a : something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet
b : a code of such tenets
a: companionship or association with one's fellows
b: a voluntary association of individuals for common ends; especially : an organized group working together or periodically meeting because of common interests, beliefs, or profession
I saw this sign posted on a college bulletin board last week. It sounds great, doesn't it? If I take language seriously, the poster is inviting me to be a part of an organized group that will be free of established opinions on the issues.
Who, I wondered, would take the time to start a group that stands for nothing? And who would attend the meetings? An article on the Dogma-Free Society answered at least one question:
"The group was formerly known as the Non-religious Atheists, Free thinkers and Agnostics Alliance, but was changed to promote inclusion within the group… to be more welcoming to those interested in hearing the views of the group.”I was kind of enjoying the idea of a Richard Dawkins or a Sam Harris hosting a meeting that lacked established opinions, but soon realized I had not read the article carefully enough. The Dogma-Free Society is not actually free of dogma. It has gone on record as having views! As a group! That must be frustrating. They exist for one reason (having no established opinion); this unfortunate turn of events must have been hard to overcome.
I can't say I am really surprised, since a society does, after all, have “common ends.” In this case, I'm pretty sure I see where this group is going - as a group. The only thing missing from the “formerly known as” list is Prince – and anybody remotely religious. Apparently, dogmatic reaction to religious affiliation played a role in the founding of the group. At least they are inclusive instead of exclusive, unlike those religious, dogmatic, enslaved thinkers.
1. not admitting of something else; incompatible2. omitting from consideration or account
I think it's possible to have opinions about issues while including and considering the views of those who disagree. That is the primary definition of inclusive. I don't think that's what's happening here. The newspaper article noted that they are welcoming those interested "in hearing the views of the group" - which very different indeed from asking other perspectives to help inform and shape the group.
For the record, I don't care if they want a group which only informs others rather than being itself informed. I just wish they would be honest.
I personally don't care if they want to mock an important Christian symbol, and I have no problem with Dan Barker speaking for them. I'm glad they want to talk about morality even if it is apart from religion. More power to ‘em.
- Their Facebook logo is an ICTHUS fish with legs and “Darwin” in the middle, a symbol that very specifically mocks a particular religious affiliation. The classic Christian ICTHUS symbol was first used by Roman Christians as a way of identifying their friends in order to avoid being killed.
- They bring in speakers like Dan Barker, whose reputation rests on dogmatic judgments such as these: “Faith is a cop-out. It is intellectual bankruptcy. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can't be taken on its own merits.” Or, “Freethinkers reject faith as a valid tool of knowledge. Faith is the opposite of reason because reason imposes very strict limits on what can be true, and faith has no limits at all. A Great Escape into faith is no retreat to safety. It is nothing less than surrender.”
But let's be honest: the Dogma-Free Society is dogmatic. There is established opinion in this group (all religions and faiths are ludicrous); there are voices that atheists and Free Thinkers cite as if they are definitive authorities (Dan Barker, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Michael Shermer, and the late Christopher Hitchens come to mind); there is a code of tenants (endorse science, rationality, skepticism and a non-religious view of life).
There is no dogma free society. I doubt there can be - or should be. There is no reason to pretend otherwise. Any group that shares “common interests, beliefs, and profession” has to share, well, beliefs. Groups with strong opinions about the nature of reality disagree.
Can we stop this absurd (and false) polarization of religious and non-religious communities? Hostile and dogmatic people hail from all walks of life: Kool-Aid drinkers and skeptics, theists and atheists, thinkers both free and bound. Plenty of others are friendly and open to the vigorous exchange of ideas while simultaneously holding strong beliefs.
Let worldviews and ideas unfold in the public square, and may the best argument win. Can that, at least, be an "authoritative tenant" for all of us?