"The Cathars were heretics without a name. The word Cathar is a slang name, used by Catholics as an insult. The words Perfect, the elect, and Credentes for the followers are similarly lifted from the annals of the Inquisition. They called themselves Good men, Good Women or simply Good Christians. They were, undeniably, dualists who believed that there were two Gods – the good God of the spiritual world and the Bad God of the material world. Accordingly the material world was of no interest. They believed that you had to reach a spiritual enlightenment in order to finally reach the Good God. The Catholic Church with its sacraments, relics, rules and prohibitions was seen as, at best, an irrelevancy to the Cathars. Catholics had simply missed the point.
The Catholic Church in Languedoc was a sad mess at this time, the late 12th Century. Corrupt and worldly Archbishops and Bishops led a trail of usury, ignorance and malpractice right down to the average village priest, who probably had a few concubines and was woefully ignorant of the substance of Christianity. In comparison the wandering Perfect were ascetic, saintly men who ate no meat, were celibate, learned and lived as simple, wandering artisans. They had little difficulty winning adherents. But while dualism was rife throughout southern Europe there were special reasons for its success in the Occitan; as mentioned, the Church was feeble, but the feudal system had not thrown up the central organisation it had in Northern France and England. The ancient custom of dividing land equally between all children, men and women, had seen to that. Cathar Perfect could be women as well as men, and many of the leading lights of Catharism were noble women of limited, but independent means. The Occitan was a fragmented, independent state, not easily controlled or regulated.
And so the Dualist faith thrived. In many mountain villages Dualists were in the majority while in towns like Carcassonne or the region’s capital, Toulouse, Cathars and orthodox Christians (and indeed, Jews, remarkably enough) rubbed shoulders happily, each content to worship their own."
This quotation is taken from a website authored by Brian Creese.