Monday, February 10, 2014

Why I call Christians Dogmatists

A dogmatist gives their unquestioning and unwavering assent to a set of propositions in spite of evidence and arguments to the contrary. There is always something that is not be investigated. In regards to the truth. Every dogmatist says, “I go no further. The investigation of truth has its boundaries.” Christians baptize this setting of boundaries as faith.

Because of familiarity evangelical Christianity is the type of Christianity that I most often investigate, although I believe that many, if not all, of my remarks apply to other types of Christianity. The imputation of dogmatism directs attention to one element of Christianity that is often overlooked: its willfulness in the manner of assent to various doctrines, beliefs and propositions. This willfulness is independent of the truth or falsity of doctrines to which assent is given. There are no doctrines which of themselves require, presuppose, or create dogmatic attitudes. Critiques of dogmatism are applicable to old school Marxists, Scientologists, fervent believers in scientism, and generally any group or individual who define themselves by the assertion of the validity and truth of a set of doctrines, ideas, or propositions and who dismiss those of differing opinion as misguided in the best case and as demonic in the worst. Faith is another word for conviction. Considered in this way Christianity is nothing special.

I can imagine a Christian saying that his experience of the reality of his relationship with Jesus is so immediate and present that questioning it is like questioning light, earth, and next of kin. It simply makes no sense to do so. My counter to this is that those things which are most immediate and taken for granted are those most in need of investigation. It is not far off realities of dry academic discussion that need examination but our everyday, banal thoughts and actions. Scrutiny of the shibboleths with which we live puts us in conflict with the present.

The great mass of people believe the only possible motive for being at odds with the present is a bad motive like mental illness or hatred of humanity or seeking to set oneself up as superior to the rest of humankind or some other human, all too human motive. A well-worn, familiar explanation of motives that is taken to be true because it is well-worn and familiar. Curiosity is the only unforgivable sin.

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