The word "heretic" is today used by Christians to brand those not imprinted with their particular denominational line-toeing.
A heresy would to them today be a more serious theological offense, one classified as being "essential for salvation". It is a damning label.
In the past, Christians burned heretics. Today they simply shun heretics, and use them as object lessons in legalism, sin and guilt. Perhaps not publicly, because it has slowly been recognized by the more business-minded churches that we are in a relativistic, pluralistic, post-structuralist society and culture, and their defining of, and relaying the theology that their leaders study and adhere to, so as to become Masters and Doctors of Divinity - translating these hard doctrines to the postmodern tithe-paying congregation of people that make their sky-pilots' career paths an economically viable choice; well, this would not be a wise endeavor in the least.
While they don't talk about theology, or Logos (a logical premise) within their ranks, they sure as hell know who it is that lay outside of themselves. They can recognize a heretic within moments. Most heretics do one thing that makes them instantly recognizable - they think for themselves. Obviously Jesus was a heretic, as the religious institutionalized people of his day decided. Crucifixion and stoning were preferred to burning alive in those times.
Let's take a moment to see if Christians are bothering to use the term heresy in its proper way, taking a moment - just a fucking 10-second Google search - to see. I really doubt it. They get so little right.
Heresy comes from the Greek hairetikos, meaning able to choose.
It held no negative connotations. Neither did the word "daimones", i.e. demons.
How can Christians be so ignorant of grammatico-historical hermeneutics? As I've stated, they've all been imprinted, and their mind's sucked out their anus'. Nothing outside of orthodoxy is ever bothered to be examined. Countless times and by more than one preacher, and by many more fundagelical family members (not by my mother or father who loved books) I've been told that the reading of many books will lead me to insanity. That's because they are so ignorant and lacking of a basic education that my words and ideas sound to them insane. If Hairy-Clit-Us ain't Jebus we ain't interested in what he said! He's a pagan hair-a-tic! Damned to e-turnal fire!
Heretic originally was used in the way Flavius Josephus uses it here:
I am a heretic of the doctors.
Josephus was simply saying that his knowledge is specialized, of the school of thought of doctors.
I wish to thank Miguel Connor over at Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio who has done an excellent job at reclaiming the word heretic, in showing it was first used to describe the 2nd and 3rd century individuals who had chosen to become part of the subversive non-normative group calling themselves Christians. They chose for themselves, which is the exact thing institutionalized monotheistic therapeutic deism damns you for today.
Heretics are needed once again. People standing up and turning their back on the Empire of Ecclesiology. Fuck you, I will think for myself and act upon my choices. I have within me the knowledge of good and evil. The Kingdom of Heaven is within me. Religious institutions do not have the right to usurp the minds of humanity. To replace thought, experience and the process of spiritual development with a fucking page of doctrine. Again, FUCK YOU.
The church is an irrelevant anachronism and quickly moves towards extinction. 4,000 churches are started a year and 6,000 - 10,000 die each year. That means the Body of Christ is decrepitating more quickly than malls and department stores. Hallelujah.