Thorough and Perpetual Skepticism

Skepticism is a method.

I’ll repeat.

skeptical-method-by-amySkepticism is a method.  It is not a set of beliefs or even tentative conclusions (it leads to the latter, however).  You cannot be a skeptic for a little while, come to some conclusions, and stop being skeptical.  OK, well, you can do that, but doing so is counter-productive, assuming you care what’s true and not merely a little better than what you used to think. I mean, if all you want is to ditch Christianity, and you use skepticism to do that and get to Scientology, then it did it’s job, but you left the job partially done (and poorly, in that case).

You have to keep that toolbox open all the time, apply it to new information, and make sure that old information is challenged in light of new data.  It may sound tiring, but being a skeptic is perpetual, and should be applied periodically.

I mean, sure, enjoy your life and don’t constantly analyze information skeptically, but when you hear new claims, be skeptical and either talk it through then or investigate it later.  Assuming you care about whether that thing is true, which brings me to the other thing.

You should be skeptically thorough.  

You should question your assumptions, carefully analyze your worldview about all sorts of things.  Again, not constantly, but periodically at least.  You should be willing to apply the tools of skepticism to all of the important ideas and behaviors you have, because you might miss some set of assumptions if you fail to do so, and end up living a silly lie for no good reason.

What happens if you don’t do this?

Well, being around the atheist community for many years, I’ve seen people find skepticism, apply it to their religious beliefs, and either accept some other religious or spiritual belief because they didn’t follow through or simply stop after doing so.  This is how Christians become Pagans or atheists who oppose inclusiveness in our community and larger skeptical movement.  I’ve also seen tons of skeptics become atheists (as they should) and then fail to apply that skepticism to other things, like Men’s Rights Activism, for example.

No! just no....
No! just no….

Or monogamy.  You know, the acceptance of possessiveness and exclusivity in romantic relationships.  That doesn’t make any sense, except as a rationalization of jealousies, fears, and other unsavory behaviors towards people they supposedly “love.”  I both laugh and cry when I see someone declare love with words clothed in possession (you are “mine”, you “belong to me”, etc). It’s absurd.  I mean, sure, if you simply are not into anyone else, then fine, but if so you don’t need to be possessive or jealous because your happiness with monogamy has nothing to do with the fact that it’s not all about you.

If you love someone, them loving other people should not matter.  Hopefully, they love you too, and you should be willing to share.

I’ve seen the same thing, in reverse order, in the poly community.  Somehow these people come to realize the absurdity of this possessiveness and exclusivity, but don’t think to criticize their basic beliefs about the nature of reality.

I know, I know, I’m weird because I think about stuff like that naturally.


Strengthening your tools

I think that the more aspects of your life you apply skepticism to, the better skeptic you can become.  The more ideas you get over, the easier it can become to think through other ideas.  Don’t stop questioning just because you gave up religion, monogamy, or chasing Bigfoot (seriously, does anyone still really do that?).  Keep applying those tools, and you will be better for it in the long run.  It can be tiring, emotionally, cognitively, and socially, but there are others out there who are willing to help, befriend, and accept you as one of us weird skeptics.

Why Polyamorous Marriage Might Happen

Editorial Note: This post was written by Wes Fenza, long before the falling out of our previous quint household and the subsequent illumination of his abusive behavior, sexual assault of several women, and removal from the Polyamory Leadership Network and banning from at least one conference. I have left Wes’ posts  here because I don’t believe it’s meaningful to simply remove them. You cannot remove the truth by hiding it; Wes and I used to collaborate, and his thoughts will remain here, with this notice attached.



In the Stranger this week, Mistress Matisse wrote an article entitled You May Now Kiss the Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Groom: Why Poly Marriage is Never Going to Happen. She gives three reasons why poly marriage is a pipe dream, none of which are very convincing.

Her first reason:

For starters, poly- marriage organizers would have to agree on a precise definition of what, exactly, poly marriage even is. Explaining the flowcharts and Venn diagrams of poly relationships can be trickier and take longer than a play-by-play of naked Twister. And you can’t just engrave “It’s Complicated” on tasteful ivory card stock and mail it off to however many sets of in-laws.

