On Dogma and dogmatism

In the course of a discussion about ideas, philosophy, politics, or the mundane, one description that gets thrown about is saying that someone is being dogmatic or advancing dogma.

Dogma is set of beliefs or doctrine especially of a religious nature that is accepted as truth without proof. For example – the Holy Bible says the earth was created in 6 days. That is accepted dogma by Christians and other religious people who use the Bible.

Dogma can appear in non-religious situations such as believing that all people on welfare are lazy or that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the 2003 US invasion. These are ideas that are accepted or advanced with little if any proof and if actual evidence contrary to that belief is found, it is simply ignored or dismissed.

Dogmatic from the root word dogma, involves holding fast to dogma, or set values or beliefs, without considering or respecting other values or beliefs.

What is “dogmatic” is actually open to debate. It is based on the subjective evaluation of the person listening to the discussion and their subjective idea as to what is meant by “respect” and “consideration.” Some people feel that all ideas are equally valid and if someone doesn’t agree then they are being dogmatic. They feel that “respect” must equal agreement or that “consideration” makes the ideas equal.

In a rational discussion, one can reject the conclusions or not agree with the premises and not be dogmatic. Listening and exploring other ideas is showing “respect”. Being disrespectful is preventing or encouraging censorship of ideas opposed to ones own or asking people to ignore logic or ignore false premises and conclusions for the sake of being nice. One way to do that is to accuse someone of being dogmatic.

Focusing on the people making the argument instead of the argument itself makes one dogmatic because you aren’t respecting or considering what the other person is saying. Personalities are different in each person and some can be seen to be passionate about their ideas and they can become an ass about it.

Being passionate about your ideas to the point of being a nasty person still doesn’t make one dogmatic. It isn’t how the person presents their argument that is important. What is important is the content of their conclusions and how they arrived at them.

The Humanist philosophy builds on the foundation that all ideas are open to question, even our own. That doesn’t mean we must accept every new idea and not accepting every new idea or view doesn’t make us dogmatic.

A new idea or change to a current belief is accepted if there is concrete evidence for it and it is based on rational logical thought.

Humanism isn’t based on dogma and if the philosophy is applied as it should be then it also isn’t dogmatic.

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