Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. It serves as part of the primary basis of an ideology or belief system, and it cannot be changed or discarded without affecting the very system's paradigm, or the ideology itself. The term can refer to acceptable opinions of philosophers or philosophical schools, public decrees, religion, or issued decisions of political authorities.
The term derives from Greek δόγμα "that which seems to one; opinion or belief" and that from δοκέω (dokeo), "to think, to suppose, to imagine". In the first century CE, dogma came to signify laws or ordinances adjudged and imposed upon others. The plural is either dogmas or dogmata, from Greek δόγματα. The term "dogmatics" is used as a synonym for systematic theology, as in Karl Barth's defining textbook of neo-orthodoxy, the 14-volume Church Dogmatics.
Dogmata are found in religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, where they are considered core principles that must be upheld by all believers of that religion. As a fundamental element of religion, the term "dogma" is assigned to those theological tenets which are considered to be unanimously agreed upon, 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 upon, but not contradicted in novel teachings (e.g., Galatians 1:6-9). Rejection of dogma may lead to expulsion from a religious group.
In Christianity, religious beliefs are defined by the Church. It is usually based upon scripture or communicated by church authority. It is believed that these dogmas will lead human beings towards redemption and thus the “path which leads to God".
For Catholicism and Eastern Christianity, the dogmata are contained in the Nicene Creed and the canon laws of two, three, seven, or twenty ecumenical councils (depending on whether one is "Nestorian", Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, or Roman Catholic). These tenets are summarized by St. John of Damascus in his Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, which is the third book of his main work, titled The Fount of Knowledge. In this book he takes a dual approach in explaining each article of the faith: one, for Christians, where he uses quotes from the Bible and, occasionally, from works of other Fathers of the Church, and the second, directed both at non-Christians (but who, nevertheless, hold some sort of religious belief) and at atheists, for whom he employs Aristotelian logic and dialectics.
The decisions of fourteen later councils that Catholics hold as dogmatic and numerous decrees promulgated by Popes' exercising papal infallibility (for examples, see Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary) are considered as being a part of the Church's sacred body of doctrine.
Religious organizations have begun defending their religions, stating that since one can not prove a negative, then atheists who point out the scientific inadequacies within religions must, necessarily, be dogmatic. The arguments often depend on the presuppositionalist's view that since they believe their idea of God created humans, then anything that humans do to counter their religion is dogmatic.
As a possible reaction to skepticism, dogmatism is a set of beliefs or doctrines that are established as undoubtedly in truth. They are regarded as (religious) truths relating closely to the nature of faith.
A notable use of the term can be found in the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology. In his autobiography, What Mad Pursuit, Francis Crick wrote about his choice of the word dogma and some of the problems it caused him:
I called this idea the central dogma, for two reasons, I suspect. I had already used the obvious word hypothesis in the sequence hypothesis, and in addition I wanted to suggest that this new assumption was more central and more powerful. ... As it turned out, the use of the word dogma caused almost more trouble than it was worth.... Many years later Jacques Monod pointed out to me that I did not appear to understand the correct use of the word dogma, which is a belief that cannot be doubted... I used the word the way I myself thought about it, not as most of the world does, and simply applied it to a grand hypothesis that, however plausible, had little direct experimental support.
"My mind was, that a dogma was an idea for which there was no reasonable evidence. You see?!" And Crick gave a roar of delight. "I just didn't know what dogma meant. And I could just as well have called it the 'Central Hypothesis,' or — you know. Which is what I meant to say. Dogma was just a catch phrase."
- Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth
- Freethought, a philosophical viewpoint which holds that opinions should be formed on the basis of science and should not be influenced by any other authority, tradition, or dogma.
- 2 + 2 = 5
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- , Journet, Charles. What Is Dogma? San Francisco: Ignatius, 2011. Google Book Search. Web. 21 Oct. 2011.
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- Dogma - Strong's N.T. Greek Lexicon
- Il Domani -terribile o radioso? - del Dogma, a book by Enrico Maria Radaelli with a Preface by Roger Scruton and comments by Brunero Gherardini, Alessandro Gnocchi-Mario Palmaro, and Mario Oliveri (Roma 2012)
- Why I agree with the book The Future of Dogma by Enrico Maria Radaelli, by Brunero Gherardini.