For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. --H. L. Mencken
Good questions outrank easy answers. --Paul Samuelson
I was having a conversation with a friend recently and we were discussing why so many Americans possess so many simplistic religious beliefs. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that people just want easy answers. I think it's understandable -- life can be bewildering and overwhelming in the best of circumstances -- but it's leading to a very ignorant populace, which rejects, almost 200 years after Darwin, evolution.
Atheism and the more sophisticated theologies are hard.
When a dear friend dies, the simple theist can believe that his friend's in Heaven, surrounded by angels and loved ones. The skeptic must reconcile himself to the sad reality that his friend is just gone.
When the simple theist wonders how we got here, he can be satisfied with "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground." The skeptic must find an introductory text on evolution. If he really wants to understand, he can spend his whole life studying genetics, biology, and paleontology, and still, at the end, not fully know.
When the simple theist has a moral dilemma, she may simply consult her rabbi, or open the Good Book. The skeptic must agonize, pondering ramifications and trade-offs, never knowing if her choice was "correct."
The simple theist believes that he and all of us are here for a very specific purpose. The skeptic must create his own meaning, or accept that perhaps there is none.
It takes courage to look past the easy (and wrong) answers and accept life's inherent complexity and unknowableness. I think the road less traveled is well worth the difficulty, however. The simple theist's world is small and simplistic, while the skeptic's is majestic and full of wonderful avenues of exploration. There is much we will never know, but we skeptics get to spend our lives learning all we can.