Sunday, January 17, 2010

Something to think about

Eric Hoffer
Reflections on the Human Condition

The following is a brief quote from Eric Hoffer's Reflections on the Human Condition.

"The savior who wants to turn men into angels is as much a hater of human nature as the totalitarian despot who wants to turn them into puppets.

There are similarities between absolute power and absolute faith: a demand for absolute obedience; a readiness to attempt the impossible; a bias for simple solutions--to cut the knot rather than unravel it; the viewing of compromise as surrender; the tendency to manipulate people and 'experiment with blood.' Both absolute power and absolute faith are instruments of dehumanisation. Hence absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power."

Reflections on the Human Condition was first published in 1973, over 35 years ago. This quote suggests that it could have been published last week.

What do you think? Is he overstating his case?

Eric Hoffer is the author of The True Believer, a work which should be read by anyone who wants to gain some understanding of the true believer, one who is ready to die for a belief and, unfortunately, equally ready to kill others in the name of that same belief. The true believer is one who knows the only way to paradise and is determined to lead you there, even if it kills you. This person exists on both sides of the political fence.


  1. Fred,

    I believe faith should be a matter of free will, and never be forced on a person. Faith should be explained ( if the person is interested in hearing about it), but do not belittle the person who's rejecting that faith. This goes for the "believer" on both sides of the fence. ( I've been forcefully "evangelized" by athiests, too.)

  2. Hoffer (IMHO) misunderstands the concept of "faith." He is confusing it with some approaches to religions and doctrines.

    He is correct that there are always (and there will always be) leaders and followers. This is not the same thing as talking about the possibilities and variations for "faith."

    And, to state it a different way, does not everyone, in varying degrees and at various times, have "faith" in something or someone or something? This is not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing. It is simply a reality.

  3. Cheryl,

    No argument. One choice should always be free.

    As I said, the true believers are on both sides of a political, economic, religious, or any philosophical divide.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. R. T.,

    I think he refers mainly to certain believers who belong to organizations that promulgate or proselytize a belief: churches, political parties, or any group with an agenda that will lead us all back to the Garden of Eden.