Background:

The term heresy, from its etymological base, refers both the act of choosing and the thing chosen, in a religious or political context. From the outset, it was applied to Judeo-Christian sectarianism, and evolved most famously as a problem for the Roman Catholic Church, particularly in the Late Middle Ages through to the Reformation. Around 80 AD, Josephus uses the term airesis (from which heretic derives) to chronicle three religious sects active in Judea: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Essenes1 while St. Paul is described to the Roman governor Felix as the leader of the heresy (aireseos) of the Nazarenes.2 In later writings of early Greek church, philosophers' schools, as well as religious sects, are branded heretical by the Church Fathers. The emphasis, on choice is vital.3 Heresy was, from the view of the early Church, an active selection of unsound belief. It was a sinful act, a corruption of the faith, or as Thomas put it:
There are two ways of deviating from Christianity: the one by refusing to believe in Christ Himself, which is the way of infidelity, common to Pagans and Jews; the other by restricting belief to certain points of Christ's doctrine selected and fashioned at pleasure, which is the way of heretics...heretical tenets may be ignorance of the true creed, erroneous judgment, imperfect apprehension and comprehension of dogmas...the impelling motives are many: intellectual pride or exaggerated reliance on one's own insight; the illusions of religious zeal; the allurements of political or ecclesiastical power; the ties of material interests and personal status; and perhaps others more dishonourable. Heresy thus willed is imputable to the subject and carries with it a varying degree of guilt... ~ St Thomas II-II:11:1
That last fragment would become particularly important later as heresy became a greater problem for the Church. Apostates (non-believers) were one thing, those in error, still another, but active heresy involved outright, stated opposition to one or more Christian doctrines - which was not tolerable.4 It was by clinging to some new tenet or belief (i.e. the Pope was fallible, confession was unnecessary, Christ was a woman, etc.) despite the argument of a clergyman that one’s heresy became formal and got you in some theologically hot water.5 It may sound like splitting hairs but this meant an infidel born in the wild was considered ‘in error”but could not by definition be an active heretic, a far more serious sin and much lower circle of hell.6 As a result, there emerged several carefully graded flavours of heresy:
  • If you stated adherence to a doctrine openly contradicting a point of faith defined by the Church (like Judas was actually an angel, say, or like Arianism, which demoted Christ to demigod status) then you made the big time and were branded a heretic in the first degree.
  • However, if the belief in question related to a matter not clearly outlined as an article of faith in the everyday teachings of the Church (like, Christ was more like a peanut than a walnut: actual medieval logic folks) it was labelled sententia haeresi proxima - opinion approaching heresy.
  • Next, if you avoided contradicting dogma, but offered a proposition which, followed to its conclusion, might be at odds with revealed truth (like fish should be eaten everyday, not just Friday) - then you were just ‘in error” not heretical, propositio theologice erronea.
  • Finally, if a statement seemed (but could not be proved) opposed to an article of faith (say a minstrel’s ballad that insinuated crusading was misguided) then it was labeled sententia de haeresi suspecta, haeresim sapiens - an opinion 'smelling' of heresy.
So it was some pretty serious stuff. St. Paul wrote to Titus: "A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: knowing that he, that is such a one, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment" (Tit., iii, 10-11) After the conversion of Constantine and the Roman Empire’s embrace of the faith, heresy was seen as both a religious and political crime. Heretical teachers were forbidden to preach either publicly or privately; heretical sects could not hold religious meetings, build temples, or avail themselves of money bequeathed to them for that purpose. Anything resembling civil liberties were summarily withdrawn, the justification being these were people actively and dangerously subverting both Church and State. Slaves could even win their freedom by informing on heretical masters, a fairly significant boost to the popularity of Christianity among the bottom fifth of the Empire's people. The children of heretical parents were denied any inheritance unless they returned to the Catholic Church. And of course, all books of heretics were ordered to be burned.7

The Medieval Rebirth of Heresy:

