Fanatics Week – Fanaticism

FanaticalI’m going to spend a week talking about fanaticism because the trial of the self-righteous murderer Anders Breivak is in the news. I’m not going to focus particularly on that case but on the nature of fanaticism and some of the psychological factors that play into it. I’m going to start off with a simple look at what fanaticism is and why it is so dangerous. And, believe it or not, I think my opinions here will be disputed by a great number of people. Read on and see for yourself.

Ok, back to fanaticism. Wikipedia defines it as a belief or behavior involving uncritical zeal, particularly for an extreme religious or political cause or in some cases sports, or with an obsessive enthusiasm for a pastime or hobby.

For those of you follow me regularly I hope you can see where I’m going to have a problem. Involving uncritical zeal. The key word being uncritical. The very nature of fanaticism is tied up in Faith Based Thinking with a complete absence of Critical Thinking. It’s important to understand that Faith Based Thinking is not merely the belief in god or some particular religion or another. It is a method of thinking that is dangerous.

I think that it is largely impossible to behave like Anders without faith-based thinking. It is impossible to become a fanatic without faith-based thinking. It is impossible to become a monster without faith-based thinking. It is this abandonment of critical thinking that leads to much ill. I’m certainly not saying that those who engage in faith-based thinking are destined to murder seventy-seven children on a camp retreat but I am saying, loudly and clearly, that those who abandon critical thinking and embrace faith-based thinking are going to make mistakes in every aspect of their lives.

Fanaticism largely stems from giving into your fears. When you fear something completely; you are willing to abandon reason and allow the violence that swirls beneath the surface to emerge. We all have that violence. It is important to understand the capability for humans for violence. I could, at any moment, kill my cat. I could easily grab a child around the neck and throttle him. I could push a pedestrian in front of a moving bus. We have that in us at all times and it is our reasoning, critical thinking skills, and rational fear for our own safety and well-being that keep us from doing it.

Here is where someone will say it is fear of eternal damnation or faith in god that keeps us from doing violent things. I disagree. If I behave violently, if I kill seventy-seven kids on their camp retreat, the odds are I will face terrible repercussions immediately. My freedom will be lost, my friends and family will abandon me. The only reason I can do such a thing is if I feel my situation is without hope, that I’ve given into fear and turned off all rational thought. fanaticism.

I’ll be doing a deeper examination of fanaticism, good and evil, and right and wrong as the week progresses but I think it’s important to understand that the root of this thing is the abandonment of reason and of critical thinking. While fanaticism might be born of fear and utter hopelessness it is driven to action by faith-based thinking.

Tell me what you think!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

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