It is my feeling that we are not essentially judgmental nor by nature rigid against the views of others. We only become dogmatic and narrow-minded when we wholly succumb to an ideology or to a belief that thoroughly conditions our minds and hearts into thinking and feeling that our belief, and only our belief, has the sole right to exist in this world. I find rigid dogmatism (i.e., “only my view is the correct one”) as rather misplaced and misguided: because for a belief or for an ideology to be part of the so-called “market of ideas” implies that there are other ideas other than one’s own that deserve to be heard and to be acknowledged in this world of diversities.
Despite the denials of those who are bent in establishing a totalistic hegemony and dogmatic fundamentalism, ours is still a pluralistic world of diversities of views and opinions.
In itself, it is not wrong to have an ideology to live by, or to have one’s own cherished belief system—this is very much needed if we are to find significance and meaning in our lives.
Ideology or belief gives us our own “weltanschauung” or overarching perspective in understanding ourselves in relation to the world. The danger lies when one becomes exclusively conditioned, rigidly constituted, and unthinkingly brainwashed by one’s own cherished belief to the point that one does not anymore give space to the “other’s” right to a belief or an ideology.
The danger in exclusivism lies NOT in having a belief; but it lies in NOT ALLOWING SPACE for the “other” to articulate his belief and in closing one’s mind and heart to the possibility that the belief of the “other” is as meaningful as one’s own belief.
What is the disastrous result of this bigotry of other’s views and intolerance of other’s way of life? One ideology pitted against another, one religion striving to ease-out another religion into oblivion and obscurity, political demagoguery trying to demonize its dissenters—and many lives of human beings are sacrificed in these wasteful ideological and religious struggles, erroneously termed “just wars” or “holy wars”. This situation is too pathetic!
This situation is also incorrigible—because it shows a kind of cognitive dissonance on the part of a fundamentalist ideologue who believes that his specific ideology is for the goal of serving humankind. All these ideologies and belief systems confess to the principle of “the intrinsic value of human life and of the human person” as part and parcel of their worldview; and yet thousands of human lives are being sacrificed in the name of a particular ideology or religious views!
Until now, I cannot fathom why during World War II, Nazism in its brute barbarities against Jews and Gypsies, was readily accepted and was even defended by some German philosophers who are known to be advocates of universal humanism, transcendental idealism and all-inclusive existentialism. Or take a more recent example; I still cannot comprehend how a very loving husband and very kind father to his children, can detonate high-powered explosives in a busy and crowded train station—killing and maiming innocent people; all done in the name of “sacred struggle against infidels”.
These examples show the utter dissonance, the maddening effect, and the demonic addictive power of misplaced ideology as it irrationally conditions and utterly beclouds one’s clear conscience to the point that one becomes cruel to fellow humans all in the name of upholding a lofty principle or in the service of a cherished creedal system.
We need to be careful in the way how we view our ideologies and beliefs. It is fine “to have” an ideology and there is nothing wrong with “having” a cause to advocate or a belief to hold-on to: what is wrong is when this ideology or belief will “have us”—owning us—and we become its virtual slaves by constituting and conditioning us in its programmatic brainwashing, instead of us possessing this belief by processing rationally and emotively the validity of its claims. If I am not mistaken, it was Oscar Wilde who said something like this; “I value persons better than principles since no principles in this world, no matter how lofty, can ever remove the intrinsic value of the human person. There is no principle in this world no matter how profound, which can take the place of the immeasurable worth of the existence of even just one ordinary person”.
Existentialists are one in their stand that the human person can never and should never be sacrificed in the name of any cherished belief system or ideological principle because ideologies do not have intrinsic value in themselves; they become valuable only if they can aid humans in their search for life’s meaning and significance.
Creeds or beliefs benefit our existence making life meaningful; but they can be virtual monsters—as history factually attests—if these creeds and ideologies become masters over our existence and that of others. If we, human beings simply listen to the voice of our rational conscience and the humane promptings of our heart rather than to the conditioning and the mind-altering-programming of our respective creeds and belief-systems, we would have been spared from the cruelties, brute violence and inhumanities of so-called “just” or “holy” wars against other humans.
If we, simply listen to our human conscience and to our humane heart, then the hands of the whole humanity would have been spared from shedding the blood of innocent people who were (and until now are being continually) slaughtered in wars that are waged in God’s Name or in the name of an Ideal Utopia and misplaced extremist nationalism.
As for me, our rational conscience and our compassionate human heart are still the best antidotes to the poisonous hatred and murderous instinct peddled by life-denying ideologies and narrow-minded dogmatic belief systems made by humans against fellow humans. Universal tolerance and all-embracing compassion are still the best practices that will effectively counteract all kinds of hatred, violence, and cruelties brought about by intolerance, extremism and rigid dogmatism of fanatical and fundamentalist ideologues in our midst.
May we all manifest and live-out this spirituality of tolerance and all-embracing love in our daily existence and in our concourse with our fellow humans. So be it!