Sure, it’s complicated… if you make it complicated. So why not keep it simple? Poly marriage can be exactly the same as mono marriage, just repeal the laws against bigamy. Whatever rights one partner has go to the other partner also. Rights that need to be divided can be split equally between partners.

People tend to get bogged down in the details of this sort of thing. Sure, legal rights like insurance, inheritance, property ownership, and the like would get more complicated when there is more than just a dyad, but so what? Those same legal rights get complicated when there is more than one child, also, but our courts can handle it. The law is always complicated. Even when laws are written clearly, courts find ways of complicating them. The fact that it would take a complicated legal framework is no reason why it can’t happen, especially when there is already a framework – mono marriage and parent/child relationships – that can be adapted.

Her second reason:

But let’s say the poly community comes up with a way of defining “poly marriage.” Then comes the price tag: It costs five bucks to file an initiative, but persuading voters to change the law in favor of poly marriage would take a lot of skillful and extremely expensive political marketing… fundraising infrastructure is key—and queers have it, poly people don’t.

Poly people definitely don’t have the infrastructure to fund a mass movement for marriage rights, can’t argue with that. But will this always be the case? There is reason to think not. For one, queers didn’t have the infrastructure 20 years ago either. Arguments for gay marriage like Virtually Normal by Andrew Sullivan were routinely dismissed as unrealistic or even undesirable. It wasn’t until homosexuality became more mainstream that the gay marriage movement started getting taken seriously, and it snowballed from there. Just because polys aren’t there yet doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Right now, the community’s goals are mostly visibility-related, but there’s no reason to believe that we’ll never get to the point where marriage is on the table.

Queers have another leg up on the poly community that may not persist: numbers. Latest estimates place the number of homosexuals in the United States at 11.7 million, or 3.5% of the population. Reliable estimates of polyamorists are harder to come by, but most estimates place the number around half a million families (which would translate to an least one million individuals) – nowhere near the 11.7 million queer Americans. However, polyamory is growing, and has the potential to grow far larger than the gay community. As poly becomes more mainstreamed (which is happening more and more every day), monogamy will become less of a default and more of a choice. There is every reason to believe that the more people who see polyamory as a viable option, the more people will prefer it as a lifestyle. Unlike homosexuality, which all evidence suggests is an inborn desire, polyamory is not a sexual orientation. There is no limit on the amount of people who will choose polyamory. As our numbers grow, so does our political power.

Mistress Matisse’s third reason:

I’m a polyamorous person who has never yearned for poly marriage…. I think romantic love that leads to deep, committed relationships is wonderful. But the romance of filing a group tax return? I’ll pass. The legal aspects aside, I’ve never been interested in sharing a household with more than one person. Frankly, even one person is a bit much sometimes…. Multiple-partner cohabitation always seemed to me like it would have all the usual relationship difficulties, plus less closet space, more scheduling headaches, and definitely more emotional processing. I am not alone in my opinion. When I remarked to a poly friend that I was writing about this topic, he quipped wryly, “Oh, right. Poly marriage: When sustaining one happy marriage just isn’t challenging enough for you!”

Just… wow. So… poly marriage is never going to happen because Mistress Matisse isn’t interested in it? I hate to be the bearer of disappointing news, but paging Mistress Matisse! You are not the spokesperson for the entire community! Your personal preference on cohabiting is fine, but it’s far from universal. I live in a house with my fiancee and my wife (and her boyfriend and his wife) and we love it! I also know other poly families who cohabitate in more than just a dyad. Your personal preference is just that – personal. It has absolutely no bearing on the likelihood or unlikelihood of poly marriage at some point in the future.

Furthermore, attitude like this (“marriage? Who needs it?”) were common in the queer community 20 years ago, when it looked like marriage was out of reach. You still find plenty of queers these days who aren’t interested in getting married, but you’ll be hard pressed to find more than a handful (aside from closeted Republicans) who don’t support the rights of all Americans to marry the person (if not persons) of their choosing. As poly marriage becomes more realistic, it will become more popular. That’s just the way of things.

Poly marriage may happen and it may not. It certainly won’t be happening in the next five years. But maybe someday. I certainly hope that it does.

The Devil, Lies, and Atheism

“The Biggest ruse of the devil is making us believe that he doesn’t exist,” said Baudelaire.  Except the devil does not exist.  The ruse here only makes sense within a very specific framework; Christian mythology.


