Idea and Ideology

What turns an idea into an ideology? If we take a broad sweep of history we get the impression that religion is more likely to be the cause of war and bloodshed than to bring harmony amongst peoples. For many years now the conflict between Palestine and Israel has unsettled the Middle East, and many of the threats we claim to see come from societies with a different, and often proselytising, religious culture.

We may like to feel that Christianity – essentially a religion of peace – is the exception. But only for a moment. The history of Europe has largely been a story of interdenominational Christian conflict. Vatican II had inspiring teachings about the rights of everyone to worship as they see fit, and clarified the value of denominations outside the Catholic Church. But this was in the 1960s – so about 1960 years too late. Indeed today’s orthodox views about human rights and ecumenism would have merited bell, book and candle – to say nothing of the stake – not so long ago. Historically, Christianity has not been an answer to the problem of conflict, it has been a major source.

We are aware that, in the lifetime of many of us, conflict has arisen from ideology rather than religion. Thus Nazism was emotionally inspired by the ideology of Aryan superiority, while Communism was bred out of Marxist materialism. And a study of both of these suggests a similarity to religion in that they required a strong enough emotional commitment to the sacredness of the central idea to ensure the initial consent of the population to a comprehensive authoritarian structure of state control.

From which I conclude that the contribution of Christianity to conflict has not been the doctrine it teaches, or the way of life it inspires – but its tendency to become an ideology. After all, it was well suited to this. A fundamental belief was that man could only be saved from eternal salvation by committing himself to the Church (extra ecclesiam nulla salus). It followed that any measure however extreme was justified in bringing souls to salvation. By the same token those who led souls away from the Church not only deserved the fiercest punishment but such punishment was actually an act of love in inducing the heretic to return, and warning others not to follow him. And invasion, subjugation and massacre took place under the holy banner of God’s love in the form of a cross.

We notice, too, that secular ideologies had a powerful command structure. They worked best with a dictator at the head, surrounded by a system of senior authorities who owed their present position and their likely futures to the dictator’s favours. And their junior authorities were found at local level. You do not need me to spell out parallels here. But remember that I am only writing about structure; it is indeed possible to have benign totalitarian systems – even if they are the exception rather than the rule.
So I would invite you to explore the difference, if there be any, between the marvellous idea of the Son of God offering himself to his Father so that we may all have eternal life, and the ideology which has led our religion in the past to be prominent in repression and cruelty. It is only when we have rooted out the latter that we can properly aspire to the former.

What turns an idea into an ideology? And how do we prevent it?

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86 Responses to Idea and Ideology

  1. Nektarios says:


    Welcome back from your relaxing break in Wales….seems your brain activity was mulling things over all the while in Wales?

    Of all the discussions we have had on the brain, its activity, technological scanning techniques, measurements Discussions about thought and about Time and Mind and the relationship it has
    with everything else, has been all very interesting, but now, we are perhaps coming to the crux of all our discussion on in this.
    What is my relationship to God; What is Christianity actually; What is faith actually; What is peace of God actually?
    Let me get the ball rolling with the first question Quentin poses in his introduction: What turns an idea into an ideology?

    If we are in the realm of ideas, then we are in the realm of thought, brain activity, and a fallen nature that is limited, therefore all ideas are limited. We will no doubt come to why it is ideas lead to muder, wars, cruelty incurrring fear and tyranny as we go along, and how we bring that to an end, if that is possible?

    What is an ideology? Is it not a group of ideas around a central idea…. now watch the actiity of the brain; moving from memory,being the past, modified in the present and… wait for it… projected into the future. So an ideology is a set of ideas, projected into the future and never met.

    This is why religious ideology, secular ideology, scientific ideology, political ideology, philosophical ideology, class ideology business ideology are limited ideas gathered together
    under certain circumstances in Time, and projected into the future, and like I have just said,
    never met.

    • Ion Zone says:

      It certainly wasn’t the case that Christianity was inherently more or less corruptible than anything else, rather humans allowed it to be corrupted because it suited them. Having said that, I think it does a massive amount of good that nobody hears about, or maybe even wants to hear about, and that the people who tend to call Christianity corrupt are generally doing so because good well-founded Christianity it is the enemy of selfishness and hate.

      While what Quentin says is extremely potent stuff, I do think that the idea that “Historically, Christianity has not been an answer to the problem of conflict, it has been a major source.” is largely myth. Not completely myth, but mostly. We are told by people who don’t like us very much that this is true, and yes there have been a few wars fought over Christianity, but here’s the thing: if you add up every war fought in the last few thousand years you’d find that only about 123 (a pitifully tiny number) campaigns can be said to have been fought in the name of a particular religion, and not even half of those in the name of Christ. And even then, if you study the wars themselves you often find that the actual reason for the war is non-religious and that religion was really just the flag it flew under (since politics and religion have only very recently divorced).

      It’s very telling that when asked to list wars fought over religion they basically name two – the Northern Ireland conflict, which has nothing at all to do with religion, and the Crusades, which had religious interests but was mainly about repelling an invasion. The first couple of crusades had Muslims and Christians fighting on BOTH sides.

      • Nektarios says:

        Ion Zone
        The Christian life truly lived in Christ, is the ending of conflict for that person. I don’t want to get bogged down on the issue of conflict. Conflict arises when there is division, when there is you and me, them an us, my house, security, job, my money, your religion,my religion. my political party and yours.
        Conflict does not come out of Christianty perse, at all, but out of envy, comparison, frustration.

        When it comes to conflict, why do you move away from it and talk about statistics about wars be they about religion or otherwise? It is the conflict within ourselves that needs to be dealt with

  2. Peter D. Wilson says:

    What turns an idea into an ideology? Perhaps treating it as an idol. We can easily forget that our intellect is fallible, and regard its constructs more highly than the people who should rightly take precedence in our concerns.

    Idea, Ideology, Idol … Coincidence, maybe, that all three start with Id, otherwise the personification of our baser nature, but it could be worth bearing in mind as a warning.

    • Nektarios says:

      Peter D. Wilson
      Every ideology has self or Party or religious interests behind it.
      What Jesus taught was not an ideology but a way of life, the power of which to live, lay in Him, simply believing and following Him, power being so given so to live in Him.
      But perhaps this world’s ideas about Christianity is not that way of life in Christ, but as you say,”the personification of our baser nature….”

    • tim says:

      ‘Ideology’ is not exactly a neutral term. Like ‘biopiracy’, it’s not immediately clear what it is or isn’t, but one can tell there’s something wrong about it. ‘System of ideas’ might be less prejudicial?

  3. mike Horsnall says:

    “..So I would invite you to explore the difference, if there be any, between the marvellous idea of the Son of God offering himself to his Father so that we may all have eternal life, and the ideology which has led our religion in the past to be prominent in repression and cruelty. It is only when we have rooted out the latter that we can properly aspire to the former.”

    I’m sure you have some thing in mind for this paragraph Quentin but there is precious little clarity here. The self offering of God is not an idea.

