Speak of the Devil
IN THE playful spirit of Milton Himmelfarb’s piece on the movement to limit population growth (p. 37), let us imagine for a moment that the Devil really exists. Only a few years ago it would probably have been harder for most of us to perform such an act of outlandish imagination than it is today. To all but a very few-the name of Norman Mailer comes to mind as a lone exception in the American literary world-the idea of the Devil was for a time even deader than the idea of God. Not everyone, to be sure, agreed that God was dead, and it was still possible in certain circles to profess a belief in Him without calling one’s sanity into question. But I doubt that a similar tolerance would have been extended to anyone who professed to believe in the reality of the Devil.
Today all that has changed. The idea of the Devil is everywhere.
Rosemary’s Baby fascinates millions, and they do not, apparently, find it an implausible story. The Rolling Stones and Jean-Luc Godard sing, again to many millions, of their “Sympathy for the Devil.” Cults and churches explicitly worshiping the Devil are suddenly discovered to be springing up-enough of them to provide material for a growing descriptive literature. Charles Manson appears among us.
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