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Note on Fanaticism

Fanaticism comes from an excess of devotion to an ideal, an ideology, a cause or even to a person, an animal or an idealized object. It is therefore not limited or restricted to the field of religious beliefs, but is also found in politics (because of ideologies and political parties), in show business (towards “stars”), in sport, in the field of health (for example for some vegetarians), etc

Fanaticism becomes a problem only when the fanatic seeks to bring other individuals or groups to the object of his devotion, to impose on them the behaviors that comes from it or to attack what does not fit with it or that hinders it. So

  • the religious fanatic can attack believers or practitioners of other religions or beliefs;
  • political fanatics may attack followers of other ideologies or members of other political parties;
  • the fan of sports, cinema or song stars can attack the star who deviates from the idealized model or fans of other stars;
  • and the vegetarian fanatic is likely to attack butchers;
  • etc.

Fanaticism cannot be fought by resorting to another form of fanaticism. This approach only increases the number of conflicts. Nor can we fight it by tarnishing the object of devotion, because most often, by reaction and psychological mechanisms such as cognitive dissonance, this will only bring the fanatic to protect the object of the devotion or to seek new grounds for worship, veneration or zeal

The fanaticism of an individual can only gradually disappear by helping him to transcend it. And the transcendence of an ideal or an ideology is found in elevating it to the plane of mind and reason. Such an elevation cannot, however, be the result of a direct confrontation between reason and the object of devotion. A more constructive approach is to adroitly bring the fanatic to discover the consequences of his particular fanaticism, if necessary by amplification. We can rely on his other values, if he has any. We can also rely on the things or the beings to which he holds particularly, because one of the consequences can be the disappearance of these last ones

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