Ideology or religion that is pretended to have
final answers to many important human questions and problems and that is
pretended to be thereby justified to persecute persons who do not agree with
the ideology or the religion.
This is the usual form that every human
ideology assumes - religious, political and otherwise, with
science as the almost only partial exception.
The reason for the first property that
defines a totalitarian attitude is apparently in part political and in
One very important end ideologies and religions serve is to provide a human
social group with a set of shared agreed upon
supposed truths for the group and supposed
ends of the
group, and it is simply convenient and also seems to feel pleasant to most
humans if these supposed truths and supposed ends simply are taken to hold for
everyone, or at least for everyone who has the fundamental decency and human excellence
of belonging to Us.
The reason for the second property that defines a totalitarian attitude
derives from the first property plus the fact that ideologies and
faiths of a
social group serve to define and defend the
group's territory and practices.
It usually takes the form of forbidding to think or argue critically about
the fundamental assumptions of the religion
or ideology and of insisting that following the religious or political
authorities is morally
good and socially rewarding, and that not following the
religious or political authorities is morally bad and socially punishable.
One important reason that so many ideologies and faiths take a totalitarian
form is probably the social nature of human beings, that makes it natural to
maintain the pecking order of a group - who is entitled to what in the group -
by correcting, repressing or casting out any member of the group that deviates
from the average of the group (unless already a leader). This usually is
claimed to happen "in the interest" of the deviating or different individual,
and is called scapegoating (at least when goats give in to the same beastly impulse).
Totalitairian ideas and values are very widespread, and usually take the
following general form in practice, if not as clearly outspoken:
Our Belief is the Only True Belief and Our Believers are the Only Good
People, and everyone who does not believe, or do, or feel, or look like
Us is inferior (sinful, bad, damned, bound for hell,
fit for a concentration camp, and in any case not a proper well-thinking,
decently feeling, morally behaving follower of Our True Belief, and hence
certainly not comme il faut).
The myth of the Chosen People of the Lord is not only biblical, but
seems to be an article of zoologically and hormonically based faith of the the
individuals of most social groups: They - Our Kind Of People - and only they
are the best, true, real, human beings, and every one who is not like they (We)
are is not really good (and therefore may or should be persecuted by authority
of the Lord or the Leaders of the group).
The supposed truths and values of any
religion or ideology tend to be
absurdities according to the common sense of whomever does not have the
religion or ideology. And in general Voltaire's sharpwitted dictum applies
"If we believe in absurdities, we shall
Indeed, the main factual, moral and intellectual
problem of virtually all religions and political ideologies is not that most
of the key theses of the religion or ideology are
nonsensical, false or not properly based on
evidence, but the fact that these key theses
are used in a totalitarian fashion.
For there is no danger in fairy tales, myths,
wishful thinking as long as those
who indulge it are clearly conscious that their ideological stories for the
most part are just that: fairy tales, myths,
fiction or wishful thinking, or
at least as long as those who believe in an ideology or religion remain
clearly aware that they may be mistaken, and that everything one cannot prove
in a rigidly logical and
mathematical way from evidently true
premisses therefore and thereby cannot be
imposed on someone else as what they are supposed to believe in and hold true.
Religious and political fairytales, myths,
superstitions and wishful thinking are rarely understood and defended by their
believers as if their belief is one possible
hypothesis amongst many others about how people should live together and
think rationally, but almost always are understood and defended by their
believers as if their belief is The Truth, All Of The
Truth, and Nothing But The Truth - and especially where this is clearly not