This discussion on the nature of evil is from an interview by Christianitas with the French Catholic philosopher Fabrice Hadjadj. It comes at the beginning of a fascinating and rather complex conversation on sexuality. While the latter discussion is beyond the scope of this blog, his comments on atheism and evil deserve to be reprinted in full:
Christianitas: You are known in Poland as the author of The Faith of the Demons, a book that in France earned the Prix de littérature religieuse for 2010. … Let’s begin with the book on demons: Where did you get the idea for it?
Fabrice Hadjadj: … The topic of the book [The Faith of the Demons] is evil, radical evil. It was not my aim to write about demons, but rather an attempt at answering for myself the question: What is evil in its pure state? And also: What is faith? Therefore the most important word in the title The Faith of the Demons is “faith.”
In writing about this I asked myself the following question: It is true that atheism is considered to be a great evil, but is it really the greatest evil? I came to the conclusion that “no, it is not,” since it is obvious that demons are not unbelievers: The demons believe and tremble (James 2:19). The Devil knows that God exists and is certain about the veracity of all the articles of faith. This means that our foe—and he is the greatest—is not an atheist. Certainly he fuels atheism, he himself exists in a certain form of atheism, which consists in living without God, but he is not an atheist on the theoretical level.
Such was my first conclusion. This is why I attempted to extend my reflection by going beyond unbelief. This approach seemed interesting to me, because when we stop treating atheism as the only figure of evil, then we begin to realize that there are others, for example, deism, fundamentalism, including Phariseeism. The second conclusion of the book is connected with the topic of The Depths of Sexuality. Well, our enemy not only is not an atheist, but he also has no body. A demon is an angel, “a pure impure spirit.” Thus evil is not first located in the body, but is instead connected to the spirit.
If there is sin, then that is because there is intelligence, and because the will exists. Here is what I wanted to say with this: Do you think that your foe is an atheist or that the body is something dangerous? No, because spiritualism perhaps is the greatest evil and the root of all evil. The Catholic conclusion that it is the spirit that is on the side of evil is really something truly amazing.
So you started by delving into the issue of demonism until you reached Phariseeism?
Yes, Phariseeism is the human equivalent of demonism. One can find such a line of thinking in the statements Pope Francis made right after his election. This pope notes the great danger in what he calls “self-referentiality.” He criticizes a Church that falls into theological narcissism. Such a turn toward oneself is precisely what happens in Phariseeism and in the faith of the demons.
Thus, there are two kinds of unbelief. One is a negation of faith. The other is the substitution of true faith with a lie–an ersatz faith. Ultimately, Satan holds to the second kind of unbelief. He cannot deny reality, but he can twist and distort the truth, redefining what he knows to be right, to turn it into a lie. This is why Phariseeism is the real human counterpart to the faith of demons. It turns the truth into a lie, and in doing so steals all hope of salvation from humanity. It bears a form of godliness, but without the power to save: It only contains within itself the power to condemn. (2 Timothy 3: 5)
(H/t The Corner)