God Is Most Definitely in the Details

Perhaps the word “switcheroo” is a good way to describe what has happened here

Sainte-Chapelle in Paris
Sainte-Chapelle in Paris (photo: Guilhelm Vellut / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0)

“Not the goods of the world, but God. Not riches, but God. Not honors, but God. Not distinction, but God. Not dignities, but God. Not advancement, but God. God always and in everything.” — St Vincent Pallotti

“The devil is in the details” is a common idiom alluding to the need to check all details in a project or undertaking because it is in the details wherein one succeeds or fails. It implies that it is in the finer, often overlooked, and sometimes unglamorous minor aspects of a plan or scheme that are likely to cause problems later on.

But you might be surprised to find out this wasn’t the original phrase. Instead, it’s derived from the earlier, original phrase, “God is in the details” which was meant to remind us that an important project meant to be done well was worth the time and effort to be done thoroughly even down the smallest, least significant detail.

The history of the original expression, “God is in the details,” is alternatively attributed to several people and those experts who are largely responsible for researching such vagaries are uncertain.

Many would credit the expression to the German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969). His 1969 obituary in The New York Times specifically attributed this phrase to Mies, but it probably didn’t originate with him.

The German translation of the popular phrase — Der liebe Gott steckt im Detail — is usually attributed to the Jewish German art historian and cultural theorist Aby Moritz Warburg, (1866-1929) who founded the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek, which sought to research and catalog the legacy of Western culture from the classical world to the Renaissance. This is evidenced by the fact that a seminar Warburg taught at the University of Hamburg in the winter of 1925-26 was expressly entitled, Der liebe Gott steckt im Detail. (“God is in the details”).

A French version of the saying, Le bon Dieu est dans le détail (“The good God is in the detail”) is often attributed to sexual libertine, anti-humanist and anti-natalist novelist Gustave Flaubert. (1821–1880) This seems logically incongruous and unlikely and yet, here we are.

Back to the contemporary anglosphere, the expression “the devil is in the details” was used in several post-WWII European integration pamphlets as described in a 1963 book on the subject. In 1969, The New York Times referred to the expression noting its interchangeability between God and the devil. The 1969 edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations lists the saying's author as anonymous. There are no previous mentions of the devil being used in this expression.

Perhaps the word “switcheroo” is a good way to describe what people have done here by substituting our superior and meaningful expression with their own inferior ersatz idiom. One is logically led to believe they want not to insult us but rather hope to displace us so that they can lay claim to the praise that wouldn’t otherwise have come to them.

But God, not the devil, is in the details. The Catholic Church created the first universities, hospitals and social work centers — no atheists were involved in the building of those entities.

Nor were atheists involved in the founding of modern sciences, most of the branches of modern sciences, and indeed, all of the functioning, intact paradigms of those branches of sciences. See, for example:

Thus, the ruse of the DAMNERS (i.e., Determinists, Atheists, Materialists, Naturalists, Epicureans, Relativists and Subjectivists) has been uncovered. The devil isn’t in the details, because the devil can’t create anything original. All he can do is destroy and then cobble together a Frankenstein-like simulacrum of what God and his Church have fashioned.