Belief vs. dogma

“Dasher is the fastest reindeer.”

“Dasher is the fastest reindeer.”

The first statement is a belief. The second statement is a dogma. It’s hard to tell the difference, isn’t it? Let me take the conversation further so that the difference becomes clear.

Belief

“Dasher is the fastest reindeer.”

“Are you sure? I thought it was Comet.”

“I used to deliver mail to the North Pole, and I’d often see Santa’s reindeer training. Dasher was always out in front — except at night, of course, when he let Rudolph take the lead. It makes sense that Santa would name him ‘Dasher’. Of course, the clincher is that he holds the Guinness World Record for ‘Fastest Reindeer’. But maybe you know something I don’t. Why do you think it’s Comet?”

“I understand that Comet beat Dasher in a couple of races last summer.”

“Is that right? Well, I’ll have to look into that. Maybe I’ve got it wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time!”

Dogma

“Dasher is the fastest reindeer.”

“Are you sure? I thought it was Comet.”

“That’s what I’ve always heard. I guess that’s how Dasher got his name.”

“I understand that Comet beat Dasher in a couple of races last summer.”

“Nah, that can’t be. Dasher is the fastest. I’m sure of it.”

It’s a dogma-eat-dogma world

Does that last conversation sound uncomfortably familiar? All too often, people hold dogmas rather than beliefs. Both are held dear, but a belief is held with an open mind. The person bases his belief on evidence and is willing to consider additional evidence and modify or shed the belief accordingly.

On the other hand, a dogma might be established without sufficient evidence and is held with a closed mind. Dogma isn’t questioned. It’s settled. It resists change.

We all hold things to be true. The question is, are they beliefs are dogmas? It depends on how we hold them. It depends on our attitude toward them. It depends on our agenda: Is it to believe X regardless of whether it’s true, or is it to believe the truth regardless of whether it’s X?

If we’re dogmatic, it doesn’t necessarily mean that our viewpoint is wrong, although the possibility of that is greater when we don’t examine our viewpoint.

Healthy and effective thinkers have beliefs, not dogmas. They are humble enough to know that they could be wrong. They are curious, not stubborn. They are more likely to arrive at the truth. And, they probably have more friends.

Ditch dogma; be a believer.

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