The True Believer; Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer

Eric Hoffer - The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

from the Cascade Commentary:
As we try to make sense of our world, it helps to explore the wisdom of people like Eric Hoffer. Known as the longshoreman philosopher, Hoffer had virtually no formal education, yet his awareness of the human condition was exceptional. In 1951 his first book, The True Believer was published. Subtitled Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, it offers insights still helpful today. Here are just a few of Eric Hoffer's observations:
"The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause."

"A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business."

There are many more gems in this little book, but I'll close with a chilling one:

"Unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden...We join a mass movement to escape from individual responsibility, or, in the words of an ardent young Nazi, 'to be free from freedom.' It was not sheer hypocrisy when the rank-and-file Nazis declared themselves not guilty of all the enormities they had committed. They considered themselves cheated and maligned when made to shoulder responsibility for obeying orders. Had they not joined the Nazi movement in order to be free from responsibility?"

The True Believer is still among us. Read Hoffer's book and decide for yourself who he--or she--is today.

some more quotes...

"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."

"It is the true believer's ability to shut his eyes and stop his ears to facts which in his own mind deserve never to be seen nor heard which is the source of his unequalled fortitude and consistency."

from The Ordeal of Change
"Faith, enthusiasm, and passionate intensity in general are substitutes for the self-confidence born of experience and the possession of skill. ... The substitute for self-confidence is faith ... the substitute for self-esteem is pride; and the substitute for individual balance is fusion with others in a compact group. ... In the chemistry of the soul, a substitute is almost always explosive if for no other reason than that we can never have enough of it. We can never have enough of that which we really do not want. What we want is justified self-confidence and self-esteem. .... We can be satisfied with moderate confidence in ourselves and with a moderately good opinion of ourselves, but the faith we have in a holy cause has to be extravagant and uncompromising, and the pride we derive form an identification with a nation, race, leader, or party [religion] is extreme and overbearing."

Did you like this book? Did it leave you wanting more? Then you should also probably read Why People Believe Weird Things, The Biology of Belief: How Our Biology Biases Our Beliefs and Perceptions, and Post-Atheism.

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