Extremism means to take a political or religious position that is at the extreme edges, right or left, often with great certainty that one’s position is the only possible one and with great enthusiasm and passion. Extremism usually implies that the majority of people find the ideas unreasonable and exaggerated, and that the followers of the ideas are fanatical or puritanical in their pursuit of the agenda. The term is often used disparagingly, with disapproval. Some advocate extremism as a way to shift the public position in their direction, without expectation that the extremist position will be adopted. One opposite concept would be moderation. Here are some wise words (and some maybe not so wise) about extremism.

At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.

— Aldous Huxley

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

— Barry Goldwater

Extremism can flourish only in an environment where basic governmental social responsibility for the welfare of the people is neglected. Political dictatorship and social hopelessness create the desperation that fuels religious extremism.

— Benazir Bhutto

The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holders lack of rational conviction. Opinions in politics and religion are almost always held passionately.

— Bertrand Russell, Sceptical Essays

Faith minus vulnerability and mystery equals extremism. If you’ve got all the answers, then don’t call what you do ‘faith.’

— Brene Brown

Thinking about profound social change, conservatives always expect disaster, while revolutionaries confidentially expect utopia. Both are wrong.

— Carolyn Heilbrun

Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

Antagonism breeds extremism.

— Émile Zola

Extremism in religion is a mental mechanism to hide one’s inferiority complexes.

— Fahad Basheer

You have to quit confusing a madness with a mission.

— Flannery O’Connor

Extreme positions are not succeeded by moderate ones, but by contrary extreme positions.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

One will rarely err if extreme actions be ascribed to vanity, ordinary actions to habit, and mean actions to fear.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.

— George Santayana

Extremism thrives amid ignorance and anger, intimidation and cowardice.

— Hillary Clinton

There are three classes of men; the retrograde, the stationary and the progressive.

— Johann Kaspar Lavater

Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: an excessively simple diagnosis of the world’s ills, and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all.

— John W. Gardner

Perhaps…the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

— Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait

The Keynesian idea is once again accepted that fiscal policy and deficit spending has a major role to play in guiding a market economy. I wish Friedman were still alive so he could witness how his extremism led to the defeat of his own ideas.

— Paul Samuelson

There’s no evidence from decades of Pew Research surveys that public opinion, in the aggregate, is more extreme now than in the past. But what has changed — and pretty dramatically — is the growing tendency of people to sort themselves into political parties based on their ideological differences.

— Pew Research Center, The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown

An airplane should never lean too much to the left or the right, because it puts every passenger into a panic and fear. Politics are much the same. Better to be balanced on both sides than to fly on a crazy angle.

— Rebecca McNutt

Extreme orthodoxy betrays by its very frenzy that the poison of skepticism has entered the soul of the church; for men insist most vehemently upon their certainties when their hold upon them has been shaken. Frantic orthodoxy is a method for obscuring doubt.

— Reinhold Niebuhr

Fanaticism is overcompensation for doubt.

— Roberston Davies

From the beginning men used God to justify the unjustifiable.

— Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

Every reform movement has a lunatic fringe.

— Theodore Roosevelt

The trouble with all these far-right and far-left mentalities is that they can encompass only one side of an argument and are congenitally incapable of holding two opinions in their heads at the same time.

— Truman Capote

The free world cannot afford to accept any form of extremism, whether it is fascism, racism, or religious extremism.

— Widad Akrawi

A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.

— Winston Churchill
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