While early Christian Gnosticism was an annoyance to 5th century theologians like St. Augustine and St. Isidore - neither ever professed any fear for the Church, under threat of a few doctrinal stragglers. Even Arianism among the Germanic tribes of the North was reigned in by simply dispatching well-spoken prelates from Rome to the manors of the barbarian leaders. Bringing these warriors into the Catholic fold was fairly easy business, given all the administrative benefits offered by the lettered men of the Church. From the Manicheans of the 5th c. through to the 9th c. we read very little of heresy, most likely people had far bigger concerns, like plague, famine and pillage on their minds. Heresy didn’t reactivate with active dissidence until the 9th and 10th c. when the clergy of the newly awakening towns and the monks of the numerous monasteries seemed to be getting a little too comfortable. Of course this ecclesiastical corruption was no justification for heresy, especially in the minds of those appointed to seek it out. Weaver Bertrand or Fiona the Beguine could decry the sinfulness of the local priest all they liked, what they could not do was just conjure up their own alternative:
Heresy was not thought to be the product of the individual speculative intelligence, or of devout men and women seeking a higher ethical life, still less of oppressed lower classes demanding better conditions...all these interpretations have been put forward by modern historians, but they are quite alien to the assumptions of churchmen...they believed heresy was the Work of the Devil.8
Beginning with various lone preachers (usually former monks or peddlers), various heretical strains seeped into the closed community of Western European Christendom ~ and these new influences only intensified as international commerce, pilgrimages and the Crusading movement brought medieval Christians into contact with all manner of Eastern and Oriental theosophy. The underground Bogomils of the Balkans were seen as particularly dangerous influence. Another factor contributing to the rising influence of various heresiarchs throughout France, Germany & Italy was the slow replacement of feudal organizations with communal (i.e. urban) groups like merchants guilds, trading corporations, ascetic retreats, which tended to emphasize a world-view beyond the King and Cross.

Dissenters & Reformers:

By the early 12th c. as various heretical communities spread (usually focussed around a central, charismatic figure reciting a particular set of religious writings), they tended to carry their own aggressive momentum. Calls to arms went out: crosses were torn off chapels in Mainz and burnt, women gave up their jewellery in Rouen, or in Le Mans, where Henry the Monk led a revolt of the townsfolk against its own lord. Other leaders of various movements felt justified to employ force in their protest: Eon de Etoile organized various peasants of Brittany into a robber army which specifically targeted local churches (or at least those that had anything left to plunder after the preceding centuries of Norse, Basque and Moorish raiding).9 Even in during the ‘heightened sense of alert”brought on by the Crusades in Europe, heresy continued to cast its shadow among the increasingly prosperous and populous towns.10

The Church Counterattacks:

