The Heretic
aka: Heresy

"With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of The Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. "
Thomas Aquinas
The Inquisition warns you. Plots are made to be enjoyed. Do not analyze. Do not criticize. Eat your Filler and read your mantras daily.

The Heretic is a traitor to The Church and/or its Canon. Most commonly, he was once a member of its congregation or even its clergy but got officially excommunicated for propagating beliefs that go against The Church's official dogma. Often, the Church sends out Knights Templar to Kill Them With Fire along with witches. Just being a heretic doesn't mark you evil by default: A heretic to a Saintly Church is often Chaotic Evil, but a heretic to a Corrupt Church or a Path of Inspiration may well be a Defector from Decadence.

To qualify as a heresy worthy of condemnation, the "heresy" should have an intrinsic connection to doctrines of the church in question. Someone who merely disagrees with the Church as an outsider is not a heretic - for instance, Hypatia of Alexandria. Wiccans and Buddhists are not considered "heretics" to the Catholic religion, but Padre Ned Reidy was put on trial for heresy.

The word "heretic" is from a Greek word meaning "to choose," so a heretic can be thought of as a person who chooses his own path. Much like Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters in the political realm, those whom the Church labels "heretics" often claim that they're actually "reformers" or "purifiers". Christian theologian Irenaeus popularized the word heresy in the Christian world in his anti-Gnostic tracts. Multiple heretics often form a Cult.

Compare Thought Crime and Illegal Religion.


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  • Lenard and Elfetine's sect in Scrapped Princess. However, their "heresy" was provoked by Lenard, who is a (overly ambitious) cleric himself, in the first place.
  • Heresy is a common charge leveled against people in Berserk, particularly by those who serve the Holy See. The Count from the third major manga story uses the charge of heresy to get himself people to eat, being an Apostle. And Mozgus in particular is very much merciless in dealing with those who he considers heretics.
  • Arachne from Soul Eater is described as a "heretic Witch" because of the way she created the original magical Weapons features in the series, namely, by taking a normal human soul, a weapon, as well as the Soul of her fellow Witch (holding the power of transformation). Thus, she's hunted not just by the good guys but her fellow Witches.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Aleister Crowley was once one of the greatest sorcerers in the world, but then he decided to defect to the Science Side. Given that there is a secret Magic Versus Science war going on, he's become one of the most hated figures in the Magic Side.
    • Richard Brave is a sorcerer who wields a Flaming Sword called Lævateinn. The Magic Side declares him a heretic because the sword uses a combination of magic and science to work instead of pure magic. In response to the Magic Side dissing his finest creation, Richard declares his hatred of the Magic Side and tries to get revenge.

  • In Kenau: what a lot of Dutch people are, according to the Spanish. The prosecution of protestants is the main reason the Low Countries rose in revolt against Spain.


  • The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco, entirely revolves around the theme of the thin line between orthodoxy and heresy, and what happens when people cross it.
  • Nicholas Harpole in In The Garden of Iden.
  • In David Eddings' The Redemption of Althalus, one of Althalus' major enemies is a "defrocked" priest.
    • From the same author, there's recurring villain Martel in the Elenium, a former Church Knight who turned to the worship of the Dark God Azash and committed various atrocities since.
  • The Church in the Safehold series brands the entire nation of Charis as being heretics, mainly because they had the gall to survive the Church's attempts to obliterate them out of sheer paranoia. So far, despite having called down a holy war upon the Charisians, they have yet to learn that many of the leaders of Charis really are heretics, although the heresy they believe in (That the Archangels were not really divine messengers) is actually true.
  • In the Disgaea novels we meet angel Ozonne who propagates beliefs that go against Celestia's official dogma and is considered to be a heretic, but she is not excommunicated for it because the big boss Seraph Lamington want to let heretics run free.
  • The Preacher in Children of Dune certainly counts as this. He wanders the cities and settlements on the planet Arrakis, speaking out against the religion that has grown around the late Paul Atreides and his sister Alia. Of course it turns out that the Preacher actually is Paul, having walked blind into the desert several years before, thus essentially excommunicating himself from the dogmatic power structure that he had begun to hate.
  • The Damned One is the history's greatest heretic in Arcia Chronicles. The twist in his case is that he is actually St. Erasti, one of the most (if not the most) revered saints of The Church. This knowledge was so dangerous that The Church erased all connections between St. Erasti and the Damned One from history after his defeat.
  • Oelita, the Gentle Heretic, in Courtship Rite, preaches against cannibalism and the belief that the moving light in the sky is a God. When our heroes are told of her by the clan leader, they assume they're going to be sent to kill her, and are shocked to learn that they're being ordered to marry her, and bring her congregation under Kaiel influence.
  • Lots of this in the 'Tales of the Branion Realm' series, which features a divine royal family whose monarch is a God in Human Form, the Vessel of the Living Flame.
    • Book 1: A prince rebels against his mother, which given her status is both heresy and treason.
    • Book 2: A Seer priest is part of a conspiracy to murder the Vessel, repents, and joins the Heir's protectors. The leader in charge of this Ragtag Bunch of Misfits follows an entirely different faith, and his own God has ordered him to protect the Flame's Vessel — possibly to ensure that its own followers are treated better in the Flame's country.
    • Book 3: The Vessels themselves are heretics, having converted to a different religion and trapping the Flame within their own bodies; the protagonists rescue It by seducing the Vessel, having his firstborn son and raising him to kill his father — also heresy, since this is like killing Jesus to free God from his human prison.
    • Book 4: The protagonists are a heretic cult, trying to give the other three Elemental Powers their own avatars.
  • High Priest Rheaesi in The Will Be Done zig-zags it a bit; he's not technically a heretic, but the Church pretty much views him as such, and he gets executed in the end.

