Becoming A Fanatic   Leave a comment

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Webster lists this as the definition of a fanatic:

One having excessive zeal for and irrational attachment to a cause or position.

I was thinking today about what leads to fanaticism.  I think the chief motivator towards fanaticism is fear.  As I consider groups or individuals that are often labeled as “fanatic,” I observe that they seem to be respond to some fear within themselves.  If you explore this fear, many times it is generated out of a lack of correct information.

People easily take a little bit of information, maybe even hearsay, and base opinions and positions on that information.  Time and time again, these opinions and positions are very different to ones that a person may have if they had all the information.  So why is it that people are willing to jump to such conclusions with so little information informing those conclusions?

I think that one of the chief reasons for using small bits of information to form opinions or positions is a lack of time.  People are so hurried that they do not have time, or want to take the time, to truly investigate all the details and background of what information they receive.  So a snippet of news they hear as they walk by the television, or a conversation around a table, or an opinion expressed on a talk show becomes the basis for them to form opinions and positions.  When a person only has a small bit of information, especially when that information may not even have accuracy, and he/she forms an opinion or position on that information, it is easy for fear to enter.

In addition, it appears that human nature causes us to congregate with individuals that share our opinions and positions.  Then group sharing starts taking place and our opinions or positions are supported and become solidified in our thoughts.  If others have additional snippets of information that reinforce or even strengthen our opinions or positions, we add that information to our own in order to undergird our original opinion or position even more.  The group tends to gain energy for its opinions or positions and the individuals are strengthened in their stance.

The combination of fear (especially of the unknown) and the group-think approach creates a fanatic.  Then when information that contradicts the original information, and assumptions formed from that information, confronts the person, they often take an irrational position with great zeal.

The key to diffusing, or not even becoming, a fanatic is to make sure that time is taken before opinions or positions are established.  Take the time to investigate the information that you receive.  Determine if you have all the information.  Understand the background that leads to the information that you have received.  Listen to contrasting points of view on the subject or situation.  Then form your opinion or take your position, realizing that new information may be revealed at some point which will alter these things.


Posted March 19, 2013 by thoughtfulbeliever in Christian Living, Leadership, Life

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