A heretic is a rationalist whose religious views differ from the established religious practices. He is a rebel not only in religion such as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and so on but also in any intellectual area.
The heretic’s ideal is to rid human mind of the religious and intellectual irrationality. The heretic maintains that to challenge and defeat religious bigotry and intellectual irrationality is to free the human mind from them, from the dogmatism. He debunks religious myths like the soul, ghosts, witches, afterlife. That, religious orthodoxy lays down, amounts to punishable heresy. He does not accept religious scriptures as infallible and unquestionable divine revelations of truth. That is punishable heresy by religious authority.
Religion punished the heretics in the past inhumanly and cruelly and has been punishing them even today in various ways.
Opposition To Scriptural Literalism
The free-thinking heretic’s method of searching truth is evidence-based and, hence, rational and to him, any statement without evidence is a myth. He acts upon his truth, rationally arrived at, without fear or favour.
Rebels like the Buddha, Giardino Bruno, Galileo, Basavanna, Freud, Jefferson, Voltaire, Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi effected a revolution in their areas of activity. As Graham Green says,’ Heresy is another word for freedom of thought.’
Himself an outstanding American heretic and a robust rationalist, Robert G.Ingersoll profusely showers praise on the heretics in his resounding, inimitable and inspiring words in his book, Heretics and Heresies:
Heresy, the Eternal Dawn
‘The heretics have not thought and suffered and died in vain. Every heretic has been, and is, a ray of light. Not in vain did Voltaire, that great man, point from the foot of the Alps the finger of scorn at every hypocrite in Europe. Not in vain were the splendid utterances of the infidels, while beyond all price are the discoveries of science.
The Church has impeded, but it has not and it cannot stop the onward march of the human race. Heresy cannot be burned, nor imprisoned, nor starved. It laughs at presbyteries and synods, at ecumenical councils and the impotent thunders of Sinai. Heresy is the eternal dawn, the morning star, the glittering herald of the day. Heresy is the last and the best thought. It is the perpetual New World, unknown sea, toward which the brave all sail. It is the eternal horizon of progress.
Heresy extends the hospitalities of the brain to a new thought.
Heresy is a cradle; orthodoxy, a coffin.
Why should man be afraid to think, and why should he fear to express his thoughts?
Is it possible that an infinite Deity is unwilling that a man should investigate the phenomena by which he is surrounded?. Is it possible that a god delights in threatening and terrifying men? What glory, what honour and renown a god must win on such a field! The ocean raving at a drop; a star envious of a candle; the sun jealous of a fire-fly.
How long, O how long, will man listen to the threats of God, and shut the eyes to the splendid possibilities of Nature? How long, O how long will man remain the cringing slave of a false and cruel creed?
By this time, the whole world should know that the real bible has not yet been written, but is being written, and that it will never be finished until the race begins its downward march, or ceases to exist.
The real bible is not the work of inspired men, nor prophets, nor apostles, nor evangelists, nor of Christs. Every man who finds a fact, adds, as it were, a word to this great book. It is not attested by prophecy, by miracles or signs. It makes no appeal to faith, to ignorance, to credulity or fear. It has no punishment for unbelief, no reward for hypocrisy. It appeals to man in the name of demonstration. It has nothing to conceal. It has no fear of being read, of being contradicted, of being investigated and understood. It does not pretend to be holy; it simply claims to be true. It challenges the scrutiny of all, and implores every reader to verify every line for himself. It is incapable of being blasphemed.’
Basavanna, the twelfth-century Indian religious rebel. rationalist and humanist blasted and rejected the Hindu Vedas and Shruthi for their superstitions like animal sacrifice to propitiate god and illogical karma concept, restricting human effort for his growth, in his celebrated vachana (a type of Kannada prose poetry):
‘Shall I say scriptures are great?
They praise karma.
Shall I say the Vedas are great?
They tell of animal sacrifice.
Shall I say Shruti is great?
It searches what is before one’s eyes.
(Vachana-2012, Basava Samithi)
As rationalists and humanists, the heretics have been playing a courageous, ennobling and heroic role in the human history. They have been adorable new path-finders. Have you a different stand on the heretic?