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.

10 Responses to “Dogged by Dogma”

  1. adlawrence Says:

    Well put. My brain is stuck on the question of what happens to the individual who questions [especially if they are not prone to the formation of groups and social ties]. And if the questioning individual ever has a choice in the matter.
    I cannot help but question every single nuances I come across, or think of, or notice the lack of, etc… But what I am curious about is if everyone else encounters these same trains of thought and then either chooses to encourage or subjugate them.
    It seems to me that the concept of dogma that you speak of would require a collective acceptance and agreement…
    hmm, I really have no idea where I am going with this one. I like the post though [not that that matters in the least], hopefully you continue posting.
    hmm, I really have no idea where I am going with this one. I like the post though [not that that matters in the least], hopefully you continue posting.

  2. xanthippa Says:

    Re: does everyone encounter these trains of though

    Looking at history, many societies existed with their dogma unquestioned UNTIL something came up which made people realize that they COULD question the ‘dogma’. So, even when there were ‘questioners’, it often did not occur to them that some things might even be subjects of questioning…

    Confusingly written here, but will be subject of future posts….

  3. adlawrence Says:

    I just recommended this book to someone else but I thought I would do so here as well…

    One, No One & One Hundred Thousand by Luigi Pirandello (trans. from italian by William Weaver).

    Publishers Weekly: “It is Pirandello’s genius that a discussion of the fundamental human inability to communicatre, of our essential solitariness, and of the inescapable restriction of our free will elicits such thoroughly sustained and earthy laughter.”

  4. sgshaw Says:

    Very postmodern. It sounds to me like what you mean by “belief” is more along the lines of beliefs of objective nature and beliefs that transcend communities, rather than the inability to hold any belief (inter-subjuctive, community ordained, etc) at all. Is that about right…?

    After all, you do believe that you are unable to form beliefs, which is, in itself, a belief. : )

  5. xanthippa Says:

    Since I lack education in philosophy, I am sometimes lost in the terminlology. So, please, forgive my ignorance if I misunderstand. I’ll learn, I promise!

    You are, of course, right that the statement that I cannot hold beliefs appears to be a belief in itself! So, please, let me qualify the statement:

    ‘I have examined my attitudes, opinions, conclusions, prejudices, and other thoughts and thought patterns I suffer from the impression I am experiencing, and it appears to me that none of them would conform to a definition of ‘belief’, as in ‘profound belief’, along the lines of ‘religious faith-type belief’, according to my limited understanding of that concept.’

    This extends into my past, as far as I can recall. I have no idea of what the future (whatever that concept may entail) may bring. I don’t even ‘believe’ that I am self-aware!

    I hope that makes more sense…it sure confused me! ;0)

    But, in ‘common speak’ – I do find it difficult to have an unqualified opinion…though I do subscribe to ‘ought to beliefs’ in the sense of ‘I believe all humans ought to be treated equally in the eye of the law’….

  6. sgshaw Says:

    I understand what you mean. What it sounds like you’re wrestling with is objective belief (profound belief that is true for everyone, no matter what), and I don’t blame you. Generally speaking, however, your subjective (personal) feelings indeed can qualify as beliefs. To deny beliefs in a wholesale manner is, please pardon me here, a bit silly. Perhaps there might be a better word to describe what it is you’re feeling? I think using the word ‘belief’ is likely to create a bit of confusion. : )

    For example: it is impossible to doubt that you are a thinking thing–because the very act of doubting requires thinking! So in one way or another, a certain amount of belief is forced upon us, whether we like it or not.

    And do not worry about a lack of philosophical training. Philosophy is difficult, I’ll admit, but everyone has to start somewhere!

  7. Xanthippa Says:

    While I agree that the word ‘belief’ may create confusion – it is used to refer to a variety of mental states, not particularly congruent with each other, I would most vehemently disagree with the assertion that ‘feelings’ qualify as ‘beliefs’.

    Perhaps this is an illustration of my limitation, but I do not really think that what I am experiencing are ‘feelings’ – feelings are ‘deep emotions’, if you would like, and as a somewhat autistic person (Aspergers, to be precise), I tend to differentiate rather abruptly between ‘feelings’ and ‘thoughts/cpnclusions’. It seems to me that they emmanate from an entirely different part of the brain.

    Beliefs, as I understand them, are ‘convictions, despite evidence’ – and as such, I cannot find a way of subscribing to them.

    You say the very act of doubt requires thinking: OK, so? Thinking does NOT imply the existence of a ‘thinker’!!!! Nor, does it in any way imply that I can know the wholeness, on anything, really, about the ‘thinker’ or its nature…

    I have no evidence as to who or what is doing the ‘thinking’ – or if ‘thinking’ itself is an illusion brought on by some freak combination of natural phenomena, and thus quite independent of ‘a thinker’ (my post ‘I think therefore I am…I think).

  8. vitality Says:

    Just a short comment; for now.
    Doubting, is the motivater for THINKING. Believing, is a POSSIBILITY, unsupported.
    FEELING, is the POKER, urging you on, to THINK some further!!!

    Never neglect you FEELINGS!!! It is the important I, in I AM, telling you,
    Hey, you may be ON TO something !!!!!

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