    • Nektarios says:

      mike Horsnall
      You are absolutely right, the self offering of God in Christ is not an idea.
      To merely turn it into an idea, is to deny the power thereof of that action of God.
      Many external religious careerists, egotists, and carnal believers, see Christ and his finished work of Salvation merely as a ideas or set of beliefs and so deny to themselves
      the power from that act the power.
      `Straight is the gate, and narrow the way and few there be that find it’

    • Quentin says:

      Maybe the difficulty here comes from the many ways in which words like idea or ideology are used. So let me explain what, in this column, I intended the words to mean. ‘Idea’ means a mental concept. In this context it refers to our straightforward belief in salvation history.

      The pejorative use of ideology goes back to the early 19th century, but it has been much emphasised by the ‘ideologies’ of the 20th century. So much so that the pejorative use has now become its major meaning. That is, a system of ideas or principles which are held be true in a sacred or fundamentalist way, and which are imposed on society.

      Examples: The Nazis were so pre-occupied with Aryan superiority that they damaged their vital scientific effort by expelling Jewish scientists. The Jewish ‘right’ to Israel cannot be established by normal means. But it is held as a sacred right against which no argument can prevail. The Catholic Church has a right to public presence and activity; no other religions have that rights – because error has no rights. (Position before Vat II – the dramatic reversal of this view necessarily led to major alterations in the Spanish concordat.)

      • Nektarios says:


        I covered the mental aspects of ideas and ideology, the way it rises, the way it modifies itself in the present and the way it projects forward into the future.
        The mental aspects have their place, in memory, in the repetitive and in the technological
        which is always repetitive, looking for efficiency.

        But man has a fallen nature, subject to his passions,. pleasure, desire, anger, fear and death.
        Ideology, suggest an Authority, and Authority that cannot be touched secure, safe, having power, position and prestige.
        What we have seen down through the centuries, religious or secular or tyrannical
        are all modifications of self reacting in fear. This can be a brutal inhuman, ungodly
        in its manifestations.
        So it was since the Fall, so it was in the past, so it is now, and so it will be in the future.
        As one reads through the book of Revelations till the time Christ comes again,
        ideas and ideologies, its movement and actions will remain the same.

        Christianity, is in its theory and pratice is ones extraction out of that old fallen nature
        into life in Christ – a new creation.
        The sad plodding repetitive nature of ideologies is not life in Christ.

  4. John Nolan says:

    Looking up ‘ideology’ in Chambers’s I was given the following definition. ‘The science of ideas, metaphysics: abstract speculation: visionary speculation: body of ideas: way of thinking’. An idealogue is ‘one occupied with ideas or an idea: a mere theorist or visionary’ Only the last definition could be considered pejorative. Turning to ‘idea’, we have the sense in which the term is used in everyday speech, viz. ‘a notion, thought, any product of intellectual action, of memory and imagination’. But the dictionary reminds us that there is more to it than this, so we have ‘an archetype of the manifold varieties of existence in the universe, belonging to the supersensible world, where reality is found and where God is (Platonic): one of the three products of the reason (the Soul, the Universe and God) transcending the conceptions of the understanding (Kantian): the ideal realized, the absolute truth of which everything that exists is the expression (Hegelian).

    So the notion of an idea (good) being turned into an ideology (bad) is not justified by a strict definition of either word. If we are to deal in abstract concepts we need to be clear what we are talking about, otherwise like Humpty Dumpty we are making words mean what we want them to mean. A case in point; when did you last hear the words ‘appeasement’ or ‘discrimination’ used without a pejorative connotation?

  5. Horace says:

    A couple of definitions from Merriam Webster which may help (particularly the second one):-

    idea a transcendent entity that is a real pattern of which existing things are imperfect representations

    ideology a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture

    • Nektarios says:


      That is not definition of idea or ideology, but that is indeed what it is externally and in practice generally.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      What a beautiful definition of ‘idea’ is that in Websters dictionary?

  6. John Nolan says:

    The purpose of the Second Vatican Council was not to change doctrine but to represent it in a way more relevant to the conditions of the mid-20th century. The Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) taken in its entirety does not represent a radical departure from previous Church teaching, and like all the Council documents needs to be interpreted in the context of Tradition. By 1965 advanced Western democracies had recognized that a broad degree of religious toleration did not compromise the common good. However, freedom of religion, and not just the Christian religion, was under threat from atheistic Communist regimes, some of them at the heart of Europe. It was primarily at these that DH was directed.

    Communism is now largely discredited, but DH remains as relevant as ever due to the growth of an aggressive and intolerant secularism in Western democratic societies, something the Council Fathers did not envisage.

    The lack of religious toleration in most late medieval/early modern states is not because ideologues distorted the Christian message, nor was it the result of an ideologically-driven Roman dictatorship. To believe this is simply to project modern conceptions onto the past, which is unhistorical and misleading. Heresy was seen as a threat to the cohesion of the realm, and the civil authorities punished it accordingly; the interests of public order and religious orthodoxy coincided. Elizabeth I enforced religious uniformity, and since the heresy laws had (for obvious reasons) been abolished, she used the treason laws instead.

    “The history of Europe has largely been a story of interdenominational Christian conflict”. Well, actually, no. Until the 16th century western Christendom was not split into denominations, and although there was Catholic/protestant conflict in 16th century Germany, this was resolved by the compromise of the Peace of Augsburg (1555). The so-called wars of religion in France were in fact a dynastic stuggle resulting from the weakness of the Crown; the eventual victor, Henry of Navarre, was a protestant who converted to Catholicism in the interests of unity – “Paris vaut bien une messe”. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) is often seen as a war of religion, and may well have started as such, but the fact that Cardinal Richelieu’s France weighed in on the “protestant” side
    demonstrated that European great power rivalries trumped interdenominational differences.

    In 1689 the Pope backed the protestant William of Orange against the Catholic James II because the latter was an ally of Louis XIV whose ambitions to dominate Europe would inevitably threaten the independence of the Papacy. Subsequent wars, those of the Spanish Succession, the Austrian Succession, the Seven Years War, the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, not to mention the World Wars of the 20th century saw the powers of Europe ranged against each other regardless of denominational affiliation.

    Sorry, Quentin, it’s a non-debate.

    • Nektarios says:

      John Nolan

      Thank you John for the potted European history and your previous posting on the definition of ideas and ideologies.

      It is clear over centuries that the movement of ideas into ideologies and their implementation by Church or States has remained the same as it is today.
      Sure, ideas and ideologies have modified over the centuries, but the the results are the same.

      I do however question the point you make when you said,”to simply believe this is to project modern conceptions on to the past”.

      You are not, if I may say so, observing close enough the whole movement of thought,
      ideas and ideologies and the repetitive outcome as proved by the world in which we live
      Thought is a response to stimuli and memory. Ideas are a process of thought, out of memory. Ideologies whether of a powerful individual or a collection of people, the process is the same.
      As thought is a reponse of memory, all ideas, ideologies must be limited and old, of the past, repetitive, modified in the present and projected into the future. The nature and outcome of these ideologies are essentially the same, as I say, just modified a bit in the present.

