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Dogma vs. Doctrine — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on September 16, 2023
Dogma is an authoritative principle, belief, or teaching, especially in religion, deemed incontrovertibly true. Doctrine is a broader set of beliefs or teachings, not necessarily considered infallible.
Dogma vs. Doctrine — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Dogma and Doctrine


Key Differences

Dogma represents a belief or set of beliefs that are established as undoubtedly true by an authoritative entity, especially within religious contexts. It's considered infallible and is not open to challenge or interpretation. Doctrine, on the other hand, encompasses a broader spectrum of teachings, beliefs, or positions held by an organization or group, which might be religious, political, or educational in nature.
Dogmas are more rigid in their establishment and acceptance. Once declared, they remain fixed and are expected to be accepted without question. Doctrines, while still representing official teachings, can be open to interpretation, evolution, or even change over time, based on new insights or understandings.
When thinking about religious contexts, dogma often represents the core, unchangeable beliefs that followers are expected to adhere to. These are considered the pillars of the faith. In contrast, doctrines might encompass interpretations of sacred texts, practices, and beliefs which can vary among different sects or denominations.
Dogma typically carries a sense of finality. It’s a decree of truths that doesn't entertain debate. Doctrine, while still representing a set of teachings, allows for discussion, exploration, and sometimes even dispute among scholars or believers.
Both dogma and doctrine serve to guide and unify groups or followers around a central belief system. However, while dogma is a stringent set of beliefs that are non-negotiable, doctrines provide a more comprehensive overview of a group's teachings, which might have room for evolution or reform.

Comparison Chart


An authoritative, unchangeable belief
A broader set of teachings or beliefs


Inflexible and unchangeable
Can evolve or be reinterpreted


Specific and narrow
More comprehensive

Debate & Interpretation

Not open to debate or interpretation
Can be discussed or interpreted


Often derived from key religious authorities
Can be derived from religious, political, or educational bodies

Compare with Definitions


An authoritative and unchallengeable belief.
The dogma of papal infallibility was proclaimed in the 19th century.


A belief or set of beliefs held and taught by an organization, especially a religious one.
The church's doctrine evolved over centuries.


A principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.
Certain religious groups have strict dogmas that followers must adhere to.


A stated principle of government policy, mainly in foreign or military affairs.
The Monroe Doctrine was a key principle of US foreign policy in the 19th century.


A doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church.
The dogma surrounding the Trinity is central to many Christian denominations.


A body of teachings from a branch of knowledge or belief system.
The core doctrine of Buddhism is the Four Noble Truths.


A fixed, especially religious, belief or set of beliefs.
Her views went against the established dogma of her church.


A principle or position forming the basis of a system of belief or behavior.
The doctrine of free market capitalism emphasizes minimal government intervention.


Dogma in the broad sense is any belief held with undefended certainty. It may be in the form of an official system of principles or doctrines of a religion, such as Roman Catholicism, Judaism, or Protestantism, or atheism, as well as the positions of a philosopher or of a philosophical school such as Stoicism.


Official teachings or positions held by a particular group.
The political party's doctrine emphasized environmental conservation.


A doctrine or a corpus of doctrines relating to matters such as morality and faith, set forth in an authoritative manner by a religion.


Doctrine (from Latin: doctrina, meaning "teaching, instruction") is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the essence of teachings in a given branch of knowledge or in a belief system. The etymological Greek analogue is "catechism".Often the word doctrine specifically suggests a body of religious principles as promulgated by a church.


A principle or statement of ideas, or a group of such principles or statements, especially when considered to be authoritative or accepted uncritically
"Much education consists in the instilling of unfounded dogmas in place of a spirit of inquiry" (Bertrand Russell).


A principle or body of principles presented for acceptance or belief, as by a religious, political, scientific, or philosophic group; dogma.


An authoritative principle, belief or statement of opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true and indisputable, regardless of evidence or without evidence to support it.


A rule or principle of law, especially when established by precedent.


