Dragons for Sale: Studies in Unreason

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Prometheus Books, 1993 - Philosophy - 166 pages
Fear and ignorance have run rampant throughout human history, stifling creativity and unleashing unspeakable cruelty. Those sinister mythical dragons that often stood in the path of truth and knowledge seem to return century after century as each new generation succumbs to its own insecurities, misled by those who would feed off the fear of others. With great savoir vivre Robert E. Wheeler guides us through the twists and turns of our many and varied foibles, all the while aiming the clear light of reason on the root causes of human misery. His compassion and insight, humor and lively command of the language combine to explore a gallery of "rancid ascetics"; "gloating sadists"; "pontificating hierophants"; "saints, gnomes, and rogues"; "spurious religiosity"; "swaggering unreason"; "oratorical hokum"; and "mystical ballyhoo"; as well as the "whiplash of mass emotion" and the "torrential madness of hysteria-dominated crowds" to arrive at a "fuller, richer, and more abundant life" in which we will "no longer tolerate the coexistence of natural affluence and spiritual squalor". No longer blinded by fear, which undermines our reason, we can recover from our "allergic reaction to truth", turn away from magic - that "shuddering attempt to master a terrifying universe" - and stop behaving like "screaming moppets that want someone to pluck the moon from the sky for them". Guided by Wheeler's firm grasp of cultural history and modern psychology, Dragons for Sale exposes the roots of such mental maladies as witchcraft and its persecution, asceticism and unbridled hedonism, the crusades and millenarianism, nazism's monumental conceit, and the tactics of McCarthyism, as well as the more mundaneconsequences of belief in nostrum vendors and bogus messiahs. Books once regarded as the well-springs of wisdom - e.g., the Sibylline books and the Malleus Maleficarum (the witch hunter's handbook) - are discussed and assessed, uncovering the origins of our sexual misconceptions as readers examine the "seamier side of the Age of Reason" and learn how many beliefs act as "psychological toxins". When we realize that not even the learned have a monopoly on truth and that our collective anxieties should not be allowed to undermine our reason, only then may we realize our unparalleled potential for growing into healthy, fulfilled human beings.

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The Matrix of Unreason
The Snares of Belief

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