The Degeneration of Belief

Quotations on Fanaticism and Dogmatism

Compiled By Laird Wilcox

A myth is a fixed way of looking at the world which cannot be destroyed because, looked at through the myth, all evidence supports the myth. EDWARD DE BONO, Beyond Yes And No.

Demagogues and agitators are very unpleasant, they are incidental to a free and constitutional country, and you must put up with these inconveniences or do without many important advantages. BENJAMIN DISRAELI (1804-1881), Speech, 1867.

Man has such a predilection for systems and abstract deductions that he is ready to distort truth intentionally, he is ready to deny the evidence of his senses only to justify his logic. FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY (1821-1881), The Possessed, 1870-72.

The Golden Age is the most implausible of all dreams. But for it men have given up their life and strength; for the sake of it prophets have died and been slain; without it the people will not live and cannot die. FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY (1821-1881), The Possessed, 1870-72.

Where suspicion fills the air and holds scholars in line for fear of their jobs, there can be no exercise of the free intellect. Supineness and dogmatism take the place of inquiry..A problem can no longer be pursued to its edges … discussion often leaves off where it should begin. U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE WILLIAM O. DOUGLAS (1898-1980), 1952.

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly, one begins to twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts. SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE (1859-1930), The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, 1891.

Sincerity is all that counts. It’s a widespread modern heresy. Think again. Bolsheviks are sincere. Fascists are sincere. Lunatics are sincere. People who believe the earth is flat are sincere. They can’t all be right. Better make certain that you’ve got something to be sincere about and with. TOM DRIBERT (1905-1976), 1937.

They shield themselves from facts, I suppose, by a biased selection of books and newspapers to read. Many violent conflicts of opinion come down to a difference in reading matter. MAX EASTMAN (1883-1969), Reflections On The Failure Of Socialism, 1962.

The enemy themes that most surely and consistently evoke mass arousal and anger are those that make it hardest to take the enemy as a significant other: those that emphasize the respects in which he does not share our human traits and potentialities for empathy, for compassion, and for social attachments. The alien, the stranger, or the subhuman are the themes struck repeatedly. MURRAY EDELMAN, Politics As Symbolic Action, 1971.

Laws alone cannot secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be a spirit of tolerance in the entire population. ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879-1955), Out Of My Later Years, 1950.

One strength of the Communist system … is that it has some of the characteristics of a religion and inspires the emotions of a religion. ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879-1955), Out of My Later Years, 1950.

To be effective, propaganda must constantly short-circuit all thought and decision. It must operate on the individual at the level of the unconscious. He must not know that he is being by outside forces. JACQUES ELLUL, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 1965.