Ideas and Ideologies

For most of human history religion had a monopoly when it came to providing answers to many of the questions people asked about their world. From the 16th century onwards science increasingly offered an alternative set of answers to those questions. But people are social animals. We also ask questions which scientists are not interested in and often cannot answer. What is right and wrong? What is good and bad? What are our responsibilities and obligations as a member of society and what are our rights? Should our positions in society depend on who our parents were and how wealthy we are or should everyone be treated as equals? And so on. These are important questions about society’s values: how we should live and how we should treat each other.
After the French Revolution the word ‘ideology’ came to be used to describe self-contained sets of ideas and beliefs that a group of people uses to make sense of their world and provide them with ways of dealing with it. Since the C19th secular ideologies have competed with religions for the hearts and minds of the people in most societies.

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