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This article is on dogma in religion. Other uses of Dogma are at dogma (disambiguation)

Dogma (the plural is either dogmata or dogmas) is belief or doctrine held by a religion or any kind of organization to be authoritative or beyond question. Evidence, analysis, or established fact may or may not be adduced, depending upon usage.

Dogma, faith, and logic

There are some conceptual similarities between dogma and the axioms used as the starting point for logical analysis. Axioms may be thought of as concepts or 'givens' so fundamental that disputing them would be unimaginable; dogmata are also fundamental (e.g. 'God exists') yet incorporate also the larger set of conclusions that comprise the (religious) field of thought (e.g. 'God created the universe'). Axioms are propositions not subject to proof or disproof, or are statements accepted on their own merits. Dogmata might be thought to be more complex, the product of other proofs. Philosophy and theology find ways to evaluate all statements, whether classified as axioms or dogmata.

Religious dogmata, properly conceived, reach back to proofs other than themselves, and ultimately to faith. Perhaps the pinnacle of organized exposition of theological dogma is the Roman Catholic Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas, who proposes this relationship between faith and objection: "If our opponent believes nothing of divine revelation, there is no longer any means of proving the articles of faith by reasoning, but only of answering his objections — if he has any — against faith" (I 1 8).

Dogma in religion

Dogmata are found in religions such as Christianity and Islam, where they are considered core principles that must be upheld by all followers of that religion. As a fundamental element of religion, the term dogma is assigned to those theological tenets which are considered to be well demonstrated, such that their proposed disputation or revision effectively means that a person no longer accepts the given religion as his or her own, or has entered into a period of personal doubt. Dogma is distinguished from theological opinion regarding those things considered less well-known. Dogmata may be clarified and elaborated but not contradicted in novel teachings (e.g., Galatians 1:8-9). Rejection of dogma is considered heresy and may lead to expulsion from the religious group, although in the Christian Gospels this is not done rashly (e.g. Mt 18:15-17).

For most of Eastern Christianity, the dogmata are contained in the Nicene Creed and the first two, three, or seven ecumenical councils (depending on whether one is a Nestorian, a Monophysite, or an Eastern Orthodox Christian). Roman Catholics also hold as dogma the decisions of 14 later ecumenical councils and a few decrees promulgated by popes exercising papal infallibility (see, e.g., Mary, the mother of Jesus). Protestants to differing degrees affirm portions of these dogmata, and often rely on sect-specific 'Statements of Faith' which summarize their chosen dogmata (see, e.g., Eucharist).

Dogma outside of religion

Many non-religious beliefs are often described as dogmata, for example in the fields of politics or philosophy, as well as within society itself. The term dogmatism carries the implication that people are upholding their beliefs in an unthinking and conformist fashion. Dogmata are thought to be anathema to science and scientific analysis although one could argue that the scientific method itself is a dogma for many scientists. In a similar way in philosophies such as rationalism and skepticism, although metaphysical considerations are normally not explicit in those fields, traditional religious dogmas tend to be rejected while unexamined presuppositions are sometimes unheld.

Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46