      It seems also that the ideas of Man with their ideologies and actions based on those ideas and ideologies is slowly bringing Man to an end of himself.

    • Quentin says:

      John, I think there is little to be gained by lengthy historical discussion. You are referring to purely religious wars (of which there are few) I was referring to wars in which religion played a significant, and aggravating, part. And I hope that I made it clear that this was an aberration of religion. And we really do need to discover the factors which motivate nations to behave execrably when under religious, or other ideological, banners, if we are to avoid this in future. I do not of course speak only of Christian religion but of religion as a deep laid element of human nature.

      On the question of religious liberty, you need only compare the relevant Declaration on Religious Liberty with previous ecclesiastical and papal documents on the subject to observe the unacknowledged volte face which took place.

      • mike Horsnall says:

        “…And we really do need to discover the factors which motivate nations to behave execrably..”

        I don’t really see that there is much to be discovered here Quentin, ethnicity, political economy and hatred in the heart arent that difficult to undestand are they?

      • John Nolan says:

        Quentin, if it was indeed a volte-face we would be bound to repudiate it, since it is not in continuity with Tradition. Paul VI made it clear that this was not the case, and although there are some aspects of the Council documents that are looking dated and will no doubt be revisited in the future, Dignitatis Humanae seems (in my opinion at least) to be more relevant than, say, Gaudium et Spes with its rather facile ’60s optimism, although that doesn’t mean the latter is not important.

        There is everything to be gained by turning the lens of history onto what would be otherwise merely subjective points of view. The Church’s definition of heresy has not changed since the 16th century; what has changed is how both Church and State deal with it. St Thomas More was not lenient towards obdurate heretics, and to suggest that this is an unfortunate downside of his character redeemed by his heroic martyrdom is to miss the point entirely.

        As the liberal/modernist movement in the Church is now (Deo Gratias) on the way out, perhaps those who espoused it so enthusiastically now need to take stock.

      • Quentin says:

        Mike Horsnall, that religious people can behave execrably is indeed no surprise. What needs explanation is how Christian authorities can genuinely believe in their religion, and continue to behave execrably not in spite of their religion but because of it.

      • Quentin says:

        John, I think that you are simply wrong here. I suggest, if it’s worth your while, that you compare the Declaration on Religious Freedom with Syllabus of Errors (1864), Pope Pius XII to Catholic lawyers Ci Riesce (December 6, 1953) Letter to the Bishop of Troyes by Pope Pius VII (1814), Mirari Vos by Pope Gregory XVI (August 15, 1832), Quanta Cura by Pope Pius IX (December 8, 1864), Libertas by Pope Leo XIII (June 20, 1888). Note also the necessity to revise the Concordat with Spain in the light of Vatican II’s ‛new’ teaching on the subject.
        You might also ask why the Society of Pius X has so bitterly opposed Vatican II on freedom of religion when, according to your account, it was in line with Tradition.

      • John Candido says:

        ‘As the liberal/modernist movement in the Church is now (Deo Gratias) on the way out, perhaps those who espoused it so enthusiastically now need to take stock.’

        John Nolan, I wouldn’t be so confident that the liberal wing of the Roman Catholic Church is ‘on the way out’.

        I am preparing a longer article in reply to ‘Idea to Ideology’. In it I am partly going to write about a remarkable article in The Age newspaper published last Monday and written by a Melbourne writer called Mr. Will Day, which outlines where is the church after the advent of Vatican II. It is entitled, ‘Don’t tell the Cathedral’.

        If anyone is interested in reading it go to,

        Four letters to the Editor were published in reply to Will Day’s article. The letters can be accessed from here,

    • Rahner says:

      Presumably there is no debate that any Church/Civil authority/society involved in the execution of heretics in order to preserve public order was acting on a massively flawed interpretation of the Christian message.

      • Nektarios says:

        Such authorities engaged in the execution of heretics, then as they are now, with the usual excuse, `in order to preserve public order’ were acting out of, now burn this into our hearts, fellow bloggers, THE OLD NATURE MODIFIED RELIGIOUSLY.
        Let us be attentive enough, that our action are not proceeding out of our old nature and
        modified religiously.
        If we do, we are no better, no more spiritual, no more aware or caring really about ones life in Christ, but rather it is the old nature USING RELIGION, others, and the name of God, to rubber stamp their ideologies. Such did it then and are doing it today.

        If we are Children of God, then we need to protect ourselves against such religious fundamentalism, and follow the one we say is our Lord and Master.

        I am at a loss to see why it is that we keep moving away from the subject of ideas
        and ideologies with its movement in us and its actions, although it was something separate from us?

      • Quentin says:

        Certainly massively flawed. But my question is: what is it about human nature and religion (or arguably ideologies like Nazism) that cause the perpetrators to think, quite sincerely, that they were doing good?

  7. johnbunting says:

    “Do not think I have come to bring peace on earth: I come not to bring peace, but a sword”.
    This used to puzzle me. The prince of peace? Bringing a sword? What did He mean?
    I suppose what He meant was that his true followers would inevitably find themselves in conflict with those whose idea of ‘truth’ was radically different, and must be pursued by converting or killing anyone who did not accept it. Hence the idea that ‘Error has no rights’. This was true of religious and secular ideologies: no loyalty to anything but the approved church or party could be allowed.

    • Nektarios says:


      Don’t suppose anything, question everything, go into it step by step.
      How does ideas rise in myself, where do they come from? I know I am conditioned, but how do I uncondition myself?
      Truth is not an idea. Yes, those with an idea about truth may kill you for that, and have done to others in the past and will do again in the present and will in the future.

      Suppose I did not know the Truth, how am I going to find out? One must be free to enquire. Otherwise it is someone conditioning us to conform.
      Is such conformity, really the spiritual life in Christ? surely not? So what is?

      Find out, enquire, question, but we are all too much secondhand armchair believers,
      like a chap standing at the river edge, but scared to jump in. The river I am speaking about is the river, the very day you were born, you were meant to participate with – the river of Life – jump in!
      There are no dead men’s bones of ideas, ideologies, philosophies there.
      The river of Life flows out from God, and one discovers there, Truth. The river of life will carry one in Christ, who is the Life, back to God.
      All who return to God came out from Him, were born and came, were led or were brought to the river of Life, God wants us to enter without which, we will be standing in the mire up to our knees of this worlds mud, stuck, sinking lower and lower and afraid.

      One will never know what that river of Life (life in Christ) is, until we enter.
      I am a member of the Church and believe, says one, that is not the same thing as entering into Christ and His Life which is like a river carrying us back to God.
      The Church institution has its place, but the true Church is not a denomination, organization or of earthly origins. We must enter the Church, be a member of the Church
      and that Church we enter is God himself.

