Belief systems ensure political failure

Generations ago, hunter-gatherers who had even the slightest sense that there were lions nearby were generally wise to assume there were and act accordingly, even if the actual chances were negligible. Their survival depended on it. After all, if there is even a 1% chance of being eaten alive in the next hour, you are probably best to move on.

We are therefore pre-disposed towards belief, and away from doubt. After all, there is simply no room for doubt if there is even a 1% chance it will lead to death. Therefore, once we have determined something is the case, it is extraordinarily difficult to persuade us otherwise.

Let us take the demonstrable fact that the DUP is homophobic – it has Councillors who blame hurricanes on gays, MLAs who describe homosexuality as an “abomination”, MPs who describe it as “repellent”, Ministers who equate it to paedophilia and as a corporate is involved in bringing forward a bill which would effectively legalise discrimination against homosexuals; needless to say, it has never had an openly homosexual elected representative. The evidence speaks for itself and is, rationally, indisputable.

Firstly, there are in Northern Ireland thousands of social conservatives from a Protestant background for whom this homophobia is a fundamental part of their belief system. Determination to hold what we have and draw security from – from Royal Family to nuclear family – is an innate part of who they are. It is astonishingly difficult to shift that belief system, despite the compelling evidence all around us that things have moved on. Doubt in this belief system is not to be tolerated – after all, it suggests insecurity and uncertainty (things social conservatives inherently dislike) and even risk of survival.

Secondly, there is another group who are actually not homophobic and who support social conservatives for other reasons (security policy, straightforward nationality or low tax). Remarkably to others but quite obviously to themselves, they simply deny, again as part of the belief system, that to vote DUP is to vote for an innately homophobic party. They deem homophobic statements regrettable but see them as “isolated incidents” – despite the fact evidentially there are lots of incidents and precious little isolation. Again, it is astonishingly difficult to bring doubt into this belief system.

At the other end we have social liberals – typically young, well educated, well travelled and professional – who have just as strong a belief system. This belief system is at the other end of the spectrum but is just as rigid (it also happens to be mine) . Again, even a hint of doubt in obvious markers of social-liberal progress such as same-sex marriage is regarded as behind the pale and not even to be engaged with – anybody even engaging with doubters is regarded as clearly uncivilised and untrustworthy. At an extreme, you end up with the view that officials should be sacked for not believing in climate change and religious faith should not be tolerated, as both are obviously irrational and therefore have no place in this apparently innately advanced belief system.

This intolerance of doubt is alarming, regardless of its source. In fact, people who really care about all of society should always allow for a reasonable dose of doubt – to do otherwise is to be closed and ultimately bigoted (yes, social liberals can be bigoted in the strict sense of the word too). Particularly, they should always be willing to change their views in the light of new evidence, and not just within the confines of their own belief system – they should not just wait for “the other side” to do this. Without this compromise, and ultimately social harmony, is impossible.



2 thoughts on “Belief systems ensure political failure

  1. You do make some sense, but you are also arguing for the antithesis as well … belief systems ensure political success. Without belief you just have skepticism.

    DUP’s continuing the ban is based as much on skepticism as it is belief: I don’t know how much of their dogma is doctrine. I don’t know if their actions can be as silly as their rhetoric infers.

    Let’s remember the DUP didn’t introduce the ban on gay blood, they merely wont legislate to liberalize it for the 300-3000 potential men who had sex with men blood donors who might take it up.

    Skeptical about LGBT and equality issues.
    Skeptical about holding North and East Belfast without going to pacts.
    Skeptical about multiculturalism
    There’s also the fact that as Unionists they don’t believe Ireland could be a successful independent state.

    “Nach gcreideann siad san Acht na Gaelige.”

    So you don’t have to believe you need to take measures against climate change, make Europe work, integrate with different people in your community, face the real issues in outer skirts of Belfast, look at the potential of learning from other cultures, or contemplate the difficult national decisions you have to do with your country’s budget, security, trade and international affairs.

    It’s really easy to be skeptical about something …

    it’s just “I might believe but I’ve got reservations” but those reservations.

    Sometimes reservations become prejudices left unchecked.

    Are the DUP really a party with faith and risk taking?

    Maybe …

    Belief in the power of lower corporation tax rates
    Belief in the Good Friday Agreement institutions they opposed.
    Going into government with Sinn Féin and SDLP, Alliance etc.
    Cross-border co-operation on health and tourism
    Willy Hay’s faith in ensuring that the Apprentice Boys Parade could pass off in Londonderry.

    As Christians yes they believe in the radical beliefs of resurrection from the dead though I’m not sure that faith allows them to evangelize all the God given graces they have, or pray for salvation from the cruelest fates that happen in this world.

    These faiths for the DUP aren’t seen as progressive at all, someone’s faith is merely a private matter, treating nationalists/republicans in good faith and seeing culture as something to share not to impose doesn’t impact. Working institutions and making compromises with parties you apposed in institutions you oppose in a mandatory coalition hasn’t gotten any faith in the DUP, just loyalty. And as for lower corporation tax, it’s a belief on something yet not acted on.

    So the DUP have made some leaps of faith, I’ll concede, but it’s easy to see why people are skeptical in them. In private matters a DUP person may be making many leap of faiths in their private life … good investments, great achievements, successful businesses and academic work, saving lives or helping children, they might take all the life risks normal people take around marriage, raising children etc. (normal people except homosexuals)

    Are belief systems ensuring political failure? No

    Really we have skepticism-systems.

  2. *homosexuals limited to Northern Ireland, and potentially only Northern Ireland on the island of Ireland in a short time.

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