The Degeneration of Belief

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Quotations on Fanaticism and Dogmatism

Compiled by Laird Wilcox

When a man you like switches from what he said a year ago, or four years ago, he is a broad-minded person who has courage enough to change his mind with changing conditions. When a man you don't like does it, he is a liar who has broken his promise. FRANKLIN P. ADAMS (1861-1960).

Ideologists do not speak of themselves as developing doctrine or dogma; for one of the rules of the game, so to speak, is the presentation of belief as objective knowledge where demonstration is adequate and faith unnecessary. But ideologists do develop doctrine just as theologists do, only they call it "theory." IAN ADAMS, The Logic Of Political Belief, 1989.

A lively, disinterested, persistent liking for truth is extraordinarily rare. Action and faith enslave thought, both of the in order not to be troubled or inconvenienced by reflection, criticism or doubt. HENRY FREDERIC AMIEL (1821-1881), Amiel's Journal, 1849-1972.

There is an illusion of central position, justifying one’s own purposes as right and everybody else’s as wrong, and providing a proper degree of paranoia. Righteous ends, thus approved, absolve of guilt the most violent means. HENRI FREDERIC AMIEL (1821-1881), Journal Intime.

The intellectual who no longer feels attached to anything is not satisfied with opinion merely; he wants certainty, he wants a system. The revolution provides him with his opium. RAYMOND ARON, The Great Debate, 1965.

Intellectuals cannot tolerate the chance event, the unintelligible: they have a nostalgia for the absolute, for a universally comprehensive scheme. RAYMOND ARON, The Great Debate, 1965.

The humorous man recognizes that absolute purity, absolute justice, absolute logic and perfection are beyond human achievement and that men have been able to live happily for thousands of years in a state of genial frailty. BROOKS ATKINSON (1894-1984), Once Around The Sun, 1951.

People everywhere enjoy believing things that they know are not true. It spares them the ordeal of thinking for themselves and taking responsibility for what they know. BROOKS ATKINSON (1894-1984), Once Around The Sun, 1951.

So long as there are earnest believers in the world, they will always wish to punish opinions, even if their judgment tells them it unwise, and their conscience it is wrong. WALTER BAGEHOT (1826-1877), Literary Studies, 1879.

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