  8. Nektarios says:


    You ask at the end of your introduction, ` what turns an idea into an ideology – and how do we prevent it?’

    If we can stop moving away from the problem, seeing it as somehow separate from us, then there is a possibility of preventing the repetitive effects of ideologies we have witnessed and had recorded down through the centuries. But I have to say, the history of the movement of thought in the realm of ideas and ideologies is not promising. But let us go into all this together.

    Man is caught in the principles and ideologies that prevent him from putting an end to the conflict between himself and another.
    The ideology of nationality and religion and the obstinancy of his own vanity is destroying man.
    This destructive force of ideas becoming an ideology is not confined only to Europe but engulfs
    the whole world and so all mankind.

    Man has tried to end it through tolerance, conciliation, through the exchange of words and face-saving devices, of which Vatican 11 was a further attempt, while keeping the structure of the religious ideology in place – so man, remains entrenched in his own conditioning. as I say, it is not promising.
    Some may say, wait a minute, we are not sure we want to change, for we enjoy this violence.
    For some, they admit it is even profitable. For others, all they desire is to remain in their entrenched positions.
    There are still others who seek change by over- exited, over-emotional expression. Most are wanting power in some form or other. Power over oneself or another. Power that comes with innovative brilliant ideas, power of leadership, fame and so on.
    Political power is as evil as religious power. The power of the world and the power of an ideology
    does not change man. Leaving one power structure with its ideology and entering into another power structure with its ideology is in fact inaction,
    Nor, (and this is important) does the volition to change, or the will to transform oneself bring about this change.
    Some think by analyzing the problem of ideas becoming an ideology will reveal to us the whole structure and nature of the problem of conflict ideas and ideologies – it doesn’t.
    And so we are caught in this vicious circle for thousands of years and vaguely call it evolution.
    Love transforms man. Either Love exists now, or it does not. Hell is where Love is not and the reformation of that hell is merely the decoration of that same hell.

    I will stop for now, do discuss

    • mike Horsnall says:


      A read of Bernard of Clairvaux-vol 13 Five Books on Consideration-Advice to a Pope- may help with your deliberations. In this book Bernard gives his apologetic for preaching the Crusades.It is clear from reading the book that either the man was a complete monster -or he believed his theological stance. I think this is true of ideologues. Either they are simply brilliant manipulators who erect administrations based at first on principle but then on fear-or they believe in their principles but also that the end justifies the means.I still really don’t see what the mystery is but thats perhaps because of the 5 years I spent in China just after Tiannmen square…its not that difficult to cow a population if you have control over the state apparatus and it seems easy enough for ruling elites to lose their way and become monstrous-a close reading of China, France or Russia in their so called ‘revolutionary periods’ will easily elaborate this. I really would reccomend the Clairvaux book-its in the Cistercian fathes series-cistercian publications

    • Nektarios says:

      The issues you are discussing with others I have already laid out before you and my fellow bloggers above – so why are we going over old ground?
      If I am missing something, please tell me?
      Perhaps there is too much reality in what |I said above to cope with? Perhaps you just
      want it in Historical and RC theology and dogmatic assertions?
      But what I have written above, you can check out, mostly, within our own skin. If we can do that first, then we can perhaps move forward?

      • mike Horsnall says:

        Perhaps we just want to talk amongst ourselves for awhile about a subject we find interesting…

  9. mike Horsnall says:

    By way of an addendum surely we all have the experience of doing what seemed expedient and convincing ourselves it was for the ‘good’ Surely we all know of moments of squeamishness over what we have allowed to happen around us and not checked through simple fear or embarrassment? Surely we had moments when, as children we were desperate to be on the winning side, surely we all felt the desperate need to be right and to be vindicated at the expense of another…what is it you don’t undertand?

    • Quentin says:

      Mike, you may well be right, but I think some other considerations may apply.

      First, we know that those propositions which require belief because of the absence of empirical evidence often need to be elevated to the level of “principle” so that they can be held to be indisputable. For example, if I am an evolutionist I don’t get upset if you disagree because I know that my evidence is adequate – but if I am a direct creationist I fall back on fundamentalist insistence since I have nothing else. (Ironically, professional atheists have come to believe in their principles as an article of faith. And it’s just as they do so that they get more and more angry with the concept of religion.)

      We might couple this with recent findings: those whose temperament is conservative tend to have brains with enlarged capacities responding to fear. It’s plausible, isn’t it, that being able to hold on to certainties alleviates the fear of change?

      Another factor is that religion (and other large ideological movements) involve whole communities. Membership of a group is a strong motivation to accept the beliefs and mores of the group uncritically. It is actually quite difficult for people to resist because through evolution we have developed to harmonise with the group. This motivation is enhanced if there are sanctions for being out of line.

      And by no means least, we have “triumphalist righteouness”. A deep temptation in human nature is to do wicked and cruel things while being able to claim to onself and others that one is fully justified, even obliged, to press home one’s certainties. All of a sudden one can indulge one’s lower nature while behaving virtuously.

      Now, if I am even half right, there is a real danger in assuming that we have been talking only about standard human behaviour, and that strong ideological positions have no specific temptations. In taking that consoling view we may forget to put ourselves on guard against the factors, and perhaps others, I have listed.

      If I am to go by this discussion alone, I would judge that the majority of intelligent Catholics have not realised the dangers — and so the Church may fall again.

      • mike Horsnall says:

        This is a good post (27th May 10.43)
        “..In taking that consoling view we may forget to put ourselves on guard against the factors, and perhaps others, I have listed.
        If I am to go by this discussion alone, I would judge that the majority of intelligent Catholics have not realised the dangers — and so the Church may fall again…”

        It seems to me you overlook the structural nature of power blocs and assume that there is a ‘we’ able to promulgate a change other than there is now. Please tell me precisely how you would alter things-then I will be sure I understand you.

    • Nektarios says:

      mike Horsnall
      You, Quentin and JN talk among yourselves about things your interested in, if you must,
      I have no objection, but don’t get distracted by a whole load of red herrings concerning the issues we are discussing in hand.
      Sorry to interrupt the party!

      • mike Horsnall says:

        Thats great Nektarios, I’m pleased you have no objection…should we ask for permission to breathe in a certain way? Perhaps in and out through one nostril at your bidding?

  10. Rahner says:

    “Certainly massively flawed. But my question is: what is it about human nature and religion (or arguably ideologies like Nazism) that cause the perpetrators to think, quite sincerely, that they were doing good?”

    I suspect there is currently no comprehensive, convincing answer to your question and that we will simply have to wait and hope for developments in psychology/social psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology etc etc. But I think we should resist the simple-minded theological explanations that seem to appeal to some contributors to this blog…

  11. John Nolan says:

    Quentin, you may be right in your interpretation of Vatican II – all the documents are a compromise between what the liberals wanted and what the conservatives were prepared to accept, and against the background of a papacy which has been described as Hamlet-like. If you are suggesting that DH cannot be reconciled with the teaching of previous pontiffs (and you cite both 19th and 20th century examples) then you are basically endorsing the SSPX position. The ‘hermeneutic of rupture’ actually unites both liberals and ultra-conservatives (welcomed by the former and repudiated by the latter).

