"What's a heretic?" and other sectarian violence

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Kuma
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"What's a heretic?" and other sectarian violence

Post by Kuma » Fri Jun 19, 2020 4:06 am

This isn't any sort of D&D/FR related lore or what have you, but is an analysis on a select few words used as, for want of a better term, religious hate speech that might be levelled from one character at another, for any number of very good reasons! These are ordinary words with real definitions that distinguish each one from the other, and while their roots may lie in the real world, they can be extrapolated and used just like the words "concrete", "omnibus", or "moist".

Let me improve your vocabulary.


Heresy: Beliefs or practice strongly at variance with established beliefs or practices; unorthodox practice (but not every "Orthodox" Church of religion is inherently orthodox with a lowercase o).
Heretic: A believer or practicer of heresy. It's very rare someone would proclaim themselves to be a heretic, it's an accusation levelled at fellows-in-faith that you disagree with in very strong terms.
Apostasy: The formal disaffiliation from, abandonment of, or denouncement of a religion. Usually, but not always, followed by the embracing of another belief to replace it.
Apostate: One who has undergone apostasy - usually used to mean someone who's changed their faith, but could mean someone who's become Faithless after being religious, in D&D context. It's almost always an accusation against another, also: it's rare someone will change religion and claim to be an apostate.
Infidel: Literally "unfaithful"; someone accused of unbelief in the central tenets of their own religion. Modern use of the term sees the scope broadened to those of conflicting religions, atheists, pagans, polytheists, antitheists, etc. A faithful cleric could accuse a demon cultist of being an infidel, or even a druid if the druid doesn't worship a deity. It's a fun word and should be used more.

This means that a drow who worships Selvetarm is not a "heretic" to your regular everyday average J'ane Cleric of Lolth. If, however, they were doing it in ways that chafed with said Lolthite, then they might be accused of heresy for that. They might be accused of apostasy later if the Selvetarmite denounces Lolth. And they could be branded an infidel during most of this, if the Temple decided that pink wasn't to be worn on Thurscycle, but that's drow for you. This is just an example. Your characters can believe and say what they want, these aren't definitions. But more often than not the word "heretic" is bandied around incorrectly in most situations on the server.

Another example: Dave the Fighter joins the Church of Bane as a knight and swears his oaths to the Black Hand. He takes a lover who starts convincing him that Bane doesn't need to be all about fear and tyranny. He starts acting more mercifully, and in ways the Church considers against their teachings: he is a heretic, in their eyes. Now, assuming his lover goes one step further and gets him to actually take action against the Church, or accuse the Church of being wrong in turn- he's now an infidel, to the Church. His lover woos him and they marry, and Dave becomes an Ilmateri - he joins the Temple of Ilmater, or at least renounces his Banite oaths. He is now, to the Church, committing the sin of apostasy. Dave and his husband are very deeply in love and have a happy life together. Aww.

One more: Bilbo is a Shaman from Kara-Tur. He receives his magic from the Celestial Bureaucracy. He is good and right and just and nice. Father Karras, the LE Helmite, doesn't understand his explanation and names his "Celestial Bureaucracy" nothing but witchcraft, and names him a heathen, a pagan, and an idolator. Now by definition one can see why Karras has reached that conclusion: it's not a religion he's familiar with, it sounds like suspicious occultism, and probably does involve venerating statues that the Helmite's never seen before. But he doesn't call Bilbo a heretic (he's not of the same faith or family of faiths), an apostate (same again), or an infidel (by the modern definition you could, but his player doesn't want to). He conveys his meaning linguistically in a correct manner from his point of view. Bilbo tells him to stop being such an a-hole, this is why nobody likes Helmites and Inquisitor ripoffs, and Father Karras tells Bilbo's mother to impolitely do something in Baator.

-

Heathen: A person who does not belong to a widely held religion.
Pagan: A person holding religious beliefs other than those of main world religions.
Idolator: A practitioner of idolatry, the worship of an idol; the Biblical "graven image", "golden calf", etc.

These last three are particularly interesting as the connotations, aesthetic flavour, and FR interpretations vary widely. No solid definitions exist for these, and even apostasy is only something that'd come up for followers of a jealous god (Banites that renounce their faith, for instance) or, ironically, a hard-line heretical priest with higher standards than you'd expect for a pseudopolytheistic setting. A Tyrran becoming an Ilmateri would never cause words like this to be thrown around (unless, again, your character decides to! This is an option, cause religious schisms! I'm just describing the sort of baseline scenario.)

