The Degeneration of Belief

Quotations on Fanaticism and Dogmatism

Compiled By Laird Wilcox

A devotion to humanity is … too easily equated with a devotion to a Cause, and Causes, as we know, are notoriously bloodthirsty. JAMES BALDWIN, Notes of a Native Son, 1955.

Thought that is silenced is always rebellious. Majorities, of course, are often mistaken. This is why the silencing of minorities is necessarily dangerous. Criticism and dissent are the indispensable antidote to major delusions. ALAN BARTH, The Loyalty of Free Men, 1951.

The sadist cannot stand the separation of the public and the private; nor can he grant to others the mystery of their personality, the validity of their inner self … in order for him to feel his maximum power, he wants the world to be peopled with concrete manipulatable objects … ERNEST BECKER, The Structure of Evil, 1968.

There is tonic in the things that men do not love to hear. Free speech is to a great people what the winds are to oceans … and where free speech is stopped miasma is bred, and death comes fast. HENRY WARD BEECHER (1813-1887).

What gives ideology its force is its passion. Abstract philosophical inquiry has always sought to eliminate passion … For the ideologue, truth arises in action, and meaning is given to experience by the “transforming moment.” He comes alive not in contemplation, but in “the deed.” One might say, in fact, that the most important, latent, function of ideology is to tap emotion. DANIEL BELL, The End Of Ideology, 1960.

Most powerful social beliefs are based less on the capacity to prove or disprove the belief than on the side benefits that follow their resolution. W. LANCE BENNETT, News: The Politics Of Illusion, 1983.

Ideal goals lead to endless frustration and exaggerate the hostilities that are no longer supposed to be present, all under the guise of creating ‘a new heaven and a new earth.’ JOSEPH H. BERKE, The Tyranny Of Malice, 1988.

One belief, more than any other, is responsible for the slaughter of individuals on the alter of the great historical ideas — justice or progress or happiness of future generations … or emancipation of a nation or race or class … this is the belief that somewhere … there is a final solution. SIR ISAIAH BERLIN, Two Concepts Of Liberty, 1958.

When a man speaks of the need for realism one may be sure that this is always the prelude to some bloody deed. SIR ISAIAH BERLIN, London Times, 1981.

“In order to get at the truth, conflicting arguments and expressions must be allowed. There can be no freedom without choice, no sound choice without knowledge.” DAVID K. BERNINGHAUSEN, Arrogance of the Censor, 1982.

Hypothesis is a toll which can cause trouble if not used properly. We must be ready to abandon our hypothesis as soon as it is shown to be inconsistent with the facts. W. I. B. BEVERIDGE, The Art of Scientific Investigation, 1950.

Cultivate an intellectual habit of subordinating one's opinions and wishes to objective evidence and a reverence for things as they really are. W. I. B. BEVERIDGE, The Art of Scientific Investigation, 1950.

Bigot, n. One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain. AMBROSE BIERCE (1842-1914), The Devil's Dictionary, 1881-1914.