Webmaster’s Note: The following notes of various definitions, conceptions, and formulations of heresy offered during the 2014 ISHS Conference were recorded by Jordan Miller.
Possible wording for use in the Society’s bylaws:
The society recognizes fully that as definitions of “religion” are notoriously problematic, in turn, varieties of religious expression or reactions against particular religious expressions are also impossible to define comprehensively. As a result, each term––”heresy,” “blasphemy,” and “unbelief”––is dynamic and the Society’s understanding of these definitions leaves them each, by both necessity and design, open-ended and slippery. They mutually constitute each other and are context-dependent.
As a society for heresy studies, it is fitting that we disagree with each other — even over such fundamental terms as those contained in the name of our organization. We encourage our own internal dissent.
Notes from panel 2:
“Heresy is a polemical term for doctrinal difference.”
Notes from the roundtable:
Royalty — Heresy, as a technical term, historically has meant ‘demonic difference.’ Orthodoxy creates itself by creating heresies.
Goldstein — Heresy is meaningful in that it has the potential to connect small numbers of people through adversity. Orthodox categories tend to stifle creativity; heresy is a creative rebellion against those categories.
Simon — Heresy is a mark of vibrancy and fertility of ideas, beliefs, etc. It’s academic orthodoxy to reduce all things religious to codes for other things (economics, politics, material conditions, race/gender/sexuality, etc). To study religion is, in a sense, heretical. It follows that heresy itself should be given its due.
There’s little more exciting than when someone says, “you can’t do that!” Heresy is a useful term in that it preserves the sense of antagonism — that things matter — that things are at stake for certain communities.