    Although the peudonymous Rahner seems to have little time for theology, as opposed to psychology/social psychology, evolutionary biology (yawn, yawn) anyone interested in doctrinal development, not to mention Christianity, cannot simply dismiss it as ‘simple-minded’.

    My objection to the original post still stands; it presumes a distinction between ‘ideas’ and ‘ideology’ which is a manufactured one, and what passes for historical analysis won’t pass muster. We know from experience that ‘debates’ in the media (radio and television) are nothing of the sort, and debates in Parliament are not much better.

    Consider the Albigensian (Cathar) heresy at the beginning of the 13th century. It makes the most extreme protestantism look orthodox. It was uncomfortably close (geographically) to Rome. Churches were being despoiled, priests murdered (including the papal legate sent to negotiate with the heretics). Consider the way Pope Innocent III dealt with it, and ask yourself if you would have acted differently. But read up about it first, and don’t impose 21st century nostrums on it. We might not burn heretics but we destroy millions of unborn children and regard it as morally right.

    • Quentin says:

      John, you write an interesting answer — and make points we could discuss, and profitably, until Doomsday. Let me just indicate which ways I would go in answering, and leave it at that.

      OK, I’ll accept that the euphony of ideal and ideology owes more to rhetoric than precision.

      I have no difficulty is saying that the Church’s practical teaching on conscience and on religious liberty are understandable in the context of the time but simply wrong. That is part of tradition rather than Tradition. (see my column “When tradition is not Tradition.”) Thankfully we have the promise of the Holy Spirit to increase our gradual understanding — to which, I hope, this Blog contributes — if only microscopically.

      I think the Cathars are illustrative. Yes they defended themselves: “Cet animal et très méchant, quand on l’attaque, il se défend.” Actually they were pretty harmless people and popular with most. The crusade was, and remains, notorious for its brutality and its carelessness about whether its victims were Cathars or otherwise. No, you don’t need to go to abortion as a comparison, present day Syria will do. The whole point of difference here is that the Church claims to base its behaviour on the good news of the Gospel rather than the mores of society. If we are to judge its behaviour, or its teaching as exemplified in its behaviour, only against contemporary society it has no role to play as a moral authority with divine protection.

    • Rahner says:

      Then can you provide a theological answer to the specific question that Quentin raised?(at May 26, 6:14)

  12. John Nolan says:

    Where is your evidence that the Cathars were “pretty harmless people”? A lot of their popular appeal was in their apparent unworldiness which, yes, contrasted with an official Church which appeared (not for the first or last time) to be too worldly, which was why St Dominic preached orthodoxy but led by example. I would defy even the most ‘liberal’ Catholic today to want to adhere to the Cathar viewpoint in terms of theology or ecclesiology, still less to the lifestyle of the so-called ‘perfecti’. The fact that they were were leading thousands of souls astray seems to count for nothing when looked at from our smug 20th/21st century viewpoint, which is basically one of ‘anything goes’ and if in doubt use your hermeneutic of Vatican II to justify your position. It simply won’t do, as Benedict XVI has pointed out.

    Yes, this blog has the advantage over others in that it allows genuine discussion, and while we may well disagree over a range of issues, it maintains a Catholic ethos.

    • Quentin says:

      Perhaps we should devote some time one day in looking at heresies. Both Manichean heresies and Pelagianism are very attractive to human nature since they provide answers to so many questions.That’s why they keep recurring. I have yet to discuss grace and freewill with any English Catholic without ultimately finding him at least semi Pelagian.

  13. mike Horsnall says:

    John Nolan,

    Not trying to throw you both off topic but I’m interested to know how you would evaluate Bernard of Clairvaux’ preaching of the crusades? He writes so beautifully well on a whole range of things but the practical application of scripture to the explaination of defeat was quite something to read.Have you read him?

  14. John Nolan says:


    St Bernard was the greatest intellectual figure of the 12th century and his taking up of Pope Eugenius III’s ‘Quantum Praedecessores’ occasioned by the fall of Edessa in order to kick-start the Second Crusade was crucial. Both in person and in his many letters (and it must be remembered that he was in his fifties and in poor health) he in effect raised the bar for crusading; henceforth it was to be a monarchical enterprise and the two most powerful sovereigns in Europe, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany took part.

    As we all know, the Crusade in itself was a failure. But the nature of crusading being what it is, it is relatively easy to attribute failure to the spiritual shortcomings of the participants and of Christendom in general. This does not detract from Bernard’s greatness – he was a towering figure. He joined the abbey at Citeaux in 1113 at the age of 23; two years later he founded a second house at Clairvaux; by 1151 there were 353 Cistercian houses spread across Europe.

    Returning to an earlier theme, I’m reminded of the old joke about which was the more successful Order, the Dominicans or the Jesuits. “The Dominicans were formed to combat the Albigensian heresy, the Jesuits to combat the Protestant heresy. When was the last time you met an Albigensian?”

  15. Quentin says:

    “Please tell me precisely how you would alter things-then I will be sure I understand you.” says Mike Hornall.

    Most of us, I suspect, have little influence outside our immediate circle. But, just like voting politically, we will still need to do what we can. And as usual we have to start by accepting that we, too, are vulnerable. Pope Benedict speaks of it as developing a sense of guilt. Until we deeply realise our proneness to sin we are not yet at the starting gate.

    Yes, I can remember as a very young man, freshly tutored by the Jesuits and speaking for the Catholic Evidence Guild, how I pitied non Catholics. Given so much opportunity to see the true faith, their despatch to Hell was certain. How much of that is still in me? Do I really accept that an atheist who loves is more acceptable to God than I am when I fail to love?

    To what extent am I alive to the influence of the circles in which I move – including this blog? Have I really assessed this critically? If I find that I agree with all the common views in my circles, then it is likely I have lost my God-given autonomy – at least in some respect..

    I hope that I keep my “triumphalist righteouness” at bay – but I only do this because I try to be vigilant about my tendencies. Have I got a proper balance between the authority of Church and the authority of conscience?

    In so far as I can improve along these lines and express this in my actions, my conversation and my writing I am contributing in my little way to the progress of the Church towards being an expression of love.

    All very pi I fear, but it’s the best I can do.

    • Rahner says:

      “I can remember as a very young man, freshly tutored by the Jesuits and speaking for the Catholic Evidence Guild, how I pitied non Catholics. Given so much opportunity to see the true faith, their despatch to Hell was certain.”

      Quentin, I’m sure we are all amazed by what we believed in the past….

      • mike Horsnall says:

        Ha Ha…thats really very true. Strange thing that.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        “I’m sure we are all amazed by what we believed in the past….” – and perhaps more disgusted than amazed by what we believed about ourselves.

