When I was wrapping up Chesterton’s Heretics today, I ran across another wonderful passage which addresses the connection between bigotry and dogma. In typical Chesterton fashion, he clarifies the complex with pinpoint accuracy in a style that almost makes you laugh for the volume of revelation. Here is one snippet:
A common hesitation in our day touching the use of extreme convictions is a sort of notion that extreme convictions, specially upon cosmic matters, have been responsible in the past for the thing which is called bigotry. But a very small amount of direct experience will dissipate this view. In real life the people who are most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all.
He goes on to argue that people who have the deepest understanding about their dogmas understand (and in that sense, tolerate) the opposing points of view the best. It is those who really do not have any clear ideas about what they believe and have no deep understanding of their convictions who are the most closed minded.
The economists of the Manchester school who disagree with Socialism take Socialism seriously. It is the young man in Bond Street, who does not know what socialism means much less whether he agrees with it, who is quite certain that these socialist fellows are making a fuss about nothing.
It is the hard-headed stockbroker, who knows no history and believes no religion, who is, nevertheless, perfectly convinced that all these priests are knaves.
The source of narrow-minded politics and views on religious dogma are then from the most tolerant (in the Postmodern sense of the word). To hold no view deeply inclines you to rail against foreign ideas. More specifically, and more culturally to the point, to hold an opinion emotionally will incline you to hate people who disagree with you. At the time when I wrote the letter I mentioned, it seemed to me that reality was exactly the opposite from what the homosexual lobby claimed it to be. They claimed that Christians hated them because they disagreed with homosexuality; Christians (when their heads were on straight) disagreed with homosexuality because they had deep ideas about human nature. Christianity has ideas and dogmas, homosexuality has behavior and emotionalism. Chesterton notes:
Bigotry may be roughly defined as the anger of men who have no opinions. It is the resistance offered to definite ideas by that vague bulk of people whose ideas are indefinite to excess. Bigotry may be called the appalling frenzy of the indifferent.
So what is the cure for the conflicts which arise as a result of different ideas? More and better understood ideas. A little more Chesterton:
But there is only one way of really guarding ourselves against the excessive danger of them, and that is to be steeped in philosophy and soaked in religion.