Heathen and pagan almost look identically defined, but a heathen doesn't necessarily hold any beliefs: a Faithless might be called a heathen, or someone that's considered by a closed-minded Faerunian (wrongly) to not worship what he thinks are "real gods" (spirits, foreign pantheons, Kara-Turan religions). A pagan is similar, but with "a belief" - a Toril-bound druid could be accused of being a pagan by someone, perhaps, or a worshipper of Demogorgon might be called it. Then you have idolator, which, again, could simiarlly be levelled at an infernalist preacher of Asmodeus or even a Far Realm cultist bowing to her cyclopean idol.

But, these have less strict definitions, what I say above is more the 'feeling' they convey to someone who's grown up around the very specific media I have. Your mileage may vary with using these IC. My religious character has called a loyal Infernalist warlock a "virtuous pagan", but also an idolator when he was annoyed with her.

A word of warning: none of these examples are to be taken as "lore" or "fact" about characters, religions, etc. These words have no bearing in canon for the most part (the exception being heresies, but the exception is that lots of them are true, but characters have no way of being sure). It's IC conjecture; a lexicon of insults, accusations, and fun hate speech to use on your enemies and rivals, inside your faith and outside of it.

But words have meanings, and there's a knowledge gap that I think I've now happily filled.

Now go burn a witch.
Last edited by Kuma on Fri Jun 19, 2020 4:18 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: "What's a heretic?" and other sectarian violence

Post by Fargreze » Fri Jun 19, 2020 4:13 am

Bilbo is a Shaman from Kara-Tur. He receives his magic from the Celestial Bureaucracy.
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Re: "What's a heretic?" and other sectarian violence

Post by Bunnysmack » Wed Jul 01, 2020 5:18 pm

Actually been wanting to know the exact term for a while of a Drow that has completely abandoned Llolth, but WAS Llolthite in their past, and now vehemently opposes Llolth as a devout follower of Vhaeraun. Is that an apostate? Infidel? Terminology on this one was a bit confused thus far.
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Re: "What's a heretic?" and other sectarian violence

Post by NMan7496 » Wed Jul 01, 2020 5:33 pm

Bunnysmack wrote:
Wed Jul 01, 2020 5:18 pm
Actually been wanting to know the exact term for a while of a Drow that has completely abandoned Llolth, but WAS Llolthite in their past, and now vehemently opposes Llolth as a devout follower of Vhaeraun. Is that an apostate? Infidel? Terminology on this one was a bit confused thus far.
As far as English terminology these are your common ones for people of other faiths or who abandoned yours:

- Heretic: One who is still among the faithful, but follows beliefs that are not recognized or even disdained by the mainstream faith.
- Blasphemer: Is someone, of any faith, who insults another. So if your Vhaeraunite actively speaks out against the Church of Llolth, they would consider him a blashphemer.
- Heathen: Those who do not worship a "mainstream" god. This was typically attributed to Pagans by Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
- Infidel: Someone who does not adheres to your religion.

Now all of these should be taken with a grain of salt as the context I gave is from monotheistic faiths, where as FR is polytheistic. A worshipper of Vhaeraun would not be an infidel to a worshipper of Llolth because they are from the same Pantheon of gods. I doubt heathen would come up because that would be more reserved to the faiths of Maztica, Kara-Tur, etc. He would not be a heretic since he's not a Llolthite, so, personally, I think blasphemer is the most fitting if he is actively against the Church of Llolth.
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Re: "What's a heretic?" and other sectarian violence

Post by Xerah » Wed Jul 01, 2020 5:45 pm

Bunnysmack wrote:
Wed Jul 01, 2020 5:18 pm
Actually been wanting to know the exact term for a while of a Drow that has completely abandoned Llolth, but WAS Llolthite in their past, and now vehemently opposes Llolth as a devout follower of Vhaeraun. Is that an apostate? Infidel? Terminology on this one was a bit confused thus far.
You’d be an Apostate.
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Re: "What's a heretic?" and other sectarian violence

Post by NMan7496 » Wed Jul 01, 2020 5:49 pm

Oof, right. Figures it's the one that slipped my mind.
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Re: "What's a heretic?" and other sectarian violence

Post by Bunnysmack » Wed Jul 01, 2020 8:50 pm

Thanks for the clarification! People had been telling me different answers on that!
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