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The Marquis de Sade, Nietzsche and Secular Purism

Apr 4, 2008
Compte Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade (1740 - 1814), better known as the Marquis de Sade, was a famous French atheist and writer. He spent 27 years of his adult life in the prisons and insane asylums of the French monarchy, the French Republic, the revolutionary terror and Napoleonic Imperial France.

In short, his sexual perversion and cruelty was restrained by every form of French government of his time. He was openly atheist in his belief and unrestrained in morals. His sexual perversions involved inflicting pain on his lovers. The word 'sadism' is his contribution to our language.

Rather than recount the lurid details of a tragic life I wish to describe de Sade at his philosophical core. I think it is apparent that de Sade was a secular purist in his philosophy.

Secular purism is a total commitment to secularism. It is a total commitment to atheism. Most people who call themselves secular are really syncretists.

Syncretism is a blending of two or more philosophies or religions. Most secular people borrow moral teachings from religion. In the West that usually means Christianity.

Secularism as a worldview has no moral code. Secularism by definition has no deity, hence no lawgiver and no laws. Secularism is in essence a non-legislating philosophy.

People who embrace secularism soon become unmoored. In order to obtain some form of meaning in life secularists tend to quickly adopt a limited amount of moral teachings from Christianity.

De Sade was very similar to a man who would arise a century later and give us the doctrine of "nihilism." That man was Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900) who was an open atheist, secular purist and like de Sade, died in an insane asylum.

Nihilism means nothingness. Nihilists believe that there is no purpose or meaning to life, no God to serve, no life after death and no authoritative morality or absolute truth. It's not hard to see that anyone attempting to live as a nihilist would find life to be a boring drudgery.

Adolph Hitler was strongly influenced by Nietzsche but did not remain a nihilist. Hitler found a perverse meaning to life in dedicating himself to promoting the triumph of the Aryan race.

The human soul was created to commit itself to a purpose larger than itself. The human soul cannot abide secular purist nihilism.

Some people claim that the United states was founded as a secular nation. They claim that the founding fathers were Deists who were influenced by the secular Enlightenment.

Deism is a Christian heresy that claims that God created earth but does not involve Himself in the affairs of mankind. It's the idea that God created the earth, gave it a spin and walked away. The American founding fathers were definitely not Deists.

The founders were virtually all committed Christians and church members. Even Benjamin Franklin proved he was no Deist when he called for public prayer during the constitutional convention. Deists don't believe that God hears or answers prayer.

The Enlightenment was a philosophical period that occurred during the middle part of the 1700s and greatly influenced the French revolution. It should also be pointed out that the Enlightenment philosophers themselves, with the exception of de Sade, were virtually all syncretists.

The Enlightenment combined Christian concepts such as justice and individual rights with secular ideas. The late 18th century was called the age of reason but it certainly wasn't secular reasoning in the pure sense. It was rational thought within a largely Christian worldview.

In any event the founding fathers of America were not men of the Enlightenment which at the time was largely confined to Europe. The founders quoted the Bible in their writings far more than all the Enlightenment philosophers combined.

Even if a critic were to claim that America was founded by Enlightenment philosophers and Deists such a critic must face the fact that Deism is a Christian variant and the Enlightenment was a secular/Christian syncretism. Even in such a view America was founded on Christian principles.

Revolutionary France of the 1790s and the communist nations of the 20th century were the first genuinely secular states. The communists formed societies so oppressive and corrupt that if they died and went to hell they probably wouldn't have known the difference.

The communist economic system collapsed of its own dead weight. Untold millions died in communist prisons and slave camps during the harsh imposition of secular "utopia."

The lesson from all this is that people cannot find moral guidance or meaning in life apart from God.

The very fact that virtually all secularists are syncretists who borrow Christian concepts of morality is itself a witness to the fact that Christian morality has the ring of truth and has its source in divine wisdom.
About the Author
Bill Nugent, a defender of the Christian faith, has written many articles on Christianity, philosophy and science. He has also written books that give Bible based teaching on sanctification and that caution against the error of legalism. His books are available at his ministry website www.gracelawandsonship.com.
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