In our dogmatic era, I was wondering a few days back how dogmas die. Everything dies in the end, but how does dogma die?
You start out with some hesitant, uncertain idea, and it maybe gathers a following of some sort, and becomes more confident, more certain. And then it becomes an unquestionable truth, a doctrine set in stone. And what then? Does it just get bigger and bigger, and ever more dogmatic and unquestionable?
I was reminded of this train of thought by something I read today: how in a Colorado university students on a course on climate change had received the following email:
“The point of departure for this course is based on the scientific premise that human induced climate change is valid and occurring. We will not, at any time, debate the science of climate change, nor will the ‘other side’ of the climate change debate be taught or discussed in this course,” states the email, a copy of which was provided to The College Fix by a student in the course.
“Opening up a debate that 98% of climate scientists unequivocally agree to be a non-debate would detract from the central concerns of environment and health addressed in this course,” the professors’ email continued.
“… If you believe this premise to be an issue for you, we respectfully ask that you do not take this course… – signed Professors, Rebecca Laroche, Wendy Haggren and Eileen Skahill
The science of climate change had become unquestionable.
And I think that this is maybe the point where ideas start to die. They die when they become unquestionable dogma, and no discussion or doubt is allowed.
For in a sense, anything – and not just an idea – is only truly alive when it’s been picked up, tossed around, used, abused, dropped, stolen. It dies when it gets locked away, and it can’t be seen or touched, or even mentioned.
Once some idea – any idea – is off the table for discussion, the mantle of death settles over it. It’s no longer a living, vibrant idea. It’s dead.
The three professors in the Colorado university probably thought they were protecting the idea of climate change, but in fact they were killing it and mummifying it.
And this is probably the way everything else goes too. Religious beliefs gradually become unquestionable dogmas, and that’s when they die too. When your god has been elevated onto a pedestal in a temple, hidden from everyone’s eyes, that god has died. Because he was only ever truly alive when he ran in the streets and played games and could be found down at the beach writing poetry. It was probably as true for Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix as it was for Apollo or Aphrodite.
So when some belief – like Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, or Carbon Dioxide Causes Global Warming, or (more obscurely) Asteroids Don’t Have Companions – becomes an unquestionable doctrine, out of bounds, it ceases to play a part in any continuing flow of conversation or debate, and must inevitably be left behind.
So if you want your gods to die, first make belief in them mandatory, forbid all questions about them, clothe them in gold, and mount them on pedestals inside a gloomy temple, with only a few attendant priests. That way they will die quickly, and soon be completely forgotten.