A bible is a religious tract which is intended to provide a systematic framework for the construction of an entire civilization, and generally will contain a number of assertions of dogma.1 Any bible must provide answers for the fundamental questions which arise in any civilized and intelligent individual, including what is the relationship between each individual and the universe as a whole,2 what are the moral imperatives for each intelligent individual,3 and what are the ideals (or goals) for which the individuals, or the society of individuals as a whole, must strive.4 Any such framework must have a foundation upon which the structure as a whole must stand. The foundation of a religion consists of a number of ideas which must be accepted on faith in order to accept the belief system represented by the religion. Those ideas which must be accepted on faith are the dogma of that particular religion. Any such assertion might as well begin with the phrase "by definition . . . ," because a dogmatic assertion must be accepted as a defining statement for the particular religion in question, and if the dogmatic statement is rejected, or even questioned to any great degree, the individual rejecting or questioning the dogma cannot then be said to be a true believer in that particular religion.
Some might question whether the Universalist Dogma, the Equality Dogma, the Freedom Dogma, and the Dangerous Knowledge Dogma rise to the level of dogma, as opposed to merely being mere principles.5 The answer turns on the question of how central a given concept6 is to the belief system of the Agnostic Church. This is clearly a value judgment, subject to error. The factor to be evaluated is the question of whether an individual who disbelieves a particular dogma could still be considered as a true member of the Agnostic Church. In each case, this is a moral choice, which must be made in accordance with the rules of morality.
a. The Equality Dogma
The Universalist Dogma and the Equality Dogma are closely related, and each is a manifestation of the concept of the relationship between believers and non-believers. If an individual believes that believers are inherently better than non-believers,7 then that individual will have difficulty accepting the true worth of those non-believers. A belief that others are inherently inferior will lead to a belief that all things different in those others are inherently inferior. The bottom line is that this amounts to pure prejudice. In point of scientific fact, every human being alive today is a cousin to every other human being alive today. Accordingly, the question as to whether the Universalist Dogma and the Equality Dogma belong as dogma or as mere principles of which disbelief could be tolerated turns on the moral choice of whether or not prejudice should be tolerated. Framed in this way, the choice becomes clear. Prejudice should not be tolerated because it inflicts unnecessary harm upon innocent individuals.8 Accordingly, the Equality Dogma clearly belongs as dogma because disbelief of the Equality Dogma will separate the individual from far too many moral rules which flow from the Equality Dogma.
b. The Universalist Dogma
The Universalist Dogma and the Equality Dogma are closely related, and each is a manifestation of the concept of the relationship between believers and non-believers. Thus, the question of whether Universalist Dogma belongs as dogma or as a mere principle turns on essentially the same moral choice as does the question of the Equality Dogma. Here, the choice is at least initially a prejudice against ideas rather than a prejudice against individuals, but a prejudice nonetheless. Furthermore, it is clear that a prejudice against ideas can easily lead to a prejudice against the individuals who subscribe to the ideas, thus creating the same state of affairs described above in the discussion of the Equality Dogma. Having made the moral choice that prejudice is not to be tolerated, the Universalist Dogma is placed as dogma rather than as a mere principle.
c. The Freedom Dogma
An individual who disbelieves the Freedom Dogma is an individual who is predisposed to engaging in a course of conduct without taking personal responsibility for engaging in that course of conduct. If an individual believes in predestination, or believes that the individual is not free to act, then the individual believes that the individual is not responsible for the actions of said individual. This is clearly not a belief which the Agnostic Church should tolerate because it tends to grant a license to individuals to harm others without any thought as to the moral consequences of such acts. Accordingly, the Agnostic Church should not tolerate as members of the church any individuals who disbelieve the Freedom Dogma because to do so would be to tolerate individuals who are predisposed to inflicting unnecessary harm upon self or others. (However, it should also be remembered that the concept of "harm upon self" is limited by the Freedom Dogma, in that society does not have a right to compel an individual to cease or desist from a course of conduct which is only harmful to that individual.)
d. The Dangerous Knowledge Dogma
It was consideration of the question of whether the concept of dangerous knowledge belongs as dogma or as mere principle which began the moral examination of the distinctions between dogma and principle. The final positioning of the concept of dangerous knowledge as a dogma turns again on the moral choice of tolerating an individual who disbelieves the concept. An individual who disbelieves the Dangerous Knowledge Dogma would be predisposed to seek dangerous knowledge without first possessing the necessary wisdom, and would also be predisposed to providing dangerous knowledge to others without first ensuring that said other individuals first possessed the prerequisite wisdom. This clearly is a course of conduct which should not be tolerated by the Agnostic Church because it tends to inflict unnecessary harm upon self or others. (However, it should also be remembered that the concept of "harm upon self" is limited by the Freedom Dogma, in that society does not have a right to compel an individual to cease or desist from a course of conduct which is only harmful to that individual.)
1 Most existing religions assert that their particular bible provides guidance as to how each individual should lead his or her particular life in order to reach some particular goal which is specified as part of the religion. For example, most Christians believe that a person should live in accordance with the principles dogmatically asserted in the Christian bible in order to go to heaven after death. Heaven is made out to be so pleasing a place that every "true believer" would be crazy not to desire to go there. Those Christian denominations which believe in Hell, and not all of them do, have the additional motivation of avoiding the eternal torture which generally accompanies that alternative destination. Some Christian denominations also have other possible destinations, such as purgatory and limbo, where individuals go when they are not qualified to go to one of the other places for some particular reason. For example, Catholics believe that unbaptized infants who die go to limbo because they are not qualified to go to Heaven until they have been baptized.
2 Even a society existing in an intergalactic space vehicle has a relationship to the universe as a whole, as well as to the source and destination galaxies.
3 For example, see the Ten Commandments in the Christian and Jewish bibles.
4 For example, most Christians strive primarily to go to Heaven, or even to be among the closest to Jesus in Heaven. A goal for some fundamentalist Christian sects is to create the 1000 year community of Jesus on Earth in the here and now of the present day.
5 For example, the concept of dangerous knowledge began as dogma, but was revised down to a mere principle because that concept was not deemed as fundamental to the belief system of the Agnostic Church. In other words, it was then felt that an individual could disbelieve the Dangerous Knowledge Dogma and still be a believer in the church. However, upon still further reflection, it was decided that it was morally wrong for the Agnostic Church to tolerate individuals who disbelieve the Dangerous Knowledge Dogma, and thus the concept of dangerous knowledge belonged as dogma rather than as a mere principle. This process led to the creation of this entire section to document the moral choices considered for each of these for dogmatic concepts.
6 It is the concept which is dogmatic, not the words used to express the concept. This is why even the dogmatic concepts expressed in this bible are subject to revision, because it is always possible that the words chosen do not correctly express the concept.
7 Such as the Jewish belief that Jews are the chosen people of God, a belief that non-Jews tend to see as arrogant in the extreme. When analyzed intellectually, there is little difference between the Jewish belief and the Christian belief that only Christians will be saved on judgment day. However, each of these religions teaches prejudice against non-believers, to some degree or another, and that makes each of these religions offensive to non-believers, to some degree or another. Nobody likes to be on the wrong end of prejudice.
8 This is one of the lessons of the last few decades of the Twentieth Century. Tolerance of prejudice leads to the unnecessary infliction of harm upon individuals merely for being what they happen to be. If what they happen to be is not inherently harmful to others, then there is no justification for inflicting unnecessary harm upon them merely for that state of being.
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