  16. Mike Horsnall says:

    “…Pope Benedict speaks of it as developing a sense of guilt. Until we deeply realise our proneness to sin we are not yet at the starting gate…”
    So if I get you right you are talking about the need to avoid personal complacency in order that our consciences be finely honed and we speak truth instead of agreement?

    • Quentin says:

      Yes, that’s right.

      Here is a quote from Ratzinger:

      “The elaboration of these insights forms the heart of this address. Gorres shows that the feeling of guilt, the capacity to recognize guilt, belongs essentially to the spiritual make-up of man. This feeling of guilt disturbs the false calm of conscience and could be called conscience’s complaint against my self-satisfied existence. It is as necessary for man as the physical pain which signifies disturbances of normal bodily functioning”

      You’ll find the whole, enlightening, piece at And some commentary from me on Holding out for a Hero (qv search box)

      • mike Horsnall says:


        ” This feeling of guilt disturbs the false calm of conscience and could be called conscience’s complaint against my self-satisfied existence. It is as necessary for man as the physical pain which signifies disturbances of normal bodily functioning”

        Pope Benedict has a whole section on this in Spirit of the Liturgy….I think he’s right.

  17. Nektarios says:

    mike Horsnall
    Of course you don’t have to ask my permission about anything…..
    I am done here – bye

    • Quentin says:

      I am very sorry that this should have happened. And I do hope that Nektarios changes his mind, and returns; he has often triggered interesting discussion. But, as for all of us, we can only hope that people will react to what we say – we can never oblige them.

  18. Nektarios says:

    What I meant was I am done on this topic as it seems we have departed from the topic to indulge
    in different aspects by different people on intellectual speculations … which will not aswer the question ….what turns an idea into an ideology and how to prevent it?
    I am not putting anyone under obligation… nor do I want anyone to merely react, but to act. The secret if there is one, of looking and getting an answer into all of this is… there is no authority here… so you are free to look for yourselves.

    Let me re-assure you, Quentin, I have not left the blog, though I may have given that impression, but only stopped going into this deeper with you all. It seems you are all too distracted for the moment – enjoyable though it may be for you all, well most of you.

    • Quentin says:

      That’s excellent news. I look forward to your future contributions.

      • Nektarios says:

        I look forward to your and others contributions too.
        But like I have said, we can perhaps deal with turning ideas into an ideology at a
        personal level, but at a global level, I am not opitmistic.
        If we can understand the whole movement of thought, that turns ideas into ideologies
        with all its history of divisions and horrors, then we can begin to know the paths of Peace
        in ourselves, and as St. Seraphim of Sarov pointed out, `acquire the spirit of peace and you will save thousand around you.’

  19. mike Horsnall says:

    Peter Wilson,

    “….and perhaps more disgusted than amazed by what we believed about ourselves…”

    Hate to bang on about this but when I worked in China as a teacher/closet evangelist there was a great opportunity to be rather stripped back in tems of ones own religious beliefs and self perceptions. This was simply on account of being thrus into a completely alien culture and thus having ones own preconditionings-religious and otherwise fairly ruthlessly exposed. I certainly no longer believe now what I did then and remain wryly amazed at my own naivete concerning my own beliefs and motivations. It all ended in tears as these things often -do but the lessons learned were of great value; I don’t think we should chastize ourselfs for what we unthinkingly were-for we could have been nothing other at the time!!

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      Mike – You’re right. It’s part of growing up, which in some respects could well last a lifetime.

      • Quentin says:

        I do accept that, as we grow up, we may well learn more sense. And I hope that I have. But the belief I recorded as a young man 5 years before Vat II (see above) was orthodoxy, and held by Catholics of all ages. In fact the only man I knew who believed otherwise was the then editor of the Catholic Herald. And a long fight he had before the Council confirmed his views. He was, incidentally, my father.

  20. mike Horsnall says:

    Well that figures!

  21. Quentin says:

    Nektarios, you wrote (26 May 4:38) of your belief that that we were attempting to push the problem away from us. (I hope I have understood you rightly, I do not always find this easy – and this may be the reason why people do not readily comment on your ideas). But I have now (28 May 10:10) described how one might tackle it at a personal level. is this the kind of thing you have in mind?

  22. Nektarios says:


    I cannot find your 28May 10:10 posting. No matter.
    Yes, it is not easy to accept what actualy is us within our own skin, as it were.
    We often see or assess things through the eyes or screening of our conditioning. So, not wanting to stand alone, or we are startled by what we see in ourselves, we judge it, condemn it, want to change it, but the easiest route, is to move away from it, often in the mistaken idea that it will go away by itself.
    To want to change the actualities within us, stops one changing anything, and we are back in our conditioning and fighting out of that.
    As some contributors are saying, what they were taught did not change them and they have modified their belief accordingly. But this is not Truth, living with the Truth this is just comforting ourselves in our seeming helplessness.

    We all have ideas, that is all right as long as they don’t get out into the public domain. and this then becomes the desire to have power over ourselves and anothers. Leads to idelogies being adopted and carried out – and the history of that is truly atrocious.

    Not to move away from not the topic only, but that which is actual about ourselves, means we live with it. not judging, condemning or wanting to chang it even. not to impose upon it some authority or other so producing conformity, which is only organized disorder.
    As you live with it, in this non judging way, one can observe oneself. One is not energizing the idea, just observing.
    As one is not energizing the idea or in its movent to a possible ideology, one is depriving it
    of that oxygen and energy it requires and it becomes non affective in our life.
    Also, in conclusion here, living with what is actual about us, not just this topic, bringing to an end
    fear and anger passions and all that, something new takes place.

    • Quentin says:

      It is certainly true that we are inclined to move away from subjects which we find awkward, or make us uneasy. And this Blog is just as prone to that as any other locus of discussion.

      I think that I detect a difference of approach here. You appear to start with the abstract whereas most people find it easier to look at examples from the particular and see how these may lead to more general conclusions. This is certainly the method favoured by Francis Bacon – arguably the first modern scientist. He looked at all the instances he could identify and then attempted to define the general principle via induction.

      In this topic, by looking both at instances taken from the secular as well as the religious, I inferred that it was not the content of religious belief which was crucial, but the nature of how that belief was held. I saw this as progress, but you, and others, may disagree.

      • Nektarios says:

        You know, there was a day when Christians. especially Christian leaders walked in step with the Holy Spirit and were so led and guided. They were so led also by the Gospels. They were also aware when the Holy Spirit was not going with them and had to seek the Lord’s face again.

        What you have written above suggests viz -Francis Bacon approach, people who are reliant on conditioning, their intellectual capacities (necessary though these are for the mundane and repetitive work or tasks the brain is engaged at any time) is not not reliant on the Holy Spirit or know what it is to walk with Him constantly and consistantly.

        Obviously, the question raised in my mind re your last paragraph, is to ask is one separate
        from the content, be it belief, or the self-interest so often, in which that belief is held?

        Faith – that gift of God given to us, we are led to sound belief especially regarding Salvation. This is a New Birth to those that receive it, In fact they are a New Creation.

