The Degeneration of Belief

Quotations on Fanaticism and Dogmatism

Compiled By Laird Wilcox

[For the paranoid] a subjective world can be constructed in which facts, accurately enough perceived in themselves, are endowed with a special interpretive significance in place of their actual significance … Thus, the subject matter of his interest has to do with hidden motives, underlying purposes, special meanings, and the like. He does not necessarily disagree with a normal person about the existence of any given fact; he disagrees only about its significance. DAVID SHAPIRO, Neurotic Styles, 1965.

What a man believes may be ascertained, not from his creed, but from the assumptions on which habitually acts. GEORGE BERNARD SHAW (1856-1950), Man and Superman, 1903.

Heretics were most often bitterly persecuted for the their least deviation from accepted belief. It was precisely their obstinacy about trifles that irritated the righteous to madness. LEO SHESTOV, All Things Are Possible, 1905.

A hard political ideology is “comprehensive” in that it offers a self-sufficient worldview able to explain in terms of an integrated set of axioms why virtually any significant social or historical event occurs as it does. “Fundamentalist” religions frequently offer equivalent perspectives, which may be why communism is so often referred to as a secular religion. TONY SMITH, Thinking Like A Communist, 1987.

During the great terror, the men who spilt most blood were precisely those who had the greatest desire to let their equals enjoy the golden age they had dreamt of, and who had the most sympathy with human wretchedness: optimists, idealists, and sensitive men, the greater desire they had for universal happiness the more inexorable they showed themselves. GEORGES SOREL, Reflections On Violence, 1910.

Experience has always shown us hitherto that revolutionaries plead “reasons of state” as soon as they get into power, that they employ police methods and look upon justice as a weapon which they may use unfairly against their enemies. GEORGES SOREL (1847-1922), Reflections On Violence, 1906.

Policies are judged by their consequences but crusades are judged by how good they make the crusaders feel. THOMAS SOWELL, Compassion Vs. Guilt, 1987.

Laws which prescribe what everyone must believe, and forbid men to say or write anything against this or that opinion, are often passed to gratify, or rather to appease the anger of those who cannot abide independent minds. BARUCH SPINOZA (1632-1677), Theological Political Treatise, 1670.

It is curious to observe the triumph of slight incidents over the mind, what incredible weight they have in forming and governing our opinions of both men and things. LAURENCE STERNE (1713-1768), Tristam Shandy, 1759.

It is in thenature of an hypothesis, when once a man has conceived it, that it assimilates everything to itself as proper nourishment, and, from the first moment of begetting it, it generally grows the stronger by everything you see, hear, read, or understand. LAURENCE STERNE (1713-1768), Tristam Shandy.

The paranoid is preoccupied with issues of dominance and submission, superior or inferior. Interpersonal relationships are often described in terms of winning or losing, and one gets the general impression that life is viewed as a contest. DAVID W. SWANSON, MD, et. al., The Paranoid, 1970.