Dogmatism and Belief
The fact is that we all have beliefs and/or dogmas. It the last analysis they are really the same thing.
What is a Belief?
If we think about we may say that a “belief” is something that we have decided is true. It is “decided” because we can change our beliefs. That means that it requires a decision on our part. In practice, a lot of what we believe was put there over time, through a series of lessons directly or indirectly, some of them deliberately taught by others when we were children and others experienced on our own.
Those who have studied how our mind and memory work, notably Richard Bandler the originator of Neuro Linguistic Programming, have noted that what memory goes in first creates a peg and other memories that are similar are hung on that peg as well as other pegs for which they bear similarity.
What goes in first as children, before we reach the critical age, usually presumed to be seven, is for the most part accepted in our subconscious un-critically, unless it conflicts with our very basic hard-wired programming in the paleo-cortex and limbic systems, the systems that have to do with primal drives and survival.
Thus, it is easy to see that beliefs we were taught as children can be very deep and difficult to change, if we should wish to do so. The most hard-coded of these are the lessons and information learned accompanied by strong emotion, whether love, hate, fear, whatever. The information can be wrong, yet it is held as true by our subconscious.
The decision is made in that case by the subconscious before the neo-cortex has developed its power sufficiently to have any influence on the decision.
Incidentally, this is the reason that totalitarian regimes always start the indoctrination as young as possible. They understand that what goes in at that age, right or wrong, is the most difficult to contradict later in life. Not impossible, but very difficult, particularly in any type of self-help process.
We Are All Dogmatic
Beliefs are simply what we hold to be true. They are the dogmas that we live by. They are the things that we do not have to re-think every day. They make life possible because we do not have the time to make those decisions on a daily basis. In fact, they are organized in a hierarchy, from the very bedrock dogmas of who and what we are right down to the assumptions that we make in our everyday routine.
We can see this in action if, for example, we make the assumption that when we turn on a light switch the power will go to the bulb/tube and light will be the result. If it doesn’t work we are irritated but we start looking for the reason why, like a burnt out bulb, or a breaker thrown. If no lights work we think about a power failure, etc. All of this is at a low level on the hierarchy.
Order Into Chaos
However, if the person we married and committed our life to for many years one day says that they have had an affair and by the way they are moving out, and yes the affair has been going on for several years; that assumption, belief, dogma about our marriage partner is much higher on the hierarchy. It causes us to realize we did not know that person, we were in complete ignorance, which says something about how intelligent/perceptive we are, etc. In short, it cuts the legs out from our entire concept of ourselves, who we are and who we were in the past. As Dr. Jordan Peterson says, it knocks us out of order into chaos.
The Accidental Crisis
If we go then back to the foundations of our belief system, if in fact as a child we were instructed in some religious system, or some atheistic/materialistic belief system and suddenly there is a fact, or a set of facts that comes along and kicks the skids out from under that belief system, we experience an even more fundamental identity crisis, if you will, wherein it is not only ourselves that as individuals who are in chaos, but something akin to the cosmos is not what we thought it was.
This process can happen suddenly or over time, but usually there is a turning point or an event or the discovery of a fact that causes a domino effect. Some of this we may not be consciously aware of as it is happening but sooner or later we come to the realization that are beliefs are changing.
The Deliberate Crisis
It is also possible to deliberately change those most deeply held beliefs most often with the catalyst of an emotional experience. This is often described as a conversion experience by the religious, but it is not exclusive to that context. Instinctively, however, we see that evangelists of various cults and religions make use of the kind of speech that will stir up emotional hot buttons in people and create the emotional condition for that conversion experience.
Lest we put all of the manipulation onto religion let us not forget that corporations small and large, salesmen of all types, use the same process wherein they make the attempt to stimulate emotional response on to which they attach their particular product or brand.
Politicians and pick-up artists do the same thing.
If we stop here, and consider all of this, it is no wonder that simply debating an issue rarely changes another person’s mind. We can present facts all day long but without the emotional hook they are unlikely to change their belief system. They have, whether they admit it or not, an emotional attachment to their belief system which may in fact go back a very long way in their life, or it may have happened recently. The more recent the more malleable it is, yet the motivation derived from that emotional experience is much stronger and they are more likely to be evangelistic, as most converts are.
But knowing all of this we can apply it to ourselves. If we have a commitment to the truth, we can first use our minds rationally to seek the facts as much as we can know them. If the facts contradict our belief system and we realize that we are living and believing an error or a serious of errors, small or large, even if we are inclined to reject the new information, it is possible to create the condition within ourselves to make the adjustment, small or large, simply by knowing how our own mind works and employing the tools necessary to adjust.
Those tools exist.