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Heretics Paperback – February 28, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Boomer Books (February 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1600969313
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600969317
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,263,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Heretics is one of Chesterton s most important books. It is also one of his most neglected books. Perhaps the reason has to do with the title. The word heretic conjures up frightful images of controversial characters being barbecued for their beliefs. It smacks of intolerance. The very word dogmatic is perceived as being intolerant. But Chesterton says that man is the animal who makes dogmas. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded. There is something ironic about tolerance being an ideal, and that it is connected to religious freedom. In reality, tolerance has done more to suppress religion than has any persecution. It has left us not only afraid to debate about our beliefs, it has made us afraid even to discuss them. As Chesterton says, We now talk about the weather, and call it the complete liberty of all creeds. This strange silence about religion leaves the impression that religion is not important. There is one thing that is infinitely more absurd and unpractical than burning a man for his philosophy. This is the habit of saying his philosophy does not matter, and this is done universally in the twentieth century... A man s opinion... on Botticelli matters; his opinion on all things does not matter. Chesterton says that we can t get away from the fact that we have a general view of existence, whether we like it or not. It affects and involves everything we say or do, whether we like it or not. And our general view of things is based on our ultimate view of things. Religion is never irrelevant. This book is not an attack but a defense, a defense of the ancient truths that are under attack by modern heretics. Chesterton claims to have gained a deeper appreciation of the Christian Faith through the simple exercise of defending it. He says he never realized the great philosophic common sense of Christianity until the anti-Christian writers pointed it to him. Heresy, it turns out, is usually a distinct lack of common sense. A heresy is at best a half-truth, but usually even less than that. A heresy is a fragment of the truth that is exaggerated at the expense of the rest of the truth. The modern world praises science and hygiene and progress. These are all very well and good, but they have been elevated at the expense of larger truths, such as faith and tradition and permanent ideals. In this book, Chesterton takes on George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, and other heretics whose names may not be familiar, even if their heresies are still exceedingly familiar. The original objection to Heretics, which in fact compelled Chesterton to write Orthodoxy, is that his own criticisms of others were not to be taken seriously unless Chesterton himself declared what he stood for. This is perhaps why Heretics is considered the negative for which Orthodoxy is the positive. But any reasonable reader can see that Chesterton s criticisms are a defense of a well-defined position. By criticizing moral and artistic relativism, he is defending identifiable and absolute standards. By criticizing egoism and the cult of success, he is defending humility. By criticizing skepticism, morbidity and muddle-headedness, he is defending faith, hope, and clarity. Clarity. The truth which Chesterton is defending should be obvious. But because Chesterton has to defend it, it obviously isn t obvious. The heretics have obscured the truth, they have distracted us, they have won us over with lies. The first lie is that truth doesn t matter. --Dale Ahlquist, American Chesterton Society --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (29 May 1874 - 14 June 1936) was one of the most influential English writers of the 20th century. His prolific and diverse output included journalism, philosophy, poetry, biography, Christian apologetics, fantasy and detective fiction. Chesterton has been called the "prince of paradox". --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Chesterton is a terrific writer.
A fantastic book by a great writer, highly recommend it for anyone interested in Apologetics, or just fun argument should definitely read it.
J. Shelby
I've had this book in my to read pile for oh . . . two years.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Patrick A Daley on November 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
Heretics is somewhat neglected in Chesterton's oeuvre, possibly because it is an early work (1905), and many of the writers discussed are out of fashion now. Yet, I believe Heretics contains not only his best writing, but it already establishes the main themes of his life's work.

Technically, it is a book of literary criticism, but from an unusual point of view, that of his subjects' philosophy.

"I am not concerned with Shaw as one of the most brilliant and one of the most honest men alive; I am concerned with him as a heretic--that is to say, a man whose philosophy is solid, quite coherent, and quite wrong." (p. 22)

Brilliant though he was, Shaw expected reality to conform to an inhuman ideal:

"He has all the time been silently comparing humanity with something that was not human, with a monster from Mars, with the Wise Man of the Stoics, with the Economic Man of the Fabians, with Julius Caesar, with Siegfried, with Superman. Now, to have this inner and merciless standard may be a very good thing, or a very bad one, it may be excellent or unfortunate. but it is not seeing things as they are." (pp. 62-63)

This is excellent writing, whether we entirely agree or not. It may be a little unfair to Shaw, but it is fair to life.

