on Who Helped Build the Current Crisis
KITCHENER, Ontario, 11 NOV. 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 ZENIT 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
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?" ZE04111122
on the "Masters of Suspicion"
KITCHENER, Ontario, 12 NOV. 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
DeMarco, an adjunct philosophy professor at Holy Apostles College and
Seminary and professor emeritus at St. Jerome's University, relayed to
ZENIT how these three thinkers and others have led to the disintegration
of the human person.
Part 1 of this three-part interview appeared Thursday.
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
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
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
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
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 abject misery.
John Paul explains that "masters of suspicion" is a most telling phrase
because it indicates that a heart that naturally expresses itself in the
form of lust, avarice or pride cannot be trusted. The heart of man, as
described by Freud, Marx and Nietzsche, implodes upon itself and in so
doing becomes an object of deep suspicion. The heart is at odds with
itself and therefore cannot be trusted.
The vital element that is omitted in the thought of these three godless
thinkers is a relationship with the Father. As St. John writes, "If
anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because
all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the
eyes, and the pride of life; which is not from the Father, but from the
The image comes to mind that the poet William Butler Yeats provides in
"The Second Coming": "The falcon cannot hear the falconer ... anarchy is
loosed upon the world." Man in the modern world, following the "masters
of suspicion," has become so estranged from God that he can no longer
hear the Father's integrating message. Without the Father, chaos reigns.
Freud, Marx and Nietzsche, whose influence on the modern world is
immense, were particularly vehement in their rejection to the Fatherhood
aspect of God. They all believed and taught that the condition for human
liberty is the death of God the Father.
For Freud, perhaps the most basic tenet of his psychoanalysis is that
neurosis results when the severity of the superego is too great. He
therefore sought to rid people of the Law
and ultimately the Law Giver
that formed the superego. Freud saw himself as a new Moses, or an
anti-Moses, whose destiny is to abolish the Fatherhood of God that was
responsible for the oppression of the human psyche.
Marx was an avowed enemy of anything divine. "I hate all the gods," he
proclaimed. His Promethean temperament set him against what he believed
to be a fictitious god that first mesmerized and then oppressed the
masses. He viewed subservience to a Father figure as a deathblow to
one's own selfhood.
No sacrifice for him could be too great in deposing god in the interest
of liberating man. "I would much rather be bound to a rock," he proudly
asserted, "than be the docile valet of Zeus the Father."
Nietzsche wrote his first essay on ethics when he was but 13. In it, he
imagined that he solved the problem of evil. "My solution to the problem
was to give the honor to God, as is only just, and make him the father
of evil," he wrote.
"Why atheism nowadays?" Nietzsche asked. "The father in God is
thoroughly refuted." He also advised, "Love yourself through grace; then
you are no longer in need of your God, and you can act the whole drama
of Fall and Redemption to its end in yourself." ZE04111223
on the False Messiahs' Enduring Appeal
KITCHENER, Ontario, 14 NOV. 2004 (ZENIT)
Backward thinkers of the past
still have appeal today because they offer the promise of an easier
life, says a philosophy scholar.
Donald DeMarco, an adjunct philosophy professor at Holy Apostles College
and Seminary and professor emeritus at St. Jerome's University, has
investigated the dysfunctional theories and lasting legacies of
"Architects of the Culture of Death" (Ignatius) with his co-author,
He shared with ZENIT how facing the real challenges in life, and not
following the path of least resistance, is the way to live authentically
and combat the culture of death.
Part 2 of this interview appeared Friday.
Q: Some tend to blame the 1960s for all of the current troubles in
society. In hindsight, did the '60s reflect the culmination of a logical
train of events and ideas?
DeMarco: The '60s represented, among other things, a sexual revolution
in the sense of separating sex from responsibility; this may more
properly be viewed as a devolution.
It also represented a rejection of authority, including a rejection of
the cultural notion as well as the religious notion of
fatherhood. The views of Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Reich, Jean-Paul Sartre
and Simone de Beauvoir are very much in evidence during this period.
