Things that never happen
When I was in grade school, I was really interested in UFOs. I read every book in the school library about them, watched every TV show I could find about them, and had long conversations with my friends about space aliens and ancient visitations.
Then, as the years went by, I discovered more skeptical books and articles about UFOs. I also learned to better use my developing powers of reasoning, and realized that it was far more likely that stories of alien visitors were false, and tales of mysterious lights had more mundane explanations.
I found this change in belief exciting. It was much more thrilling to seek out real answers than to accept everything at face value. It was my first major experience with the joy of scientific discovery, and I happily shared it with anyone who was willing to listen.
Now here’s the interesting part: No matter how many people I told that I no longer believed in visitors from outer space, nobody ever asked me why I had rejected the aliens and turned my back on the UFO community.
Nobody asked what horrible thing had happened in my childhood that made me so cynical. They didn’t insinuate that I was being skeptical because I was a rebellious teenager, or as a way to strike out at my parents. Nobody told me that, while young people might disbelieve in aliens, when I was a little older and knew more, I would understand that they were real.
I never had a friend say that their mother believed in UFOs, so if I disagreed, I was calling her mother a liar.
Nobody asked how I could go on with life without the meaning that confidence in the existence of super-intelligent aliens brought. Nobody told me that, even though I professed disbelief in aliens, I knew in my soul that they were real, or that if I just opened my heart I would believe.
I wasn’t told that the books I was reading were evil, or that the explanations of how UFO photographs were faked were the work of the devil. Nobody’s ever implied that my lack of trust in UFOs meant that I must be a Satanist.
I’ve never heard anyone say that ghosts, fairies, bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, dowsing, homeopathic medicine, perpetual motion, spontaneous human combustion, faith healing, and psychic phenomena might not have any scientific evidence behind them, but that I should believe in UFOs because they aren’t silly like those other things.
Nobody asked why I had “chosen” to disbelieve. They didn’t say I was only disbelieving in aliens because I wanted to be able to do bad things without worrying about being judged by creatures from another planet, like in The Day the Earth Stood Still.
I can’t remember anyone saying, “If you really didn’t believe in UFOs, you wouldn’t spend so much time and energy talking about them” or “You can’t prove that no alien has ever visited Earth.” I’ve never heard anyone say that everyone’s beliefs about UFOs are equally true, so I should just let people believe what they want to and not worry about it.
When I was a kid, it was popular to believe that aliens had helped construct the pyramids and other ancient wonders, but nobody called me illogical, unscientific, closed-minded, or bigoted for thinking these beliefs didn’t belong in the classroom. They didn’t argue that I was biased for only wanting to teach one side of the “controversy.”
People didn’t accuse me of blindly “worshipping” Philip Klass. They didn’t say that you had to believe as many weird things to disbelieve in UFOs as you did to believe in them.
When I said the state might have to step in if parents wanted to use messages from aliens to make critical health decisions for their children, nobody questioned my morality or tolerance.
Nobody said I couldn’t play with their children because I wouldn’t acknowledge fealty to aliens. Nobody told me that to be a good parents I have to at least give my children the gift of belief in space creatures.
Nobody ever cursed at me for not believing in aliens. I’ve never been spat at, yelled at, punched, shunned, or scorned for not being a UFO fanatic. My lack of belief in aliens has never caused anyone to not invite me to a wedding or exclud me from a party because the presence of an unbeliever might upset some of the other guests.
I was never looked down upon for not believing every word of Erich von Däniken, and I wasn’t taken to task for not living by the principles taught in Chariots of the Gods? by people who hadn’t even read the whole thing themselves.
When talking to other people’s children, I’ve never worried that their parents might become upset if I admitted to not believing in visitors from outer space. I’ve never stressed out about whether I might lose my job if my employer found out I was a skeptic.
I’m not worried that, when I die, some misguided relative will erect a monument to aliens on my grave because he’s sure that, in death, I finally believe.
I wonder why.