What is heresy? Thinking is the lifeblood of an idea.

These wiki excerpts are a good start:
“A heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs. In certain historical Christian, Jewish, and some modern cultures, espousing ideas deemed heretical could be, and were, punishable by law.

The term heresy is from Greek αἵρεσις originally meant “choice”, but also referred to that process whereby a young person would examine various philosophies to determine how to live one’s life. The word “heresy” is usually used within a Christian, Jewish, or Islamic context, and implies slightly different meanings in each.

Heresy was redefined by the Catholic Church as a belief that conflicted with established Catholic dogma. Eventually it took on the meaning of an accusation levied against members of another group which has beliefs that conflict with those of the accusers. It is usually used to discuss violations of religious or traditional laws or codes, although it is used by some political extremists to refer to their opponents. It carries the connotation of behaviors or beliefs likely to undermine accepted morality and cause tangible evils, damnation, or other punishment. In some religions, it also implies that the heretic is in alliance with the religion’s symbol of evil, such as Satan or chaos.[1]

Heresy is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one’s religion, principles or cause,[2] and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion.[3] The founder or leader of a heretical movement is called a heresiarch, while individuals who espouse heresy or commit heresy, are known as heretics. Heresiology is the study of heresy.

Heresy in the abstract

Non-religious use of the English term heresy began no later than Geoffrey Chaucer (late 1300s). Heresy is an opinion held in opposition to that of authority or orthodoxy. It is primarily used in a religious context, but by extension (and with increasing frequency), to secular subjects. The term assumes the existence of an orthodoxy.

Scientist/author Isaac Asimov considered heresy as an abstraction;[4] mentioning religious, political, socioeconomic and scientific heresies. He divided scientific heretics into endoheretics (those from within the scientific community) and exoheretics (those from without). Characteristics were ascribed to both and examples of both kinds were offered. Asimov concluded that science orthodoxy defends itself well against endoheretics (by control of science education, grants and publication as examples), but is nearly powerless against exoheretics. He acknowledged by examples that heresy has repeatedly become orthodoxy.

In a secular multi-polar world, the term heresy has lost utility outside of a well-defined (usually religious) context. In an argument among the religious, the scientific, the political and the economic, all groups can defend different orthodoxies. Within Christianity, Catholics and Protestants also defend different orthodoxies. While heresy is pejorative in a religious context (and in some political contexts), it may be complimentary in other contexts where innovation is more welcome.

Even in semi-religious context, heresy is not necessarily a pejorative. Religious heresy is a historical fact and Christianity was a major influence in Western History. The studies of the philosophy, politics, sociology, economics and psychology of religion may all consider heresy dispassionately.”

If it’s our responsibility as human beings to think things through. then we are all heretics.


~ by Shirley Kwan on October 16, 2012.

One Response to “What is heresy? Thinking is the lifeblood of an idea.”

  1. That last sentence is mine.

    Trying out the comment section.

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