Personal Belief

It is difficult to rationally discuss topics where personal belief might be introduced into a conversation. The primary source of contention is always the psychological nature of the belief held by the individual. It is the degree with which the individual identifies with the belief that distinguishes it from being able to be discussed rationally or not. If we consider a belief to be a conclusion an individual has arrived at, then a personal belief could be considered the identification of one’s self with that conclusion. Any opposition that might be raised toward the personal belief of an individual is perceived not as an objection to the validity of the belief, but rather as an attack on the identity of the individual who holds it. Losing an argument for the validity of a personally held belief is tantamount to losing one’s own identity and can produce cognitive dissonance. In this way personal beliefs are held dogmatically even though they might not be promoted fanatically. The more reliant the individual’s identity is upon the belief, the more dogmatically they will hold to it. In this way, it becomes even harder for the individual to objectively analyze it as time goes on.

“If you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.”Catmull, Ed, Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

The two topics that are most notability ones where people have personal beliefs are politics and religion.

“Political beliefs are like religious beliefs in the respect that both are part of who you are and important for the social circle to which you belong,” said lead author Jonas Kaplan, an assistant research professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “To consider an alternative view, you would have to consider an alternative version of yourself.”Gersema, Emily, Which brain networks respond when someone sticks to a belief?

The fact that people identify themselves with a particular political party or religious sect is the exact reason why they aren’t able to objectively discuss either topic to various degrees. The stronger they view themselves as a member of a particular sect, the harder is it for them to see that alternative version of them-self. The psychological phenomenon that breeds this type of sectarian thinking is called groupthink.