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     Tabletop Games  
  • Warhammer 40,000's theocratic Imperium of Man has a saying: "light your way in the darkness with the pyres of burning heretics." The civil war that almost destroyed it after its founding and put the God Emperor on life-support is labeled the Horus Heresy, there's an entire Ordo of the Inquisition devoted to rooting out heresy, and being executed for heresy is just one of the many ways to die in the 41st millennium. Some would say this can be exaggerated into an overused meme, but that would be- "HERESY!" *BLAM*
    • The Imperium is just so big that the more realistic Ecclesiarchs have given up on ever achieving a uniform Imperial Cult, and must tolerate Him on Earth being worshiped according to different worlds' customs - Humanity's unifier made divine, a sun deity, the Omnissiah, the Allfather, etc. But at the same time, groups like Genestealer Cults, to say nothing of covens dedicated to the Dark Gods, are quite capable of masquerading as properly pious Imperial citizens until they're ready to sacrifice a planet to their dread masters. As a result, the Inquisition gets to spend a lot of time determining which religious groups fall within an acceptable level of deviance, and which need to be burned at the stake. As a rule, it errs on the side of caution.
    • Ironically, the Imperial Cult was founded on the teachings of Lorgar, Primarch of the Word Bearers and the first Primarch to fall to Chaos — the very first heretic.
    • Not so ironically, the Imperial Cult really is heresy, because the Emperor himself preached an Imperial Truth of science, rationality, and enforced disbelief in the Warp.
    • There are also heretics who deviate from the Imperium's other orthodoxy, the Cult Mechanicus. These "hereteks" usually start out as tech-priests who chafe under the Cult's strict restrictions on innovation and study of Xeno technology, and start experimenting with new designs and reverse-engineering captured alien tech, fully intending to better mankind through their work. This being 40k, there's some very good reasons this things are forbidden, and most hereteks end up taking a flying leap off the slippery slope sooner or later and going full over to Chaos, if they don't get themselves killed first.
    • The Player Characters of Black Crusade are Chaos followers, and books always refer to them as "the Heretics".
  • Seen every now and then in Eberron concerning the Church of the Silver Flame.
  • Anyone from Exalted working with the Anathema (that is, anyone working with your player character).
    • There is a growing number of these in Autochthon. And sometimes they are right.

