A couple of months ago I posted links to a couple of Fox News interviews with Shirley Phelps Roper (spokesperson for Fred Phelp's Westboro Baptist Church) in A Miscellany 99.
On viewing these interviews again, I realized she was presenting the perfect portrait of a fanatic.
Her views are the only true ones.
She has no capacity to understand an opposing point of view. (In fact she avoids listening to other views by continuing to talk through the other person's attempts)
All of us are required to accept her point of view without argument.
She has a dualistic view in that everything is right or wrong, black or white; there are no shades of grey, no subtleties in her world.
The ends justify the means in enforcing her views on others.
She justifies hurting the innocent to promote her views by proclaiming all are guilty.
The details of her beliefs are irrelevant for this discussion - she could be promoting any viewpoint, be it religious, racial, or political. She is a fanatic, and like most fanatics, dangerous because of it.
We cannot convince such people that they are wrong, and there is no point in arguing directly with them. We can only hope that for their own sakes they awake from their delusions.
But, we should make sure our educational systems inoculate children against falling for fanaticism; and we should beware of the symptoms in ourselves.
A somewhat different perspective on what marks a fanatic can be found in this essay. I think this too describes Shirley Phelps Roper.