Ideology and dogmatism

These are two popular words right now. What do they mean?

We humans have very few preprogrammed instincts. We are governed by ideas instead. We come into the world, pretty much, as a blank slate and have our instincts programmed into us by our parents based on their current set of beliefs.

Later, when we become adolescents and adults, we have the opportunity to change our programming by consciously picking and choosing our own ideas. We are the only truly reprogrammable species. The fact that most of us don’t bother to reprogram ourselves does not take away from the amazingness of the ability.

Ideology is the fancy word we use to describe a person’s current programming or set of ideas. If I say I want to understand a person’s ideology, I’m saying I want to understand the ideas they hold to be fundamental.

Fundamental ideas usually have to do with their beliefs about the nature of man and the universe (i.e. religion) or their beliefs about the proper way to order societies (i.e. their politics). Generally, it’s not about their favorite color, favorite food or favorite sports team (though exceptions are made for that last one).

For example, when it comes to ideas about the nature of the universe, here are some of the more popular ideologies:

1. There is a just and merciful supreme being who expects us to love each other. He will hold us personally accountable for the horrible things we do to each other.

2. There is a tyrannical supreme being who expects us to unquestioningly do whatever he commands, no matter how good or how horrible. Failure to comply will result in hellish consequences.

3. There are no supreme beings. Instead we are part of an eternal karma stream of consciousness. The stream flows smoothly and regularly when we are good, but becomes blocked and turbulent when we are bad.

4. We are the result of a fortuitous but random collision of natural principles. The universe doesn’t care. What you see is what you get, with ruthlessness and studied enlightenment locked in a never-ending fight for the title of fittest in the game of survival.

If we think a person’s ideas are not well thought out and are just based on whatever was preprogrammed into them by their culture, we refer to them as being dogmatic.

I’m not sure where the word comes from, but it’s probably from the fact that dogs can be trained to respond automatically to things. Like the experiment where Pavlov would ring a bell and give his dog meat, and eventually could ring the bell and get the dog to salivate even when no meat was present.

A dogmatic response is the same thing as a Pavlovian response. You ring the bell and get the programmed response.

You can see this concept in action in the cultural war between liberals and conservatives. They are ringing each other’s bells almost constantly these days.

“Good morning”, says the conservative. Ding, ding, “Climate change denier”, responds the liberal.

‘People should be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin’, says the conservative. Ding, ding, ‘racist, sexist, bigot’, says the liberal.

(Rang a few of your bells with those didn’t I)

The same can be seen on the conservative side as well, though I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head (but don’t worry, I’m a completely unbiased commentator).

Study questions:
1. What is your ideology?
2. What is it that comes out of your mouth when your bell gets rung?

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