belief or behavior involving uncritical zeal or an obsessive enthusiasm
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Fanaticism is a term for belief or behavior involving uncritical zeal, particularly for extreme religious or political causes, often insisting upon very strict standards with little or no tolerance for contrary ideas or opinions. It is also used as a term for generally less dangerous but still pronounced forms of zeal, such as those involved in sports, or enthusiasms for a pastime or hobby.

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim. ~ George Santayana


Alphabetized by author
  • I have noticed that this kind of fanatic, like every other kind, is in two species: the species which too clearly thinks out its own insane theory, and the species which remains perfectly muddle-headed.
    • Hilaire Belloc, in The Cruise of the 'Nona' (1925). Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1958, p. 83
  • As a musician I tell you that if you were to suppress adultery, fanaticism, crime, evil, the supernatural, there would no longer be the means for writing one note.
    • Georges Bizet, in a letter to Edmond Galabert, and G. (October 1866), as quoted in Letters of Composers: An Anthology, 1603-1945 (1946) edited by Gertrude Norman and Miriam Lubell Shrifte, p. 241
  • The interval between the decay of the old and the formation and establishment of the new constitutes a period of transition which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild and fierce fanaticism.
  • I hope you good, loyal Americans understand that in the long run the Islamic extremists are going to win. Because you can't beat numbers, and you can't beat fanaticism — the willingness to die for an idea. ... People who don't give a shit and have nothing to lose will always prevail over people who are fighting for some vague sentiment scrawled on a piece of parchment.
    • George Carlin, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? (2004), "The Fanatics Will Win", p. 134
  • It is precisely because an ideal is necessary to man that the man without ideals is in permanent danger of fanaticism.
    • G. K. Chesterton, in Heretics (1905), Ch. XX : Concluding Remarks on the Importance of Orthodoxy
  • The greatness of Christianity did not lie in attempted negotiations for compromise with any similar philosophical opinions in the ancient world, but in its inexorable fanaticism in preaching and fighting for its own doctrine.
  • The fanatic is perpetually incomplete and insecure.
  • 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.
  • J. B. S. Haldane counts fanaticism among the only four really important inventions made between 3000 B.C and 1400 A.D. It was a Judaic-Christian invention. And it is strange to think that in receiving this malady of the soul the world also received a miraculous instrument for raising societies and nations from the dead—an instrument of resurrection.
    • Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (1951) Ch.18 Good and Bad Mass Movements, §125, citing Haldane's The Inequality of Man (1938)
  • A doctrine insulates the devout not only against the realities around them but also against their own selves. The fanatical believer is not conscious of his envy, malice, pettiness and dishonesty. There is a wall of words between his consciousness and his real self.
    • Eric Hoffer, in The Passionate State Of Mind, and Other Aphorisms (1955), Section 68
  • If you see one cold and vehement at the same time, set him down for a fanatic.
    • Johann Kaspar Lavater, Aphorism 292, in Aphorisms on Man, translated by Henry Fuseli (London: J. Johnson, 1788)
  • Success makes men rigid and they tend to exalt stability over all the other virtues; tired of the effort of willing they become fanatics about conservatism.
    • Walter Lippmann, statement of 1913, quoted in American Patriotism in Prose and Verse, 1775-1918 (1919) edited by Jesse Madison Gathany
  • No government is ever really in favor of so-called civil rights. It always tries to whittle them down. They are preserved under all governments, insofar as they survive at all, by special classes of fanatics, often highly dubious.
    • H. L. Mencken, in Minority Report : H.L. Mencken's Notebooks (1956), 33
  • The closer a man approaches tragedy the more intense is his concentration of emotion upon the fixed point of his commitment, which is to say the closer he approaches what in life we call fanaticism.
The key to all fanatical beliefs is that they are self-confirming .... (some beliefs are) fanatical not because they are "false", but because they are expressed in such a way that they can never be shown to be false. ~ Neil Postman
  • The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression.
    • H. L. Mencken, as quoted in The Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations (1996) edited by Antony Jay
  • ...Ideological fanaticism is a result of psychological confliction which is delivered by the multiplicity of contradicting scriptures – and overcoming it isn’t simple, because educating fanatics about reality means that what they’ve believed their whole life to be true is now being proven as false – and it wounds their prides with a devastating blow....
  • I always disagree … when people end up saying that we can only combat Communism, Fascism or what not if we develop an equal fanaticism. It appears to me that one defeats the fanatic precisely by not being a fanatic oneself, but on the contrary by using one's intelligence.
  • What is fanaticism today is the fashionable creed tomorrow, and trite as the multiplication table a week after.
    • Wendell Phillips, "Harper's Ferry" (November 1, 1859), in Speeches, Lectures, and Letters (Boston: James Redpath, 1863), p. 287.
  • The key to all fanatical beliefs is that they are self-confirming....(some beliefs are) fanatical not because they are "false", but because they are expressed in such a way that they can never be shown to be false.
    • Neil Postman, in "Fanaticism" in Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk (1976), p. 104
  • Fanaticism is the danger of the world, and always has been, and has done untold harm. I might almost say that I was fanatical against fanaticism.
    • Bertrand Russell, The Future of Science (1959), p. 79; also in BBC The Listener, Vol. 61 (1959), p. 505
  • Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.
    • George Santayana, in The Life of Reason (1905-1906), Vol. I, Reason in Common Sense
  • When a life is at stake and it's your child, you become fearless in a lot of ways. I mean, you just become fanatic. Nothing ever gets done unless it's done by a fanatic.
    • Martin Sheen, as quoted in "The Completely Outrageous Passion of Martin Sheen" by Nancy Perry Graham in AARP The Magazine (July & August 2008), p. 76
  • 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, as quoted in The Martians of Science : Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century (2006) by Istvan Hargittai, p. 251.
  • ENTHUSIASM is that temper of mind, in which the imagination has got the better of the judgment. In this disordered state of things, enthusiasm, when it happens to be turned upon religious matters, becomes FANATICISM: and this, in its extreme, begets the fancy of our being the particular favourites of Heaven. Now, everyone sees that SPIRITUAL PRIDE is the cause, and not the effect of the disorder.
    • William Warburton, The Divine Legation of Moses Demonstrated (1737–1741), Vol. II, Book V, Appendix. London: Thomas Tegg and Son, 1837, Vol. II, p. 360.
  • The cardinal doctrine of a fanatic's creed is that his enemies are the enemies of God.
    • Andrew Dickson White, in The History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1898), Vol. II, Ch. xvi, p. 149
  • If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.
    • William Wilberforce, addressing attacks on his anti-slavery positions in 1816, as quoted in The Life of William Wilberforce (1838) by Robert Isaac Wilberforce and Samuel Wilberforce.

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