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The Great Heresies
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Ashley | 92 comments Mod
Every few days, I'll be posting my thoughts and questions about the book here. Feel free to post yours as well. Anything that sticks out to you, or if there are things you don't understand. Happy reading everyone!


message 2: by Ashley (last edited Jun 16, 2016 01:21PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ashley | 92 comments Mod
CHAPTER ONE:
(p 2): "We must begin by a definition, although definition involves a mental effort and therefore repels."
I found this somewhat funny...my generation is viewed (rightly so) as lazy, with no interest in learning. Yet it seems as though every generation has had this problem in one way or another!

(p 2): "Heresy means, then, the warping of a system by "Exception": by "Picking out" one part of the structure and implies that the scheme is marred by taking away one part of it, denying one part of it, and either leaving the void unfilled or filling it with some new affirmation."
My immediate thought when I read this was: Yep...sounds like everything the "sexual revolution" stands for. Contraception: wants to separate sex from babies, which led to unmarried sex, divorce, and where we are now with the redefinition of marriage.

What are some "heresies" that you see, large or small, in our current day and age?


Ashley | 92 comments Mod
CHAPTER TWO:
(p 11): "The Mohammedan attack was of a different kind. It came geographically from just outside the area of Christendom; it appeared, almost from the outset, as a foreign enemy; yet was it not, strictly speaking, a new religion attacking the old, it was essentially a heresy; but from the circumstances of its birth it was a heresy aliens other than intimate. It threatened to kill the Christian Church by invasion rather than to undermine it from within."
I hope that the Crusades are covered when Belloc discusses this heresy. I believe it to be one of the most misunderstood historical periods in the Catholic Church...most people do not understand that the Church was responding to an Islamic invasion when the Crusades began.


message 4: by Ashley (last edited Jun 17, 2016 02:14PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ashley | 92 comments Mod
CHAPTER THREE:
(p 25): The Army went Arian because it felt Arianism to be the distinctive thing which made it superior to the civilian masses, just as Arianism was a distinctive thing which made the intellectual feel superior to the popular masses. The soldiers, whether of barbaric or civilized recruitment, felt sympathy with Arianism for the same reason that the old pagan families felt sympathy with Arianism. The Army then, and especially the Army chiefs, backed the new heresy for all they were worth, and it became a sort of test of whether you were somebody - a soldier as agianst the despised civilians - or no."

This reminds me of our current day and age, where many people "join the bandwagon" of anti-religion simply because it's the thing to do, or it makes them "feel" superior. I've found many (not all, but many) anti-Catholics really have no idea why they are so...they simply want to be part of a group that stands for something. They view religious people, and in particular, Catholics, as "idiots".

While reading this, I was wondering what it would have felt like to be a soldier who was devoted to his Catholic faith, yet perhaps had no choice but to join the Army. Would he have worshipped the true Christ, fully man AND fully God, in private? Would it have even been possible to publicly proclaim your Catholic faith while being in the Army?


message 5: by Galicius (last edited Jun 23, 2016 06:06AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Galicius I was eager to get a better understanding of the curious history of the Arian heresy because I came across it many times in Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, volumes 2-3 but it’s hard to see what was going on through the huge struggles the way Gibbon describes it. I was mostly puzzled why it became such a big issue for Christianity. I could not imagine a heresy like that gaining any ground in more modern times. Belloc clarifies it very well. He describes the Roman Empire people—many nations and classes—each with their different interests. He writes about the military. I was surprised he did not mention the Pretorian Guard, which played a major role by assassinating a dozen emperors and appointing new ones. He calls Gibbon a disciple of the French skeptics. I got the sense that Gibbon was writing with a degree of irony about the issue. He holds little sympathy for the Church. Belloc makes a lot of sense when he writes in the in introduction “A man who thinks, for instance, that Arianism is a mere discussion of words, does not see that an Arian world would have been much more like a Mohammedan world than what the European world actually became.” If the Arians turned Christianity into rejecting Christ, as God, there is no telling what kind of a future would come about.