        We live, as I have said previously, disordered lives. We try by the approach you envisage bringing order into all this disorder. Can that which is disordered, bring about order?
        There are many beliefs, as you know among Christians, but belief as a system is of Thought and so divisive.
        God is not divided, The gift of God of Faith is not divided, The Church in essence is not divided, but on the ground all the evidence does not point to such a oneness, or wholeness, or holiness. So it is clear, such thinking is not operating out of the New Nature
        but the old, with all its divisions, me- centred activity.
        The approach of Science, not good Science perse, is not in harmony with the Gospels or the spiritual life. It is too small, too limited and of course, vested interests. The same applies to belief systems also thought up and as a result has its limitations and of course vested interests and power struggles ….. the main limitation, being it cannot give Salvation, cannot sustain Salvation and the spiritual life.

        I am sorry if you think my way of writing on the blog, my approach is too abstact, this is perhaps because the readers are viewing it as just another idea, opinion, or view, but it is not.
        It is that which you can discover, when you don’t want the mind or intellect to be conformed, or in a state of fear, when the brain becomes still, when it is not choosing to
        persue anything, then that which is total order, that which is Timeless, that which one calls God acts in us, with us and changing us, imparting understanding and spiritual graces and power.

      • Quentin says:

        I don’t think that it is too abstract in itself. But people may find it hard to relate to its abstraction.
        Of course there will have been occasions when the action of the Holy Spirit is direct. That’s outside my experience. What is inside my experience is that I have a sense that the Holy Spirit helps me to be more vigorous and more objective in my own thinking. But I have to take responsibility for it. And because I lean to the view that God gave us our brains to attempt to discern truth that what I do.

  23. mike Horsnall says:

    If its any help I’ve given this some thought. Over the past few months on the blog I would say that nothing Nektarios has said been particularly new or even challenging. In terms of its content all that is being asked is that we see more clearly who we are-this is the constant thrust of most Pauline writing and of course of most spiritual classics ever since.
    It is not the content but the tone which makes me so ill inclined to partake, this together with the tone of arrogant and condescending impatience which seems to creeep so readily in toward those who disagree and the fundamental failure to understand the democracy of the blog. We learn not to push or demand of one another or believe our contributions to be any other than what they are-viz the outpouring of, in the main, probably balding and tubby men at computers simply trying their best in the context of their own lives (sorry Iona!)
    It may be easy to discount what is written here and give an Olympian discourse on something or another but that simply betrays an inability to listen or accept that what is being said has validity outside ones own frame of reference.
    The acid test of this blog is quite simple to understand-if you find yourself being politely or pointedly ignored then you are most likely being rude, ungracious and offputting- so need to have a think.
    This applies to me as much as anyone else and is one of the valuable lessons this blog teaches. Quentin runs this blog with a humility which is quite an example-and also a practiced managerial ability which is based on skill in handling an unruly crew-the overall tone he sets is quite amenable to study and eventually even spiky types can learn it.

    • Nektarios says:

      mike Horsnall
      I am saddened that you think my tone is arrogant and condescending impatience. If I am guilty then it is not something I have in my heart or mind when writing on the blog, but only to discover, enquire, find out and move on from there.
      I don’t want you necessarily to agree with me about everything, but if you do disagree or unclear about what I have said, please do write accordingly.
      But I am truly sorry that my tone is offending you. Forgive me.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        Nektarios – I for one don’t consider your tone at all offensive, but I do find many of your contributions so obscure that I can’t see where to start seeking clarification, or even (no offence intended) whether it is worth trying. It’s probably a matter of different mind sets. It may well be that our minds shouldn’t be set at all, but we can only start from where we are.

      • mike Horsnall says:


        that was a bit strong of me perhaps-sorry. Also we all have different sensitivities-Peter below isnt at all bothered by the tone. I don’t think you mean it either but just take a look back through the reams of it all and see how many lines are instructing other people-whom you do not know-how to think and what to do.

    • Rahner says:

      Mike, I agree with much of what you say.

      • Nektarios says:

        mike Horsnall

        The difficulty I have with what you say, is I do realize all to clearly, I’m afraid, just how conditioned we all are. This in turn means, we have all been taught what to think, not how to think.
        So forgive me if I appear to be instructing anyone what to think, no need for that, but there is a need to know what is necessary if we are to know how to think.
        This is not so simple as one thinks at first perhaps.

  24. Horace says:

    “The approach of Science, not good Science perse, is not in harmony with the Gospels or the spiritual life. It is too small, too limited and of course, vested interests. ”

    I find this difficult to understand:-
    a) You say; The approach of Science is not in harmony with the Gospels or the spiritual life.
    However you qualify the noun ‘Science’ by interpolating ‘not good Science perse’.
    [‘perse’ is presumably intended as the two latin words ‘per se’ meaning ‘in itself’.]

    Do you therefore mean ‘The approach of Science (although not ‘good Science’ in itself) is not . . . ‘ ? This would seem to me to imply that it is only ‘bad Science’ which is not ‘in harmony with the Gospels or the spiritual life’.

    But what exactly is this ‘bad Science’ and what is its relevance in the context of what is being discussed? This latter I take to be ‘what turns an idea into an ideology – and how do we prevent it?’ (Nektarios May 26,2012 at 4:38 pm).

    If your point is that ‘bad Science’ turns an idea into an ideology ; then I think this needs to be explained in rather more detail and perhaps illustrated by an example.

    • Nektarios says:

      This blog as it says at the top when we enter the blog is, `a shared experience between Science and Faith.’
      Science at one time was the preserve of the Church, not totally, but mostly here in the West it was.
      Scripture tells us, `In the last days, knowledge shall be increased’. Certainly we have seen that in the times in which we live. Which also tells us what days we are living in – the last days.
      Since the Enlightenment Science and Religion have gone in different directions and where there was contant interaction now they are scarely speaking the same language.
      So far advanced has knowledge been increased and at such speed with new ideas and concepts every day almost, one simply cannot know it all, so we have specialization within
      Forgive me if I inadvertantly put `per se’ in the wrong place and caused any confusion,
      so I will qualify what I meant to say.
      There is nothing wrong with Science per se, as Science explores and studies the natures
      and behaviours of material and physical universe, through observation, experiment and measurement.
      Good gracious I have written on the blog how our lives are governed by the Scientific approach.
      I will go further and say Science is not in harmony with the Gospels or the spiritual life.
      Science is exploring the visible, the measurable and the physical dimension, nowadays, but it was not always so divorced from the spiritual life as it is today.
      When I said, ` not bad Science I was referring to the uses some Science was being put to, such as atomic weapons, chemical weapons, spy satelites and other satelites for guidance systems for atomic wepons to eighn down on mankind.
      No to mention the bad Science within the pharmaceutical industry and the problems that has caused mankind.
      Science is not really viable without Goverments and vested business interests so it has been corrupted in its use and pays no attention to the damage it is causing in the short and long term for mankind. Therefor I said, that bad Science in particular, is not in harmony with the Gospels or the spiritual life.
      At one time, Theology was called the Queen of the Sciences, now it is consigned to a small department within the Humanities.
      Have I said enough, Horace?

