Friedrich Nietzsche, Human All Too Human (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches), subtitled A Book for Free Spirits (Ein Buch für freie Geister).

First published in 1878.   A second part, Assorted Opinions and Maxims (Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche), was published in 1879, and a third part, The Wanderer and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten), followed in 1880.

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Conviction is belief in the possession of absolute truth on any matter of knowledge.  This belief takes it for granted, therefore, that there are absolute truths; also, that perfect methods have been found for attaining to them; and finally, that everyone who has convictions makes use of these perfect methods.  All three notions show at once that the man of convictions is not the man of scientific thought; he seems to us still in the age of theoretical innocence, and is practically a child, however grown up he may be.  Whole centuries, however, have been lived under the influence of those childlike presuppositions, and out of them have flowed the mightiest sources of human strength.  The countless numbers who sacrificed themselves for their convictions believed they were doing it for the sake of absolute truth.  They were all wrong, however; probably no-one has, ever sacrificed himself for Truth; at least, the dogmatic expression of the faith of any such person has been unscientific or only partly scientific.  But really, people wanted to carry their point because they believed that they must be in the right.  To allow their belief to be wrested from them probably meant calling in question their eternal salvation.  In an affair of such extreme importance the "will" was too audibly the prompter of the intellect.  The presupposition of every believer of every shade of belief has been that he could not be confuted; if the counter arguments happened to be very strong, it always remained for him to decry intellect generally, and, perhaps, even to set up the "credo quia absurdum est" as the standard of extreme fanaticism.  It is not the struggle of opinions that has made history so turbulent; but the struggle of belief in opinions, that is to say, of convictions.  If all those who thought so highly of their convictions, who made sacrifices of all kinds for them, and spared neither honour, body, nor life in their service, had only devoted half of their energy to examining their right to adhere to this or that conviction and by what road they arrived at it, how peaceable would the history of mankind now appear!  How much more knowledge would there be!  All the cruel scenes in connection with the persecution of heretics of all kinds would have been avoided, for two reasons: firstly, because the inquisitors would above all have inquired of themselves, and would have recognised the presumption of defending absolute truth; and secondly, because the heretics themselves would, after examination, have taken no more interest in such badly established doctrines as those of all religious sectarians and "orthodox" believers.  
 

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