Eric Hoffer on ridicule, denunciation, and irreverence

From The True Believer

It is easy to see how the faultfinding man of words, by persistent ridicule and denunciation, shakes prevailing beliefs and loyalties, and familiarizes the masses with the idea of change. 

What is not so obvious is the process by which the discrediting of existing beliefs and institutions makes possible the rise of a new fanatical faith. 

For it is a remarkable fact that the militant man of words who "sounds the established order to its source to mark its want of authority and justice"* often prepares the ground not for a society of freethinking individuals but for a corporate society that cherishes utmost unity and blind faith. 

A wide diffusion of doubt and irreverence thus leads often to unexpected results. 

The irreverence of the Renaissance was a prelude to the new fanaticism of Reformation and Counter-Reformation. 

The Frenchmen of the enlightenment who debunked the church and the crown and preached reason and tolerance released a burst of revolutionary and nationalist fanaticism which has not abated yet. 

Marx and his followers discredited religion, nationalism, and the passionate pursuit of business, and brought into being the new fanaticism of socialism, communism, Stanlinist nationalism, and the passion for world dominion.


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