into the heartland of heresy: religion as a private matter

Heresies. Recurrent ideas which break through the continually sealed crust of orthodoxy because they contain an important truth or an irrepressible human aspiration. And they don’t seem limited to one religion. In fact, monotheism seems to reinforce their appearances…

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. English heretic John Wycliffe suffered the posthumous indignity of having his bones dug up, burned and pitched into the river….Image:

The Albigensian heresy, the heresy of the Cathars, was perhaps the most hated of all heresies until the Reformation; it was the heresy par excellence, the first to be legally punished by death. By crusade and Inquisition, it was exterminated. The history of Neo-Platonism is much less sanguinary, partly because the ideas of Neo-Platonism were much more abstract: they were embraced by conservative philosophers, not radical prophets. Consequently, once Christianized it was never officially declared a heresy. Still, some incautious Neo-Platonists, especially after the Reformation, found themselves heretics, and some, like the philosophers Giordano Bruno and Giulio Cesare Vanini, were even burned as such. As a Christian movement, Neo-Platonism had a great influence on the romantic movement in literature. Goethe wrote that Neo-Platonism lay at the basis of his own private religion; it was the religion also of William Blake.

—Maimonides (Rambam, 12th century, Mishneh Torah: Laws of Repentance 3:7-8) categorizes three types of heretics:
(1) Minim – those who deny God and the Torah, those who believe there is more than one Divine law (like the Torah), those who believe God has a physical body, those who believe God did not create the world alone, and those who worship stars/constellations as intermediaries to the Divine.—Read More: image:,7340,L-4249308,00.html

If we recognize that the heresy of twenty plus centuries, is not random, but keeps to certain well-defined channels, it possible to discern a few constant forms. And doing so will allow one to go further into the heartland of heresy and discover that these swarming individualists were not merely, as the orthodox have maintained, the miscellaneous maggots which it has been necessary from time to time to stamp or steam out of the majestic fabric of the Church, but also, as Gottfried Arnold in his “Impartial History of the Church and its Heretics,” supposed, people with continuous traditions of their own to which we may owe a debt.

—This detail of a painting commissioned by Dominicans shows St Dominic judging “heretics” who are about to be burned at the stake. For many centuries Dominicans were proud to claim Saint Dominic as founder of the Inquisition, but in recent years, since the Inquisition became unpopular even in Catholic circles, a great deal of effort has gone into trying to establish that Saint Dominic had nothing to do with the Inquisition.—painting by Pedro Berruguete— Read More:

Almost all the recurrent heresies of the Christian Church and Judaism for that matter, seem to fall into four broad categories: puritan and evangelical or millenarian and messianic. Or mystical and quietist. Or rational and critical. Great periods of religious ferment have always seen a merging of the types  and thus the pullulation of intermediate heresies. But they seem to be the basis of which all particular heresies are derived, and all of them look back, in different ways to that Jesus as a jew time, his teachings, and the primitive nascent church. All of them oppose or at least ignore, the far more elaborate church structures, the vast and prosperous apparatus that triumphed in the Roman Empire to become a great department of state.

—Perhaps she means that they’re heretics because they’re murdering innocents, and Islam forbids that. And that’s all very well, but the jihadists maintain that no non-Muslim is innocent, and putatively moderate organizations like CAIR, when they condemn terrorism, have been slow to explain just who exactly they do think is innocent.
And so here again we have a typical example of deflection, falsehood, and half-truth, all served up in defense of a totalitarian, expansionist ideology that is going to keep coming at us. Judith Miller should know better, and should know who and what for which she is running interference. What is needed now is a call to the American Muslim community to acknowledge that there is a supremacist, expansionist doctrine within Islam, and a challenge to them to formulate ways to teach against it and promote American Constitutionalism among Muslims here. —Read More: image:

All of them were considered “heretical” because they presumed to choose between the real, solid, bureaucratic church of their own time, and the simple, sometimes romanticized imaginary church of the “unforgettable age of the apostles.” When it came to a showdown, the real church, armed with fire and faggot, and zealous defenders of the faith, the established order was very real. The imaginary church was just that: imaginary.


—…can we now expect r. shochet to drop his long-standing objection to the non-orthodox communities, whose non-adherence to the thirteen principles is generally considered as indicative of their heretical status? in fact, can we now look forward to a proper debate on the misappropriation of maimonidean dogmatic theology by the guardians of “Torah judaism”? is he prepared to have an honest look at whether maimonides actually meant what modern orthodoxies of every stripe say he meant, given that his positions aroused astonishing controversy at the time and were themselves condemned numerous times for heresy? can we now expect the united synagogue to cease prosecuting the non-orthodox movements for their “alleged heresies”?…Read More: image:


(see link at end)…By the end of the second century it appeared that the Montanists would become the dominant sect of Christianity. The Catholic Church reacted as it had done so many times before, labeling the Montanists as heretics, excommunicating the lot, and condemning their prophets to either banishment or death. This dogma of branding anything that opposed them as heretics was exactly the institutionalized corruption that the Montanists were opposed to. There considerable threat forced those leaders in the Catholic Church to move closer to the reigning powers in Rome. By emphasizing that the Catholic Church supported the Roman authorities and advised its followers to contribute as part of everyday society, they were able to demonstrate the danger represented by a Montanist Church that encouraged its members to withdraw from society and become separate. It didn’t take much encouragement for the Roman authorities to join in the condemnation of the Montanists and use them for their entertainment in the coliseums. Although Christian history will talk about the martyrs fed to the lions and slaughtered in gladiatorial exhibits, it fails to comment that it was Montanists providing this entertainment while a Catholic elite grew closer to the Emperor and 100 years later actually was proclaimed as the one and only Christianity of the Empire….Read More:

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