There is a meme, a lie, really, within much of the Christian world that atheists are Satanic, or at least deceived in this Baudelairesque fashion.  According to this meme, the devil is a liar, thus atheism is a lie.  This idea is rooted in Christian scripture where Satan is seen as the father of lies:

43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. 44 You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.”

(John 8:43-47)

So, if you accept this mythology as true, or at least inspired by a god that tells the truth, then thinking of atheists as living a lie makes sense, right? Well, I suppose, but let’s look at it this way.  The devil is a character in a set of stories–the mythology which emerges from the biblical collection of books.  This character is, by definition, evil and wrong; the narrative of the story is such that he loses, eventually, and in the mean time his power in the universe is based upon deception and lies.  Those who do not believe the story of YHWH and his various acts through “history” are seen as, essentially, conspiracy theorists who do not accept the “truth.”

But this myth cannot be stretch onto the terrain of reality.  Christianity is simply not true, and to try and live it as real can only go so far before the fabric tears and reality pokes through.  But for those who are deluded in this strange and inhuman form or LARPing, those of us who are not playing by the rules of that universe will be pegged as a kind of “muggle” who has been projected as wearing a devil mask.

We can’t seriously despute the reality of the story, can we? We can’t really actually not believe that God exists and that Jesus is our savior, Mohammed is the seal of prophets, or whatever Mormons believe, right?  Because they are convinced of the truth of their worldview, when we enter their periphery we are forced into their role-playing and seen as playing characters which represent us in their narrative.

We are devils, liars, and we have been draped with a cloth of deception to make us fit into their worldview.

But from the atheist point of view, we are a bunch of people who wandered into their D&D, Harry Potter, or Christian universe where everyone within it is LARPing fully in character. So while we know it’s all pretend, from the point of view of the players we have to play the role of muggles or devils, otherwise they have to break character.

atheismExcept, in the real world, there are people who don’t know they are playing a character, they think that the role-playing is real.  And that’s religion. Atheism is simply being aware that the script(ure) is just pretend, and we cannot believe that so many people take it so seriously.  We simply want them to break character, and enjoy reality.

If you are interested in a great book about the history of the concept of the devil, see Gérald Messadié‘s wonderful book A History of the Devil.

Responses to oft-repeated comments

Oh hey internet! A whole bunch more of you know about us now, and you have opinions! That’s cool, I read all your comments, replied to a few, ignored most. But there have been a few common themes as I look at comments on various web media coverage of our Our America appearance, and I wanted to answer some of them without flooding the boards over at Gawker and the like.

OMG, you are such a bunch of hippies! You’re probably all obsessed with reiki and shit.
If you take two seconds to look around this blog, you’ll quickly see how not true that is. We run more to the “asshole skeptic” side of things. I’ll grant that woo-loving hippies are somewhat overrepresented in the poly world, but it’s not everybody by a long shot. (Also, I have a soft spot in my heart for woo-loving hippies, although I’m not sure that’s true for the other polyskeptic contributors.)

OMG, you are such a bunch of geeks! Why do all poly people love steampunk?
This, on the other hand, I plead totally guilty to. Did you see our TARDIS door? We are huge, huge geeks. I dunno why there’s such overlap between polyamory and geekdom (also kink), except perhaps that if you’re used to being called a freak and a weirdo already, there’s less barrier to entry for doing something else that will get you called a freak and a weirdo. Also probably several of your weirdo freak friends are already doing it, so you’re more likely to give it a try. There may be more to it than that, but I don’t know.

Every poly person I’ve met is incredibly smug.
Yeah, I’ve met those people too. You have my full permission to be irritated by them. We’re also all atheists, so we’re two for two on memetic smugness. Me, I’ve met people who I find intolerably smug (even if I agree with them on whatever they’re being smug about) and I’ve also met people who are convinced they’re right about something without the smugness (also, sometimes, without the rightness). I think all of us at polyskeptic believe that it is better, all else being equal, to work past the jealousies and insecurities that make polyamory seem impossible to so many people. None of us give a shit whether, having done that, a person dates one person or four people or no people. If that’s smug to you, okay I guess.

