The Great Heresies
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Hilaire Belloc examines the five most destructive heretical movements to have affected Christian Civilization: Arianism, Mohammedanism (Islam), Albigensianism (Cathar), The Reformation (Protestant), and “The Modern Phase.” Belloc describes how these movements began, how they spread, and how they continued to influence the world up until the time of his writing (1936). The Chapter on Islam is especially relevant in light of current events; in it Belloc accurately predicts the renewal of Jihadist aggression towards Western Civilization.
accompanied by a Virgin Birth, that bread and wine are transformed by a particular formula; he may recite a great number of Christian prayers and admire and copy chosen Christian exemplars, but he will be quite a different man from the man who takes immortality for granted. Because heresy, in this particular sense (the denial of an accepted Christian doctrine) thus affects the individual, it affects all society, and when you are examining a society formed by a particular religion you necessarily
its islands, raided and left armed settlements even on the shores of Gaul and Italy. They spread mightily throughout Hither Asia, overwhelming the Persian realm. They were an increasing menace to Constantinople. Within a hundred years, a main part of the Roman world had fallen under the power of this new and strange force from the Desert. Such a revolution had never been. No earlier attack had been so sudden, so violent or so permanently successful. Within a score of years from the first assault
Charlemagne’s experiment. So much for the Christian world of that time, against which Islam was beginning to press so heavily; which had lost to Islam the whole of Spain and certain islands and coasts of the central Mediterranean as well. Christendom was under siege from Islam. Islam stood up against us in dominating splendour and wealth and power, and, what was even more important, with superior knowledge in the practical and applied sciences. Islam preserved the Greek philosophers, the Greek
some body of morals, and that there can be no body of morals without doctrine, and if we agree to call any consistent body of morals and doctrine a religion, then the importance of heresy as a subject will become clear, because heresy means nothing else than “the proposal of novelties in religion by picking out from what has been the accepted religion some point or other, denying the same or replacing it by another doctrine hitherto unfamiliar.” The study of successive Christian heresies, their
between the Church and her enemies became taken for granted and the victory of these enemies taken for granted as well. Religion was dying out in the elementary schools. Great tracts of the peasantry were losing their ancestral faith; and with the decline of religion went a decline of taste in architecture and all the arts-and worst of all in letters. The old French lucidity of thought began to grow confused. There was no revival of Spain, and in Italy, what with anti-clerical and Masonic