By the mid-12th c., the spiritual affairs of the commoner were beginning to show signs of passing from the Church’s sway. Valdes of Lyons (founder of the Waldensian heresy) was a particularly vexing thorn in the side of the bishops, particularly when he decided to dower his family, then take the rest of his fortune and found his own ministry, despite being unable to actually read a Bible. In 1176, during a famine in the town, he set up a free soup kitchen, then proceeded to preach his way into the hearts of all his destitute fellows. He used his money to solicit vernacular translations of Scripture, much to the horror of local clergy. The Waldensians essentially felt corrupt bishops were purposefully obfuscating the spirit of the Gospel, twisting it to their own benefit. Valdes was essentially a Lutheran arrived three centuries early, proposing a revolutionary bit of disintermediation: that the laity could read and interpret the Bible themselves. By 1184, the archbishop had to start handing out excommunication and banishment in order to bring the movement under control, and slowly Church loyalties demanded first oaths, then investigations, and finally inquisitions. The Dominican & Franciscan Orders seemed best suited intellectually to this arduous task of zeal - and not long after they seemed to be uncovering heresy everywhere: the 12th c. towns of Europe were apparently lousy with pantheists, gnostics, antinomians and libertines. The hunt for these terrible radicals heated up in 1231, when Pope Gregory IX finally bestowed a special agent classification and powers upon inquisitors. From that time onward, the Papal Inquisition effectively became a cross-border, judicially empowered, undercover police force for the investigation of politically-threatening religious extremists:
Continuity of record was established. Each inquisitor kept a register, with the dispositions of subjects, which could be handed on to his successors or used for further inquiries later. The records were a threat to everyone who had once been interrogated and even to the relatives and descendants of suspects...an international body, the inquisition could link up actions against heresy in many different lands, and try to prevent the escape of refugees...the inquisitor, who combined the role of judge and priest dealing with a penitent, held near unfettered powers over the suspects who came before him...at his discretions was an array of penalties stretching from fines, pilgrimages, and the wearing of yellow crosses...to imprisonment for life, confiscation of property, destruction of dwellings and burning...11
The stigma and penalties were even often passed onto descendants, as a means of further discouraging religious radicalism ~ and it got more radical as the Church resisted reform. The Cathars of Languedoc, for example, spread among the artisan classes of southern France and Italy, covertly preaching a secret gospel of illumination which included, among other things, the existence of an evil demiurge or anti-God (co-eternal and of equal power to the creator) who led an invasion into Heaven, where thousands of angels were captured and imprisoned, first in a glassy false Heaven (from which they were freed after God sent a battalion of his surviving angels to destroy it), then on Earth, after Satan erased their memories and imprisoned them in, you guessed it, particular human bodies: known as the perfecti, or illuminated Cathar brethren.12 Here, in the minds of the churchmen, was the demented ends to which heresy could lead, and the Church fought on for centuries to contain such wild variants. In the end, however, heresy became little more than a byword for disbelief and agnosticism. Rationalism, science, literacy, as well as new forms of spirituality and creativity all eventually rendered the mighty labours of all the Inquisitors moot: by the mid 18th c., despite all the clamour and scandal of The Spanish Inquisition and similar moves in France, the libertine spirit of individualism became the last 'heresy' the Church would have to face; .
Notes:
1Bel. Jud., II, viii, 1; Ant., XIII, v, 9.
2 Acts, xxiv, 5.
3 “It takes two to create a heresy: the heretic with his dissident beliefs and practices; and the Church to condemn his views and to define orthodox doctrine. It was in the persistent resistance to the teaching of the Church that heresy consisted: error became heresy when, shown his deviation, the obstinate refused to obey and retract,” see Malcolm Lambert, Medieval Heresy : Popular movements from the Georgian period to the Reformation (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), 5.
4 Heresy also differs from schism - which is when a group of Christians, of their own free will, separate themselves from the unity of the Church ~ and therefore will not submit to the supreme pontiff or his clergy. Though all heretics are schismatics because their denial of faith severs them from the Church, not all schismatics are necessarily heretics. Any Christian could, out of anger, pride, ambition, or the like, deny the communion while still adhering to all the Church holds true.
5 J. Wilhelm’s “Heresy” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII, 1910.
6 Heresy, in fact, was about a serious as sin could get: a cornerstone of the Church being submission and that a single, fallible individual cannot be expected to morally parse the essentials from non-essentials. So the argument is that to reject a piece of belief shatters the unity of the whole and challenges the Divine authority. The subject of the heresy is ultimately irrelevant. The principle behind it was always viewed as a revolt against Divine order (and so even graver than worst secular crime, treason).
7 Codex Theodosianus, lib. XVI, tit. 5, "De Haereticis".
8 Lambert, 4.
9 It was 1148 when the Breton Etoile & his band had been looting and burning monasteries all over Brittany. Eon, like most of history's revolutionary leaders, was noble born, a well educated monk descended from an influential family. However, in his late teens his disavowed his liege lord, abandoned his order (the Priory of Moinet, or Barenton) and basically went on an extended theological crime spree. One French historian called him the “head apostle of Breton medieval Communism”~ redistribution of wealth and food for the poor was one his best methods of attracting followers. However, after several seasons of violence, a team of avid French cavaliers brought the extremists (Eon had promoted all his henchmen to angel status) to justice, dragged before a council at Reims presided over by Pope Eugenius III. Despite the stereotype of the medieval Church (among those whose sole exposure to history is via fantasy novels & Conan films) Eon was treated & tried fairly, and in the end found non-culpable by reason of insanity, though several of his more rapinous comrades were executed by the insistence of local burghers. The point, however, is that even the most notorious heretics were leniently punished at first. Tanchlem of Antwerp was imprisoned for a time but later released with no excommunication and Henry of Lausanne was captured by the Archbishop of Arles and brought before a council at Pisa, which simply ordered him confined to a monastery. See Lambert, 38; R. I. Moore. The Formation of a Persecuting Society (London: Blackwell, 1987), 24.
10 Despite the obvious anachronism, the common folk of Europe genuinely felt they had to ‘be on the lookout for anything suspicious”- and according to one chronicler writing at the time, all the villages of Western France were convinced the hermits of their forests were actually Saracens sent to betray them & who arrived from outre-mer by means of a tunnel from the Orient dug by demons. See Bernard of Tiron Vita, trans. J.P. in Patrologia Patina (Paris : 1844), CLXXII, col. 1409b.
11 Hm. This is sounding eerily familiar. See Lambert, 101-102. And, interestingly enough, there is some evidence this persecution only accelerated the transfer of subversive doctrine and documentation, most notably in the Waldensian exile from re-Christianized Spain in 1194. J.B. Bury suggests they may have brought the art of paper making into France and the Low Countries for the first time. They may have even been using watermarks and special inks as ways of secretly spreading their beliefs, on the back of the durable and cheap new medium of rag paper. See Bury's A History of Freedom of Though (London, 1928) and Harold Bayley's A New Light on the Renaissance Displayed in Contemporary Emblems (London, 1909).
12 Comic book cosmology has to come from somewhere: the actual source was likely the dualist preacher Nicetas of Constantinople. If sounds absurdly fantastic, that’s because it was supposed to be both entertaining and doctrine for the sect. Cathars felt no compunction to be realistic, since the foundation of their faith told them reality was a little more than prison: a notion recycled perpetually through popular culture since there has been culture, and one which appealed especially to the inherent fatalism underlying a medieval peasant existence. Uneducated serfs don’t really demand logic or consistency, they simply want a good story, which Catharism certainly provided. See Lambert 120-123.

