The Degeneration of Belief

Quotations on Fanaticism and Dogmatism

Compiled By Laird Wilcox

Dogma demand authority, rather than intelligent thought, as the source of opinion; it requires persecution of heretics and hostility to unbelievers; it asks of its disciples that they should inhibit natural kindness in favor of systematic hatred. BERTRAND RUSSELL (1872-1970).

Before we can understand the nature of cruelty, we must begin to see that it … is a mechanism of defense used by the ego toward off the threat of annihilation. The ego, when threatened with destruction, for reasons that are almost impossible to explain, can reaffirm its existence by making others suffer. ELI SAGAN, At The Dawn Of Tyranny, 1986.

Demagoguery enters at the moment when, for want of a common denominator, the principle of equality degenerates into the principle of identity. ANTOINE de SAINT-EXUPERY (1900- 1944), Flight To Arras, 1942.

Revolutions are ambiguous things. Their success is generally proportionate to their power of adaptation and to the reabsorption with them of what they rebelled against. GEORGE SANTAYANA (1863-1952), The Life of Reason, 1906.

The distinction should be made between a simple belief in something and an ideology … An ideology or a belief system can be clearly distinguished from an individual’s belief in something. An ideology must be a more or less interrelated collection of beliefs that provide the believer with a fairly thorough picture of the entire world. LYMAN SARGENT, Contemporary World Ideologies, 1969.

Activity proneness in the service of an ideology … leads the individual into an irreversible series of commitments from which is forged an identity to which the individual inevitably becomes strongly attached psychologically. EDGAR W. SCHEIN, Coercive Persuasion, 1961.

To claim “humanitarian motives” when the motive is envy and its supposed appeasement, is a favorite rhetorical device of politicians today, and has been for at least a hundred and fifty years. HELMUT SCHOECK, Envy: A Theory Of Social Behavior, 1966.

One pattern is a tendency toward intolerance of ambiguity. An individual may develop a propensity to perceive and evaluate things only as falling into definite categories, and be unable to distinguish nuances or intermediate grades. GEORGE SERBAN, MD, The Tyranny Of Magical Thinking, 1982.

Empirical thinking leads to a basically objective view of the world, belief leads to a view of the world in which the distinction between objective and subjective is blurred … Thus cause is apt to be mistaken for effect, the wish confused with its fulfillment, the symbol with the thing. GEORGE SERBAN, MD, The Tyranny Of Magical Thinking, 1982.

Every religion or cause grows out of a desire either to make one’s own life more effortless, or to control and manipulate other people in order to enforce behavior in conformity with the expectations of the true believers. BUTLER D. SHAFFER, Calculated Chaos, 1985.

We preoccupy ourselves so much with changing the lives of others not out of proclaimed sentiments of selfless human charity, but out of our selfish desire to validate our own identities. There is, of course, enormous ego gratification in the exercise of power over other people, but such satisfaction is rooted in our need to have others believe and behave as we do. BUTLER D. SHAFFER, Calculated Chaos, 1985.