Sunday, December 03, 2006

Voltaire on Fanaticism

Voltaire on fanaticism:

Fanaticism is to superstition what delirium is to fever and rage to anger. The man visited by ecstasies and visions, who takes dreams for realities and his fancies for prophecies, is an enthusiast; the man who supports his madness with murder is a fanatic …
The only remedy for this epidemic malady is the philosophical spirit which, spread gradually, at last tames men’s habits and prevents the disease from starting; for, once the disease has made any progress, one must flee and wait for the air to clear itself. Laws and religion are not strong enough against the spiritual pest; religion, far from being healthy food for infected brains, turns to poison in them …
Even the law is impotent against these attacks of rage; it is like reading a court decree to a raving maniac. These fellows are certain that the holy spirit with which they are filled is above the law, that their enthusiasm is the only law they must obey.

What can we say to a man who tells you that he would rather obey God then men, and that therefore he is sure to go heaven for butchering you?

Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, from The Portable Enlightenment Reader

Meanwhile, almost 300 years later, life goes on much the same.


At 5:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Voltaire quotes, Lynn.

He has always been one of my favorite Enlightenment figures, if not thinkers.

Your rather resigned (and dare I say - over-simplistic) remark at the end is not really true.

Human civilization has advanced enormously since and secularism has spread throughout Europe, Asia and South America.

There is room for a lot of hope.

Orla Schantz

At 8:09 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

Orla -

Yet fanticism remains. I share your hope that the world can be further secularized so that it will not exist anywhere in the future. I take it that you attribute secularization as the reason why fanaticism has been eliminated in some parts of the world.

At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forcing nations to adopt democracy and Western-style "freedom" can also be a form of fanaticism. If that is truly a goal the West wants to achieve world-wide, why are we not bombing China? We need to be careful of whose propaganda we believe in.

At 8:39 AM, Blogger todd fewer said...

Really?? don't see the problem with your statement. You can NOT force freedom on someone is a gift and a right of every Man , Woman and child that exists and is to exist on this rock. Inherently! Look up the word "oxymoron" . Oppression is the forcing of ideals, another's ideologies. ..Freedom is the opposite is the right to choose absolutely everything . You Sir are a very dim witted person , indeed.


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