"Heresy!"

Toby Frost

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Am I right in thinking that a heretic is not the same thing as an unbeliever? Is a heretic someone who is of the faith but doing it wrong, rather than someone who entirely rejects it?
 

Foxbat

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A person holding a belief at odds with the majority of other believers is how I understand it so, yes, a heretic can be a believer but believing or practicing those beliefs against the norm.
 

The Judge

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Yep, a heretic is someone who belongs to the same religion/belief system, but departs from it in major ways. (Major, because minor issues can usually be accommodated, but major ones will be perceived as a threat to the status quo**, therefore dangerous and therefore to be eliminated, which starts with denunciations and ends in execution.) So followers of Jan Hus (a proto-Protestant, who preached against such things as indulgences and was executed for heresy) were denounced as heretics by the Catholic powers, but followers of Islam, a wholly different religion, weren't heretics, but infidels. (Though, as a caveat, I think Luther referred to Jews as holding heretical beliefs, which no doubt arises from the fact the origin of Christianity is from Judaism.)

And someone who utterly rejects a religion/belief to which they'd formerly ascribed are apostates not heretics, though there can be an overlap, and for the person concerned it usually ends up the same way, on the stake. In classical Islam (and probably among fundamentalists still) apostasy is a sin punishable by death, and I believe there are passages in the Old Testament which say much the same thing. (Again, apostasy is dangerous to the status quo**, and must be punished severely.)


** this is my spin on it, from a socio-political point of view. Within the religion itself, of course, heresy and apostasy are seen as dangerous since if they spread it will imperil the well-being of those innocents caught up in the movement, threatening their immortal soul.
 

Toby Frost

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Thanks guys: I suspected as much, but I wasn't sure. If someone could tell the good folk at Warhammer, that would be nice. "Heresy!" is one of the most tedious memes ever, especially when it doesn't relate to actual heresy. More seriously, I do need to know this as the WIP concerns a religious schism and all the fun and frolics that involves.

I always assumed that "infidel" was a word used by Arabs to describe the Christians in the crusades, but it's probably derived from "infidelis", which would be Latin and hence the other way around. I've seen "pagan" or "paynim" used by Medieval writers (Mallory, IIRC) to describe Muslims, but "pagan" has a more Wicker Man feel to me although I suppose anyone who isn't a Christian would be a pagan by default.
 

Venusian Broon

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And someone who utterly rejects a religion/belief to which they'd formerly ascribed are apostates not heretics, though there can be an overlap, and for the person concerned it usually ends up the same way, on the stake. In classical Islam (and probably among fundamentalists still) apostasy is a sin punishable by death, and I believe there are passages in the Old Testament which say much the same thing. (Again, apostasy is dangerous to the status quo**, and must be punished severely.)
Yes, this topic got my head in a spin, after all Pope Pius II state in a trial against Sigismondo Pandolfo in 1460 that 'Denying Gods existence...is the worst kind of heresy', which if you equate atheism with unbelieving must put an atheist as the 'maximum heretic'.

However, I think you are correct that outright rejection of all the tenets of the religion will make you an apostate, whereas only rejecting some of them make you a heretic if you started as an orthodox believer and member of the religion then made public your thoughts on the subject. And I suppose an apostate could still be religious, just that he/she believes in a totally different kind of religion.

So myself, as someone who has never been baptised nor accepted the set of teachings of the Christian church(s), and therefore not Christian, can only be described as an unbeliever and not a heretic. Oh, and I'm neither a Pagan or Heathen, as I don't ascribe to any religious beliefs, so someone who isn't Christian need not be pagan by default!
 
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Toby Frost

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Good point - I suppose that to be a pagan you've got to have some religious beliefs that aren't Christian.
 

CupofJoe

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Thanks guys: I suspected as much, but I wasn't sure. If someone could tell the good folk at Warhammer, that would be nice. "Heresy!" is one of the most tedious memes ever, especially when it doesn't relate to actual heresy. More seriously, I do need to know this as the WIP concerns a religious schism and all the fun and frolics that involves.
I always assumed that "infidel" was a word used by Arabs to describe the Christians in the crusades, but it's probably derived from "infidelis", which would be Latin and hence the other way around. I've seen "pagan" or "paynim" used by Medieval writers (Mallory, IIRC) to describe Muslims, but "pagan" has a more Wicker Man feel to me although I suppose anyone who isn't a Christian would be a pagan by default.
Christians may once have describe someone not of a major faith [especially their own] to be a Heathen or a Pagan. Today I know Pagans that call themselves Heathen because they don't follow a widely established form of paganism [Wicca, Druidic, Norse etc.]. There is a lot of eye-of-the-beholder in the terminology and how it is used, I believe.
I would agreed that being Pagan in modern times is as much an active choice as following any other religion. You are not a Pagan because someone else thinks you are.
I've always liked the word "infidel". It seems slightly fun for some reason.
 

Biskit

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So myself, as someone who has never been baptised nor accepted the set of teachings of the Christian church(s), and therefore not Christian, can only be described as an unbeliever and not a heretic. Oh, and I'm neither a Pagan or Heathen, as I don't ascribe to any religious beliefs, so someone who isn't Christian need not be pagan by default!
I thought pagan was what Christians (historically) called someone who worshipped some other god(s), with a sort of built-in assumption that however terrible pagans might be, anything akin to atheism was inconceivable.
 

.matthew.

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I always assumed that "infidel" was a word used by Arabs to describe the Christians in the crusades, but it's probably derived from "infidelis", which would be Latin and hence the other way around. I've seen "pagan" or "paynim" used by Medieval writers (Mallory, IIRC) to describe Muslims, but "pagan" has a more Wicker Man feel to me although I suppose anyone who isn't a Christian would be a pagan by default.
I've always assumed the same about the word Infidel - as an Arab word for someone not of your God. I think even in the past is was mostly interchangeable though. From a Western perspective the word I would use is 'heathen'.

