The term dogma is used in pejorative and non-pejorative senses. "Dogma" is transliterated in the 17th century from Latin (Latin: dogma) meaning "philosophical tenet", derived from the Greek dogma (Greek: ) meaning literally "that which one thinks is true" and dokein (Greek: dokeo) "to seem good". In the non-pejorative sense, dogma is an official system of principles or tenets of a church, such as Roman Catholicism, or the positions of a philosopher or of a philosophical school such as Stoicism.
In the pejorative sense, dogma refers to enforced decisions, such as those of aggressive political interests or authorities. More generally, it is applied to some strong belief whose adherents are not willing to rationally discuss it. This attitude is named as a dogmatic one, or as dogmatism; and is often used to refer to matters related to religion, but is not limited to theistic attitudes alone and is often used with respect to political or philosophical dogmas.
Formally, the term dogma has been used by some theistic religious groups to describe the body of positions forming the group's most central, foundational, or essential beliefs, though the term may also be used to refer to the entire set of formal beliefs identified by a theistic or non-theistic religious group. In some cases dogma is distinguished from religious opinion and those things in doctrine considered less significant or uncertain. Formal church dogma is often clarified and elaborated upon in its communication.
Christianity is defined by a set of core beliefs shared by virtually all Christians, though how those core beliefs are implemented and secondary questions vary within Christianity. When formally communicated by the organization, these beliefs are sometimes referred to as 'dogmata.' The organization's formal religious positions may be taught to new members or simply communicated to those who choose to become members. It is rare for agreement with an organization's formal positions to be a requirement for attendance, though membership may be required for some church activities.Protestants to differing degrees are less formal about doctrine, and often rely on denomination-specific beliefs, but seldom refer to these beliefs as dogmata. The first unofficial institution of dogma in the Christian church was by Saint Irenaeus in his writing, Demonstration of Apostolic Teaching, which provides a 'manual of essentials' constituting the 'body of truth'. So initially, dogma is concerned with truth.
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, directed at Christians, where he uses quotes from the Bible and, occasionally, from works of other Fathers of the Church, and the second, directed both at members of non-Christian religions and at atheists, for whom he employs Aristotelian logic and dialectics.
The decisions of fourteen later councils that Catholics hold as dogmatic and a small number of 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.
The term corresponding to "dogma" in Buddhism is dihi.
In Pyrrhonist philosophy "dogma" refers to assent to a proposition about a non-evident matter.