Spoiler alert: I’m not G-d. I do not know everything, and I am not privy to the mysteries of life and the universe. And despite being educated and fairly well read, I readily admit that there is far more that I don’t know than I do. In fact, the more I learn the more I realize how much more there is to still learn.

Unfortunately, I know far too many people who seem to believe otherwise about themselves. While I give their parents kudos for imbuing these folks with abundant self-esteem, I have to give them failing grades in teaching their kids humility and critical thinking skills. Confidence is one thing; actual knowledge is another. They shouldn’t be confused or conflated, and they certainly shouldn’t be replaced with lock-step dogmatism.

Let me be blunt: dogmatic thinking is the product of a weak mind. Unquestioned acceptance of another’s dogma is the product of a weak spirit. And a government’s forced imposition of dogma on its people is the product of a weak society.

Before I continue this rant, let me define what I mean by dogma. A thoughtful and carefully considered system of beliefs or values which embraces reality is not dogma. Rather, dogma is a rigid doctrine which leaves no room for alternative viewpoints or perspectives. What’s the difference? If someone’s views may be swayed by the facts, it’s probably not dogma. If, however, the facts change to fit one’s ideas, it probably is. 

Having said all that, no one has exclusive ownership of dogmatism. It can be applied to any “ism,” whether it be religion, politics, philosophy, or any other way of thinking. It can apply to liberals and conservatives, theists and atheists, eternalists or nihilists – it doesn’t really matter. The point is that dogmatists substitute their ability to think and reason with someone else’s ideas and refuse to hear anything that may challenge the abdication of their intellect. My father had a name for these people: morons.

These morons take many forms. Someone may, for example, argue a position because “science proves it.” When I respond that science doesn’t “prove” anything but is nothing more than an evolving collection of theories, hypotheses, and probabilities based on observed phenomena, it is usually met with a frightened scowl. Other times, someone may try to refute facts with various conspiracy theories or, more simply, blurt out “fake news” as if it were a magical formula that makes everything better, such as “I know you are but what am I.” That’s when I mumble my father’s wisdom (usually under breath) and walk away. 

One of the more bizarre manifestations of this problem arises when someone argues with me about news items or events in which I am actually personally involved. Although most people will stop, listen, and reconsider, the dogmatist will still try to refute me by either touting the reliability of their news source over my personal experience, claim that I’m being gaslighted, or resort to either calling me “[insert demographic]-ist” or shouting “fake news” to make the situation end.

And end it will, because of something else my father taught me: when you argue with a moron you become a moron. I don’t want to be a moron and either should you.

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