I think there's another component to this. In the minds of a lot of other self-professed "card-carrying" Skeptic-magazine-reading Skepticality-podcast-subscribing nonsense-combatting skeptics - saying you're a Skeptic is almost akin to professing a faith. Or an anti-faith, as it were. Like admitting to being in a certain political party. Not because they want to be cliqueish but because, in America at least, they are so generally villified and despised. Secularly minded people comprise something like 10% of the American population. So when you say, "I'm a skeptic" in the States, that's almost like a battle cry. It means being against widespread fraud like "psychics", against the attempts of Church on State in the public sphere, etc. etc. And as far as I can tell from Stephen's writings, interviews, the "blasphemy debate" he did with Hitchens etc., he's the kind of skeptic who very actively reviles these things as well as opposed to simply saying "Meh, I don't really buy into anything." Because there are things that are deeply important to self-professed skeptics, political issues, intellectual issues etc. - things that they wholeheartedly believe in. And so to say they don't believe in anything, and that Stephen doesn't because he calls himself a skeptic can be interpreted as being somewhat insulting to their collective intelligence.
Brilliant!! Well said!
Take for example a quote from my very first contribution to the this site...........
"To raise a political idea, challenge someones belief system, to talk about art, music, theatre, to broach any of these subjects with your average Joe can envoke a tirade of abuse. The Murdoch media syndrome is generating a population of mental mutants who just quote from the pages of the Sun (British right wing tabloid) when they need a quick opinion. Any attempt at independant thought is viewed with suspicion! This is not the fault of " the masses" but represents the systematic emptying out of peoples intelligence, to subordinate the population into accepting consumerism which will ultimately lead to our distruction if we dont do something about it!"
Scepticism, like Marxism like Materialism like Science or any rational philosophy, is under attack from the religious right. Through the control of the media these demagogues assert thier irrational agenda which subordinates peoples minds to religiosity and predjudice. It's called divide and rule, pitting one section of the population against another through the imposition of ideas and playing on peoples fears.
In Britain for instance there is a govt move to give trust status to our high schools which will enable business interests to buy into education which will give them influence over our curriculum. It is already clear that certain business types with religious fundamentalist views and who believe in creationism are already lining up to invest. They will be able to push their ideas through and challenge the scientific foundations of our understanding of history and biology and physics and archeology and literature, pushing religious education further to the center of the curriculum.
This fits perfectly with the idea that they in effect groom the youth into accepting these ideas which supposedly creates a maliable and unquestioning work force.
I do believe that your country has been operating this system for years. The trouble is though it doesn't work! Young Americans are no less questioning than any other groups of young people around the world. You can fill peoples heads with anything you want but it's the social, material questions which determine peoples conciousness such as housing, health, jobs and money!
Having to struggle against irrationality is damed inconvenient and represents a set back for human thought but there are millions of Skeptics and Athiests and Materialists and Scientists. They just aren't very well organised and cant agree that the common enemy is the capitalist class and that power needs to be wrested away from them and replaced with a workers democracy, that is a democratic system which involves the organisation of our rescources at production and distribution level. Basically a democratic plan decided by the people themselves, in the workplaces and housing schemes!
Skepticism has it's role to play in this. It can be the first and awakening thoughts for someone who is begining to question his/her world. We all go through this phase, but if you want to understand society in all it's manifestations then you need to embace the history of ideas and their impact upon the world!