The heretic is always better dead. And mortal eyes cannot distinguish the saint from the heretic. - George Bernard Shaw
Whenever we are confronted by the bias and prejudice of a system whether it be political, religious, scientific, or philosophical it reminds us that we can all fall prey to the limited scope of understanding that is available to any of us at any one time. Admitting to our limitations and choosing the path of humility is far better than labelling someone else as a heretic because they offer an alternative theory or train of thought to your default stance.
The etymology of the root word ‘heretic' is ‘able to choose’. The fact that we have all been given the freedom to choose does not put us at odds with the truth but merely suggests that ‘truth’ is a very subjective actuality that is rooted in the current experience of one’s reality. What I choose today may not be what I choose tomorrow.
For instance, we are now being confronted by new research that suggests we need to be making better choices around what is deemed to be sustainable living, as our excessive lifestyles are having an affect on the environment, contributing to the phenomena called global warming. Some of us are still in denial about this due to the long held belief in a divine exit strategy that absolves us from all responsibility. I remember when I first went to church in the late 70’s I wasn told that you didn’t need to think about buying a home because the rapture would happen soon, so just get on and proselytise as ardently as possible so no one misses out on the return trip to heaven. Those of us who were subjected to this ridiculous rhetoric have hopefully come to realise that our choices in this life matter, and that the kingdom of heaven in engaged in all that we do here and now.
“All the heroes of tomorrow are the heretics of today.” - Yip Harburg
In religious circles we throw the word heretic out as a critique of certain peoples stances in order to protect ourselves from some kind of divine disfavour or judgement. This kind of vitriolic labelling is most often rooted in the fear of man more than the fear of God.
Recently a movie was made called ‘Heretic’ about author and speaker Rob Bell, which explored the journey of his spiritual maturation. The producer who was Rob’s friend used the word ‘heretic’ not so much as a critique of his ministry but rather to ironically point out that all new thinking and THE crafting of ideas is initially seen as a heretical lean. “HERETICS” are often responsible for the fresh revelation that appears on the scene to break us free from our limited or restrictive orthodoxy. Rob struck a nerve in the fundamentalist camp and became a new kind of hero to so many. Orthodoxy is not bad but it's not a fixed set either.
History is on the side of those who have challenged the status quo and thrown caution to the wind, often charting a new path forward.
Imagine if some of the great spiritual or scientific pioneers of history hadn't dared to confront the old paradigms of thinking, we might still believe that the earth is FLAT and the centre of the Universe, or worse still that men are meant to rule the world…LOL
“Heretics are the only [bitter] remedy against the entropy of human thought." ("Literature, Revolution, and Entropy")” - Yevgeny Zamyatin
When we let certainty be our absolute guiding principle the minds of humans begin to experience a type of entropy that strips us of our imagination and creativity. The ancient prophets would constantly cry out ‘fear not’ as a clarion call to the explorers and pioneers who would push the limits and challenge the status quo. Fearlessness is the courage to push the boundaries and try new things.
The heretic in me is fuelled by the God given right to choose a bigger way of being. Being true to this path is about following your heart and trusting that something greater than you is guiding your way. Some people will be nervous of your choice selection by labelling you as gullible, naive, or a romantic idealist, which are all potential pre-cursors for the heretic characterisation.
Remember, those who never face criticism never grow strong enough to hold true to the path of their emerging beliefs.