This is a short analysis of the Nine Inch Nails song Heresy.

DISCLAIMER

I just am.

ANALYSIS
First, one should keep in mind that this is a song from The Downward Spiral album, a concept album about a man's fucked up life, and has a slightly different meaning in relation to the rest of that album. Here, though, it'll be analysed on its own.

he sewed his eyes shut because he is afraid to see

Since this song is about religion (hence the name Heresy), I see this line as some persons unwillingness to see the Truth, or at least to see things from a different, sometimes harder perspective. They simply look away.

he tries to tell me what I put inside of me

The Christians trying to tell atheists and other religious groups about the sin they carry inside by not having faith in God.

he's got the answers to ease my curiosity

This is a tough one... If you look at it in its context (namely, the entire album) it might be that the man, in all his despair, is trying to seek some answer, consolation and meaning in his life. Or perhaps the man's curiosity is to find out how some people can believe in a god. For this project, i chose to interpret it so, that "he" simply has an answer to faith, albeit a very skewed and abused one; namely power through religious belief.

he dreamed a god up and called it Christianity

People arguably need something to believe in, aspecially if the Truth is so hard. To give a simple answer to the question "why," it's much easier to just say "because God said so," therefore not having to question Truth.

chorus)
god is dead and no one cares

A little play on Nietszche's famous quote "God is dead." I interpret it that God died because no one cared; they simply forgot him.

if there is a hell I will see you there

Christian religion have (arguably?), throughout the ages been abused as power, I simply see it as a reference to this.

he flexed his muscles to keep his flock of sheep in line

In the Bible, God destroyed entire cities simply because the majority of the people there didn't believe in him. And a major message in the Bible is "be nice, or God will punish you." He keeps his people in check through fear and reward.

he made a virus that would kill off all the swine

There are some Christian groups today that claim that God created AIDS to destroy all black and/or homosexual people, or, in this case all the non-believers; the swine.

his perfect kingdom of killing, suffering and pain

demands devotion, atrocities done in his name

If a god only exists because of his believers, he would, probably, demand devotion for fear of seizing to exist. The atrocities meaning (from a non-Christian's POV) looking down, frowning upon, punishing or the likes thereof, people with different faiths (if any).

(your god is dead)
god is dead
and no one cares)
and no one cares
drowning in his own hypocrisy)
if there is a hell
see you)
i'll see you there
you there)

The faint, almost echo-y (yes, it's a word) voice in the background could be seen as though the person isn't alone anymore in his critisism, that more has joined in his rage against spiritual misguidance.
Drowning in his own hypocrisy could reference either to the other man (representing the god's believers) or to the god himself, starting to believe his own lies.

