April 12, 2019 by thewashingteenian
By Jay Trovato, Guest Contributor (Library Staff)
A long, long time ago, people were regularly set on fire for their opinions. At that time, the Catholic church was both a religious body and a major political force. To disobey or speak out against the official teachings of the church was considered a serious threat to the public order. If found guilty, a person could be executed. Everyone else who witnessed such a severe punishment lived in the fear that they could suffer the same fate, and therefore usually decided to keep their opinions to themselves if they did not agree with the officially sanctioned beliefs.
Having a dissenting belief or opinion from the officially accepted body of beliefs is called “heresy,” and the unfortunate man or woman on fire is called a “heretic.”
But things are different now…right? Well, yes and no.
It’s true that we don’t burn people at the stake anymore, which is of course a good thing. But there is a body of public beliefs in our culture that almost everyone with an influential public voice seems to hold as incontrovertible. This body of beliefs takes many forms, but it holds the following (among others) as tenets of its dogma:
- There is no such thing as absolute truth.
- Personal happiness is the ultimate good.
- Anyone who voices their belief in absolute truth, or promotes any view that impedes the personal happiness of others, is worthy of unrelenting hostility.
Social media platforms (especially Twitter) have become places where people are socially “burned at the stake” for their heretical views. In some cases, people on the receiving end of persecution for differing from the officially accepted view have publicly lost their jobs or even received death threats!
So, the only difference between the heresy of yore and the heresy of today is that punishment is via flame-posting instead of physical fire. But the social media inquisitors are always watching, and their verbal torches are ready to burn you…