Nihilism has always been an important idea to me since abandoning my religious beliefs. It’s a necessary part of loss of faith, I think. In order to be able to let go of old religious teachings, one has to be okay with a reduction in their alleged value. That reduction in value isn’t an end or exists for its own sake. Rather, it’s a byproduct of applying equal weight to equal thought.
Most of this I learned reading Nietzsche. Initially I was a Christian when I started, and I struggled trying to reconcile what he was saying with what I believed. I thought that a modified Christianity (my answer to most crises of faith) was in order. Religious belief had to conform to the acknowledgments that Nietzsche was willing to make for the religion in The Will to Power.
Naturally, I was getting it wrong. Fast forward to when I finally abandoned my religious beliefs, and I could grasp what he was getting at referring to nihilism as a process. Destruction of beliefs which could not be held honestly is something that has to happen. It would be like insisting on living in a house with a busted foundation. Building a new one isn’t going to matter until the underlying problem is fixed.
The house needs to get built, though.
Admittedly I’ve been stuck here for a while. After destroying my faith, I needed to take a breather. One of the drawbacks of being limited mostly to an online community is that people can drive by and sabotage one’s recovery from religion on a whim. Worse, people will scream free speech and human rights when they’re stopped from doing so. It’s hard to breathe when one is fighting.
These problems are not just limited to religious sabotage, though. Often enough, I also see a limitation in secular discourse to actually build new ideas. Some of this is out of necessity; I just left one suspicious group, and I don’t want to easily fall into another. But this doesn’t get rid of the need to need to intellectually live somewhere, to say the things I stand for rather than the things I stand against. This might seem like semantics, but the difference is huge.
Saying what I stand for lets me speak about it positively without the need to reference what has wounded me in the past. For example, I think that treating human life with more value is a necessary beginning to building stronger societies. I think building stronger societies is necessary to eradicating human misery. And eradicating human misery is necessary to our evolution as a species.
Those are some big ideas. It’s a big and beautiful house I want to build. I don’t talk about it much because the scholar and cynic in me knows I’d have to do a ton of writing to justify each and every thought. That, and I almost can’t forget that someone eventually would pop by and tell me I just need whatever thing they think is important.
The foundation still needs to be replaced.
I’ve taken a look at recent world events and noticed how strange things seem to be. We live in a world where fascism is able to hide out in the open, where countries are demanding “strong” leadership without asking what that might entail (look at Brazil, the U.S., elections regarding Brexit, France’s last presidential election, and Poland’s leader). People in so-called “developed” countries are doing everything they can to make foreigners seem like the enemy.
And no, I’m not saying that old values might still have been able to do something about all of this. Some of those old values did nothing at all when institutions changed (take a look at colonialism and slavery). What I am saying is that we need better moral and social values. Violence in today’s day and age might be less common overall, but when it does erupt, it’s orders-of-magnitude bloodier. The only commonality is that when the smoke clears and the bodies are disposed of, there’s universal sorrow at knowing none of it was necessary.
I’ll try to offer my own two cents.
I’m not a philosopher or great mind. But I am acutely aware of the fact that I only have a finite time to live my life. I don’t know how long that will be. Sharing my thoughts is sharing who I am. Although I don’t always feel like I’m important enough to share anything, in my more lucid moments I do want to share what dreams have come my way.
I’ve done enough destruction in my life. Such is the way of a mind like mine. Building something new is scary and beautiful and horrible in equal amounts. None of these things truly should matter. Instead, what matters is that people think of new ways to be excellent to each other.
One thought on “Coming Back To Nihilism”
I don’t think I was ever tempted to embrace nihilism, much as I loved Nietzsche. Somewhere he says that atheism if Christian morality overcoming Christian metaphysics. That comes close to my own sense of deconversion. I came to a point where I felt every religion I was aware of fell needlessly short of some of the most basic values its proponents claimed to love. Shedding faith was, for me, stepping into a world saturated with meaning, far more than I could find within that faith.
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