Ashley | 92 comments Mod
Galicius wrote: "I was eager to get a better understanding of the curious history of the Arian heresy because I came across it many times in Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, volumes 2-3 but it’s har..."

I agree...I think it's really helpful how Belloc explains WHY the heresies were successful. Atheism would never have been successful back then, because like Belloc said, people took their faith for granted...no one would have ever considered that God might not exist. And like you said, I doubt the Arian heresy could ever be popular now.


Ashley | 92 comments Mod
CHAPTER FOUR:

I'm just astounded at how much the Islamic forces seemed to pervade Europe and Asia! I had no idea that the Catholic religion was so close to being wiped out!


message 8: by Galicius (last edited Jun 21, 2016 06:38PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Galicius Chapter Four

Belloc writes about the decline of Islam after the battle of Vienna in 1683 and all through the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries until his time of mid-twentieth.

Among the visible causes he sees lagging behind in industrial development, armament, and sea power, and communication. Yet Belloc warns on more than one occasion that there is nothing sure that Mohammedanism will not rise again and threaten Europe.

I am reminded of an anecdote attributed to Lenin after the communists’ successful Bolshevik Revolution. Lenin was asked “What will we do with all the capitalists that are out to get us?” He said, “We will hang them.” But someone asked, “Where will we get all the rope to hang them.” Lenin replied “They will sell it to us.”

Belloc writes that Mohammedanism attracted large groups of men to its ranks by offering them a simple religion, freedom from slavery and relief from debt. There is a huge class of young men in the Moslem countries now without meaningful employment, education, seizing on the call to arms or else seeking opportunity elsewhere preferably in Europe.

We are selling the Mohammedans the arms, the technology, and communication. I see young men marching into Europe with cell phones. Their main concern is where to keep them charged.


Ashley | 92 comments Mod
Galicius wrote: "Chapter Four

Belloc writes about the decline of Islam after the battle of Vienna in 1683 and all through the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries until his time of mid-twentieth.

Among the visible..."


So true!! I've been thinking this as well when I read this chapter...I was also listening to Catholic Answers today and Steve Ray talked about how Islam is so hard to convert...it is not just a religion, but a culture too...and Islamic countries follow the law that anyone who converts is killed. It is scary to realize, as you said, that we are giving them all the supplies they need, yet our country remains steeped in political correctness and refuses to admit the problem.


Ashley | 92 comments Mod
CHAPTER FOUR:
I am blown away how prophetic Belloc seems to be about the nature of Islam and it's probable return in full force. A line that particularly stuck out to me:
(When talking about how it is assumed that Islamic forces are no longer prevalent, p 73): "But can we be certain it is so decided? I doubt it very much. It has always seemed to me possible, and even probable, that there would be a resurrection of Islam and that our sons and our grandsons would see the renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent."

This book was published in 1938...and I think we can easily say that Belloc was right. Now, in 2016, we can see Islam becoming more and more prevalent. It has become politically incorrect to even mention the dangers that this already has, probably can, and most likely will cause in the world.


message 11: by Galicius (last edited Jun 26, 2016 06:11PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Galicius A friend just sent me a page from 1977 Stanford Yearbook with an entry and photo of Valerie Jarrett. She writes: “I am a Iranian by birth and of my Islamic faith. I am also an American Citizen and I seek to help change America to be a more Islamic county. My faith guides me and I feel like it is going well in the transition of using freedom of religion in America against itself.”

Who is Valerie Jarrett now? She is Senior Advisor to the President of the United States. You can read more about her on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerie...


Ashley | 92 comments Mod
Galicius wrote: "A friend just sent me a page from 1977 Stanford Yearbook with an entry and photo of Valerie Jarrett. She writes: “I am a Iranian by birth and of my Islamic faith. I am also an American Citizen and ..."

