Heresy Print
By Hilaire Belloc   
Thursday, 17 May 2012

Heresy is not a fossil subject. It is a subject of permanent and vital interest to mankind because it is bound up with the subject of religion, without some form of which no human society ever has endured, or ever can endure. Those who think that the subject of heresy may be neglected because the term sounds to them old-fashioned and because it is connected with a number of disputes long abandoned, are making the common error of thinking in words instead of ideas. It is the same sort of error which contrasts America as a “republic” with England as “monarchy,” whereas, of course, the Government of the United States is essentially monarchic and the Government of England is essentially republican and aristocratic. There is no end to the misunderstandings which arise from the uncertain use of words. But if we keep in mind the plain fact that a state, a human policy, or a general culture, must be inspired by some body of morals, and that there can be no body of morals without doctrine, and if we agree to call any consistent body of morals and doctrine a religion then the importance of heresy as a subject will become clear, because heresy means nothing else than "the proposal of novelties in religion by picking out from what has been the accepted religion some point or other, denying the same or replacing it by another doctrine hitherto unfamiliar."
 
The study of successive Christian heresies, their characters and fates, has a special interest for all of us who belong to the European or Christian culture, and that is a reason that ought to be self-evident – our culture was made by a religion. Changes in, or deflections from, that religion necessarily affect our civilization as a whole.

 

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