Quotations about   fanaticism

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I believe in evil. It is the property of all those who are certain of truth. Despair and fanaticism are only differing manifestations of evil.

Edward Teller (1908-2003) Hungarian-American theoretical physicist
(Attributed)
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Attributed in a personal communication from Judith Shoolery, in Istvan Hargittai, The Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century (2006).
Added on 6-Jun-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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There is nothing in which Men more deceive themselves than in what the World calls Zeal. There are so many Passions which hide themselves under it, and so many Mischiefs arising from it, that some have gone so far as to say it would have been for the Benefit of Mankind if it had never been reckoned in the Catalogue of Virtues. It is certain, where it is once Laudable and Prudential, it is an hundred times Criminal and Erroneous; nor can it be otherwise, if we consider that it operates with equal Violence in all Religions, however opposite they may be to one another, and in all the Subdivisions of each Religion in particular.

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) English essayist, poet, statesman
The Spectator, #185 (2 Oct 1711)
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Added on 11-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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It is the uncompromisingness with which dogma is held and not in the dogma or want of dogma that the danger lies.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Way of All Flesh, ch. 68 (1903)
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Added on 20-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lectures, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) American lawyer
Scopes Trial, Dayton, Tennessee (13 Jul 1925)
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Added on 20-May-21 | Last updated 20-May-21
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He is onstage now to die, unrepentant to the last, and breathing the belief of all extremists always — that all misfortune comes from compromise and that only unyieldingness can win out.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare, “Henry VI, Part III” (1970)
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Regarding Clifford, the Lancastrian fanatic, in Act 2, sc. 6.
Added on 2-Dec-20 | Last updated 3-Dec-20
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I believe in evil. It is the property of all those who are certain of truth. Despair and fanaticism are only differing manifestations of evil.

Edward Teller (1908-2003) Hungarian-American theoretical physicist
(Attributed)

Quoted in István Hargittai, The Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century (2006), via Judith Shoolery.
Added on 30-Nov-20 | Last updated 30-Nov-20
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The less depth a belief system has, the greater the fervency with which its adherents embrace it. The most vociferous, the most fanatical are those whose cobbled faith is founded on the shakiest grounds.

Dean Koontz (b. 1945) American writer [also writes as Leigh Nichols]
Forever Odd, ch. 33 (2005)
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Added on 29-Sep-20 | Last updated 29-Sep-20
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TANNER: The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
Man and Superman, Act 1 (1903)
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Added on 19-Mar-20 | Last updated 19-Mar-20
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The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
“Concerning Stories Never Written” (Oct 1952)
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Added on 8-Sep-17 | Last updated 8-Sep-17
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This is no day for the rabble-rouser, whether he be Negro or white. We must realize that we are grappling with the most weighty social problem of this nation, and in grappling with such a complex problem there is no place for misguided emotionalism. We must work passionately and unrelentingly for the goal of freedom, but we must be sure that our hands are clean in the struggle. We must never struggle with falsehood, hate, or malice. We must never become bitter. I know how we feel sometime. There is the danger that those of us who have been forced so long to stand amid the tragic midnight of oppression—those of us who have been trampled over, those of us who have been kicked about — there is the danger that we will become bitter. But if we will become bitter and indulge in hate campaigns, the new order which is emerging will be nothing but a duplication of the old order.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Give Us the Ballot,” Speech, Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, Washington, DC (1957)
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Added on 8-Jun-17 | Last updated 8-Jun-17
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Zealots were always hard. Zeal distorts them. Makes the normal impulses convolute. Makes people fearless and greedless and loveless and finally monstrous. I was against zeal. But being against it didn’t make it go away.

Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) American writer
Promised Land (1974)
Added on 15-Mar-17 | Last updated 15-Mar-17
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The problem is that the people with the most ridiculous ideas are always the people who are most certain of them.

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
The Decider (21 Jul 2007)
Added on 11-May-16 | Last updated 11-May-16
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Like other idealisms, patriotism varies from a noble devotion to a moral lunacy.

Dean Inge - patriotism - wist-info

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Our Present Discontents,” Outspoken Essays: First Series (1919)
Added on 12-Oct-15 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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Sorrow be damned & all your plans. Fuck the faithful, fuck the committed, the dedicated, the true believers; fuck all the sure & certain people prepared to maim & kill whoever got in their way; fuck every cause that ended in murder & a child crying.

