The Degeneration of Belief

Quotations on Fanaticism and Dogmatism

Compiled By Laird Wilcox

The Revolutionary’s Utopia, which in appearance represents a complete break with the past, is always modeled on some image of the Lost Paradise, of a legendary Golden Age … All utopias are fed from the source of mythology; the social engineers’ blueprints are merely revised editions of the ancient text. ARTHUR KOESTLER (1904-1983), The God That Failed, 1949.

Many people today don’t want honest answers insofar as honest means unpleasant or disturbing. They want a soft answer that turneth away anxiety. LOUIS KRONENBERGER, The Cart And The Horse, 1964.

Once people can be induced to experience a situation in a similar way, they can be expected to behave in similar ways. Induce people all to want the same thing, hate the same thing, feel the same threat, then their behavior is already captive — you have acquired your consumers or your cannon fodder. R. D. LAING, The Politics Of Experience, 1967.

Stereotypes are the mind’s shorthand for dealing with complexities. They have two aspects: they are much blunter than reality; they are shaped to fit a man’s preferences or prejudgments. Thus two principles are involved: differentiation or its lack, and biased preferential perception. ROBERT E. LANE, Political Ideology, 1962.

Changing ideas is a strain not to be lightly incurred, particularly when these ideas are intimately related to one’s self-esteem … men have elaborated an explanation for their situation in life … Their rationales are endowed with moral qualities. ROBERT E. LANE, Political Ideology, 1962.

The political type is characterized by an intense craving for deference. HAROLD D. LASSWELL, Power and Personality, 1948.

The essential mark of the agitator is the high value he places on the emotional response of the public. Whether he attacks or defends social institutions is a secondary matter. HAROLD D. LASSWELL, Psychopathology And Politics, 1930.

Dogma is a defensive reaction against doubt in the mind of the theorist, but doubt of which he is unaware. HAROLD D. LASSWELL, Psychopathology And Politics, 1930.

Perseverance can lead to the appearance of dignity and grandeur to many actions, just as silence in company affords wisdom and apparent intelligence to a stupid person. GEORGE CHRISTOPH LICHTENBERT (1742-1799), Aphorisms, 1764-99.

The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliche. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. ROBERT J. LIFTON, Thought Reform And The Psychology Of Totalism, 1961.

In the crowd, herd or gang, it is a mass-mind that operates — which is to say, a mind without subtlety, a mind without compassion, a mind, finally, uncivilized. ROBERT LINDNER (1914-1956), Must You Conform?, 1956.