The Degeneration of Belief

Quotations on Fanaticism and Dogmatism

Compiled By Laird Wilcox

Objectivity in political theory comes not from the vain attempt to avoid evaluation and thereby appear impartial … Authentic political theory … eschews both pseudo-objective descriptivism and opinionated ideology. DANTE GERMINO, The Revival of Political Theory, 1967.

The fierce and partial writers of the times, ascribing all virtue to themselves, and imputing all guilt to their adversaries, have painted the battle of the angels and the demons. EDWARD GIBBON, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1909.

The very act of sacrifice magnifies the one who sacrifices himself to the point where his sacrifice is much more costly to humanity that would have been the loss of those for whom he is sacrificing himself. But in his abnegation lies the secret of his grandeur. ANDRE GIDE (1869-1951), Journals, 1931.

Humanity’s most valuable assets have been the non-conformists. Were it not for the non-conformists, he who refuses to be satisfied to go along with the continuance of things as they are, and insists upon attempting to find new ways of bettering things, the world would have know little progress, indeed. JOSIAH WILLIAM GITT (1884-1973), Gazette and Daily, 2 February 1957.

Revolution is engendered by an indignation with tyranny, yet is itself pregnant with tyranny … An attempt to scrutinize men’s thoughts and punish their opinions is of all kinds of despotism the most odious: yet this is peculiarly character of a period of revolution … There is no period more at war with the existence of liberty. WILLIAM GODWIN (1756-1836), An Inquiry Concerning Political Justice, 1793.

We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things: and, once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavor to erase them. JOHANN WOLFGANG Von GOETHE (1749-1832), Sorrows Of Young Werther, 1771.

In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. A. WHITNEY GRISWOLD (1909-1963).

In this grandiose identification with a sacred cause and its representatives, the terrorist, by giving up his individual responsibility, and individual interest, experiences the “high” of “liberation” from his individual problems, guilts and anxiety. FREDERICK HACKER, Terrorism, Vol 4, 1980.

It is almost impossible to convince people who are under the influence of ideological bigotry that whose whom they regard as belonging to the enemy species are human. LOUIS J. HALLE, The Ideological Imagination, 1972.

All discussion, all debate, all dissidence tends to question and in consequence, to upset existing convictions; that is precisely its purpose and its justification. U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE LEARNED HAND (1872-1961).

The conservative errs in regarding man as though he were a wolf, the liberal errs in regarding man as though he were a lamb; neither will concede that he is both in nearly equal proportion. SYDNEY HARRIS, 1980.