How wide is skepticism?

There seem to be different views on what “skepticism” is. Daniel Loxton seems to define it (or perhaps I mean prefer it) quite narrowly.

For decades, skepticism has very deliberately worked to stay close to what it does best: tackling empirical questions in the realm of pseudoscience and the paranormal, and (as the other side of this same coin) promoting scientific literacy.

That’s skepticism? That’s it? To me that sounds more like science education combined with some applied science. I thought skepticism could be applied a good deal more generally than that.

Also, perhaps, more…searchingly.

consider this passage from the first editorial of North America’s first regular skeptical publication, written when I was a toddler:

Finally, a word might be said about our exclusive concern with scientific investigation and empirical claims. The Committee takes no position regarding nonempirical or mystical claims. We accept a scientific viewpoint and will not argue for it in these pages. Those concerned with metaphysics and supernatural claims are directed to those journals of philosophy and religion dedicated to such matters.

Demonstrable evidence is common ground for skeptics like Houdini (who wrote, “I firmly believe in a Supreme Being and that there is a Hereafter”).

But if you’re a skeptic, then the question arises, why do you firmly believe in a Supreme Being and that there is a Hereafter? What are your reasons? What causes you to believe those things?

The answer isn’t obvious, after all. It’s the opposite of obvious. There seems to be nothing in the world that corresponds to a reason for believing those things, and skeptics as such generally want reasons for beliving things. Not invariably, but generally. So why would a skeptic believe those things? And why is it not part of skepticism to ask questions of that kind?

It seems to be because Loxton doesn’t want atheism messing up skepticism, but that just presents us with the same question in a slightly different form.

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