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An elegant discourse about the dangerous power of belief
on 11 March 1997
A great fiction writer such as Lessing has the tools to describe the causes and consequences of human behavior better than most psychologists or historians. In these beautifully written, brief essays, she describes the phenomenon of Eric Hoffer's "true believer" in the light of her own experiences with war, racism, political movements, and the seductive pleasure of self-righteousness. I have probably personally bought 100 copies of this book to give to friends; it is a great antidote for those times when you are sure you are right, and that you are justified in treating other human beings as the Enemy. Lessing addresses the fact that this kind of moral certitude, which is one of the fueling factors for most war, is equally prevalent among all political belief systems. She ends with hope that it is possible to raise children who are too good at thinking critically and at asking questions to ever get swept up in some vicious madness.