The Degeneration of Belief

Quotations on Fanaticism and Dogmatism

Compiled By Laird Wilcox

The end cannot justify the means for the simple and obvious reason that the means employed determine the nature of the ends produced. ALDOUS HUXLEY (1894-1963), Ends And Means, 1937.

The surest way to work up a crusade in favor of some good cause is to promise people they will have a chance of maltreating someone. To be able to destroy with good conscience, to be able to behave badly and call your bad behavior “righteous indignation” — this is the height of psychological luxury, the most delicious of moral treats. ALDOUS HUXLEY (1894-1963), Chrome Yellow, 1921.

Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order. U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE ROBERT H. JACKSON (1892-1954), 1943.

An ideology is a complex of ideas or notions which represents itself to the thinker as an absolute truth for the interpretation of the world and his situation within it; it leads the thinker to accomplish an act of self-deception for the purpose of justification, obfuscation and evasion in some sense or other to his advantage. KARL JASPERS, The Origin and Goal of History, 1968.

There are those who feel an imperative need to believe, for whom the values of a belief are proportionate not to its truth, but to its definiteness. Incapable of either admitting the existence of contrary judgments or of suspending their own, they supply the place of knowledge by turning other men’s conjectures into dogmas. C. E. M. JOAD (1891-1953), The Recovery Of Belief, 1952.

The word “belief” is a difficult thing for me. I don’t believe. I must have a reason for a certain hypothesis. Either I know a thing, and then I know it — I don’t need to believe it. CARL GUSTAV GUNN (1875-1961).

Paranoia reduces anxiety and guilt by transferring to the other all the characteristics one does not want to recognize in oneself. It is maintained by selective perception and recall. We only see and acknowledge those negative aspects of the enemy that support the stereotype we have already created. SAM KEEN, Faces Of The Enemy, 1986.

As a metaphysic of threat, paranoia eliminates in advance any evidence that might contradict its basic assumption about the malevolent intent of the enemy. Hence, it makes it impossible to discriminate between realist and purely imaginative dangers. SAM KEEN, Faces Of The Enemy, 1986.

The truth is sometimes a poor competitor in the marketplace of ideas — complicated, unsatisfying, full of dilemmas, always vulnerable to misinterpretation and abuse. GEORGE F. KENNEN, American Diplomacy: 1900-1950, 1951.

The goal of a crusade is to defeat an evil, not merely to solve a problem. This gives it the sense of righteousness … The crusader may think of himself as a hero and his opponents as villains. Indeed, the crusade classifies as a kind of villifying movement. OREN E. KLAPP, Collective Search For Identity.

The inner defenses are unconscious. They consist of a kind of magic aura which the mind builds around cherished belief. Arguments which penetrate into the magic aura are not dealt with rationally but by a specific type of pseudo-reasoning. Absurdities and contradictions are made acceptable by specious rationalizations. ARTHUR KOESTLER (1904-1983), The Yogi And The Commissar, 1945.