Iain Banks (1954-2013) Scottish author
Against a Dark Background (1993)

Often paraphrased as "Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying."
Added on 23-Oct-14 | Last updated 23-Oct-14
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The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The True Believer, Part 3, ch. 13 “United Action and Self-Sacrifice” (1951)
Added on 3-Feb-14 | Last updated 3-Feb-14
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Where men are the most sure and arrogant, they are commonly the most mistaken, and have there given reins to passion, without that proper deliberation and suspense, which can alone secure them from the grossest absurdities.

David Hume (1711-1776) Scottish philosopher, economist, historian, empiricist
An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Sec. 9.13 “Conclusion, Pt. 1” (1751)
Added on 23-Dec-13 | Last updated 16-Sep-20
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But the greatest of all the Reformers of the depraved religion of his own country, was Jesus of Nazareth. Abstracting what is really his from the rubbish in which it is buried, easily distinguished by its lustre from the dross of his biographers, and as separable from that as the diamond from the dung hill, we have the outlines of a system of the most sublime morality which has ever fallen from the lips of man: outlines which it is lamentable he did not live to fill up. Epictetus & Epicurus give us laws for governing ourselves, Jesus a supplement of the duties & charities we owe to others. The establishment of the innocent and genuine character of this benevolent Moralist, and the rescuing it from the imputation of imposture, which has resulted from artificial systems,* invented by Ultra-Christian sects, unauthorized by a single word ever uttered by him, is a most desirable object, and one to which Priestley has successfully devoted his labors and learning. It would in time, it is to be hoped, effect a quiet euthanasia of the heresies of bigotry and fanaticism which have so long triumphed over human reason, and so generally & deeply afflicted mankind; but this work is to be begun by winnowing the grain from the chaff of the historians of his life.

* e.g. The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection & visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity, original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, Etc.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to William Short (31 Oct 1819)
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Added on 10-Oct-13 | Last updated 3-Aug-22
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That peculiarly American religion, President-worship.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“President and Mrs. U.S. Grant” (1975)
Added on 4-Dec-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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One of the most interesting and harmful delusions to which men and nations can be subjected is that of imagining themselves special instruments of the Divine Will.

Russell - delusions divine will - wist_info quote

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
Added on 12-Aug-09 | Last updated 6-Jan-16
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When religion becomes a mere artificial façade to justify a social or economic system — when religion hands over its rites and language completely to the political propagandist, and when prayer becomes the vehicle for a purely secular ideological program, then religion does tend to become an opiate. It deadens the spirit enough to permit the substitution of a superficial fiction and mythology for the truth of life. And this brings about the alienation of the believer, so that his religious zeal becomes political fanaticism. His faith in God, while preserving its traditional formulas, becomes in fact faith in his own nation, class or race. His ethic ceases to be the law of God and love, and becomes the law of might-makes-right: established privilege justifies everything. God is the status quo.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) French-American religious and writer [a.k.a. Fr. M. Louis]
Contemplative Prayer
Added on 7-Nov-06 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) Irish poet and dramatist
“The Second Coming,” ll.1-8 (1920)
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More examination of this quotation: The Best Lack All Conviction While the Worst Are Full of Passionate Intensity – Quote Investigator. See also Russell and Bukowski.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-Sep-21
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All movements go too far.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Being Modern-Minded,” The Nation (9 Jan 1937)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-Dec-19
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Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious convictions.

[Jamais on ne fait le mal si pleinement et si gaiement, que quand on le fait par un faux principe de conscience.]

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) French scientist and philosopher
Pensées, ch. 14, Appendix: Polemical Fragments #895 (1669) [tr. Trotter (1910)]
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Also labeled as Part 2, Article 17, # 53. Sometimes also shown in slightly shorter French as "Jamais on ne fait le mal si pleinement et si gaiement que quand on le fait par conscience."

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

  • "We never do evil so fully and cheerfully as when we do it out of conscience." [#813 (#895), tr. Krailsheimer]
  • "We never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when we do it out of conscience." [Miscellaneous Thoughts 7: Sellier #658/Lafuma #813, tr. Ariew]
  • "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it conscientiously."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 9-May-22
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“My Country, right or wrong” is a thing no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
The Defendant, ch. 16 “A Defence of Patriotism”
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Apr-16
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