Consider dogmatism.

For instance consider Sign and Sight’s acid comment on Prospect’s list of Topp famous public intellectuals.

Who is on “top” has been decided purely by how famous they are. No one in their right mind can take this list seriously, not even the people who drew it up…Even those who are prepared to see in the Pope – a professional dogmatic – an intellectual, would have trouble getting him on the list. Benedict XVI has not got his intellectual status to thank for his number one spot, but his public office…

That’s exactly the question – can a professional dogmatic be an intellectual? I wondered the same thing in the teaser when I first posted the Prospect list, on September 22 – ‘Do popes and clerics qualify as intellectuals?’ A letter to the Observer made a similar point on October 2.

It is not just faith schools that encourage sectarian strife. The religious institutions themselves are the prime movers and schools, important as they are for young, impressionable minds, need to be reinforced by regular sessions of ‘worship’ in which ‘holy books’ are to be accepted without question.

Without question, you see – that’s where the dogmatism comes in. Authority, worship, holy books, without question – it all converges on dogmatism.

And Simon Blackburn also says it

But let us start with the tiny bit that is right. This is the association of religious belief with dogma, intolerance, and illiberalism, and the corresponding association of atheism and agnosticism with liberalism and toleration…It needs to be said, loudly, that it makes no more sense to talk of faith-based schools or faith-based education than it does to talk of superstition-based science or terror-based debate. There have, of course, been educated and enlightened people who profess faiths, but their education and enlightenment happened despite their superstitions, and not because of them. Faith is by its essence the enemy of education, which teaches people to base beliefs on reason and on reason alone.

Just so. So much is faith the enemy of education that at its most threatened it sends ‘students’ to ‘Faith camp’ to learn how to resist education – how to resist basing beliefs on reason and on reason alone.

Spend a couple of days at the workshop and it becomes clear that, for many of these students, college is fraught with peril…There is also the subtle pressure to conform to a non-Christian worldview. There are biology courses that ask students to accept evolution, which workshop organizers and most of the students reject as untrue and ungodly. There are literature courses that see any text, including the Bible, as open to multiple interpretations. And there are philosophy classes that view absolute truth as nothing more than an illusion.

We need another sweatshirt slogan, to join ‘Rootless cosmopolitans’ and ‘Faith is not a virtue.’ Dogmatism is the spawn of Satan – something like that. Entries on a postcard. No, wait – entries in a large envelope accompanied with a wad of cash.

49 Responses to “Dogmatism”