Faith, Philosophy and Dogma

Aparthib Zaman

This message is spurred by the post in other forum and NFB.  (Re: Existence of God debate! by Syed Munir Islam)

The article above made some points that one can agree with. But it also made some remarks and drew some conclusions that are seriously flawed, I wish to draw attention to the flawed conclusions and remarks.

But first let me engage in some general discussions of FAITH, PHILOSOPHY and DOGMA, since these concepts are intimately connected with the topic under discussion and clarifying these concepts will help to point out those flaws .

1. FAITH: A PERSONAL belief in an object (tangible or not) that is not verified and supported by logic and evidence. Some personal beliefs may even CONTRADICT the strict rules of logic (The classic example of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being). An important attribute of faith is that it does not require the participation of others to form the faith, it is non-intrusive. Faith of "A" does not require any act or thought by "B". Another important attribute that follows from the preceding attribute is that faith is harmless, since the faith of "A" does not in any way affect "B".

Examples of Faith: Faith in Pegasus, Santa Claus, round square, reincarnation, An omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent GOD etc.

2. PHILOSOPHY: A PERSONAL view about reality that may or may not be logically and observationally verified or supported, BUT unlike faith, does not CONTRADICT logic or observation.

Example: Spinozza's nature God, Pantheism, Omega Point Theory, Process theology, Socinism , platonism, humanism, atheism/agnosticism (however defined), humanism, secularism, rationalism, skepticism.

Note: Philosophy shares the attribute of non-intrusiveness (does not affect or require participation of others ) and harmlessness of faith as well.

3. DOGMA: A SYSTEM of view, belief that are also not based on logic, or supported by observations, but DOES require a collective participation of more than one for its materialization. Hence if the belief is not shared voluntarily, the participation will necessarily involve coercion, to implement the system in practice. So exercise of power is an important factor in a dogmatic belief. A dogma always invariably prescribes a set of rules and conducts for its believers (often discriminating between genders) as well as for the non-believers. A dogma necessarily infringes on other's individual rights and works by intimidation and coercion . Thus dogmas can be potentially harmful IF the dogma is implemented puritanically with zeal and vigour. Examples are the dogmatic part of (i.e the political part) of Judaism, Islam, Chrsitianity, Communism, various cults.

A SIDENOTE: Often the issue of what is freethinker is raised and cynical remarks are made. Let me offer my own definition (At least how I think it should be defined) in then light of the above discussion that will hopefully put the debate to rest, and will unambiguously identifiy who is or isn't a freethinker, no need of any debate:

A Freethinker is:

1. One who does not believe in a faith or a dogma.
2. One who is guided by logic and evidence, not by emotion in forming any conclusive judgment about reality.

Note: A freethinker can however, believe in a philosophy, since philosophy does not contradict logic or evidence and does not require a conclusive judgment.

Followup Discussion:
Faith and Philosophy can sometimes be combined, e.g Buddhism, Hinduism. Some organized religion can contain elements of all three, like the three Abrahamic religions. A system of belief based on dogma is not necessarily harmless, despite the presence of the faith and philosophy part in it. It may or may not be dangerous depending on how puritanically the dogma part is enforced or implemented. A system of belief that does not contain dogma is not dangerous per se. A follower or a group of followers may subscribe to both a dogma "A" and a philosophy "B", for example, A=communism, B= atheism. The classic fallacy among many, as the quote below from that article demonstrates, is to characterize the acts of extremism of such a person committed in the name of "A" , as being due to "B":

"genocides have occurred for causes rooted in religion as well as in other philosophies, including atheism"

This fallacy is often due a deliberate attempt to discredit "B".

Stalin did not commit atrocities in the name of "atheism", but in the name of communist dogma (Or his version of it : "Stalinism"). One can never commit atrocities in the name of atheism. Betrand Russell was an avowed atheist. He could not have any committed any atrocities, no matter how hard he tried, in the name of atheism, SINCE HE DID NOT BELIEVE IN ANY DOGMA. No one can come up with any example of anyone committing atrocities solely because of atheism. All attrocities are committed by theocratic or communist regimes , to enforce their dogma by coercion, or by an oligarchy (military or otherwise) to crush any opposition to its rule.

One can now see the flaw in the remarks:
"The alleged dangers from religion are not much different from the dangers from believing in ANY philosophy the defense of which would justify murder and other atrocities."

As I clarified above, a Philosophy CANNOT/DOES not require or justify murder and other atrocities for its defense. Only a dogma does.

The same flaw can be seen in the remarks:
"I'd much rather enjoy the rule [the moderate ones who make up the bulk of "humanity"] while remain alert about the dangers that the exceptions on either side might be capable of brewing, and flinging."

The flawed part in the above is : "dangers on either side" . As I have argued above, danger is only posed by one side: The DOGMA side. NOT faith or philosophy side.


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