Chesterton is often called an optimist. But he knew the other side, as anyone reading Alzina Stone Dale's life, The Outline of Sanity, can find out. Joy in living, good beer, conversation, balance, sanity, these were achievements, not just nature.

I have managed to find a couple of books by George A. Moore, including his autobiographical novel portraying the Paris of the Impressionists of the 1870s and 1880s, Confessions of a Young Man. One tends to regard it as a memoir, and Chesterton did so.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Derek M. Foster on April 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is a sort of prequal to Chesterton's most famous apologetic work, "Orthodoxy." "Heretics" is a collection of papers that Chesterton wrote to expose what he considered to be the unhealthy philosophies of his day. A critic later wrote of this work, "I will begin to worry about my philosophy...when Mr. Chesterton has given us his." Chesterton then wrote the book "Orthodoxy" in response to that comment.

With that said, it is well to note that "Heretics" and "Orthodoxy" should be read almost as a single work. From the viewpoint of Chesterton, "Heretics" is the critique of bad philosophy and "Orthodoxy" is the defense of good philosophy.

The trouble with "Heretics" is that it is such a local book. What I mean is that this book is a series of analytical criticisms of specific men during that specific time period (late 19th century to early 20th century) and it is easy to miss the points Chesterton makes if you are not familiar with the philosophies and views of the men he is critiquing. That isn't to say this book isn't one Chesterton's finest works. Yet, I would certainly reccomend "Heretics: The Annotated Edition" to anyone who is not very familiar with these particular early 20th century English writers which he is referring to in this book. The annotated edition makes it much easier to see what Chesterton is saying. For although people change over time, philosophies generally remain the same; and that is why Chesterton's criticisms of these philosophies are still relevant. And as stated earlier, this book, in a way, sets up the groundwork for "Orthodoxy," which is still considered a masterpiece; and almost certainly worth reading for anyone who does not understand or sympathize with the sentiment and romance of the Christian faith.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By George R Dekle on August 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
George Bernard Shaw, the subject of one of the essays in this book, once wrote that morals were for the middle class. The lower class couldn't afford them and the upper class could afford to do without them. Modern day "thinkers" assail the Judeo-Christian ethic as irrelevant to any class and pride themselves on their thoroughly contemporary avant-garde world view. How ironic it is that this thoroughly modern iconoclasm has been around for at least 100 years.

Chesterton weighs in on the "heretics" of his day who prided themselves in their heretical superiority to conservative orthodoxy. These heretics seem to have had a worldview not much out of step with modern avant-garde thought. Chesterton's critique of these ideas is lucid, lyrical, and logical. The passage of 100 years has obscured the context of much of what he says, but his conclusions are as timely today as they were yesterday.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By B. Sherman on October 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Heretics is basically a collection of essays written in response to the worldview, socio-political philosophies, and/or religious stances of G.K. Chesterton's contemporaries (like George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells). Chesterton enjoyed an ongoing and lively public debate with many of these fellows throughout his writing life. To that end, if you're a Chesterton-fan, you'll enjoy this as much as anything else you've probably read by the undefeated heavyweight champion of linguistic pugilism. If you're not a Chesterton fan (usually because you've yet to hear of the man), this is probably as good a place as any to start. Heretics is the book that sort of necessitated Orthodoxy; a more famous, much-beloved piece.
I would recommend this book for those interested in exploring the arena of worldview debate. It isn't a long book, at only about 150 pages. The essay are broken up into nice little chunks that you can read in a half-hour or so, spend some time mulling, and maybe read through again, if you'd like. I could attempt to describe the content of the essay's, but it would take way too long, and I'd fail to do it anywhere near as well the Big Man himself.
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