Wow...that is scary! I can't say I'm surprised though...


Ashley | 92 comments Mod
CHAPTER FIVE:
I am struck by how each heresy we have learned of so far (and I am predicting that the Protestant reformation and the modern heresy will be the same) comes from an over-simplification of our Catholic doctrine. I think it was when Belloc was talking about the Arian heresy is when he said that our minds are logical and want simple teachings, so sometimes our Catholic faith seems too complicated to understand (especially concerning teachings such as the Trinity and the Eucharist). And so naturally we want to make them "easy" to understand. But I am grateful the Church has never (and will never!) watered down Her doctrine!


Galicius Good observation about what we read so far Ashley. The next long chapter is a bit different in that it deals with several breakaway anti-Catholic groups, religious warfare, strange Cardinal Richelieu. I am still working on it. I may not meet the July 1st deadline to finish this book.


Ashley | 92 comments Mod
Galicius wrote: "Good observation about what we read so far Ashley. The next long chapter is a bit different in that it deals with several breakaway anti-Catholic groups, religious warfare, strange Cardinal Richeli..."

I'm looking forward to learning about it! I just started the Chapter on the Protestant reformation. I actually will not be able to finish by Friday, either. So I'm going to extend it a week. But, as always, if people can't finish by the specified time, it's no big deal, anyone can jump in on the discussion even after we are done reading the book!


message 16: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Anders | 2 comments I got a late start I'm catching up though. I'm currently getting through the Manichean heresy. Arianism was interesting though. He talked about it like it was dead which is curious considering the Jehovah's witnesses are basically a repeat of that heresy. Were they just not as prevalent when he wrote this?


message 17: by Galicius (last edited Jul 01, 2016 06:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Galicius Timothy wrote: "I got a late start I'm catching up though. I'm currently getting through the Manichean heresy. Arianism was interesting though. He talked about it like it was dead which is curious considering the ..."

Welcome to the discussion Timothy. It’s good to have you here. You ask a tall question about Arianism and JW. I myself don’t know much about them or want to delve into JW beliefs to compare them. I doubt they were anything significant as a group in England in the thirties when Belloc wrote this. I am reading that they experienced three schisms between 1909 and 1931. There are a lot of sects that Belloc does not mention. Not a word on Mormons although they were minor two in his time.


Ashley | 92 comments Mod
Timothy wrote: "I got a late start I'm catching up though. I'm currently getting through the Manichean heresy. Arianism was interesting though. He talked about it like it was dead which is curious considering the ..."

Hi Tim! From what I've seen, he's writing about the BIG heresies, meaning ones that really made a dent in the history of the Catholic faith. I'm assuming that Jehovah's Witness wasn't large enough or prevalent enough (even probably still now) to be considered a "big" heresy. That's what I would think, at least.


message 19: by Galicius (last edited Jul 05, 2016 07:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Galicius “The Albigensian Attack” Chapter

Belloc makes some interesting general observations in the early part of this chapter, for example “in the heart of middle ages, the great thirteenth century” when you would least expect it the Catholic Church was attacked by a strange new heresy. Belloc proposes that the major problem and question that humanity is faced with is how to deal with the problem of evil, which entails death and suffering. Catholicism recognizes and deals with this central issue directly. Among the various ways that humanity managed this enigma, including denying it exists, and accepting reality as meaningless were the Stoic, Buddhist, and the Manichean solutions. I think Belloc dispenses with each sometimes too quickly in his neat and swift summing-up of each. He calls Stoicism “The philosophy of grin-and-bear-it” and in the end “utterly negative”.

