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16 Sovereignty and Heresy

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Chapter Summary

Heresy is a matter of religion; sovereignty is a matter of state. Heresy exists where people believe that religious truths can be grasped with enough certainty to make it worth their while to suppress whoever denies those truths. Modern heretics are far more likely to be found among the ranks of those who doubt or violate the boundary between nature and culture that is the chief article of faith in the modern religion. The medieval church had been well equipped to deal with heretics who claimed to have a grasp on some alternative religious truth. Sovereigns, however, made no such claims. They simply refused to stand for battle on the grounds of religion. They stood for battle on the grounds of the particular territory they happened to control and the particular laws by which they aspired to control that territory-positive temporal law, not eternal religious laws.

Keywords: heresy; modern heretics; religious laws; sovereignty

10.1163/9789004269576_018
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