At some point I have a plan to write quite extensively on the topic of nihilism, but I wanted to briefly address it here, because I think it is highly relevant, especially in the coming election here in the US.
Nihilism, as I purport it to be, is the idea that purpose is pointless and that life should be lived for the sake of the individual. Anything beyond that is meaningless, vain, and illusory. Where do we find nihilism in our culture?
Oddly enough, we find nihilism, a philosophy absolutely anathema to the message of Jesus Christ, in the evangelical Christian church in America and with American conservatives. What do I mean by this? What I mean is that in comparison to less fundamentalist believers and nonbelievers alike, fundamentalist evangelicals are highly dedicated to the extreme principles of Martin Luther. Martin Luther was a huge proponent of individual spirituality, as opposed to the more communal spirituality of the Catholic church that he desired to reform. Because evangelicals take such a literal approach to the Bible and Christian teachings, they tend to hold rigid individualist views of the world. Whether or not these actually follow from the Bible is unimportant right now.
The nihilists and, most dangerously, the nihilist Christians tell us that the glory days are behind us. They tell us that humanity has already reached the pinnacle of its potential and that, in fact, we are on a downward slope of potential. I mean “potential” to be a term referring to our collective abilities to progress society to better standards (equality, less crime, etc.). These nihilists say that there is no point in continuing further in our pursuit of bettering the world, because we’ve already passed it.
Why is this a problem? Can’t people have their opinions? The reason I single out Christian nihilists is that these individuals set nihilism up alongside their religious faith. In fact, the two are intertwined. Anyone who has ever had a conversation with a person who is staunchly religious will understand how difficult it can be to convince that other person to acknowledge even the potential for truth in another point of view. When nihilism is weaved into headstrong faith, there is really no real way to combat it. It’s an “you’re either with me or against me attitude.” There becomes no room for compromise.
To be clear, what I mean is that nihilists, especially Christian nihilists, pose a threat to progress in American society. By denying the opportunity to take a leap of faith, to take a risk and try new, perhaps better strategies at tackling our problem, all because “it can’t possibly work,” we are being handcuffed in a way that is absolutely dangerous. If we cannot continue forward, we will either be left behind or stifled in a way that could cause a litany of real, massive problems. Nihilism is no good.
Hope. Have faith. Take heart and take a risk. Every great leader makes compromises, thinks ahead, and takes a hit in the present to make a better future for everyone.