Heretic is the way in which the person who professes a heresy is designated , that is, who questions, with a controversial or novel concept, certain beliefs established in a particular religion.

For example, a lay individual, who assumes his belief in God, but who does not circumscribe this to the profession of any religious doctrine or practice religious duties, can be considered a heretic.

Similarly, an atheist can be classified as a heretic because he questions the existence of God and, consequently, the truth of the teachings taught by religion.

As a heretic or blasphemer, a person who has insulted or irrevered God and religion can also be qualified.

The concept of heresy, in addition, is relative. While for a Catholic a heretic is any person who does not follow the dogmas of the Christian religion, a Catholic may also be considered a heretic by Islam.

Therefore, the concept of heresy will vary according to the teachings and characteristics of each religion, but above all depending on the degree of tolerance or intolerance that each religion imposes on its followers towards other existing beliefs.

In fact, the etymology of the word heretic is very eloquent regarding its meaning. The word comes from the Latin haeretĭcus , which in turn comes from the Greek αἱρετικός (hairetikós), which means ‘free to choose’.

Thus, in general, a heretic is a person who assumes the possibility of freely choosing to follow a dogma different from that imposed on him by a doctrine, religion or sect.

Heretic in Christianity

In the New Testament of the Bible, it is said that heretic is considered the man who decides to follow his own opinions, creating with them new religious doctrines, or following new sects, such as the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

For its part, the bull Gratia Divina (1656), of Pope Alexander VII, defined heresy as “the belief, teaching or defense of opinions, dogmas, proposals or ideas contrary to the teachings of the Holy Bible, the Holy Gospels , Tradition and teaching ”.

The Catholic Church, during the Middle Ages, endeavored to pursue all that opinion that contradicted the Christian doctrine contained in the Bible, from which it was assumed as the only possible interpreter and authority. For this, the Court of the Holy Office of the Inquisition was created.

The heretics and the Inquisition

During the Middle Ages, the Church established an aggressive policy of persecution against all those people who questioned the interpretation of the Christian doctrine that it imposed dogmatically.

It was Pope Gregory IX who, in the thirteenth century, when he began to feel that the power of the Church was being threatened by those who criticized it, established the Court of the Holy Office of the Inquisition.

The purpose of this religious tribunal was to combat the heresy that was raised against the legitimacy of both ecclesiastical power and civil power, since at that time the power of the Church was closely linked to the power of the State, represented in the monarchy.

Heresy suspects were interrogated and tortured to confess guilt. The punishments were severe, and many supposed heretics spent their lives in captivity or were tortured, hanged or burned alive.

Some notable figures in the history of mankind, who contributed their exploits, thought or research to the progress of knowledge, and were killed by the Inquisition, were: Giordano Bruno (philosopher, astronomer), Joan of Arc (war heroine) , Giulio Cesare Vanini (intellectual), Jan Hus (philosopher) or Miguel Servet (scientist).