RELIGIONrnThe Divinizationrnof the Devilrnby Nicola AbbagnanornThe need for God is a characteristicrnof our time. The difficulties andrnthe uncertainties of daily life; the dangersrnthat impinge both on individualsrnand the entire human species; the strugglesrnand conflicts that lurk everywhere;rnthe outbursts of violence; the moral andrncivil disorder—all make human beingsrnfeel the need for an assistance thatrncomes from on high. The need for Godrnis the need for a world that is differentrnfrom the one that displays itself in itsrnworst aspects—for a world which, becausernit is created and governed by anrnomnipotent and perfect Being, cannotrnbe oriented toward the denigration andrndestruction of man. If God exists, thernworld is not that chaotic disorder thatrnappears at first glance—that blindrnchance which picks up fortune and disgracernas equal passengers—that inconclusivernplay of force or instincts withoutrnaim or that fatal destiny wherein manrncan be only prey. There has to be a universalrnorder, a design whereby man isrnpermitted to survive and to perfect himselfrn—a meaning and a value of whichrnman can make of himself the interpreterrnand the advocate, hi such a world, manrncan expect in every circumstance thernhelp of God, who gives him the strengthrnand the courage to overcome adversities.rnHe can also cultivate a faith in a betterrnlife which awaits him after death.rnBut if these are the conditions of thernneed for God (and indeed of every authenticrnreligious faith), then what happensrnwhen one believes that the chaoticrndisorder, the violent clash of forces, andrnthe meaningless play of chance are thernvery substance of the world? The answerrnis obvious. The need for God is substitutedrnby the need for the Devil, and religiousrntheology is exchanged for the divinizationrnof the Devil. In the formerrntheology the Devil is simply a fallen angelrnwho tempts man to sin with seductivernallurements, but whose action is limitedrnby the divine order of the world. If,rnhowever, there is no divine order or authorrnof it, the Devil becomes the symbolrnor the personification of the disorder, ofrnthe substance of the world.rnThis is the path cut by a group ofrnFrench philosophers, psychiatrists, andrnbelletrists who inspired the “global debate”rnof 1968 and influenced large numbersrnof young people—even outside ofrnFrance. Four authors have principallyrninfluenced this group. The first is Nietzsche,rnwho with his declaration that “Godrnis dead” exiled religion and traditionalrnmetaphysics. The second is Freud, whornby asserting the primacy of instinct inrnhuman life denied the claims of reason.rnThe third is Heidegger, who had announcedrnthe birth of a new cosmicrnepoch as revealed by a new language.rnThe fourth is Marx, as the apostle of arnworld revolution.rnBut the specific task that thesern”pathfinders” have assumed has been torncombat all the values and the institutionsrnon which contemporary societyrnis based. Those institutions that wish tornimpose order, rationality, and peace onrnthe world have no justification, becausernthe world is a chaos of violent forces.rnMadness and crime better express itsrnnature. The powers that do battle withrnthem have been and are only useless andrncruel expedients. Such are the themesrnthat emerge from the writings of MichelrnFoucault—the most important representativernof the group in question. GillesrnDeleuze and Felix Guattari (who is a psychiatrist)rncut the same path. They pointrntoward schizophrenia—insofar as it is anrnescape from the order of things and fromrnthe rule of language—as the thrust towardrna revolution aimed at changing humanrnnature radically, albeit in an imprecisernsense.rnIn fact, the destruction of man is thernultimate aspiration of this philosophicrnpath. This being, man, who wishes tornseek the truth with reason—who is freernand responsible for his choices—is only arnfictitious creation in a world of chaoticrnforces. According to Foucault, man is altogetherrna mistaken linguistic expressionrn—a rift of language that will bernhealed by his disappearance. One cannotrnavoid asking whom these thinkers arernaddressing and encouraging to strugglernagainst the power that supports those institutionsrnwhich are destined for the repressionrnof invincible forces. If men arernmerely mistakes of nature, devoid of anyrnautonomous power and of serious will,rnthey are unable even to receive such anrninvitation. They can only abandonrnthemselves without defense to the unpredictablernplay of diabolical chaos—rnwhich is the true reality of the world. Onrnthe other hand, are not those powersrnagainst which war is declared in thernname of this chaos, themselves (as is everythingrnelse) manifestations of it? Andrnare they not as such irreducible and invincible?rnIf the truth (every truth) isrnsolely a tool of these powers—if the theoryrnwhich struggles against them renouncesrnthe truth, what kind of validityrnor meaning can it claim? The obscure,rnmetaphysical, mystificatory languagernwhich these philosophers love to usernhardly succeeds in hiding the puerilerncontradictions of their theories.rnYet there has been no dearth of listenersrnto these philosophers whose ideasrnhave been the ultimate justification of allrnthe critical or decadent features of ourrnepoch; the rejection of every moral andrncivil norm as repressive of instincts; thernpermissiveness that grows in daily behaviorrnand education; the weakness of juridicalrnand political institutions that arernsupposed to defend citizens; the recourse,rnin political and social struggles,rnto the violence that ignores or destro)’srnhuman life. And the true legitimate offspringrnof those theories has been the terrorismrnthat possesses in various countriesrnseemingly different motives, but whichrnremains committed to the destruction ofrnthe present world for a future “better”rnworld. But better for whom?rnThe defense of man which today isrnthe most important and urgent task of allrnhas nothing to gain and everything tornlose by turning to theories that view thernwodd as the regime of the Devil. Onlyrnreason and liberty with all their limitsrncan make of the world a home worthy ofrnman by utilizing the order that naturerndiscloses and the experience of the victoriesrnand defeats that history records.rnThis essay from Nicola Abbagnano’s Larnsagezza della vita (1985) was translatedrnby Nino LangiuUi, a professor of philosophyrnat St. Francis College in Brooklyn.rnChilton Williamson’s column willrnnot appear this month. He will berndiscussing environmentalism and thernWest with Ed Marston of High CountryrnNews in the June issue of Chronicles,rnand his monthly HundredthrnMeridian column will resume in July.rn50/CHRONICLESrnrnrn