Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy - C. S. Lewis (author, lecturer)
A movie* set in a 1950s European hamlet, opened with scenes of pleasant daily life. But a cautionary voice-over told a totally different story of how the dominant religious ideas restricted the villagers' lives. The people were expected to follow the rules and to quietly ignore matters that were incompatible with the sacred ideas. The town's mayor and parish priest severely reminded the residents of their Christian obligations. The movie also portrayed a series of events where the parishioners` religious beliefs were shown to be narrow-minded to the point of being corrupt. A refreshing newcomer arrived in the village and opened a confectionery store where the chocolate treats offered for sale epitomized new ideas about values, truths, and ways of life.
The refreshingly new ideas displayed in the movie are now, a couple of generations later, generally regarded as accepted wisdom within all western democracies. But the skeptic must ask: has the previous religious intolerance and cultural indoctrination been eliminated from the system? As this question involves Bias we will look at it from that perspective.
The village's problems were: the citizens lived in a society controlled by a religion which was obsessively guarded by the community intellectual elite. These doctrines were prejudiced against those who held different views by controlling their behaviour and excluding them from positions of influence in the village.
As a religion can be said to be a set of beliefs and practices of a group of people (generally about the purpose of life and the way people relate to each other) we need to ask: does our current culture require its citizens to accept and behave in a certain way about these things? That can be seen if sanctions are used against those who fail to comply. Let`s see:
In the US (and other countries, too) most ivy-league universities, and some State ones, have jettisoned free speech in flavor of strict codes of approved speech and behaviour; many western countries have legal constraints for speech and behaviour (e.g.: Canadian Human Rights Commission); most news and documentary media often present only one side of certain issues, which by any objective standard demand an honest debate. And reprisals for failing to toe the accepted line can, and do, range from imprisonment and loss of employment and professional status, to fines and public humiliation.
The defence of these modern rules and sanctions – and they are defended by many in academia - fall under the idea that in an advanced society freedom of expression must be constrained. The claim is that the complex ideological matters about the nature of the world have been carefully considered and understood to such a degree that only the ignorant and biased could conceivably disagree. The resulting "truth" is deemed to be sacred and must be defended.
A bias analysis - by measuring today`s behaviours compared to the earlier actions – shows that cultural intolerance and indoctrination are still alive and well. It is only the specifics of the "religion" that camouflages this fact. We still live under the spectre of a dominant ideology, albeit a different one, which is passionately guarded by the community intellectual elite; and the doctrines are still bigoted against those who hold different views.
Viewpoints change; bias remains. It seems the tempting chocolate has developed a particularly bitter taste.
* Movie: Chocolat (2000) - see it!