As fanaticism (of fr: fanatique or Latin fanaticus; divinely inspired ) refers to

  • In the strict sense, the obsession with an idea, notion or belief ( " a fanatical followers of an ideology or a group " ),
  • In a broader sense, a particularly high emotional appreciation of certain activities and areas of interest ( fanatical "Motorcycle Freak " or " football fan " ) or objects such as collector's items.


Fanaticism in the narrower sense is characterized by the unconditional assent to the relevant idea and mostly by intolerance of any dissenting opinion. The fanatics will often convince others of his views ( " missionary zeal " ), but leaves his hand, no doubt about the correctness and the special value of his convictions. Rather, he defends them against any challenge and is not amenable to rational argument. The idea in question is deprived of his critical thinking and reflectivity. The associated negative consequences for themselves or others as such are not recognized or acknowledged.


Manifestations of beliefs that are often represented fanatically extremist ideologies are, inter alia, ( extremism ), racism, fundamentalism and religious fanaticism.

In the Lingua tertii imperii Victor Klemperer describes the language of National Socialism based on the concept of " fanatical ": "If a long enough for heroic and virtuous: fanatic says he finally really believes a fanatic is a virtuous hero. " Is the language of National Socialism according to Klemperer a language of faith, because it is based on fanaticism.

From the term " fanatic " is derived the term "fan" from, but which is more related within the meaning of " enthusiast " and not primarily a political, philosophical or religious conviction says, but exuberant enthusiasm for athletes or pop artist.

Fanaticism and formation of groups and mass movements

To what extent extreme attitudes or ideologies find trailers, or if they become mass movements depends on various factors. Particularly essential in this context are the economic and social situation, but also the socio-psychological situation of social groups concerned. Feel in times of economic crisis, when the population under expressed or not recognized or perceive their situation as no prospects - - In certain historical situations people are particularly vulnerable to extreme ideologies, especially if it differs from demagogic talented, charismatic leader personalities such as Adolf Hitler be represented.

Examples of such mass movements are of German Nazism, Italian fascism and the Kreuzrittertum, but also groups such as the Jewish Zelotenbewegung ( Bar Kochba ), the RAF and various radical Muslim groups (among al - Qaeda ). As fanaticism are often the " sympathies for Islamist currents in large masses of simple uneducated population south of the Mediterranean" and generally refers to a strong religiosity; but these can be " not sufficiently explained by the exploitation of a deficit by wily patriarch ". Rather, this is based fanaticism so-called " on a Surplus. [ ... ] It is the power of ' we-feeling ' [ ... ]. It is not a ' lousy ', but an enthusiastic feeling about in the mystical rituals of Woodo communities, Pentecostal churches, Sufitänzen, pilgrimages, but also, as always, an attenuated form in Friday prayers or fairs. "

It has been in almost every period of history where people who were obsessed with their beliefs, and missionary zeal deployed and social, political or religious movements justified. Whether this leads to desirable renewals or failures depends on the beliefs or beliefs in question. Also significant and influential personalities of the past such as the American revolutionaries Paul Revere, or popes, which called for crusades could apply in this sense as fanatics.

Fanaticism from a psychological perspective

From a psychological perspective fanaticism is one of the phenomena in which - idealized aspects of life, that is, are valued emotionally excessively high (see, for example, idol, fetish, or behavioral addiction ), which usually - on the basis of certain constellations of personality traits comes at the expense of a balanced, realistic self-regulation. This results in a significant one-sidedness of life can arise and it can not last tensions with partners or caregivers arise who feel neglected.

Fanaticism is often related to other personality characteristics in relation ( see, eg, authoritarian character ). The intolerance related to the object of fanaticism often leads to lack of humor and lack of self-irony.