Dogma can come in many forms. Most people expect to find it in religions. But I find that many people can be dogmatic and not even realize it. People can say something with which I disagree and be dogmatic, People can say something with which I agree and be dogmatic. People can say something with which I disagree and not be dogmatic. And people can say something with which I agree and not be dogmatic. Being dogmatic doesn’t even (necessarily) mean one is wrong. I write this post to help people recognize and avoid dogma.
The main thing to understand about dogma is that it is not based on actual facts or reasoning. It expects to be accepted without thought or question. And it is not tolerant of dissent. All of its tactics are predictable based on these features. Different dogmas may use different tactics based on what is most likely to be successful. Indeed, the same dogma may use the same tactic at different times. But the main thing to look for is an expectation of belief without thought or question.
One common technique is to call people smart if they agree and stupid if they do not. A lot of smart people have believed a lot of wrong things and a lot of stupid people have believed a lot of right things. What you believe does not make you smart and it does not make you stupid. Anytime you encounter anyone claiming it does, you can be sure that you are faced with dogma.
Another tactic that you often find with dogma is a tendency to mock or ridicule anyone who dissents. Rational viewpoints do not require that dissenters be mocked. Mockery and ridicule are a “don’t listen” tactic. They are most often found when the dogma’s supporters know the facts are against them — though this isn’t a guarantee.
A tactic occasionally seen is telling someone he is not qualified to judge. The dogma doesn’t question the qualifications of those who agree. This is a silencing tactic and is often accompanied by a wild-goose chase as a “requirement to continue.” Well, if you expect me to believe something, and especially if you want me to change my behavior based on it. I am qualified to judge it.
An extreme tactic is to outlaw the expression of dissent. This has occasionally been seen throughout history. It happens when the powers-that-be are sufficiently dogmatic.
Also found is the declaration that dissenters are “deniers.” This carries the implication that the dissenters “really believe” but are denying the truth for some purpose of their own. Dan on “debunking atheists” uses this one a lot. The fact is that there will be people who legitimately disagree with you. If you have to denounce them as “deniers,” there is something wrong with your position.
Now, the above is probably not exhaustive. If I think of some other tactics used by dogmas, I might present those at a later time. And, it should be remembered, dogmas like to pretend they are something more respectable. And sometimes they gain respectable people among their adherents. But their tactics and their intolerance for dissent will always expose them as the dogmas they are.