Start Again

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The Tribal Dynamic

The nature of living within a collective reality, which evolved as ours has, creates what I call a "tribal dynamic." Within this dynamic is found the most central issue and point of conflict within the collective as a whole. The nature of the human experience is that we seek companionship and validation. We naturally seek others who we feel a kinship with on some level, whether it is a shared interest in model trains or similar beliefs on a philosophical level.

Within a small group of individuals who share common ground on one or more levels, a shaping of thoughts, ideas and beliefs occurs. They refine the nature of what unites them, becoming essentially the "elders" or "founding fathers" of the tribe. They set the rules, write the doctrine and apply definitions and standards. As the tribe expands and grows, the dynamic changes. As more individuals are drawn to the tribe, they are expected to embrace and accept the core beliefs and standards. While they may be invited to build upon the tribal core, the fundamental building blocks on which the tribe is constructed are not to be challenged, at least not by those who would consider themselves members of the tribe.

Essentially, the tribal dynamic requires a foundation to define the uniting principles of the tribe. Otherwise there is no order, and without order there is no tribe.

Within a tribe founded on ideological or faith-based principles, the dynamic takes a different form than what one would find in a group of model railroad enthusiasts or people with a shared love for baseball or repairing automobiles. When the foundation is grounded in concrete, tangible definitions and standards, they are more difficult to challenge. If the foundation is grounded in ideas and beliefs shared by the collective, challenges take on a different meaning. Claiming an automobile can run without an engine is one thing. Challenging shared doctrine and practices is an entirely different animal.

Apples and Oranges

The old adage that says we should avoid talking about politics and religion if we seek to avoid conflict and argument is founded in this dynamic. It is fairly easy to prove a car cannot be operated with the engine removed. You can go breathless attempting to prove the truth of ideas to those who have a different opinion on those ideas.

The issues I had with religion for many years stemmed from grounding myself in rationalism and the need to find "real proof" of anything before I was willing to accept it. My arguments stemmed from an assertion that it was absurd to believe in anything that could not be proven to be true. What I came to realize over time, spurred by my own experience with being opened to the possibility of something beyond absolutes, was that there are two levels of perception. I divide these two levels into categories I label as the "finite" and the "infinite." The finite consists of concrete, tangible and provable "truths." The infinite consists of everything that stretches beyond that. The finite is what holds together our collective reality. The infinite encompasses the individual experience. What organized religion and belief systems do is offer fellowship and unity to those who are willing to accept a shared experience of the infinite.

Where I still feel organized religions and belief systems often fail is within the realm of dogma, of unquestionable doctrine and the need to defend vigorously against challenges of their attachment to absolutism. Watch as the leaders of various established religions rise to defend their deeply entrenched doctrine against those who would raise questions or present alternative viewpoints.

Organized religion bears some responsibility for blurring the lines between the finite and the infinite. At the core are efforts to establish faith-based doctrine as an all-encompassing absolute truth applicable to all people. The conflict between the finite and the infinite is caused by elements speaking to the infinite attempting to establish themselves as elements of the finite, with the reverse also being true. When faith-based doctrine attempts to apply itself to the overall collective experience within the finite, it loses itself. When the tangible, rational and logical nature of the overall collective reality attempts to apply itself to the infinite, it loses itself.

Absolute Truth and the Infinite

Established religions with deeply entrenched traditions, doctrines and beliefs, perpetuated both by history and widespread acceptance by impressive numbers of adherents, find themselves holding fast to their beliefs as absolute truth. Can anything faith-based become absolute truth? This is the question I asked myself as I sought to come to terms with my own personal mythology, personal theology and experiences with the infinite. In the end, the answer I found was more than a simple "yes" or "no."

I understand and accept that I have a "calling." This is not an uncommon experience, especially amongst those who go through a difficult transition marked by anguish, pain and tragedy. Deciding to end my own life and then having a desire to reclaim it had a profound impact on me in a spiritual sense. As I progressed through an understanding of my experience and the changes it brought, I saw my calling as being relative to my own experience. My experience was personal. My calling was to offer hope, guidance and direction to those who find themselves in circumstances similar to those I faced leading up to the night of my suicide.

