Dogged by Dogma

One thing that we humans do is ‘form communities’.  Extended families, neighbourhoods, professional associations, sports leagues, interest groups, church socials, nations, virtual debating site memberships – these are all communities formed by people through sharing common experiences.  It validates our sense of ourselves to be connected to other individuals and we feel most connected to those who have similar experiences and opinions as we do.  We even define our ‘self’ by the communities to which we belong.

 Each of these communities is unique in space, time and experience.  The ways their people interpret these common experiences affect the ‘facts’ of their ‘reality’:  the general assumptions about the world.  This is reflected in the way they use language, imbuing it with nuances and shades of meaning. 

 For example, the phrase ‘Three Kings’ may evoke a different image  in a Christian Bible study group than it might during a friendly card game.  Over time, some phrases which reflect certain key ‘common experiences’ turn into ‘presumptions’ which become more and more entrenched as they are repeated. 

 On and on, these become ‘unspoken truths’.  All new experiences are seen through this ‘truth’s’ perceptual prism.  And since the brain’s input has been filtered through this prism, the brain processes it that way – and concludes that the ‘truth’ is confirmed as ‘real’.  It is a circular cycle, a self-reinforcing process:  presumed ‘truth’ affects the way we perceive things, and our perceptions confirm this ‘truth’. 

 The ‘truths’ become so ‘common sense’, they are never questioned:  eventually, they become unquestionable.  Not because one would not dare to question them, at least, not at first.  Rather, it simply does not occur to anyone to question them. 

 They have now become dogma.

 And some people are happy to live in this way.  They are satisfied to be a member of their community, they are secure in their opinions and experiences, validated by their peers.  No problem there.

 What happens when, as is the nature of some of us, there comes along an individual who questions?  Who does not find anything to be ‘self-evident’?  Who is not able to believe – and more and more people today are daring to admit that they simply lack the ability to believe – and who dares to question the dogma and arrives at different conclusions?  Or even worse, what if this community encounters another community, one whose dogma is at odds with their own? 

 Human reactions have, in this regard, been very consistent.  We usually:
 
1. Silence the individual. 

2. Ridicule/denigrate or destroy the other community’s dogma. 

3. Find self definition and ‘specialness’ in our own community’s dogma. 

I plan to ‘jump around’ in my blog topics a little – having the attention span of a 2-year-old, I get distracted a little.  Yet, over the next little while, I will examine each of these very human reactions and post my musings on them.