It has been my position in the past to state that dogmas are uniformly damaging to religions. We have seen that in the long term, they result in schisms, capitulation, backpedalling, and compromise. All of these only signal weakness and unsteady legs. Observe Vatican II, whereby the church authority had to backpedal on over 1500 years of doctrine in order to be more inclusive and accepting of scientism.
Many will say that the problem here is the capitulation. “If only the Vatican had stuck to its values!” Those of you who say these things only see one side of the Vatican’s problem at the time. In reality, they were bleeding out. They were bleeding out precisely because of their previous “hard-line” dogma. The issue here is that to then backpedal is a further sign of weakness; purely nominal or secular Catholics drop like flies when this happens, and once-devoted Catholics quickly become secular.
So, looking at this example, (and many more both in the past and to come: looking at you, Islam) we can see that dogma is clearly such a tricky and risky device in an ultra-long-term strategy. Furthermore, the requisite persecution required to legitimize the dogma, will give ammunition to Atheists during waves of liberalism. Eventually you become like the modern Catholic church: only expanding your faith in the third world because your faith is only optimized for evangelization in medieval-style societies. This is a short summary of my case against such dogmas, but I have decided in recent months that absolutism on this issue might not be the answer.
Doctrine is the key to righteous dogma. Doctrine is not a heavy hand, but it is a sort of qualifier. “You are not a member of the Church of Sods if you do not believe X, Y, and Z.” The dogma that arises from this sort of doctrine is not a fist smashing a spider, but a hand swatting away a fly. The church of Sods is not, and has never been, intended to be analogous or similar to something like Unitarian Universalism. However, there has been a sort of confusion in our monastic order that has ignored the idea of doctrine because we have always believed, and still do believe, that the dogmas of the old religions are the devices that failed God the most.
It is perhaps one particular feature of these religion’s doctrinal and dogmatic systems that we can describe as it’s primary failings. Some level of exclusivity is crucial for any religious organization, but what Christianity, Islam, and even some Eastern religions have done in their days goes fatally further. Consider this Latin word, used by the Catholic Church to describe doctrine-changing decree from the Church body herself: decretum. I will use the term decreta (decretum pl.) henceforth, however, to refer to all acts by any Church body or even any religious cleric to attempt to adapt their religion to something that was unknown or unforseen. A decretum can be both the prosecution of heretics or infidels, the power of the Pope to speak ex cathedra, along with ecumenical councils and synods. Decreta is obviously required to produce doctrine, but there is the more sinister and damaging form of decreta. These are decreta pugnantia or “fighting decrees”. Decreta pugnantia are decreta which fight some unexpected change with an active and forceful vigor. While in the short term, this brand of decretum can be very effective, you will find that in the long term the optics are horrible, and we all should know by now the vast damage that even the slightest of bad optics can do to a church organization.
For practical purposes, and because I can refer to the ordinary decretum quite simply as a decree, I will refer to this novelty of the decreta pugnantia simply as pugnantia.
Even beyond this, I would suggest that optics are not even the most problematic feature of pugnantia. Pugnantia force you to double down on your most insoluble and dogmatic beliefs — beliefs which are unlikely to have much a spiritual history in truth, and are more likely to be extrapolations of perhaps more axiomatic spiritual beliefs. Furthermore, particularly in the case of aggressive persecution of heresies, you will find that people will exploit the church body’s desire to excommunicate or convert these heretics as a Kantian “mere means” to eliminate their intellectual, political, or petty opponents. This is a relatively small side-effect in the context of the actual “hunt” itself, but will be remembered by the ages and used as a cudgel to beat good, faithful, spiritual people out of the core of your church.
In any case, CoS will strive to never institute any pugnantia. Furthermore, our doctrinal proclamations are going to start as broad as it gets, and gradually retract as the spirit of the church becomes increasingly well-defined, and our collective spiritual wealth of wisdom is given life.
What follows is a simple pronouncement of our tenets. I may publish this part in facsimile separately, but in any case, here it is – produced by decree in synod with all fellow sods:
Doctrinae Sodalium Essentiales
(The Essential Doctrines of the Sods)
[PER ARCUS, METUS, CADUS URSI]
- The faithful Sod values the aspiration to understand the metaphysical, spiritual, divine, and creative.
- The faithful Sod defends the truth of their existence by faithfully dissenting against all assertions that discount a divine cause of the universe or any reductive views of their consciousness.
- As per the above doctrine, the faithful Sod is a defender of their own self-evident truth of their own and other’s will – either in metaphorical terms or literal terms: “free will”.
- The faithful Sod recognizes that for the Universe to exist, so must some immovable metauniverse or God, free of time and material, such that the material Universe can come into being.
- The faithful Sod recognizes the infinite value of each human life. This is infinite in literal terms, and is recognized to be incomparable to even numerous human lifes. The faithful Sod does not weigh human life like it is produce.
- The faithful Sod endeavors to beget creative works that strive towards the glory of any of the aspects of Monas and the Sodean flock.
It should be clear by these doctrines that the Church of Sods is a broad belief system. It will also, however, become clear in coming days that the “clergy” (ie. the founding members of our disparate but lovely little church) of the Church itself hold much more refined and specific beliefs regarding God and the divine. There is much discussion internally among the clergy about what should be done regarding specific theological doctrines, rather than purely temperamental doctrines — like have been described in this text. Whatever the case, I intend on swiftly publishing a follow-up article to this, to document the sorts of theological truths that the Church’s clergy hold.
In the meantime, I hope this article, and the doctrines published in couple with it have been helpful. Previously, our articles have been less about the Faith and more a commentary on the world. This article represents a point of pivot, from which the Church shall focus internally, so that we may define our collective soul, and come closer to absolute truth.