WHAT IS RELIGIOUS DOGMA AND WHO CARES?
In a theological context, dogma is not only religious doctrine; it is a set of statements that represent the core of any religion. To disagree with the dogma of a chosen religion or faith means that you no longer adhere to that faith. With respect to the Catholic Church, dogma is generally found in the Nicene Creed and various pronouncements of ecumenical councils and the infallible Pope. Protestants call their dogma doctrine or statements of faith and for Islam; one is referred to the “aqidah.” Each organized religion has some sort of official set of “something” which is at the heart of their teaching and which also require strict conformity. The key is that to question dogma is to question the very basis of institutionalized belief. To do so often leads to expulsion. This is a heavy hammer to hold over ones head.
Is there little wonder that people are afraid to question the dogma of their usually inherited religion? Question pronouncements of the Ayatollah and you may forfeit your life. Argue with the Pope and be excommunicated. Denounce a minister and be labeled the spawn of Satan. History has shown that to question dogma has often led to the burning stake, torture, being outcast, shunned, abused, ridiculed and cast out of society. Up until the Enlightenment, questioning was usually a death sentence.
It is critical to remember that institutions only have power if you give them power. Early man gave most of his power to religious institutions and reclaiming that power has been an uphill battle. Despite the enlightenment, the scientific revolution, the Age of reason and the failure of most religions to effectively solve any of humanity’s laundry list of problems, religious dogma still enslaves the majority of the world’s population. While there is no question that many do not actively follow the dogmatic religious creeds, we live in a world where the influence of such creeds affects everyone. Religions have money and that means power.
Whether you are among the faithful or among the non-believers, your lives are greatly controlled by the religious elite. Despite all claims to the contrary, there is very little separation between dogma and the state. Perhaps the only major world power that is not greatly swayed by religion is China, its government must still deal with countries that are. Policies of the United States and Europe as well as those of the Middle East are dominated by religious influence. Even the most ardent atheist feels the effects of the power of religion. From domestic social policies to foreign policies, the “church” wields tremendous influence.