I am a Bolivian guy and a skeptic. I decided that there are plenty of topics to be commented about that are related to my country and skepticism. For now I have chosen to remain anonymous, but here are some details about my life.
I am a programmer and am currently a university student. I am 26 years old and I really think skepticism is a road to sanity that is much needed in this country of mine and also everywhere else.
Things change, and I was not always a skeptic. I was raised a Catholic and also was exposed to a lot of silly claims when young and while growing up. For instance, I used to believe in Astrology and knew about the 2012 craze even before 2001. However, I was also a young computer enthusiast that spent a lot of time in the internet. As that I also spent a lot of time in websites related to those crazy topics. But the internet is like that and does not discriminate, I had my first exposures to The skeptic's dictionary around that time, as I kept encountering claims that were sillier and crazier and needed some sort of protection.
I think the turning point was when I used to spend a lot of time in a prophecies-related forum. I even got psychic readings and the such. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) it happened that forums about doomsday prophecies tend to have conspiracy theorists and a popular conspiracy theory is that vaccines are actually harmful and part of a medical plot to get everyone sick. IE: The claim that vaccines cause autism or are 'toxic' was not something I could really let go without a discussion.
You see, a privilege of living in here is that preventable diseases are still a realistic danger, so vaccination has always been very helpful and part of my life. It was very hard to believe that vaccines were evil and it sounded quite lame. I had to do some research of my own. That is when I learned about science based medicine. which was a great starting point. I eventually concluded the sad truth, anti-vaxxers were all really full of crap. Worse, spreading these conspiracy theories without evidence is not just a dumb belief, it is a harmful one that causes great harm to society as a whole. I had no choice but than try to get the people in that forum back on track and try to teach them that they were spreading lies and got used to deal with typical claims like pretending like Ethyl-Mercury and Methyl-mercury are the same, and many other tools of the anti-vaxxer trade. The reaction was not tender. I was accused of being a lot of things and was treated like a pariah for being so aggressive and disrespectful of opinions for not letting them just go with spreading their conspiracy theories. That is when I learned a very hard lesson, bull attracts bull. Their irrational beliefs were making them more vulnerable to other irrational beliefs. Critical thinking is an exercise you have to endure constantly and cannot just stop using it in some topics and expect to be protected when the more destructive beliefs come.
I started applying critical thinking and skepticism one all the other things with the same rigor I did with anti-vax claims. I ended up making the obvious conclusion. Astrology, psychics, UFOs, doomsday prophecies all are extraordinary claims that have no extraordinary evidence. Worse, believing in those things can also be harmful, although not as harmful as anti-vax, they do cause inconvenients for the lives of people that believe in those things and also pave the way for more destructive beliefs. What really surprised me is that my life became refreshing and not more empty after that. I no longer had to carry the load of those beliefs and things became simpler.
I did not notice initially, but there was one more silly belief that I was carrying with me that I had to leave. I was very Catholic. But of course, I started to use that critical thinking against aspects of my own belief too. It didn't take long for me to find plenty of things I do not agree with and that don't really add up in the Catholic mythos and ethics. I started with small things like (I don't really think it makes that much sense to be so against homosexual people, I think they should be allowed to do whatever they feel proper with their sexual lives). Continued with (So what if Jesus was married or not? Who cares?) to (Think about it, the mass is really a dull ritual that does not make much sense) and (I know these guys claim that saints make miracles, but there is no evidence for all of that). Eventually, I got rid of more and more Catholic beliefs and then Christian beliefs and ended up with losing the religion completely and I am sort of an atheist by now.
Talk about refreshing changes, once again I was surprised that my life was not more empty, but rather the opposite. I know care about the important parts of life, that would be family, work and personal improvement. Over the years, I feel plenty of other people need to learn this, that those beliefs are just a weight and do not help that much, I decided to make this blog.