It's much like Judge said. A heretic is someone who follows the same God (and Bible) but in a different way, so Catholics are heretics to Protestants.
Heathens are people who do not follow the Bible, so Muslims are heathens to Catholics.

Heathen can also apply to atheists, and other non singular 'God' religions but in most cases I'd say Pagans and that would often be called Pagans instead of heathens because while Islam is a heresy to Christianity, they (and the Jews) believe in a single deity and the faiths are of the same 'tree'.

More recently heathen has come to mean anyone who follows a faith not of the 'main' so it could actually bundle the big three together and have them label every other (like Hindus) as the heathens, but as the Warhammer lore is essentially based on medieval stuff I'd stick to the original meaning.
 

Venusian Broon

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I thought pagan was what Christians (historically) called someone who worshipped some other god(s), with a sort of built-in assumption that however terrible pagans might be, anything akin to atheism was inconceivable.
Yes that's what Pagan means, although I'm not sure about the atheist bit. There, seemingly was a great deal of mud-slinging at the time. I suppose an atheist would get fired on both sides, so not a comfortable position to be in.

Heathen I'm pretty sure was a slur directed at those that worshiped in the open - uncouth barbarians etc. Not sure it technically can be applied to atheism, as I think it still implies religion.

But slurs and insults change with time.
 

Luiglin

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An unbeliever could be called a heretic depending on the social situation, especially in particularly parochial area. If a certain religion is the norm for all, anyone could be declared heretic, especially if the public are uneducated.
 

The Judge

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I always assumed that "infidel" was a word used by Arabs to describe the Christians in the crusades
No, definitely a Christian term originally, but it's also used to translate the Arabic word kaffir, which is why you've probably seen it.

And I suppose an apostate could still be religious, just that he/she believes in a totally different kind of religion.
Oh, definitely. A Moslem who becomes Christian is an apostate -- basically, it's a synonym for turncoat. The person has turned his/her back on the truth and gone after something else, as opposed to a heretic who purports to believe in the truth, but does everything wrong. But as CupofJoe says, it's eye of the beholder stuff.

I suppose that to be a pagan you've got to have some religious beliefs that aren't Christian.
Not originally, I'd have thought. It just meant someone who wasn't of the main Abrahamic faiths -- so it could mean someone who believed in the old gods, or someone who had other beliefs or none. Though, of course, when the term was originally being used, practically everyone would have believed in something, even if not a formal religion. Using it now in a modern setting is wholly different, since the word has accreted other shades of meaning over the centuries. Using "paynim" isn't likely to work, though, since it is so linked to the Crusades and a word to describe the lands of the Saracens, and then the Saracens themselves. As to "heathen", from a Victorian dictionary:

Pagan and heathen are primarily the same in meaning; but pagan is sometimes distinctively applied to those nations that, although worshiping false gods, are more cultivated, as the Greeks and Romans, and heathen to uncivilized idolaters, as the tribes of Africa. A Mohammedan is not counted a pagan much less a heathen.​
So, there you are, there's a hierarchy of non-believer depending whether the person is civilised or otherwise. :rolleyes:
 

.matthew.

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Pagan and heathen are primarily the same in meaning
Except that Jews and Muslims were both considered heathens by Christianity despite believing in a single deity, unlike the Pagans. Not discounting that Pagans could also be heathens, but the term refers directly to anyone not following your holy scripture.

While Heretic applies to those that follow the same scripture, but interpret/worship it differently.

As to the difference between heathen and infidel, I imagine it'd be in tone alone. You may look down on heathens but bring death to infidels. Different words meaning the same thing but used in different contexts?
 

Phyrebrat

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I learnt about heresy as very small kid from my brother who schooled me in all things Akhenaten (He was an egyptolgist who was infatuated with the Armana period and took me to the British Museum :) ).

Sorry, Toby, not helpful, but I felt a boast was in order. :D

pH
 

The Judge

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Except that Jews and Muslims were both considered heathens by Christianity despite believing in a single deity, unlike the Pagans. Not discounting that Pagans could also be heathens, but the term refers directly to anyone not following your holy scripture.
Well, the quote you highlighted was from a Victorian dictionary, so clearly reflects what was thought then. And per the Online Etymology Dictionary:
heathen Old English hæðen "not Christian or Jewish," also as a noun, "heathen man, one of a race or nation which does not acknowledge the God of the Bible"​

Granted, though, whatever its strict meaning, it would undoubtedly have been used as a term of contempt or disparagement for anyone who wasn't Christian, or of the speaker's own denomination of Christianity, or even of someone considered to be beyond the pale for any reason, religious or otherwise.
 

.matthew.

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I was looking further back to the medieval era.

Found a cough wikipedia quote that cites a book on pagan practices that says: "The word was used by Early Medieval Christian writers in Germanic Europe to describe non-Christians". Which seems to back up the general knowledge I had on the subject.

Times do change, and with them, words. However, as Toby mentioned the context of Warhammer, I sought to contain the definition within the bounds of their world building (strong medieval vibe even running through the 40k stuff).

Edit:
God of the Bible
Sounds like the enlightened version of God of scripture. Victorian age had largely seen the end of Western religious wars and were possibly being diplomatic with their definition.
 

thaddeus6th

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Late to the party, so the question's been answered, but sometimes believers prefer heathens to heretics.

The terms might be considered a bit similar to the Greek xenos (Greek but from a different city state) and barbaros (non-Greek). So, heretics share a religion but not a denomination, and heathens aren't even in the same religion. Or you could compare it to politicians in the Commons having opponents facing them and enemies behind them.
 
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