Fanaticism

The concept of fanaticism enables us not only to place a value judgement on those who oppose our ideals, but also to condemn out of hand their mode of behavior, without delving deeper, simply by saying: “They're fanatics.”Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 4 Whatever their basic personalities, they seem to have invested their entire psychological energy in the pursuit of an exclusive and absolute goal to which all else was subordinated. This obsessional investment was built in intolerance, hatred, and aggressiveness against any presumed enemy, anyone likely not to share the pursuit of the millenarian goal which absorbed them.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 14 By its violence and fervor in hunting down suspects, the politico-Jewish sect of the Zealots or Sicarii bequeathed to psychiatry the concept of “zealotry” (from the Greek zelotupos, meaning “jealous”), designating both maniacal jealousy and argumentative faith.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 19 In France, Great Sovereign, to increase the curse. Our ills are risen from a sacred source. Religion, raging with inhuman zeal. Arms every hand, and points the fatal steel.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 24 He who maintains his enthusiastic madness by murder is a fanatic.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 28 [Fanaticism -] A blind and passionate zeal born of superstitious opinions giving rise to unjust and cruel acts which are committed, not only without shame or remorse, but on the contrary with a sort of joy and relief or consolation. Fanaticism is thus merely superstition translated into action.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 28 Indeed, many of the metaphors Voltaire uses [to describe fanaticism] smack of disease. Thus, according to the Encyclopedie, it is an “aberration of the imagination,” a “sickness of the people,” a “sickness of religion which affects the brain,” “a heavenly epilepsy,” and “it is to medical practitioners that such sick people should be sent.”Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 29 For the effect of philosophy is to render the soul tranquil, and fanaticism and tranquility are totally imcompatible.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 30 There is a kind of fanaticism in the love of country which could be called a cult of the hearth. It is based on customs, laws, and religion, and it is especially for its religious content that it merits even more the name fanaticism.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 31 In order for fanaticism to exist, there must be an upheaval within a faith - a faith in God, but also in the race, the nation, the state, progress, the revolution, production.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 32 But in our meaning, these fanaticisms in no way differ in the essentials, and indeed, according to the author himself, they represent merely variations on the same phenomenon. Only their object varies.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 32 In his illusion of having found the absolute and superhuman, the fanatic believes himself to be in possession of the truth, which confers upon him omniscience, omnipotence, and invulnerability-all superhuman conditions.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 36 The paranoid-dichotomic system-true-false, black-white, friend-enemy--engenders a radicalization of thought, channeling aggression toward an enemy.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 36 What distinguishes [the fanatic] from other members of suffering humanity like ourselves is that he finds security, a way of being reassured, in the fanatical system in which he invests so much faith.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 37 The fanaticizers break with tradition, stray from the beaten path for an idea or an ideal which becomes in their mind an absolute, worth sacrificing themselves and others for.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 37 [Fanatics have] contempt and indifference for everything other than the object of their passion; an unshakable certitude in the rightness of their ideas...Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 38 At the individual level, on the other hand, fanaticism resembles a state of mind where the subject is “obsessed” by a series of representations which end up taking over his entire mental space, pushing aside his former evolution. The ego can be said to be flooded with fanatical ideas and representations to the point that eventually the former man no longer exists: a new man is born, as in the liturgy for consecrating monks.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 41} That the fanatic shares none of the animist's belief in spirits matters not at all; he will still have a narcissistic, egocentric way of thinking (he alone is always right), a belief in the omnipotence of his thought (thanks to which he will be able magically to change the world, to bring forth paradise), and finally, a projective thought which rids him of any trace of weakness and human flaw.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 41 Human life in common is only made possible when a majority comes together which is stronger than any separate individual and which remains united against all separate individuals. The power of this community is then set up as “right” in opposition to the power of the individual, which is condemned as “brute force.” This replacement of the power of the individual by the power of the community constitutes the decisive step of civilization. The essence of it lies in the fact that the members of the community restrict themselves in their possibilities of satisfaction, whereas the individual knew no such restrictions.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 44 The cornerstone of civilization is the commandment that “man shall not kill the neighbor whom he hates or who is in his way”.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 46 Absolutely no idea or ideology - including the scientific idea - should be above investigation as to its ontology, origins, and evolution.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 47 “Manipulation of the masses” was the formula found to characterize the behavior of certain states. Thus, on the one hand, the masses are shown an enemy to bring down, with the promise that they will attain happiness... on the other hand, the organisms that traditionally monitor democratic freedoms, such as the free press, public opinion, and the parliamentary system, are ridiculed and belitted, thus eliminating the possibility of effective checks by the citizens.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 48 Psychoanalysis reveal the aggressiveness, envy, and jealously that disturb the inner lives of average, peaceful, civilized men; it also shows how eager they are to seize upon cheap rationalizations allowing them to release their tensions.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 49 If the goals of human civilization - to live together with an optimum of pleasure - are to be maintained, we must also be able to arm ourselves against the enemies of this civilization. Among these enemies are the fanatics - not only those of our projections, i.e., the ones from the outside, but also those we carry within us, our “demons”.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 51 If man does not accept his imperfection and failings, he is forced to project them outside through a paranoid mechanism so as not to be crushed under the weight of his guilt feelings. This contradiction between life instinct and death instinct is encompassed in fanaticism: destruction in the name of the search for an ideal world.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 52 If you want to expel religion from our European civilization, you can only dot it by means of another system of doctrines; and such a system would from the outset take over all the psychological characteristics of religion - the same sanctity, rigidity and intolerance, the same prohibition of thought - for its own defense.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 53 We cannot ignore the fact that young people are drawn to sectarian groupings, religious or secular depending on the country, fanatical in either case.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 56 It is thus when the consensus concerning the ideals of a civilization breaks down that the need for change is felt, or that the end of a civilization draws near.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 57 In his play ''The Just (1950), Albert Camus asks, “Do rivers of blood have to flow today for justice to reign tomorrow - must we become murderers to have a better social order?”Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 61 Christianity's advance in the Roman world was facilitated and accelerated by the discredit that had fallen upon the pagan cults the new religion sought to supplant.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 62 A man becomes a hero in a culture because he is perceived as having mastered the problems confronting his society, especially when the problem is represented by evil as the particular culture sees it.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 63 The division of the world into two parties, the good and the evil, is peculiar to the thought of the fanatic. He himself is among the “good,” while evil is projected on the Other, the enemy against whom he is obliged to wage an endless struggle for self-preservation. This struggle is all the fiercer in that he projects onto the Other all the evil and undesirable aspects of his own personality.Haynal, Molnar, Puymege, Fanaticism a historical and psychological study p. 64

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