A doctrine (or set of doctrines) relating to matters such as morality and faith, set forth authoritatively by a religious organization or leader.
In the Catholic Church, new dogmas can only be declared by the pope after the extremely rare procedure ex cathedra to make them part of the official faith.


A statement of official government policy, especially in foreign affairs and military strategy.


That which is held as an opinion; a tenet; a doctrine.
The obscure and loose dogmas of early antiquity.


(Archaic) Something taught; a teaching.


A formally stated and authoritatively settled doctrine; a definite, established, and authoritative tenet.


(countable) A belief or tenet, especially about philosophical or theological matters.
The incarnation is a basic doctrine of classical Christianity.
The four noble truths summarise the main doctrines of Buddhism.


A doctrinal notion asserted without regard to evidence or truth; an arbitrary dictum.


The body of teachings of an ideology, most often a religion, or of an ideological or religious leader, organization, group, or text.
What is the understanding of marriage and family in orthodox Marxist doctrine?


A religious doctrine that is proclaimed as true without proof


(countable) A self-imposed policy governing some aspect of a country's foreign relations, especially regarding what sort of behavior it will or will not tolerate from other countries.


A doctrine or code of beliefs accepted as authoritative;
He believed all the Marxist dogma


Teaching; instruction.
He taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, Hearken.


Beliefs accepted by members of a group without being questioned or doubted.
Scientific theories that challenge established dogmas can be controversial.


That which is taught; what is held, put forth as true, and supported by a teacher, a school, or a sect; a principle or position, or the body of principles, in any branch of knowledge; any tenet or dogma; a principle of faith; as, the doctrine of atoms; the doctrine of chances.
Articles of faith and doctrine.
Unpracticed he to fawn or seek for powerBy doctrines fashioned to the varying hour.


A belief (or system of beliefs) accepted as authoritative by some group or school

Common Curiosities

Are all religious beliefs dogmas?

No, while religions have dogmas, they also have doctrines that might not be as fixed and unchangeable as dogmas.

Is dogma exclusive to religious beliefs?

Primarily, yes. Dogma is most commonly associated with religious beliefs, whereas doctrine can be religious, political, or educational.

Why are dogmas not open to debate?

Dogmas are seen as foundational truths, set by authoritative entities, and are accepted without challenge, unlike doctrines that can be discussed.

Can doctrines change over time?

Yes, doctrines can evolve or be reinterpreted, whereas dogmas are generally fixed and unchangeable.

Can different sects of a religion have varying doctrines?

Yes, different sects or denominations can have varying doctrines even if they share core dogmas.

Can political beliefs be considered dogma or doctrine?

Political beliefs are more commonly referred to as doctrines, but if they are accepted without question, they might be seen as dogma.

Can a doctrine become a dogma?

Potentially, if a doctrine becomes accepted as an incontrovertible truth by an authoritative entity, it might be elevated to the status of dogma.

What happens when a doctrine contradicts a dogma?

A doctrine that contradicts a dogma might lead to schisms or reforms, depending on the authority and the followers' beliefs.

Are dogmas and doctrines only theoretical, or do they impact daily life?

Both dogma and doctrine can deeply influence behavior, beliefs, and practices in daily life, especially for devout individuals.

What is the primary distinction between dogma and doctrine?

Dogma is an authoritative, unchangeable belief deemed true, while doctrine is a broader set of teachings not necessarily seen as infallible.

Is every dogma a doctrine, but not every doctrine a dogma?

Correct. Every dogma is a doctrine in the sense that it's a teaching, but not every doctrine has the infallibility and fixed nature of dogma.

Are dogmas always religious in nature?

While dogma is primarily associated with religion, in a broader sense, it can refer to any set of beliefs accepted without question.

How are dogmas established within religions?

Dogmas are often established by central religious authorities or key religious texts, asserting them as foundational truths.

Is the acceptance of dogma necessary for a follower of a religion?

In many religions, acceptance of key dogmas is essential, whereas doctrines might offer more flexibility in interpretation.

Can a person challenge established dogmas or doctrines?

While doctrines can be debated or reinterpreted, challenging a dogma is often met with resistance due to its foundational status in belief systems.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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