Everything everywhere should be questioned deeply and often. Everything new should be examined. Everything old should be re-examined. By questioning everything we can come to the best possible answers or at least the best possible next questions. This is the core of my personal belief system. Dogma is the antithesis. It goes against everything that makes us human, it’s unfair, and it’s completely wrong.
Before I dive in, let’s define dogma. Mr. Webster or the Merriam brothers or more likely, who ever edited the dictionary’s “D” section most recently, defines dogma as, “A belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted.” A simple sentence yet absolutely terrifying.
No questions. No doubts. No checks and balances. No analysis. No proof, facts, or reason necessary. It’s forced belief, pure and simple. “If you want to belong to our club you have to drink the entire glass of Kool-aid. Bottoms up!”
Here’s the funny thing about dogma. It’s used as a way to strengthen or at least maintain belief in a specific subject but it only affects those who already believe or those subjected to the outcome of that belief (the true tragedy of dogma). To anyone outside that particular belief system, dogmatic practices only manage to signal weakness, a lack of confidence, and falsehood. Not exactly the outcome those being dogmatic are looking for.
When the Internet was in its infancy it was heralded as the beginning of a new age of reason, a renaissance of thought, reason, and knowledge. Though I think it’s trajectory is still on course, lately I’ve been feeling the heavy, gruesome body of dogma dragging our ship down. I don’t know what the cause is. Maybe it’s the fact that the Internet gives everyone a public voice with which to argue and unfortunately most people don’t know how to argue effectively. Maybe it’s that with so much information bombarding us, we’ve started to shut down to what we don’t agree with in order to cope. No matter the cause, the results often sounds like this.
What I believe in is right and if you question that you’re a jerk, your wrong, and you can’t be in the club. If you’re already in, you clearly don’t belong.
What I believe in is right so anything I say regarding it is also right and if you don’t agree with what I’ve said then you don’t belong in our club.
Sometimes the buck gets passed.
Someone important or an important subset in our group thinks this is right so it’s right and if you question this then you’re out of the club and also probably an asshole.
In all instances it sounds childish and does nothing but make the stated cause seem even less believable.
Religions have perfected dogma but you can see examples of it in all groups across all social/political/ and economic spectra. Seriously, think about a cause you hold dear. Any cause at all. Now think of an argument you’ve heard that sounds like one of those above (which is by no means an exhaustive list of examples). It won’t take long to sniff out a little dogma. Who ever you heard speaking like that, they’re not helping. If you truly care about a cause, do it a huge favor and challenge any dogma you see. You’ll do nothing but build on its strength and credibility.
But what if I realize I’m the one spewing the dogma?
Stop. Please, stop. Instead, take time to understand your beliefs and how to defend them.
Why am I obligated to defend my beliefs?
The answer is, you’re not. There’s no obligation as long as you don’t engage. It’s just like any confrontation. If someone challenges you, you always have the option to walk away. To not engage. If someone questions your beliefs, you can leave that situation. If you punch back however, if you engage in the argument, you can’t turn around and say you never wanted to fight. You joined in. You put on the gloves. You now owe it to your beliefs to defend them. The least you could do is give them a sporting chance by using actual fact or at least justified reason.
Oh, and any time you happen realize that you might indeed be wrong, you could, I don’t know, maybe change your way of thinking. It’s okay to learn and grow sometimes. There’s never any shame in being wrong. It’s only when you hang on to that false belief that you look foolish. It’s like getting an “F” on some homework then turning it back in hoping for a better grade. Nope, it’s still an “F”