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Thinkers Behind the Culture of Death (Part 2 of 3)

Donald DeMarco on the "Masters of Suspicion"

KITCHENER, Ontario, NOV. 14, 2004 (Zenit) - John Paul II has referred to Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche as the "masters of suspicion" because they espoused that the heart is at odds with itself and therefore cannot be trusted.

Donald DeMarco agrees wholeheartedly with the Pope's insight. DeMarco has co-authored a book investigating the dysfunctional lives and theories of the "Architects of the Culture of Death" (Ignatius) with Benjamin Wiker.

DeMarco, an adjunct philosophy professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary and professor emeritus at St. Jerome's University, relayed to us how these three thinkers and others have led to the disintegration of the human person.

Part 1 of this three-part interview appeared Friday.

Q: Which of the 23 profiled "architects of the culture of death" have done the most damage to society, in your opinion?

DeMarco: In terms of death toll and damage to human lives all over the world, Karl Marx stands head and shoulders above all the rest.

Arthur Schopenhauer is important because he is the first to regard the will -- malevolent and irrational -- as a fundamental factor in reality. He had an immense influence on Friedrich Nietzsche, who put the will in the ego, and Sigmund Freud, who placed it in the "id." Ayn Rand is also influenced by this notion of the will as primary.

Sartre had an immense influence in absolutizing freedom, which lead ultimately to a purely "pro-choice" philosophy.

Q: How did Karl Marx exploit the religious impulses of his followers and how did he distort Christian doctrine for his own anti-Christian ends?

DeMarco: When Marx dismissed religion by his celebrated phrases as "the opium of the people," the "halo of woe" and "the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world," he was not criticizing the authentic practice of religion but its shell. Marx reacted, to employ Jacques Maritain's distinction, to "the christian world," and not to "Christianity."

That is to say, he mistook the caricature for the archetype, the mockery for the model. It would have been generous for Marx to say, "It is most unfortunate that people sometimes misuse religion by using it as a drug that dulls their moral and intellectual sensibilities."

Therein, he would have reflected an understanding of the difference between fraudulent and authentic practices of religion. But he dismissed all religion because he judged the orthodox by its heterodox counterfeit. As a result, he did everything he could to prevent authentic religion from flowering.

Marx claimed that, "It is easy to be a saint if you have no wish to be human." He would see religion in nothing other than a negative light. Religion meant little to his own parents. His father, in order to be successful as a practicing attorney, traded his Judaism for Lutheranism. Like father, like son. His family lived as liberal Protestants without any profound religious beliefs.

No human, needless to say, would be eligible for sanctity without being thoroughly human. Marx used his own faulty ideology as a measuring stick by which to gauge religion. Christianity, itself, has a better indictment against the attempt to become holy without first becoming human. It stigmatizes such a practice as "Pharisaism."

Marx was in a hurry to change the world and had little concern for some of the more essential points of critical thinking: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it."

Q: You note that John Paul II describes Marx, Nietzsche and Freud as the "masters of suspicion." What does he mean by that and why did he pinpoint those particular men?

DeMarco: In the course of his "theology of the body," Pope John Paul II refers to the "masters of suspicion," an expression he borrows from Paul Ricoeur that applies to Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche.

For the Holy Father, the philosophies of this triumvirate typify what St. John the Evangelist describes in his First Letter, verses 15 through 16, as the "lust of the flesh," "lust of the eyes" and the "pride of life."

Freud wanted to free the sexual instinct from the restraints of the "superego"; Marx encouraged members of the proletariat to revolt so that they could satisfy their desires for material possessions; and Nietzsche proclaimed an ego too powerful to be held down by moral constraints.

The lust, avarice and pride that these three atheistic revolutionaries espoused have not brought about personal fulfillment. On the contrary, they have led to a disintegration of personality. The fruits of lust, avarice and pride are, respectively, bitter loneliness, spiritual dissatisfaction and ...

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