The Degeneration of Belief

Quotations on Fanaticism and Dogmatism

Compiled By Laird Wilcox

For action makes propaganda’s effect irreversible. He who acts in obedience to propaganda can never go back. He is now obliged to believe in that propaganda because of his past action … He is what one calls committed. JACQUES ELLUL, Propaganda: The Formation Of Men’s Attitudes, 1965.

If a man fasten his attention of a single aspect of truth and apply himself to that alone for a long time, the truth becomes distorted and not itself but falsehood. RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803-1882), Essays: First Series, 1841.

Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803-1882), Journals, 1838.

Suppression of expression conceals the real problems confronting a society and diverts public attention from the critical issues. It is likely to result in neglect of the grievances which are the actual basis of the unrest, and thus prevent their correction. THOMAS I. EMERSON, Yale Law Journal, 1963.

For when established identities become outworn or unfinished ones threaten to remain incomplete, special crises compel men to wage holy wars, by the cruelest means, against those who seem to question or threaten their unsafe ideological bases. ERIK H. ERIKSON, Childhood and Society, 1950.

There is no zeal blinder than that which impaired with the love of justice against offenders. HENRY FIELDING (1707-1754), Tom Jones, 1749.

Being tolerant does not mean that I share another one’s belief. But it does mean that I acknowledge another one’s right to believe, and obey, his own conscience. VICTOR FRANKL, The Will To Meaning.

It's not surprising how the world — particularly human nature — is often more precisely observed by people who do not like what they see. Perhaps their feelings are more ambiguous than they suppose. MICHAEL FRAYN, Constructions, 1974.

[Counterfeit tolerance includes] the opportunism of one who seeks, or accepts, tolerance for himself, as a minority, but who would deny it to others if ever he should be in a position to grant it. CARL J. FRIEDRICH, The New Belief In The Common Man, 1942.

There is perhaps no phenomenon which contains so much destructive feeling as “moral indignation,” which permits envy or hate to be acted out under the guise of virtue. ERIC FROMM (1900-1980), Man For Himself, 1974.

It is a curiosity of human nature that lack of self-assurance seems to breed an exaggerated sense of power and mission. J. WILLIAM FULBRIGHT, The Arrogance Of Power, 1966.

The most henious and the must cruel crims of which history has record have been committed under the cover of religion or equally noble motives. MOHANDAS K. GANDHI (1869-1948), Young India, July 7, 1950.

Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: an excessively simple diagnosis of the worlds ills and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all. JOHN W. GARDNER, No Easy Victories, 1968.