Material Heresy, Blasphemy, or neither?

To start, this question is not about a behavior of mine, or a bad habit.

But, in today’s society, you often see jokes about God, etc.

Terrible things.

But when does it cross the line into heresy, or blasphemy?

Let’s take an example.

Suppose someone is complimenting a cake somebody made.

He says, “That cake is god.” or “That cake is god-like.”

He is obviously saying it as a joke.

Is that blasphemy? (I don’t think it’s material heresy because heresy implies that you are obstinately refusing to believe a teaching of the Church…although you could be scandalizing somebody)

Blasphemy basically is something that shows contempt for God. Would that be showing contempt for God, and thus, grave matter, or would that simply be an expression, probably a venial sin of profanity?

Of course it also matters if the person has invincible ignorance, etc.

Either way, it’s just so sad that today’s society has become so vulgar in treating God.

I think it is blasphemous.

I try to avoid blasphemy in my life, but I have to say, I have never seen the word godlike, used as an adjective as referring to God or considered it blasphemous, because it just doesn’t seem to be referring to our Lord in a specific sense - if anything the way it is often used (in my experience) almost excludes that implication, because it is not used to describe goodness, kindness or a state of being beyond comprehension, but to describe powerful behaviour in small, temporal things like being great at sports or academic pursuits, which for me tends toward eg: Greek or Norse gods. That there is no proper noun involved, if you like.

Am I wrong? I have never thought of this word in this way before.

There’s more than one definition of “god.” When it is not capitalized it does not refer to the supreme being. That is the context in which “godlike” is generally used.

But in speech, there is no capitalization.

So you can’t tell if God is capitalized or not.

So if somebody says “That cake is god,” that could be objective blasphemy.


Heresy has nothing to do with vulgar or uncharitable speech.

  1. When a person uses profanity vainly (such as how people with limited vocabulary often insert the F word into sentences for no apparent reason other than an acquired speaking habit), it is called rudeness. ‘Rude’ in the original sense of the word is different from being inconsiderate. To be rude means to be lacking in social grace or skill. The culpability in this case would be minimal.
  2. When a person uses profane language despite a background that would suggest they know better, it is inconsiderate, or violent in speech.
  3. When a person deliberately, in their rage, profanes the sacred, it is blaspemy. Blasphemy is a mortal sin and it is different from using profane speech as a matter of absent minded habit. Your conscious mind is fully at work in directing the insult. Blaspemy can be seen as the opposite of a creed or prayer. You are pledging and openly declaring your disloyalty/contempt for God.

Right, but just wanted to clarify, your intention (insulting) does not change the fact that blasphemy still has occurred. It is indirect, but still gravely wrong. (see New Advent)

The priest at the local Catholic parish passed out materials explaining confession and examination of conscience. He listed several sins which had to be confessed before receiving Holy Communion in his Church. And he listed sins such as mentioned in 1, 2, and 3. IOW, he takes decent speech to be a serious obligation for his parishoners.

Modern Catholic Dictionary:

HERESY. Commonly refers to a doctrinal belief held in opposition to the recognized standards of an established system of thought. Theologically it means an opinion at variance with the authorized teachings of any church, notably the Christian, and especially when this promotes separation from the main body of faithful believers.

In the Roman Catholic Church, heresy has a very specific meaning. Anyone who, after receiving baptism, while remaining nominally a Christian, pertinaciously denies or doubts any of the truths that must be believed with divine and Catholic faith is considered a heretic. Accordingly four elements must be verified to constitute formal heresy; previous valid baptism, which need not have been in the Catholic Church; external profession of still being a Christian, otherwise a person becomes an apostate; outright denial or positive doubt regarding a truth that the Catholic Church has actually proposed as revealed by God; and the disbelief must be morally culpable, where a nominal Christian refuses to accept what he knows is a doctrinal imperative.

Objectively, therefore, to become a heretic in the strict canonical sense and be excommunicated from the faithful, one must deny or question a truth that is taught not merely on the authority of the Church but on the word of God revealed in the Scriptures or sacred tradition. Subjectively a person must recognize his obligation to believe. If he acts in good faith, as with most persons brought up in non-Catholic surroundings, the heresy is only material and implies neither guilt nor sin against faith. (Etym. Latin haeresis, from the Greek hairesis, a taking, choice, sect, heresy.)

BLASPHEMY. Speaking against God in a contemptuous, scornful, or abusive manner. Included under blasphemy are offenses committed by thought, word, or action. Serious contemptuous ridicule of the saints, sacred objects, or of persons consecrated to God is also blasphemous because God is indirectly attacked. Blasphemy is a grave violation of charity toward God. Its gravity may be judged by the capital punishment in the Old Testament, severe penalties of the Church, and in many cases also of the State for blasphemous speech or conduct. In order for a person to sin gravely in this manner, he must use blasphemous expressions and realize the contemptuous meaning of what he says or does. (Etym. Latin blasphemia, blasphemy; from Greek blasphēmein, to speak ill of.)

Nice summary. What about those who simply do not believe in the existence of the Christian God? Atheists, Buddhists, etc… For example, is using the expression “goddamn” after stabbing one’s toe constitute a “blasphemy”? For unbelievers the word “god” is just a word, without any special significance.

I think that saying G-d isn’t blasphemy, but is a form of profanity.

And if it was, they still don’t recognize the meaning of the words they are saying, so they aren’t accountable for grave sin.

It is cursing, but the gravity of the sin of cursing depends on many factors.

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