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Dogma refers to an inerrant, entrenched, (supposedly) unchangeable belief. They are held to by fundamentalist groups and cults as well as many other organizations, viz., religions and some secular groups built on a common philosophy or goal, such as extremist political parties.
How dogma is used
Dogma includes promises of hope for a better day for the faithful, combined with fear of loss and destruction for those who stray from its tenets. It is the framework by which authoritarian leaders are able to coerce the plebeian members of their organization into following the rules. Some dogmatic organization not only use ancient texts (scriptures), but also have official interpretations of the ancient texts (catechisms) and official prayer books (because the elders know what God wants to hear you say to Him).
"Dogma" is not subject to debate or analysis by its followers who are not allowed to present evidence which would challenge the dogma. Historically, questioning dogma or abandoning dogma could get you dead - and still can in some societies. Nowadays, in the west, ostracism is a more usual punishment.
Examples of dogmatic coercion
“”God loves you. It is through unquestioning, unwavering service to Him that you attain freedom. And if you don't do everything He tells you to do, He will cast you into a pit of all-consuming flame where you will suffer for all of eternity. And He will do this to you because He loves you. If you love God, you must live your life the way we say He wants you to. And don't believe the things that the heretics down the street believe. They may say that they interpret only a few passages of God's Word differently, but they are all going to Hell because they don't believe in God the way we do. Trust us. We love you. And don't forget to tithe. But only to us, not those hell-bound heretics.
|—Typical evangelical-Christian boilerplate|
“”"Every time that the ancient Hebrews turned away from God and became librul, God sent a nation of heathens to conquer Israel. Therefore, if we continue to allow heathens and heretics to 'worship' their so-called gods, if we let ho-mo-sek-shules marry, and if we continue to elect the wrong kind of people to the highest office in the land, should we be surprised if someday the godless Canadians and Mexicans swarm in and conquer us? Donate today, and show God how much you love Him.
“”You are almost clear of engrams. All we need is the rest of your life savings plus ten percent to free you of all the thetans that diminish your life. Don't ask too many questions or the engrams will begin to reassert themselves. You must do this if you want to be free. Trust us. We love you.
“”There are unresolvable contradictions in capitalism. The socialist proletarian revolution is coming, whether you like it or not. Once the revolution comes, the State will wither away and there will be a universal brotherhood of man where oppression is unknown. If you deny this, you oppose it. If you oppose it, you're clearly a class traitor and a capitalist shill, and you've either been duped or you're just acting in your own self-interest.
Some philosophies are not dogmatic. Therefore, contrary to what their critics believe, they are not religions or cults:
Science, once called the "philosophy of nature," has no dogma. In fact, it is the antithesis of dogma. Rather than relying on ancient texts and a rigid world view controlled by a few elders, scientists are forever examining, testing, altering, expanding and discarding scientific theories in pursuit of the truth.
This confounds most dogmatists, who find comfort in relying on their old, unchanging belief systems. They find the endless search for new information disconcerting and are incapable of accepting the possibilities that portions of one's philosophy can change substantially during one's lifetime without resulting in some form of personal cataclysm. Indeed, some of them are now claiming that scientists are dogmatists because they do not swallow a certain pile of bunk whole.
Atheism and agnosticism
Atheism and agnosticism have no position beyond "there is no evidence for the existence of god" and "I don't know nor do I care if there is a god." While there are many atheist and agnostic philosophers, there is no central authoritative council of non-believers that decides what other non-believers must not believe in to be considered good, upstanding, faithful non-believers.
Humanism is the belief that humans should work together and take care of each other, rather than try to exploit each other for personal enrichment.
Rationalism is the belief that reason and observation are the best ways of knowing things, as opposed to the alternatives. Since what we know by observation changes constantly, dogmatists consider rationalism to be philosophical anarchy.