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Is it worse to be a heretic who denies the authenticity of the Mesora, or a follower of Avoda Zarah. are their any rabbinic sources which discuss this question?

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Does the follower of AZ not deny the authenticity of the Mesora? –  Double AA Jun 10 at 17:04
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@DoubleAA The Tanakh is full of instances of people following Avoda Zarah without completely giving up on Judaism –  Daniel Jun 10 at 17:15
    
belief in AZ and G-d are not mutually exclusive. –  WanderingJew Jun 10 at 17:20
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@Daniel Heresy doesn't mean completely giving up on Judaism. Worshipping other deities violates a number of the Rambam's Ikkarim. –  Double AA Jun 10 at 17:42
    
Your title does not seem to match your question. The title implicitly refers to the act of a"z, while the body refers to being 'a follower of a"z,' which might merely imply belief in a"z. Incidentally, belief in a"z involves heresy in and of itself. –  Fred Jun 10 at 19:55

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See the Gemara Shabbos 116a

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Rebbe Tarfon says that in a case where a Rodef is running to kill you, or a snake is chasing to bite you, and in order to escape you could either run and enter into a House of Idol Worship, or a House of Heretics, its better to run into the House of Idol Worship, for the Heretics know the truth and deny it, but the Idol Worshippers deny unknowingly. The Rambam in Hilchos Teffilin 1:13 writes if a min writes a Sefer Torah Teffilin or Mezuza, we burn it, but if nochri or a mumar writes it we bury it since its posul

It would seem to be from this Gemara that Heresy is inherently worse, although one could argue that this is only the case when the idol worshipers are uknowledgeable and are doing it because of "minhag avoseihem b'yedeihem". Nonetheless, we have a clear Gemarah that in a situation of Pikuach Nefesh where we transgress all mitzvos except for the three aveiros, we still pick Avoda Zara over Heresy.

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WOW very interesting –  WanderingJew Jun 10 at 17:19
    
I would add that this is how we pasken,the Rambam in Hilchos Teffilin 1:13 writes if a min writes Stam we burn it but if nochri or a mumar writes it we bury it since its passul. –  sam Jun 10 at 17:25
    
yeah his mekor is from this gemara. also see Rambam Yesodei Hatorah 6:8 –  Nafkamina Jun 10 at 17:27
    
"...although one could argue that this is only the case when the idol worshipers are uknowledgeable and are doing because of 'minhag avoseihem b'yedeihem'." Not only could one argue this, but this is pretty much what the gemara itself is saying. –  Fred Jun 10 at 19:53

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