I found a distant echo of this ancient attitude in our times in the Serenity Prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971). The source of it is probably the short “Enchyridion” (39 pages) by Epictetus ((55-135 AD). This Stoic view teaches to alter your perception of the world so that you come to apprehend things in such a way that they don’t influence you harmfully. You need to tell the difference between things over which you have control and those over which you don’t have control and thus you need to prepare yourself emotionally for what will come. Then you need to alter your desires with respect to the world so you don’t continue with your frustrations and structure your life in such a way that you stay straight and narrow. You have to resist pressure and not respond when people say things. You must sustain your commitments. The spiritual Catholic writer Luis de Granada recognizes Epictetus as a philosopher and a sage. He quotes him in “The Sinner’s Guide” (on our list of 100).

Belloc’s comment on Buddhism that it’s a “despairing way” and Asia’s greatest example of a “philosophy which calls the individual an illusion, bids us to look forward to being merged in the impersonal life of the universe” is something that Carroll echoed in a work on our Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan “History of Christendom” Vol. 1: “Incredible as it must seem to any reasoning mind, the ultimate teaching of Buddhism is that nothing really exists—not even nirvana, not even Buddha himself”. (Pp. 162-63)

Belloc does a brief and good explanation of Manicheans. I was puzzled why St. Augustine, in “Confessions” had a struggle with it. Belloc explains that Manicheans first of all deny the “omnipotent goodness” God. They worship evil as well. We are reminded of Baal and Carthaginians who burned their children as sacrifices to him. We need to know nothing more.

There is much unfamiliar territory in this chapter for me and I came away with more questions than answers after reading it. I am not sure I want to delve into this to any great extent beyond what Belloc covers though Belloc recommends a book on the Inquisition by Hoffman Nickerson, which deals with this institution established to combat heresy. I hear of a first burning of a heretic in this chapter, land seizures by landlords from other landlords, private interests seizing Church estates. Religion and politics are rampant here. Belloc never denies their close relationship and frequently reminds us they are in other chapters. Gibbon wrote at some length about the Paulicians, another name for Albingensians. I did not know they were the same. They espoused a conglomeration of strange beliefs: condemnation of marriage, abandonment of sacraments, vegetarian diet, forbidding wine, pacifism yet much defensive warfare, and denunciation of capital punishment.


Galicius “What Was the Reformation?” Chapter

Belloc tells us that unlike the previous heresies this was not a particular one but a conflict within one religion and a general attempt to dissolve the Catholic Church. He breaks down the general period from the first shot, Luther’s posting of Church abuses in 1517. Belloc looks back to earlier for trends that foreshadowed the Reformation. He sees the Black Death catastrophe (1348-50) as a possible starting point of the “great schism” when possibly one-third of European population died. Then immediately came the Avignon for seventy years with the Pope becoming more French when should have been universal and for all Christians, and the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).

Luther was not the first. Belloc does not mention Chaucer who satirized pardons, relics, and gift giving in “Canterbury Tales” in late fourteenth century but he does acknowledge that the cause of the Reformation were “the evils which had grown up in the religious system of Christendom”. The period from the “critical date 1517, when the explosion took place for about the next 80 years was a period of ‘The Turmoil’”.

Belloc mentions false forged documents, the infamous Donation of Constantine, practice of local shrines and ceremonies, thousands of false relics, double relics, and especially “worldliness” of Church officers. These abuses go back centuries. We read in Dante’s “Inferno” of three popes placed there. Belloc does not mention any of the scandals of Pope Alexander VI but he does points him out.

Belloc singles out John Calvin as a founder of a counter-Church and as a true heresiarch who admitted a vision of a Moloch God in his teaching, antagonism to humility and poverty, and devotion to material success.

Religious wars began in France in 1559 and lasted there forty years, followed by thirty years of German religious wars. He attributes the fiercest struggle to Calvin’s book published in 1536. Richelieu is merely glanced over. He no doubt requires a whole study to get to the bottom of his mixing of religion and politics, aiding German Protestants against a Catholic emperor, bribing a Swedish king with gold.

