Tuesday, June 16, 2015

GK Chesterton - The devil tempts us with lies

More from Jousting with the Devil by Fr. Bob Wild on GK Chesterton.

Pages 72-73

"Awareness of the devil and his temptations is one of the factors behind Chesterton's celebrated charity towards his intellectual foes, towards everyone, really. He believed that erroneous ideas affected moral behavior, and that often people were not aware that their ideas were erroneous. (He said there were two kinds of people: those who hold dogmatic positions consciously, and those who hold them unconsciously—like George Bernard Shaw.) What he's saying—and a whole modern school of psychology (Cognitive Therapy) is built on this theory—is that maybe people are grouchy because they harbor pessimistic ideas, not pessimistic because they are grouchy; maybe people are sad and unpleasant because they have fatalistic and harsh ideas, not harsh because they are unpleasant people. And so on.  
The devil is the father of lies. If you believe that Satan is alive and active, tempting people with lies, you will be more charitable and compassionate. If we do not believe in the devil, we then naturally attribute all the evil in the world to human beings alone, and regard many of our fellow-creatures as, well, "fiendish;' when they might actually be tempted or tormented' victims. And, if we accept the reality of possession, this also will make us more charitable: "The assertion that a man is possessed of a devil is the only way of avoiding the assertion that he is a devil". (The Illustrated London News, April 28,1917. I remember reading of a New York Times editorial when the Nazi extermination camps came to light. It was quite explicit in saying that there must be some other source of evil in the world to explain such monstrosities.)
Of course, such compassion can be overdone. But it is a very common human opinion that there are evil things in the world of such magnitude (the Holocaust) that they can only be called devilish; and to say that there are no devils is really to conclude that all evil comes from human beings."

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