“Religions are kept alive by heresies, which are really sudden explosions of faith. Dead religions do not produce them.” Gerald Brenan Thoughts in a Dry Season.
“A heretic is a person who offers too good a criticism of the authorities,” Brant Gartley, fictional documentary telejournalist.
Advances in rational understanding can be achieved in at least three ways:
1) Through novel ideas popping up, their rationale unentangled by old proofs;
2) Through the refinement of an existing set of ideas; or
3) Through heresy.
‘Heresy’ can be defined most simply as a challenge to orthodoxy. A set of beliefs is called an orthodoxy when it becomes the official line of those who have the power to plausibly say where the official line is to be drawn. Or for a more precise and more useful definition, an orthodoxy might be thought of as ‘a publicly-shared official belief system’. For a view to be heretical presupposes a canon of opinions held by those claiming, and sometimes having, authority about the subject in question. The basic recipe for creating heresy then, is at least two people who share a common opinion, and someone else who disagrees with them. (You’re free to be heretical against this wannabe orthodoxy about the word ‘heresy’, by the way.)
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