Once I accepted that, I realized I could never dictate beliefs and doctrine as absolute truth. This would be counterproductive. The nature of depression, hopelessness and suicidal intentions is to reject efforts by outsiders to invalidate these thoughts and feelings. These things are very internal and personal, generally causing the individual to retreat within the self, closing themselves off from others. They are in a place where they feel a lack of validation of the self and trying to impose ideas and judgments that conflict with what the self feels and thinks is extremely counterproductive. There is no point in telling a depressed person they have no reason to be depressed or telling a suicidal person they have "every reason to live."

My own experience reminds me of this on a regular basis, especially when I find myself dealing with a depressed or suicidal person. My realization of this brought me to the point where I knew the same understanding could have a deeper meaning. People, by their nature, seek validation, companionship and acceptance. We form tribes and organize belief systems because of this. We seek the fellowship of like-minded individuals to escape from loneliness and isolation. The tribal dynamic of organized belief systems, which originated to provide fellowship and validation amongst those who had similar beliefs, often reaches the point where it stops offering validation to the individual and demands acceptance of shared doctrine and tradition. At some point in the development of the tribal dynamic, the tribe becomes more important than the individuals within the tribe, and yet the tribe is a construct and the people are not.

While certainly not universal throughout faith-based tribal constructs, the idea of doctrine and tradition being more important than the beliefs of individuals within the tribe is pervasive enough that it has become an acceptable norm, especially within established organized religions with long histories steeped in tradition. The answer to my old question regarding whether anything faith-based could become absolute truth was answered with a new question. Is it possible for a faith-based tribe to become inclusive, embracing those with different beliefs, backgrounds and traditions rather than being exclusive by demanding acceptance of the beliefs, doctrine and traditions of that tribe?

The Heretical Convergent Church

The first step in answering this question about a truly inclusive faith-based tribe is acknowledging your beliefs are not absolute truth applicable to all people. The Second Law of Convergence is "everyone is right," which at the most basic level means all beliefs are equally valid provided they do not invalidate the beliefs of others. This includes allowing all individuals to not only believe what they believe, but to live as they wish. Where the Second Law of Convergence is often misinterpreted is in not understanding the spider-web effect it carries. If you cause harm to another or steal from them, claiming your beliefs support these actions, you are infringing on their belief that they have the right to not be harmed and not be stolen from. Your beliefs are invalidated if they infringe upon the rights of others, because you cannot be correct until you accept and allow others the same privilege.

Within the context of all of the world's established religious and spiritual traditions are two components. There are core principles serving as guiding standards for how one lives their life. Then there is theology, which springs from tradition and shared beliefs, and this can evolve into a form of dogma. I see theology as a guiding set of components rather than a form of truth. It is helpful and useful in many ways, giving structure and order and aiding in the spiritual development of those within the tribe. However, when it is embraced as absolute truth, it loses its real value. When it can no longer be questioned, when it can no longer be debated, and when alternative views are dismissed or attacked, problems arise. When beliefs becomes reason for conflict, hatred and war, then they cease to be have value.

With this in mind, my own faith, grounded in the principles of Convergence, is constructed from the methods and symbols of my own personal experience. The elements of that experience are important to me. Others could utilize them to further their own personal experience, but they are merely constructs of my personal mythology. Only the three core principles of Convergence are important. (1) Give everything you can to everyone you know, (2) Everyone is right, (3) Convergence is reached only when all individuals accept and embrace the first two laws, "Together none higher and none lower than thee. The left is the right and below is above."

Convergence is essentially the path to paradise, heaven, nirvana, or whatever labels the same concept is given in any religious tradition, and it is present within all such traditions. It is often seen as the reward for living a good life, but is it really some mystical far-off place separate from our existence here or is it the ultimate goal within a frame of existence such as the one we find ourselves in now? In times of trouble, conflict, suffering, hatred and chaos it seems an unreachable goal and this makes it easier to see it as only existing elsewhere.

