next three months but she’d probably still call shenanigans and continue raging disproportionally for the situation at hand. Those people are awful annoying. Discussion is fine but going bonkers isn’t helpful because that doesn’t equal disagreement, it just equals going bonkers. I don’t mind helping out filling in the blanks for better discussion; I did offer Patty my book for her to read and fact-check. She can still be against it but at least she could understand the other side of the argument. Patty decided to bypass all that and just go nuts simply because it bothered her that much. Now, she didn’t have to come and she could have simply walked out, I wouldn’t have been at all bothered. I understand Patty was with one of my friends but even when I’m going to a place or an event I don’t like, I bail. Should I come with a friend, I just let them know that I’m not going home but I’ll be waiting somewhere else and they should call me when they are ready to go. I know this is my tactic because I employ it often when I go to an event that I won’t dig but my friend does. Even if that event is Bible Study – though I can usually get out of those.

To finish the story, Patty, after having a meltdown over people aren’t seeing it her way, she knocked it off long enough for the Student Events Board to have a chat with her over at the side. And I believe she left or kept quiet. Has Patty changed? Not sure but I still see her as uptight and mental. Her body language certainly haven’t changed.

Yes, skepticism is healthy. A good BS meter is nice, if not essential, when involving in metaphysics. Or anything else that require critical thought. To take anything at face value is asking to be hoodwinked. However, it’s not smart to act like Patty, when met with something they don’t agree with, all walls are up. Instead, pick your battles if you’re that passionate about it. Like I mentioned earlier, I will bail out on Bible Studies super fast. I don’t make up excuses often because there’s not always a need (the only exception is when offered by elderly women) but I don’t go because I know I’ll get into a debate quick.  I don’t debate at Bible Studies simply because that’s rude. The people studying aren’t hurting anyone and I don’t like debate, actually. Me and confrontation don’t go well. They’re minding their business, I’ll mind mine. It’s a different story if they bother me a la the lady from Mental Mentality but Bible Study? I rather walk around the church looking at the pretty architecture and art. Have I been trapped in Bible Studies? Yes. Dear God is it bothersome because there are just some things in the Bible I honestly don’t agree with. I try not to act like Patty because, while I  may understand the frustrating emotion of “Why don’t they get it?”, it can come off as how I described: metaphorically foaming at the mouth. It helps no one and is really embarrassing. To avoid foaming at the mouth for me, I try not to get roped into Bible Studies because they won’t change my mind and I won’t change theirs. And there’s no reason to.

So, in dealing with an over-skeptic, here are some rules of engagement that I notice works:

Pick your battles wisely: Sometimes stern skeptics are just closed-minded people who reject change. Not all, but some. They’re quite close to being an over skeptic but not nearly as rude when introduced to something they disagree with. Also, sometimes people have to learn and live a little before modifying or creating better critical reasoning for their skepticism. (Remember this if you argue against a teen or someone who is super sheltered.) Also some battles don’t need to be fought because there isn’t a battle there. Some people simply don’t need the argument.

Be fair: Don’t go off the deep end. No insults and if they are insulting, then let them know. If they’re going to that level unprovoked, they’re obviously not going to respect you any time soon. Call them out on their wackness and leave it at that.

Keep to facts: Don’t incite unfairly. For example, I’ve used picking apart the Bible as a useful tactic but I won’t sit there and come right off the bat with a (if Christian) “You believe in a zombie carpenter that even science say doesn’t exist!” or (if Atheist) “Science is your Jesus!” Knowledge by itself can be kryptonite for stupidity and it also garners respect from onlookers.

They’re Yelling? Don’t Match It: Over-Skeptics who are obstinate and tend to yell so you don’t. Let the screamer look outrageous and stupid. Coupled with what they’re probably going to say, it won’t be hard to depict them as the fool.

Dealing with those who are super skeptical is annoying, that’s fact. You feel like you have to prove all and everything just to shut them up. It’s not easy especially since major skeptics of the metaphysics are just so hard on to coin you’re a fraud and even crazy. A healthy skeptic is willing to keep an open mind, willing to learn something new – even if they don’t agree with it, they’ve learned a new perspective. A poor skeptic has a mind like the Iron Curtain: solid in their opinions, beliefs and are hard to help understand different points of view. A terrible skeptic is possibly a solid moron, simply refuses to see it any other way and any proof, no matter how good, is simply a trick. If the person is a terrible skeptic, then just don’t bother. They just want to flail and scream and foam at the mouth even at the slightest provocation.

Trust me, I know.

Next Week: The Arts!

Who’s featured:
– Occupy The Hood
– Bea Gaddy Thanksgiving Drive
– Anxiety Cat

* Cartomancy = playing card divination