The Degeneration of Belief

Quotations on Fanaticism and Dogmatism

Compiled By Laird Wilcox

Mass Man, the universal psychopath, is born when the individual ego is weakened to the point at which it loses separate identity and is forced, for security, to merge with the mass. ROBERT LINDNER (1914-1956), Must You Conform?, 1956.

When men are brought face to face with their opponents, forced to listen and learn and mend their ideas, they cease to be children and savages and begin to live like civilized men. Then only is freedom a reality, when men may voice their opinions because they must examine their opinions. WALTER LIPPMAN (1889-1974), The Indispensable Opposition, 1939.

The tendency of the casual mind is to pick out or stumble across a sample which supports or defies its prejudices, and then to make it representative of a whole class. WALTER LIPPMAN (1889-1974), Public Opinion, 1929.

This is one of the paradoxes of the democratic movement — that it loves a crowd and fears the individuals who compose it — that the religion of humanity should have no faith in human beings. WALTER LIPPMAN (1889-1974), A Preface To Politics, 1914.

We should have a great many fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas only, and not for things themselves. JOHN LOCKE (1632-1704), An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690.

Faith is the assent to any proposition not made out by the deduction of reason but upon the credit of the proposer. JOHN LOCKE (1632-1704), An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690.

That peculiar disease of intellectuals, that infatuation with ideas at the expense of experience, that compels experience to conform to bookish expectations. ARCHIBALD MACLEISH (1882-1982).

The danger with the scholar’s conceptual theory is that it suffers a constant tendency to abstraction, to remoteness from real life … the inherent logic of internal consistency is liable to become more important than correspondence with facts. JOHN MADGE, The Tools of Social Science, 1965.

The distrust and suspicion which men everywhere evidence toward their adversaries, al all states of historical development, may be regarded as the immediate precursor to the notion of ideology. KARL MANHEIM, Ideology and Utopia, 1936.

When blithe to argument I come, Though armed with facts and merry; May providence protect me from, The Fool as adversary. Whose mind to him a kingdom is, Where reason lacks dominion; Who calls conviction prejudice, and prejudice opinion. PHILLIS MCGINLEY (1905-1978), 1960.

Whatever the immediate gains and losses, the dangers to our safety arising from political suppression are always greater than the dangers to the safety resulting from political freedom. Suppression is always foolish. Freedom is always wise. ALEXANDER MEIKLEJOHN, 1955.

Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more civilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. The truly civilized man is skeptical and tolerant. H. L. MENCKEN (1880-1956), Minority Report.