Hello, everyone. I'm Derp. I have been lurking on TA for about 6 months or so and have finally decided to join in on some of the fun. My story is probably pretty typical with a few slight variations, but from the posts that I have read, I think that you all understand where I come from.

With that being said, I want to thank you all for being a place that I can go to read about ideas. I desire nothing but the truth, and it is my goal to represent that desire. If I am wrong about something, please correct me immediately and site any sources that you might have on the subject.

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" and that now you can actually put that on your dog tag."

When I went in the military in the mid-seventies "nondenominational" was my only choice. I still have those dog tags BTW.


My dogtags still say "Christian", but will be changing to something different very soon. I'm not sure what my options are yet, but I look forward to getting new ones and throwing away my "Christian" ones.


I have sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States at all costs, which I still hold dear. The U.S. Constitution, as a secular document, is an incredible piece of work forged by the minds of great men. The more I study about it and the men who wrote it, the more passionate I grow to defend it. It is a shame that those appointed over me do not share the same passion that I do.

I was stationed in Italy and was part of the NATO mission Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011 (and also Operation Unified Protector) when NATO was supporting the rebels that wanted to overthrow Muammar al-Gaddhafi, the Libyan dictator at the time. My job was to build the bombs that we dropped daily on his palace and other places that needed to be destroyed. In the process, we killed many people. I don't know everyone that was killed, and that bothers me. War is messy. Basic reasoning says that I indirectly had a hand in the destruction of innocent people. They were people just like me who didn't join their military because they were all evil and wanted to rape and murder women as Gaddhafi himself did, they were just people. This is something that I will have to live with. It is also worth mentioning that a year later, when we got the word that the Syrian government was using chemical weapons on their own people, we prepared to help out, but then was just told it was a false alarm. It wasn't. They really were using chemical weapons on their own people. In my own research, I found out that Libya just so happens to export oil to the U.S., but Syria doesn't. Does this mean that we only "helped" Libya because they give us oil? I don't know. It would appear that way by my research, but the validity of any online source is always to be questioned. I can't help but feel disappointed somehow in myself and the U.S. for aiding NATO in such a strong show of force when it was for the guarantee of personal gain based on limited resources.

Being 21 years old with nothing more than a high school diploma, I still have much to learn about the world and how things work. Humanist is a title that I proudly claim and rejoice in the fact that it abides by no unchangeable dogma like religion does. "Question everything" is a favorite motto of mine and dogmatic thinking shuns such a motto. Of course, in the military, you can be reprimanded harshly for questioning authority. This is stated very plainly in Sun Tzu's The Art of War, a book that is required reading for all new officers at their respective military academies. Indoctrination such as this is used to quell insubordination among the ranks, but my increasingly pacifistic view of the world sees a standing military as a necessary evil in order to prevent total annihilation from enemies. This line of thought is why I also find nationalism as the second great plague of mankind. Combined with religion, they make a very dominant trian of though that is extremely prone to corruption. History has shown us this.

I apologize for the long train of connected ideas. It may be hard to follow at times, but these are my thoughts. I have lain awake at night and have literally wept over these idea.

A question for you, @Derp...

Isn't your loyalty to the Constitution of the United States a form of dogma? A document compiled by men, interpreted by other men? The founding document of a nation that has done many good things, but also done many wicked things ... Slavery (enshrined in the original constitution), genocide, oppression, torture, etc.

How is that different from being part of an organized religion, replete with pledges of allegiance/vows of obedience?

When were the last times the Bible was ammended? (But I'll still agree that "dogma" is an appropriate description.)

Amended? Council of Trent, 1563. Updated translations? Those come out pretty regularly. The Bible isn't a governance document, though. It's more like the Federalist Papers, perhaps, though it's hard to find the best analog.

For folks in my tradition, the governance document would be the Code of Canon Law, last rewritten in 1983, last amended sometime in the past decade no doubt. We don't revere our governance documents the same way Americans do.
Dr. Bob,

The Oxford dictionary defines dogma as "A principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true." According to this definition, the answer to your first question would be: no. The part that would seem to disagree are the words INCONTROVERTIBLY TRUE. If this statement were true about our Constitution, there would be no way of amending it, as Pope has pointed out below (thank you, Pope). Looking at our current list of amendments, it is easy to show that we have learned a more moral behavior along the way. We still have a very long way to go, but we are crawling there, slowly, but surely.

Regarding your second question: This is why I see nationalism to be near-equal to religion. They both demand complete and total allegiance to their own cause and look down upon those who are on the outside. Thomas Paine described very clearly in COMMON SENSE that a government itself was but a necessary evil and that it exists only because mankind has shown that he requires it. One day, I hope that we will be able to break free from the bondage of government, but in the meantime, it is a crutch for mankind's broken reputation. This is why I see our Constitution as necessary.

I apologize for jumping into nitpicking definitions of dogma. Sometimes even science uses the term to describe some of its conventional explanations of reality. I guess what I'm most concerned about are not dogmas in themselves so much as how they get enforced. Some interpretations of dogma are faith and tradition based and implemented by self-appointed authorites in traditional institutions, while other so-called dogmas are subject to wide-ranging scrutiny with a history and expectation of further ammendment and fine-tuning.

E.g. the Bible is typically expected to be the sole source of authority and God's word, although it seems to me that Bob is fortunately not in that camp of interpreting it literally and as an infallable source of truth. The constitution also has its range of interpretation and degree of assumed infallability, but with the supreme court as its ultimate authority. The difference between the constitution and the bible is that the supreme authority of the constitution has to abide by any (legal) legislative ammendments to it, unlike many people who've appointed themselves as authorities on the Bible.

I may be in over my head now, and will probably back out, especially if the discussion gets too nitpicky and meaningless. I should instead be reading up on non-overlapping magisteria, or something like that. Or I should get back to focussing on science's predictive powers and its ability to chisel itself ever so finely to the shape of reality as we learn about it. More answers lead to more questions. Blah blah blah, I feel my bedtime coming soon... sheep... unicorns... yawn.

(For example, just google "central dogmas of science".)

Good points, thank you. I'll re-evaluate my own uses of the word in the future.

Thanks, @Derp.  I understand where you're coming from now.  We use "dogma" within Catholicism differently than the Oxford Dictionary, something closer to what @Pope describes below. 

I mostly agree with your sentiments.  I'm perhaps a bit more skeptical of nationalism than you are, but I do agree with the sentiment that people need communities and sometimes governance to keep us from being stupid.  Whether religious or national (or tribal), they are crutches to an extent, and we do hope someday to be free of them. 

welcome buddy!



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