(Well, since there’s a bit of kerfuffle on the JREF blog (mostly in the comments) about skepticism and atheism, I voice my say. Not that I’ve ever commented there, or am in any way involved, but hey, monkey see, monkey blog.)
Skepticism is a tool, an approach; incidentally the opposite to the tool called gullibility which will, indeed, make you look like a total tool.
Atheism is a position, a conclusion.
Skepticism and atheism aren’t the same thing.
Neither are skepticism and the provisional nonexistence of Bigfoot.
Or skepticism and the fact that there were no aliens at Roswell.
No, skepticism is the tool by the application of which we reach the conclusions that there’re no Bigfoot, no Roswell aliens, and no God, gods, angels, heavens, or hells.
Personal feelings of god are no different from personal feelings of fairies in the garden; the blood-weeping Mary statue is no different from the supposed miracles of older date or different form; and nothing said in defense of god is any different from the things said in defence of the veracity of the New World Order, homeopathy, satanic ritual abuse, haunted houses, ESP and the Bigfoot. Religion has the same dodgy claims as every other paranormal thinga-magic; to give it different treatment is, depending on how you wish to phrase the matter, respectful, coy, dishonest or just an effing intellectual travesty.
A skeptic that goes a-saying skepticism and atheism aren’t the same thing is just being coy, or then making a PR move. That statement is technically correct, but that’s all it is, since there is a certain causality and connection such a statement doesn’t mention.
Also, a skeptic that says there are believers and infidels in the skeptic ranks is no doubt correct, but also says no more than one saying there are Bigfoot-believers and Bigfoot-deniers in the skeptic ranks, or anthropogenic global warming deniers (“skeptics”) and sensible evidence-driven folks; no doubt there are, but such statements neglect to mention that in both cases one group isn’t being skeptical for real about that particular matter.
And by being skeptical about things you do reach conclusions about them, or at least best explanations, all the while staying open to possible future evidence; and I think the current and quite firm conclusion a skeptic will reach is that (by the final-seeming evidence that’s been trudged forth so far) there ain’t no extraterrestrial UFOs (though there most probably is extraterrestrial life), there was no dodgy business at Roswell, and there ain’t no Bigfoot, fairies or gods either.
It might be PR-wise to shut up about this, but honest it ain’t.
(Also, not the first gripe on this particular distinction by me.)