     Video Games  

  • The eponymous character from Heretic, of course. The Heretics in question were the Sidhe elves, the only race of beings not subject to the sorcerous mind control of the Serpent Riders, and thus targeted for extermination by their minions.
  • The Heretic Leader from Halo 2, an Elite who learned the truth about the "Great Journey" from 343 Guilty Spark and tried to warn the rest of the Covenant. The Arbiter is also branded a heretic at the beginning for his failure in the previous game, but that's really just an excuse to have him executed for his failure. He abandons his own religious beliefs after discovering the truth about the Covenant and ends up leading a splinter faction which allies with the "heathen" humans.
  • Ramza from Final Fantasy Tactics gets branded as a heretic when he runs afoul of their Ancient Conspiracy and kills a (demon-possessed) bishop in self defense. On the other hand, Olan Durai is also burned at stake for trying to reveal the truth behind The Lion War and Ramza's unsung heroism.
  • Billy from Xenogears rejects the doctrines of his church once he learns of its sponsorship and purpose.
  • Pellegri from Xenosaga stops just short of accusing her superior, Margulis, of heresy when he questions the authority of Lord Heinlein.
    • On that note, Shion and Jin, who both are likely to have extensive ties to the Ormus religion - physically beat the crap out of The Pope at the end of Episode II.
  • Yuna becomes a heretic in Final Fantasy X when she resolves to reject the teachings of Bevelle and fight Sin to destruction.
    • Happens to quite a few people in that game, notably the Crusaders being excommunicated for their use of machina, despite their perfectly good intentions and their continued belief in Yevon.
      • Not to mention the clergy actually backed the attempt to use machina to fight Sin. As soon as it failed, they pretended otherwise.
  • Nero rejects the teachings of his church to save his lover, Kyrie, in Devil May Cry 4.
  • In Medieval II: Total War, regions where your faith isn't overwhelmingly dominant may spawn Heretics, or even convert a Priest you have stationed there to heresy. Since Heretics spread heresy and cause religious unrest, it's a good idea to have your Priests subject them to trials and burn them at the stake. If you're Catholic and you don't deal with Heretics, The Pope will send Inquisitors to your lands to start examining family members.
  • Byakuren Hijiri from Touhou is a heretic by the virtue of being compassionate to the Youkai. In this settings, the very presence of Celestial beings can harm Youkai regardless of either sides' morality.
    • Before that, there was Rikako Asakura, who was branded heretical for believing in science over magic.
  • In Mass Effect 2, it is revealed that the Geth the player had been fighting in Mass Effect 1 were actually a fanatical splinter group called Heretics by the True Geth. Making up about five percent of the total Geth population, Legion emphasises that the Heretics chose to worship the Reapers, instead of upholding the rather non-religious notion of self-determination of the True Geth.
  • In Crusader Kings 2, characters can adopt a variety of historical heresies. They tend to be loathed by anyone from the main religion, and imprisoned and forced to convert back. Unless a very powerful king adopts the heresy, in which case the same thing typically happens to the orthodox faithful.
    • The Sons of Abraham expansion for the game gives heresies the ability to supplant their parent as the mainstream faith, reducing the old beliefs to being seen as heretical themselves in the process. The earlier Legacy of Rome expansion allowed the Great Schism to be mended by a sufficiently successful still-Orthodox Byzantium, reducing Catholicism to a heresy of Orthodoxy.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the Dissident Priests were heretics to the Tribunal Temple, disputing several points of dogma (though this appears to have been partly a response to being persecuted for questioning Temple policy, which isn't exactly heresy even if the Temple called it that). The Tribunal Temple also persecutes the Nerevarine Cult as heretics (technically they are, just not really of the Temple, seeing as they developed in parallel in response to the same event and from the same source religion. It's actually the Temple who made the most radical changes of dogma, the Nerevarine Cult just explained away the new gods as false gods and added in a messiah figure). Both of those change towards the end of the main quest, with the Dissident Priests acknowledged as having had a point with much of what they said and the Nerevarine Cult recognised as being right about the messiah figure thing, both by one of the gods of the Tribunal himself.
    • Actually subverted in the case of the Nerevarine prophecy — while the Temple considers it a folk superstition and persecutes the Ashlanders who believe it, when you actually show up and start fulfilling the prophecy, you get a letter from the local Archcanon. You see, they're not sure if you're a legitimate reincarnation of St. Nerevar ... so they're going to do their damnedest to try and kill you, as a sort of test. If you really are the Nerevarine, something so petty as a full inquisitorial process could hardly keep you from fulfilling your prophecies, now could it?
  • In League of Legends, Karthus the Deathsinger joined the Order of the Tallymen of Kindred (a collection of gravediggers, pyre-builders, corpse collectors and carers for the dying who follow Kindred, the incarnation of death) and rose to become quite prominent in the order. Once he decided he could learn no more about death from mortals, he traveled to the Shadow Isles and transformed himself into an immortal lich who trapped the souls of his victims in an undead state like himself, making him an abomination to Kindred, to whom unnatural prolonging of life beyond one's time is the greatest evil.

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  • Roa from Tsukihime got excommunicated for becoming a vampire on his quest for immortality. He then got excommunicated by the vampires for reasons unexplained.

     Real Life  


Alternative Title(s): Heresy