Belloc rightly points out that historians do not sufficiently emphasize greed as a moral factor provoking war violence. The Reformers first allowed the rich to seize clerical funds and endowments. Protestant culture caused a decline of free peasants. I would like to hear more on that. Feudalism persisted in Eastern and Central Europe well into the nineteenth century. Rich men acquired their land. Protestants were more vigorous and confident. By 1770 “The Protestant culture was about to get the upper hand and would perhaps keep it for a long time”. Catholic culture was declining and more than that “Faith was breaking down”. Protestant culture had no problem with growing skepticism but it too eventually declined. It began to poison itself from within. Belloc sees that Protestantism tried to turn Church doctrine, scripture, and Judeo-Christian tradition against the Church, and then appealed to the Bible against Catholic authority. It looked to literal interpretation of the Bible, and then fell to doubting almost everything the Bible contained, even the authenticity of the four Gospels.

Belloc comes to the conclusion that Protestantism produced industrial capitalism, free competition, created modern banking and permitted open usury, and “bred vast social evils”. The nineteenth century shows this well. Viewed on one level of reforming the abuses within the church, especially the materialistic ones, the entire period until the Great War (WWI) brought on greater evils onto the population than it tried to reform.


Ashley | 92 comments Mod
Galicius wrote: "“What Was the Reformation?” Chapter

Belloc tells us that unlike the previous heresies this was not a particular one but a conflict within one religion and a general attempt to dissolve the Catholi..."


While I read this chapter, I was surprised that Belloc seemed to focus more on Calvin than he did Luther. But, like you said, I found it interesting how he explained the events that most likely led up to the protestant revolution. Like Belloc says in the book, it's hard for us to understand certain things from our modern viewpoint, but looking at things from their eyes in that time period, we can understand why things happened the way they did.


Ashley | 92 comments Mod
I just finished yesterday, and wow, what a chapter that last one was! I couldn't stop reading it! I loved how Belloc compares the "modern heresy," or what I took to be atheism, to the ancient pagans. If you think about it, they are very similar...although pagans worshipped gods and atheists find no reasonable evidence for God, atheists have their own gods they worship...themselves. We see more and more of this self worship in our current culture. And now, reason seems to have completely gone out the window, and physical realities no longer exist to many people.

I really enjoyed this book, and it gave me a much better understanding as to WHY the heresies happened and how to look at things from the viewpoint of people who lived during the times of the particular heresies. It also gave me insight as to how, as a culture, we seem to be repeating some mistakes from long ago.


Galicius Ashley wrote: "I just finished yesterday, and wow, what a chapter that last one was! I couldn't stop reading it! I loved how Belloc compares the "modern heresy," or what I took to be atheism, to the ancient pagan..."

I kept in mind that Belloc was writing eighty years ago at a perilous time in modern history. It is easy to ask in retrospect why more people weren’t aware of the impending catastrophe of WWII. Belloc is concerned with Hitler and the Nazis but only in a footnote and is more concerned with communism. There were others who saw a greater picture of the future. A poet of the age Yeats sees something apocalyptic in a disturbing “The Second Coming” (1919). He sees something bestial coming around a full circle using symmetry of the millenniums. Looking back at the terrible past two he fears the future two thousand years.

Belloc sees the situation in his “Modern time as a “quarrel between the Church and the “Anti-Christ”. It’s more than a quarrel to Belloc: “The duel is to the death” with the intention to destroy the Catholic Church. This anti-Church wave is essentially Atheist as you read Belloc. Atheism denies human reason. That is a self-contradiction because if you deny that human reason cannot arrive at truth how can you use reason to hold such an affirmation? This does not bother the Atheist for he merely affirms and marches on like a beast.

I like Belloc’s recognition that he is witnessing a revival of slavery to the State (communism) and slavery to private corporations and individuals . . .“the exploitation of the masses of men still free by a few owners of the means of production, transport and exchange “. If he wrote in our time Belloc would have added about the cold efficiency of the computer to lower the cost of production and exploit the line-workers’ lives and increase their insecurity as well.


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