Discuss The True Believer

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Discuss The True Believer

Post Number:#1  Postby Scott » August 2nd, 2012, 2:03 pm

Please use this topic to discuss the August 2012 book of the month, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer.

What do you think of the book? With which points and arguments do you agree? With which do you disagree and why?
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Re: Discuss The True Believer

Post Number:#2  Postby dogparktom » August 3rd, 2012, 3:49 pm

Scott wrote:Please use this topic to discuss the August 2012 book of the month, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer.

What do you think of the book? With which points and arguments do you agree? With which do you disagree and why?


“The burning conviction that we have a holy duty toward others is often a way of attaching our drowning selves to a passing raft. What looks like giving a hand is often a holding on for dear life. Take away our holy duties and you leave our lives puny and meaningless. There is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem. The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless.” Hoffer, Eric (2011-05-10). The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (Perennial Classics) (pp. 14-15). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

It is strange that Hoffer does not give an example or a source relative to this comment. I submit that this “holy duty” comment certainly does not apply to the elderly couple that one frequently sees in everyday life. Usually the man is so frail that he requires the assistance of the woman. You infer that they are husband and wife, that they have been married for some fifty or sixty years. And further, you conclude that they live for each other simply from love for each other. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbF1hSCfjS8

Then, there is the caregiver, such as the the sister who cares for her paraplegic brother, twenty -four hours a day, every day, throughout the year. Why does she serve him? “holy duty?”; for her “self-esteem?”; “vanity?” No. Again it is just because of the phenomenon of human love.

Further, one must wonder if the solitary Hoffer ever loved another person or if he ever experienced being loved by another?

P.S. I'm still reading the book. But the above Hoffer quote bothered me.

-- Updated Sun Aug 05, 2012 9:47 pm to add the following --

Is anyone other than me reading The True Believer? I would like to know. Thanks.

-- Updated Mon Aug 06, 2012 8:46 pm to add the following --

Generally, after one of these mass shootings, the discussions in the media are superficial in that they usually start and end with the subject of better gun control laws as needed preventive measures. I submit that laws will not stop the fanatic who intends to commit violence against others. Hoffer's "true believer" is a perennial type of person. We can still learn from him.

Alleged Sikh temple shooter former member of Skinhead band By Heidi Beirich and Mark Potok

The man who allegedly murdered six people at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee yesterday, identified in media reports as Wade Michael Page, was a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band. http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/n ... nhead-band

[b]“It is probably as true that violence breeds fanaticism as that fanaticism begets violence. It is often impossible to tell which came first. Both those who employ violence and those subject to it are likely to develop a fanatical state of mind.[/b] Ferrero says of the terrorists of the French Revolution that the more blood they “shed the more they needed to believe in their principles as absolutes. Only the absolute might still absolve them in their own eyes and sustain their desperate energy. [They] did not spill all that blood because they believed in popular sovereignty as a religious truth; they tried to believe in popular sovereignty as a religious truth because their fear made them spill so much blood.”28 The practice of terror serves the true believer not only to cow and crush his opponents but also to invigorate and intensify his own faith. Every lynching in our South not only intimidates the Negro but also invigorates the fanatical conviction of white supremacy.” (Emphasis added) Hoffer, Eric (2011-05-10). The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (Perennial Classics) (p. 107). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

-- Updated Mon Aug 06, 2012 8:49 pm to add the following --

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/n ... nhead-band

-- Updated Mon Aug 06, 2012 8:49 pm to add the following --

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/n ... nhead-band
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Re: Discuss The True Believer

Post Number:#3  Postby Gamnot » August 9th, 2012, 12:20 am

I believe that this is a relevant quote from the book of Ecclesiastes: "As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it." ................ One thing that is interesting about Eric Hoffer is that he had almost no formal education.
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Re: Discuss The True Believer

Post Number:#4  Postby dogparktom » August 19th, 2012, 3:02 pm

Generally, when there is a mass murder, or an atrocity, most people immediately think that the perpetrator must be insane, or at least mentally ill.

As I read this article this morning, http://www.twincities.com/ci_21338455/r ... cities.com I wondered what Hoffer had to say about formal mental illness, or mentally ill people in mass movements. Since I can perform a search in the book that I’m reading on my Kindle, I searched for any reference to the “mentally ill” and for persons with “mental illness”. No results appeared. I find this omission to be quite strange.

I have not completed my reading. However, I am really enjoying all of my discussions about the book with others in this forum.

-- Updated Sat Aug 25, 2012 9:27 pm to add the following --

Richard Dawkins is a fanatical atheist. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Dawkins I have often wondered why the atheist spends any time on religion. After all, he has made up his mind. He is firm in his unbelief. In my reading of The True Believer, I noted this possible explanation for his obsession.

I recall reading that Jacques Maritain, The Catholic Thomist philosopher, said that the militant atheist suffered from a “metaphysical anxiety.” http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/maritain/

I think that Hoffer and Maritain are saying the same thing.

“Whence comes the impulse to proselytize? Intensity of conviction is not the main factor which impels a movement to spread its faith to the four corners of the earth: “religions of great intensity often confine themselves to contemning, destroying, or at best pitying what is not themselves.”40 Nor is the impulse to proselytize an expression of an overabundance of power which as Bacon has it “is like a great flood, that will be sure to overflow.”41 The missionary zeal seems rather an expression of some deep misgiving, some pressing feeling of insufficiency at the center. Proselytizing is more a passionate search for something not yet found than a desire to bestow upon the world something we already have. It is a search for a final and irrefutable demonstration that our absolute truth is indeed the one and only truth. The proselytizing fanatic strengthens his own faith by converting others. The creed whose legitimacy is most easily challenged is likely to develop the strongest proselytizing impulse.” Hoffer, Eric (2011-05-10). The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (Perennial Classics) (p. 110). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

-- Updated Wed Aug 29, 2012 7:43 pm to add the following --

I finished rereading The True Believer. Here is the last paragraph in the book:

"J. B. S. Haldane counts fanaticism among the only four really important inventions made between 3000 B.C. and 1400 A.D.20 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." Hoffer, Eric (2011-05-10). The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (Perennial Classics) (p. 168). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

------------------------------- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanaticism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JBS_Haldane

Disagreeing with Haldane's opinion on the nature of the cause of fanaticism, I remembered that Jacques Maritain had written on fanaticism. And I was able to find his relevant quote:

"It is nonsense to regard fanaticism as a fruit of religion. Fanaticism is a natural tendency rooted in our basic egotism and will to power. It seizes upon any noble feeling to live on it." Jacques Maritain, "Truth and Human Fellowship", p. 21

http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Fanaticism

http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Emotion

In your opinion, what is the fundamental cause of fanaticism?
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