You just want to have sex with a lot of different people.
And if we do, the problem is…? But actually, it’s a lot more complicated than that. I could definitely find a way to have sex with a lot of different people that didn’t involve also negotiating how to split the budget five ways, mass round-robin conversations about why X is mad at Y, and anxiety that one of us might get a kickass job in another state and what that would mean for everybody.

You’re such attention whores! Why should you get the spotlight and applause for your stupid “lifestyle”?
While being on the show sort of necessitates that all of us are positive or neutral to public attention — and all but one of us enjoys performing in various venues — it’s not like we petitioned documentarians until someone finally agreed to do a show on us. The Our America people reached out looking for poly families willing to be featured, and after talking it over we said we’d be up for it. We’d actually be thrilled if nobody thought our way of life was interesting or weird enough to pay attention to.

You’re so brave, I could never do that.
It came easily to some of us and with great difficulty to others. One thing all of us here believe in is personal growth, and doing shit that’s hard for you if you’ve decided it’s worth doing. That doesn’t mean that you, dear reader, need to aim your personal growth in the same direction we have, but I do hope you’re doing something in your life that challenges you, and that gets you to a place where you say, “Wow, five years ago I never would have thought I could do that!” For one reason or another, all of us were strongly motivated to work toward being comfortably, happily poly, so that’s where we’ve directed a lot of our effort.

You’re incredibly emotionally immature to need more than one lover.
I sometimes wonder about people who say stuff like this. Are relationships, to them, more take than give? Because every person who comes into my life to give me emotional support also needs as much emotional support from me. One reason I don’t mind having just one serious partner is that having a second one would be more work. I’ll do it happily if I fall in love with someone else, but it’s not all sunshine and candy.

You’re all ugly.
YOU ARE! No, seriously, I don’t give two shits whether a random internet commenter thinks I’m ugly or pretty, but if it makes you feel better to say it, knock yourself out.

Welcome Our America Viewers!

Editorial Note: This post was written by Wes Fenza, long before the falling out of our previous quint household and the subsequent illumination of his abusive behavior, sexual assault of several women, and removal from the Polyamory Leadership Network and banning from at least one conference. I have left Wes’ posts  here because I don’t believe it’s meaningful to simply remove them. You cannot remove the truth by hiding it; Wes and I used to collaborate, and his thoughts will remain here, with this notice attached.




As most of you know by now, the Polyskeptics were featured on Our America With Lisa Ling tonight! In case any of you are new to the blog, you can check out our bio page and our driving philosophy. In addition, here’s some of our favorite posts you might want to check out:

My main philosophy on polyamory can be seen in my post Polyamory Isn’t All About You. It’s about why I became polyamorous, and how my love for my wife meant that I didn’t want to deny her the things that she wanted. You can also see one of my more controversial posts where I assert that Polyamory is Not a Sexual Orientation, and give my reasons why I think so. You can also see my view on The Transactional Model of Relationships, and why I’m not a fan. Also, don’t miss my more fun posts about Dick Stumps and Highlander Penis!

Gina tends to write about her personal experiences. One of her most-read is about how happy she is with her big house, and the followup, My Bigger House. She also talks about the history of our relationship and her struggles and coming out to her coworkers.

Shaun has a philosophy background, and his posts tend to reflect that. One of his most read post is Atheism over Humanism: Why We Must Philosophize With a Hammer. You can also check out his thoughts on jealousy as it relates to relationships and what it means to love authentically. You may also want to check out his post on Accidental Monogamy, which talks about why monogamous people might benefit from a journey through “the fires of polyamory.”

Ginny also blogs occasionally. Check out her experience at the Reason Rally and what it showed her about religion. Also, don’t miss her thoughts on individualism and atheism.

Hope you enjoy it! And we hope you’ll be back!

Tonight’s the Night!

So, tonight is the airing of the documentary we were involved with, and I know that a few of us are nervous (including me, at least a little), but I think that it should be a well done piece.


We will not be watching it tonight, since we don’t have cable and we have decided to watch it elsewhere but not be there too late, since it is on at 10pm (the OWN channel, see local listings).

We will be watching it tomorrow, so any thoughts that I have will have to wait until then, at the earliest.

For those of you who have still not seen the previews, here they are (embed codes aren’t working here):



If you end up watching it tonight, let us know what you thought.