Fanaticism creates an alluring illusion that draws others into the very same fanaticism. The illusion can be compared to an arms race--"Can you top this?"
Sometimes we see this "arms race" in devotional or pious circles: who can do more of certain pious acts? Who can be more elaborate in his ritualism? who can be stricter than the strict? Who can learn more sacred verses?
Of course, we also see it in the "avarice race": who can earn more money and accumulate more financial and physical assets?
In the "popularity race": who can get to the highest political position? Who can gain the most votes, regardless of principle? Who can get the highest ratings using every excess imaginable to draw in the most viewers, listeners, box office numbers, or unique visits?
In the "prestige race": who can get themselves or their kids in the most elite schools? who can live in the most elite neighborhood? who can score highest on the SAT?
There is also the "knowledge race": who can win as the know-it-all who can quiz and stump all others and glory in correcting them?
The illusion is that this type of fanaticism is tied to goals worth pursuing. We compete--all the while forgetting what we are after. Mindless competition does not get us any closer to the truth in religion or to personal happiness and fulfillment in the rest of life.
Many have often commented over the years on the arms race that put us on the edge of mutually assured destruction. The personal arms races we participate in are just as mutually destructive, wasteful, and useless.
Mature people learn to identify what is worth pursuing regardless of what anyone else is doing.
(Image of the Tower of Babel in public domain)