It was also a period during which many religiously minded people were
trying to create a synthesis between Christian and Marxist thought. It
was believed, by some, that Christianity had the love while Marxism had
the structure for social change. Christianity and Marxism, however, are
really disjunctive belief systems and cannot be reconciled with each
Indeed, the '60s was a tumultuous period and represented the convergence
of the thought of a number of the "architects" we have treated. But it
did not provide the genesis of the problem. Rather, it was the fruition,
if one can use that term, of the problem.
There are roots that go back to the Great Wars and even to the
when man began to think that he could live very well without God or
religion. Albert Camus' phrase continues to haunt the modern world and
man's pretense to self-sufficiency: "Why did the Enlightenment lead to
Q: How is it that the "architects of the culture of death" continue to
enjoy a high level of respect in the popular culture?
DeMarco: I believe the essential appeal that our 23 architects have
and it is an appeal that was operative right from the beginning
is that they offer the world the promise of an easier life.
The path of least resistance, or the short cut, has always had great
appeal. The modern world would love to separate death from life and
enjoy life without death. This is the promise of the false Messiahs,
whose message is more religious than most people seem to realize.
Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and others have an Old
Testamentary kind of righteous anger. They are surely moralists. And
they propose to bring about a better world than the one we have grown
Ortega y Gasset wrote a wonderfully prescient work in 1931 called "The
Revolt of the Masses." One of my favorite phrases from that work, which
contains no end of memorable phrases, is "the sovereignty of the
unqualified." Ortega was pointing out that the social pyramid was being
that the qualified people were deposed to the bottom, while the
unqualified masses had ascended to the top and assumed control of
We now live in a mass culture with mass taste, mass standards and
standardized mass living. Philosophy and religion are regarded with deep
suspicion. Wisdom is assumed to be either non-existent or unattainable.
Media entertainment is just that
distraction from reality, but hardly ever enlightening.
Ours is a very superficial culture and we are in love with the unholy
triad of immediacy, expediency and simplicity. We allow ourselves to be
influenced by the kind of incomplete, poorly thought out philosophies
that we find among the architects of death.
It is easy for anyone to float downstream
even a dead man can do that. But to swim against the current, to
discover our authentic identity as loving human beings, takes effort,
courage and virtue in many forms.
The media continue to lull us to sleep, dangling before our eyes the
enticements of early retirement, financial independence, a reduced
workweek, exotic vacation packages, material ease and a thousand other
forms of somnolence that represent the comfort of death more than the
energy of life. And so, we are easily exploited by bad philosophies.
Q: If the culture of death rests on a fragmented view of the person and
the eclipse of God, as you note, what does the culture of life rest on?
What hope is there for the future?
DeMarco: The obvious answer is that the culture of life rests on its
citizens being unified persons and establishing authentic relationships
with God and neighbor. The answer is obvious enough, but the
implementation or the bringing it about is quite something else.
We need inspiration to accept the real challenges of life. Difficulty
ought not be daunting. The English poet John Keats is truly a heroic
figure. In a letter to his siblings back home in British Isles, he
explained how we need difficulties in order to rise to the task and find
out who we really are.
"Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is," he
wrote, "to school an intelligence and make it a soul? As various as the
lives of men are
so various become their souls, and thus God makes individual beings."
Keats was living in exile in Rome and dying at age 23 of tuberculosis.
Despite his early death, he left for posterity some remarkable and
insightful and beautiful poetry. We must pay more attention to people
like Keats and less to the Howard Sterns of the world.
If there is one thing I would like readers to take from our book it is
the primary significance of anthropological realism. All this means is
that we must understand realistically, without tempting illusions, what
it means to be a human being and then find the courage to live in the
light of that understanding, which is to live authentically.
What is a human being? He is a person who is simultaneously a unique
individual and a communal being with loving responsibilities toward his
neighbors. In this dynamic tension between the poles of individuality
and communality emerges a real person who can form good marriages and
assist in providing the basis for a better society.
When Fyodor Dostoevsky submitted his great novel, "Crime and
Punishment," he appended the following note: "This is the story of a
university student whose mind is infected with incomplete ideas that
float on the wind."
The culture of life is based on complete ideas of the human person. John
Paul II's personalism is a good place to begin if we want a better
understanding of what it means to be a human person. And as challenging
as it may be to live as a complete human being, this challenge is
necessary if we are to avoid the enticements of the culture of death and
live in accordance with the principles of the culture of life.