      • Horace says:

        It was precisely because this blog is “a shared experience between Science and Faith” that I was interested in this particular sentence.

        We agree that ‘There is nothing wrong with Science per se’ – it is some of the uses to which scientific knowledge has been put that is the trouble.

        Why? You say “Science is not really viable without [Governments] and vested business interests so it has been corrupted in its use . . “.
        This applies particularly to the headline ‘achievements of Science’ – weapons of mass destruction, contraception and therapeutic abortion; but these are IDEAS whose proponents have used scientific understanding to construct IDEOLOGIES based on secular aims.

        It is the secular aim (rather than the scientific understanding) that is not ‘in harmony with the Gospels or the spiritual life’.

        So what can we do about it?

        Perhaps in the first place, to support the good uses of science (which on the whole do not require massive governmental finance or business profitability) – increased social cohesion, greater diffusion of understanding, relief of poverty, alleviation of the ravages of disease, and so on.
        But also, use what influence we have, with Government(s) so that they will not unnecessarily pursue aggressive warfare; and in society in general to discourage the mentality which aggressively seeks personal “Happiness” rather than that of others – friends, neighbours, the local community and foreign nations.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        Nektarios – Pure science is essentially a search for truth, and in principle should be completely in harmony with the gospels and spiritual life, or at least not inconsistent with them. However, human failings such as jealousy and ambition often contaminate it, while applied science – technology or medicine – can be very undesirable in its ends or means. Are these what you mean by “bad science”?

        Curiously the Czech government organisation allocating scientific research grants, for which I refereed a couple of applications around the turn of the century, still classified theology among the sciences, although that wasn’t the nature of my involvement!

  25. Iona says:

    I’m in agreement with what Peter said on May 29th at 5.30 p.m.

    By “bad science” I think Nektarios means science put to bad (=immoral) uses. But my initial interpretation of the term “bad science” was “scientific investigations carried out inadequately” or maybe “…drawing conclusions which aren’t warranted from the evidence”. We can’t discuss things if we’re using terms in different ways. Well, we can, but it won’t get us very far. Except annoyed and frustrated. .

    • Nektarios says:

      I had in mind both aspects you mentioned.
      I agree with you it is difficult to discuss if we are using different terms.
      The problem I was concerned with was the questions posed by Quentin at the end of
      his introduction, `What turns an idea into an ideology? And how to prevent it?

      Previously we talked about brain function and mind and thoughts &c.
      Here is gets complicated as I attempted to get us to look together at the way ideas come about in ourselves, what makes us like some ideas and reject others, for example, the place of thought,mind and self has in all our approach to ideas and ideology.

      Then it was to see within our own skin, how ideas move to become an ideology we own or adopt with others. What ideology actually is. this is as far as I have tried to lay before us all to look at, to see it and be aware of it.

      How we bring an ideology to an end we have not yet entered into.

      I am not a scientist, but my approach is equally scientific, though the field we are looking at together is one within our own skin, not out there somewhere, not under someone elses authority, but our own. difficult to observe, difficult to measure, difficult to experiment, and so difficult to come to any conclusion some think.

      I noted that we had difficulty with observation, I tried to explain it, to help us together to look at the whole movement of ideas, where they come from, where they settle in us
      and so on, what actually happens within our own skin, in our brain and so on.

      Here some thought this was all too obscure. the language was neither scientific,or religious, theological and so we went down the road of quoting this authority or another.
      But there is no authority there in our brain apart from what we allow, and that is conditioning in essence.
      I hope this little explanation explains in part what some deem too obscure and so ignore
      what I posted. But we are only ignoring the actual workings in ourselves.
      As you say, Iona, it is difficult to discuss when using different terms. I agree.
      What perhaps we need look at seriously is to observe for ourselves what is going on
      within us as we look at, and deal with this questions posed by Quentin?

  26. John Candido says:

    I agree that the word ‘ideology’ does not have pejorative connotations when one consults an authoritative reference. Although in practice the word has served the purpose of delineating between civilisation and barbarism when referring to extreme ideologies such as dialectical materialism and Nazism. The process of turning an idea into ideology is somewhat similar to turning and debasing the highest ideals of religion into squalid political ends.

    We have the unfortunate example of the trashing of the highest ideals of Islam to foment global terrorism. We must always remind ourselves that terrorists, who have some sort of ideological or cultural connection with Islam, are a tiny minority of Muslims worldwide. The overwhelming majority of Muslims are peace loving people who are primarily concerned with their work, their families, their culture, and their faith.

    Turning to the central issue in this discussion, I think that Quentin has possibly asked the wrong question. Instead of asking why people and societies inevitably debase religious principles for ideological expediencies, and conduct warfare, racism, discrimination, exploitation, and the marginalisation of others, we might find it more profitable if we were to ask why has the world become more peaceful and why has this happened? Before you think that I have finally gone mad, it is what renowned Cognitive Psychologist Professor Steven Pinker of Harvard University notes has been the implicit, counter-intuitive story of history.

    Pinker wrote the iconoclastic monograph called ‘The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined’ in 2011, and is published by Viking Books. You can view a video presentation of his ideas at the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce) on the 1st November 2011 by clicking the following link.

    • Quentin says:

      The small group of philosophers with whom I meet frequently are polarised on this. Have we become better or worse over the centuries? The problem is a great range of evidence – so much that one can impose one’s own prejudices, and find the gratifying pattern one wants. For example the Prospect review of Pinker’s book at

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        I think that to some extent we have become less violent: now that warfare is more destructive than it was in the Middle Ages, it is undertaken less readily and if at all, for more substantial reasons. I’m not at all sure that the same applies at a personal level, as there are evidently all too many people who will resort to violence instinctively or if they think they can get away with it.

      • Nektarios says:

        Have we become better or worse over the centuries?
        I have to say, no we have not.
        The reasoning or rational behind saying, no, is, we are proceeding in the present
        out of memory, out of the past. and project into the all the accumulations into the future.
        So, we have not become better or worse over the centuries,are the same, only the way we behave, think and react is only modified in the present.

      • Nektarios says:

        Sorry for the error, shouls read: project all accumulations into the future.
        (delete – into the).

  27. tim says:

    OK. Back to the original question. What turns an idea into an ideology?

    GIven that there is no agreement about what either word means, I will use definitions that suit me.

    Idea – a truth (at least a partial one, not necessarily complete)
    Ideology – a system of rules and principles including at least one idea.

    Then, what turns an idea into an ideology is – lack of balance. One embraces a partial, incomplete truth and ignores others. That way you get wrong answers.

    • Nektarios says:

      And what I am trying to get across is an answer, one can observe, as to why one embraces a partial, incomplete truth (which is not truth actually) and continue getting wrong answers for thousands of years.

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