As a skeptic, I like my opinions to be based on empirical fact. I take my science scrutinised, my logic sensible... and my evidence? Hard. I follow the code of logic and reason, and I champion this cause wherever I have the opportunity. I do it because skepticism - seeing the world as it really is - is a beautiful thing.
Why, then, am I so frequently accused of being cynical, grumpy, a curmudgeon?
It happened twice just last week. The first was at a funeral, after I corrected a relative who told me her beloved had 'passed on'.
"He hasn't passed on," I said, caringly. "He's dead."
Is it cynical to correct the metaphysical delusions of a friend in their time in need? Apparently so. 'Insensitive' this and 'sneering know-it-all' that. You would not believe the carry on.
It happened again when passing my local Buddhist monastery - a notorious logic blackspot. Buddhism shows scant regard for the laws of the universe, but have you ever tried telling this to a monk?
'Come in, have some green tea and I'd be delighted to talk to you' came the smug response. Naturally I told him where to shove his patronizing offer. You can always tell a Buddhist from the violent hatred in the eyes. Evidently, he thought me a cynic - a grouch! I've never been so unfairly painted in all my life.
I'm the happy-go-lucky type, you see. My mission to spread this joy begins each day at dawn.
I jump on the bus and see two old dears nattering. I introduce myself. We chatter. We share tales of past love, of laughter. I educate them on the realistic chances of their friend old Bill surviving pancreatic cancer. I ring for my stop, doff them my cap and continue my merry commute. Ah! - the dispelling of false optimism: surely the king of moral breakfasts.
I hop into work. My colleagues are radiant. Morning Susan. I see you're looking at your horoscope. Kindly pass me the paper so I might set it on fire. Thank you. Your deluded belief that destiny might offer an escape from your dreary existence is heart-warming. Don't buy that paper again. Have a lovely day.
All I do is try to spread a little logical cheer here and there and still I'm accused of cynicism. And arson. Ridiculous!
Things came to head recently when I stamped on a three-year-old child's toy unicorn - a toy she was playing with despite having NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER THAT UNICORNS EXIST. I won't bore you with the details. Of course, my actions were just healthy skepticism, correcting a rather sinister interest in cryptozoology. But do the officers of the Metropolitan Police Child Protection Unit care about skepticism? Do they hell.
I know what you're thinking. Forget these idiots. But I cannot let lie accusations that I am somehow joyless. The universe deserves the truth: that science and skepticism offer a magic and happiness more profound than any unicorn ever could.
Throw out your fairytale toys. What child wouldn't enjoy playing with a miniature Brian Cox figurine, which encourages wonder in the universe and comes with free battery-powered lens flare? What Secular Christmas wouldn't be improved with a play-sized My First Hadron Collider kit under the tree? What rosy smile wouldn't be further brightened by destroying the Lego (and its dangerously warped depiction of the building trade) and replacing it with, for example, maths-based construction puzzle 'Stasti-Sticks'?
It's a dream of a beautiful future. But it has so far fallen on deaf ears. The only logical explanation is that the world is not yet ready for it.
I must battle on regardless. History will right these current wrongs, and I must take comfort in the knowledge that one day, twenty years from now, that three-year-old girl will seek me out. She will meet my gaze with a tear in her eye and admit that she was wrong. I know that little girl will grow up with the wisdom to see the subtle grace of my actions, and that even further into the foggy future she will stamp on the unicorns of her children, and of her children's children. And when that day comes, I will have succeeded in making the world a more joyful place.
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