Heresy comes from the willingness to challenge widely accepted and strongly defended traditions and doctrine of existing organized faith-based tribal systems. Since I began an intensive study of the doctrine, history and teachings of Christianity two years ago, I came to a number of conclusions. These conclusions are my own, and I reject the notion of imposing personal beliefs on others. The Three Laws of Convergence are the core and they are the only principles I actively promote. Everything else is essentially window dressing.

My interpretations are highly heretical in certain Christian traditions. For example, I believe Jesus of Nazareth was a messenger who had a deeply moving spiritual experience before spending a brief part of his life teaching a revolutionary interpretation of existing traditions within the Jewish faith intended to change the focus from "the word of the law" to the "heart of the law." I believe he sought to bring to light the importance of core principles over what was becoming a very extreme adherence to ritual, ceremony and traditional practices. What was happening at the time of his teachings was that these traditions and sacraments that were deeply entrenched amongst his people had become more important than the core values of their belief system. He was a heretic railing against conventions and was executed for heresy. There is a certain irony in the history of Christianity in that countless others have been executed for not accepting a dogmatic interpretation of the teachings of a heretic.

My own interpretations hold that Jesus of Nazareth was a man who was blessed with a deeply moving spiritual experience and the wisdom to effectively teach and to have a great impact on those who encountered him. My personal interpretations hold that it was only after his death that those seeking to give their faith in his life and teachings elevated him to being more than a man, more than a teacher and more than a messenger. By doing this, they were able to build a powerful new tribe. At the same time they were able to assert their tribe as having greater validity than other faith-based tribes and traditions. "Sure, your religion has great traditions and was founded by some very impressive spiritually connected people, but what we have over here is the Son of God. Top that." If you look closely, you’ll notice a strange similarity between this dynamic and the old "My dad can beat up your dad" game from childhood.

The point is not to argue theological interpretations, as I consider all interpretations and traditions to hold equal value. The point is that my interpretations are my own, and regardless of how many people share similar interpretations and how many have very different interpretations, it does not matter. People reach their own conclusions about what they believe. They reach these conclusions through many different means. Can we really dictate faith-based doctrine as absolute truth? This is what I reject. Faith-based doctrine that welcomes and embraces heresy? Now you have something.

Of course, it is important to remember that I'm wrong and I'm a grostesquely ugly freak.

If you're looking for an interesting point to consider, try this: If heresy is the prevailing doctrine, then rejecting heresy is heresy.

Forward

Her"e*sy (?), n.; pl. Heresies (#). [OE. heresie, eresie, OF. heresie, iresie, F. h'er'esie, L. haeresis, Gr. a taking, a taking for one's self, choosing, a choice, a sect, a heresy, fr. to take, choose.]

1.

An opinion held in opposition to the established or commonly received doctrine, and tending to promote a division or party, as in politics, literature, philosophy, etc.; -- usually, but not necessarily, said in reproach.

New opinions Divers and dangerous, which are heresies, And, not reformed, may prove pernicious. Shak.

After the study of philosophy began in Greece, and the philosophers, disagreeing amongst themselves, had started many questions . . . because every man took what opinion he pleased, each several opinion was called a heresy; which signified no more than a private opinion, without reference to truth or falsehood. Hobbes.

2. Theol.

Religious opinion opposed to the authorized doctrinal standards of any particular church, especially when tending to promote schism or separation; lack of orthodox or sound belief; rejection of, or erroneous belief in regard to, some fundamental religious doctrine or truth; heterodoxy.

Doubts 'mongst divines, and difference of texts, From whence arise diversity of sects, And hateful heresies by God abhor'd. Spenser.

Deluded people! that do not consider that the greatest heresy in the world is a wicked life. Tillotson.

3. Law

An offense against Christianity, consisting in a denial of some essential doctrine, which denial is publicly avowed, and obstinately maintained.

A second offense is that of heresy, which consists not in a total denial of Christianity, but of some its essential doctrines, publicly and obstinately avowed. Blackstone.

⇒ "When I call dueling, and similar aberrations of honor, a moral heresy, I refer to the force of the Greek , as signifying a principle or opinion taken up by the will for the will's sake, as a proof or pledge to itself of its own power of self-determination, independent of all other motives."

Coleridge.

 

© Webster 1913.

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