Skip to content

Thinkers Behind the Culture of Death (Part 1 or 3)

Donald DeMarco on Who Helped Build the Current Crisis

KITCHENER, Ontario, NOV. 12, 2004 (Zenit) - Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ayn Rand and Wilhelm Reich may have had therapeutic aims to cure the world of its ills.

But instead they contributed immensely to the modern sickness that John Paul II has identified as the "culture of death."

So says Donald DeMarco, who co-authored a book investigating the dysfunctional lives and theories of the "Architects of the Culture of Death" (Ignatius) with Benjamin Wiker.

DeMarco is an adjunct philosophy professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, in Connecticut, and professor emeritus at St. Jerome's University, in Ontario.

In this three-part interview, he shared with US how a few individuals' highly influential thought has fueled the formation of the present culture of death.

Q: Why did you decide to compile this book on the lives of the "Architects of the Culture of Death"?

DeMarco: The title is the brainchild of Benjamin Wiker, my co-author. When I first came across his engaging title in an article that he wrote for the National Catholic Register, I had the very strong sense that I could write a series of pieces on this theme and that Ben and I could collaborate to write a book bearing the title, "Architects of the Culture of Death."

I think that we had something in common that allowed us to share this vision, namely, a deeply felt conviction that something terribly wrong has occurred in the modern world, that people need to know how it has come about and that there is an answer to our present dilemma.

I had been teaching moral philosophy and the history of modern philosophy at St. Jerome's University in Waterloo, Ontario, for many, many years. Therefore, it was an easy task for me to assemble 15 of these architects and explain how their highly influential thought has contributed mightily to the formation of the present culture of death.

I have written five books on the subject of virtue. People commonly talk about the importance of love, but without virtue, there is no conduit through which love can be expressed in any effective or satisfactory way.

It was inevitable, I suppose, that my thoughts would turn from something positive to its antithesis. One defends the truth only half way if one does not expose the lies that assail and conceal it.

I had no difficulty, as I mentioned, coming up with 15 "architects," and though there are more that I could present, I am satisfied with those whom I have chosen. Moreover, they fall into nice categories: the will worshipers, the atheistic existentialists, the secular utopianists, the pleasure seekers and the death peddlers. Ben, my co-author, covered the eight other thinkers spotlighted in our book.

Q: What is it about the lives of these individuals that is so telling?

DeMarco: Being a philosopher by trade, naturally I wrote about my architects in such a way that what would be most "telling" about them is that their thought is demonstrably untenable. Their view of life and the world simply does not stand up against any reasonable form of analysis. In no instance do any of the architects indicate that they have a balanced notion of what constitutes a human being.

Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche and Ayn Rand give so much prominence to the will that there was little left over for reason. Historians have referred to this triad as "irrational vitalists."

Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Elisabeth Badinter absolutize freedom to the point where there is nothing left over for responsibility, especially communal responsibility.

The utopianism of Karl Marx, Auguste Comte and Judith Jarvis Thomson is an escape into fantasy.

Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Reich and Helen Gurley Brown make pleasure, and not love, central in the lives of human beings.

Finally, Jack Kevorkian, Derek Humphry and Peter Singer completely lose sight of human dignity and the sanctity of life.

Another "telling" feature of these individuals is that their lives were in such disarray. At least three of them -- Auguste Comte, Wilhelm Reich and Friedrich Nietzsche -- according to various historians of philosophy, were mad. Several of the others exhibited clear signs of neuroses. In many cases, and this is also true for the architects that my colleague treats, they involved themselves in activities that are truly shocking.

St. Augustine once stated that the only real justification for philosophy is that, if followed, it can make a person happy. There should be a harmony between a person's philosophy of life and the life satisfactions that its implementation brings about. Ideas have consequences. Realistic thoughts should be a blueprint for a happy life. Unrealistic thoughts cannot lead to happiness. Philosophy is supposed to be a love of wisdom, not a bromide for misery.

Q: What do you think will most surprise readers about the thinkers outlined in your book?

DeMarco: This is a difficult question to answer inasmuch as it is difficult to anticipate how readers will respond.

But it may be that many readers will be surprised at the absolute discrepancy that exists between the therapeutic aims of the architects and the fact that they have contributed immensely to a culture of death.

Wilhelm Reich thought of himself as a secular Messiah who would cure the world of both its social as well as personal neuroses. He saw himself as the world's first Freudo-Marxist. He earned, more than anyone else, the appellation, "Father of the Sexual Revolution."

Yet he died in a federal penitentiary, serving time there because he had defrauded the American public by selling them empty boxes that were allegedly constructed to capture a precious form of energy called "orgone." One critic of Reich said that it was hard to take any man seriously who said, "I realized that I could no longer live without a brothel."

Friedrich Nietzsche, a few years before his death at age 56, was found assaulting a piano with his elbows before he was taken away to an asylum. He had said of his masterpiece, "Zarathustra," that, "This work stands alone. If all the spirit and goodness of every great soul were collected together, the whole could not create a single one of Zarathustra's discourses." Freud imagined himself to be a new Moses.

Karl Marx believed himself to be a new Prometheus.

Ayn Rand counted herself the greatest philosopher in all history, after Aristotle. She argued that, "Altruism is the root of all evil." She arranged that a 6-foot dollar sign adorn her casket. When she died, she had hardly a friend in the world.

These architects had large egos, but it could hardly be said that they had practical strategies for healing society of its ills.

All of the architects claimed to be humanists and liberators in one way or another. Yet, what they preached was a false humanism because it saw human beings in an entirely one-sided way.

It may be surprising to many, then, that powerful and influential thinkers nonetheless find the nature of the human person to be elusive. We are still trying, often with disastrous results, to answer the eternal question, "What is man?"

[Sunday: The masters of suspicion]


Catholic Online CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000



Abortion, Culture, Death, Pope

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.