On Nihilism

In an article on atheism, rational and otherwise, John C. Wright (who also has written an useful article on the authority of the Church) concludes:

Nihilism hence forms the default metaphysical and ontological stance of our age. Anyone of the modern generation who, without reflection, adopts the politically correct cant and shibboleths of popular in the media, in entertainment, in academia, will assume that any speech is meant as propaganda,  any philosophy meant as self-justification, and that any motive for any act is selfish and self-aggrandizing. In the modern age, willpower is the only god. If a man says that he wills or wishes or suffers a whim, it is considered somewhere on the spectrum between extremely discourteous, to outright treason to judge or to condemn his choice. The mere act of choosing is regarded as sacrosanct, and the content of the choice is considered beyond discussion.

Nothing could be more clearly against the radical subjectivism of this worship of the whim than a belief in an objective and rational moral system whose imperatives we cannot escape, unless perhaps it is an objective and rational moral system imposed by a supreme being with the moral authority and present power to do so, whose judgments cannot err.

The particular hatred of the modern age is directed against theism is general, monotheism specifically and Catholicism most of all precisely because of the metaphysical difference between nihilism and a belief in solid reality, and a spiritual reality.

The animus is directed against theism in general, because if the pagan gods exists, we cannot with abandon create our own reality or (what is to the nihilist much the same thing) our own “narrative” of reality; the animus is directed against the Abrahamic religions specifically because if there is one God, the supreme ruler of the universe with a legitimate claim on our loyalty and a specific demand on our moral behavior, our freedom to choose is limited to a small number of possible interpretations of a basic moral program, a limited (albeit ever growing) number of denominations; and the animus is directed against Catholicism most of all, because if there is only one true apostolic and universal Church, the demand of the magisterium abolishes Luther’s freedom to decide what doctrines to follow and what to ignore. In this last case, human freedom of choice is a limited to a simple binary of orthodoxy versus heterodoxy. For the nihilist, an institution determining specific nuances of theological questions, such as the nature of justification, incarnation and trinitarianism, and moral questions of homicide, abortion, slavery, divorce, contraception, socialism and social justice, leaves him with very little room to exercise his power of inventing reality or narratives of reality.

Since the whole point of nihilism (let us be honest) is to silence criticism of one’s own immorality by undermining the basis of all moral reasoning, polytheism and monotheism are annoyances and enemies, but Catholicism is the arch-enemy.

The danger faced by any rational atheist is that he will fall into the temptation to be a fashionable atheist while still talking as if he choice and decision were purely based on evidence. Real rational atheists should be quick to denounce the fashionable atheists in their midst, since they bring the whole school of thought into disrepute, obliterating the legitimacy of their central claim, which is that reason naturally directs man not toward a belief in a Supreme Being, or Unmoved Mover or Form of the Good, but toward atheism. Unreasonable people believing in reason for irrational reasons is a monstrous self contradiction.

For the same reason, of course, Christians should be quick to denounce the hatred and sanctimony of Pharisees and hypocrites in our midst, as nothing more quickly gives scandal to the spiritually starved unbeliever than to see the devotees of the God who is Love parading themselves to the public eye with loveless words and deeds.

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