We humans are highly social creatures, and we make our affiliations with various groups known to others. We determine the trustworthiness of strangers by the similarity of their group affiliations to our own. And, not surprisingly, the terms we use in speech and writing often reflect our affiliations and our loyalties.
In early human societies, group identity was much simpler: families were united by their allegiance to their tribe. Shared terminology, appearance, and daily behaviors all served to advertise one’s membership in that tribe, as opposed to rival tribes. Nowadays, we each have a multitude of group affiliations: some overlapping, some nested within others. Our behaviors and speech patterns can vary from situation to situation depending upon which affiliation is relevant for each interaction. Some affiliations are ranked as more important contributors to our identities than others, with nationality, race, and religious community being some of the most important.
It’s time to call attention to an important group identity that is often disregarded, one that is shared by all of us. Whether we like it or not, we’re on this earth with a great many different types of human groups (not to mention the millions of other life forms on the planet). It is in our best interest as a species to cultivate our commonalities rather than double down on established differences. Otherwise, we risk cultural stagnation and instability via endless sectarian conflicts. Every human on earth, therefore, has a responsibility to spread and cultivate human-general knowledge and values, and to live their lives in ways that strengthen the bonds of our common tribe.
The largest obstacle to the strength of our common tribe is dogmatism, and so the primary goal of this blog is to discourage dogmatic thinking. For my purposes here, “Dogmatism” refers to any type of rigid, authoritarian group identification. Much of the animosity in our world is fueled by sectarian conflict, which itself is rooted in dogmatic fealty to one group versus another. Openness and flexible thinking are essential skills for cultivating a shared global culture, and so even individuals who consider themselves to be apolitical or moderate would do well to examine their beliefs for hints of rigidity or historically enforced dogmatic close-mindedness. With this in mind, my blog will spend a fair amount of time unpacking dogmatism: its underlying assumptions and motivations, and its implications in daily life and communication in today’s world.
That said, I want to concentrate more on the social and political aspects of dogmatism, rather than on a specific aspect or claim of any group’s accepted dogma. Whether it is religious, nationalistic, racial, or socioeconomic in nature, dogmatism is unerringly political in its approach. It can be summed up succinctly by the sentiment of: “our group is fundamentally good and right, and yours is fundamentally evil and wrong.” Atheists and skeptics often work themselves into knots over the supernatural claims of various fundamentalist groups, yet the typically obvious socio-political messages within those supernatural claims are often ignored in the process.
While establishing truth is important for engagement between members of a group, I don’t want to dwell only on what skeptics consider to be “true.” Instead, I wish to explore more generally the human experience of truth, and how it has evolved across the ages. I contend that early human experiences of truth–passed on via myths and rituals–are fundamentally linked to experiences of value, and also served several distinct functions. I hope to show that contemporary disagreements on the nature of truth often result from different populations valuing (and thus focusing primarily upon) different functions, each separately touted as “true.” If we can learn to acknowledge these different functions and their respective values, perhaps we can cultivate a language and code of conduct that allows the pursuit of each variant of “truth” to flourish in our society.
My blog title was chosen to emphasize the importance of social affiliation and group loyalty for any pursuit of unity. But I also plan to come up with an actual Pledge of Allegiance that would resonate with all thoughtful, responsible citizens of the world. It need not be corny, and will certainly not be jingoistic. Most importantly, it would be open for revision and improvement. The goal here is to establish a starting point: a common identity, a proposed method of productive civic engagement. Once our common tribe is acknowledged, there is much to be discussed and determined!