Writing in the 1880s, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche
predicted that an age of destruction and barbarism was coming. “What I
relate is the history of the next two centuries,” wrote Nietzsche in his
notebooks, later published as “The Will to Power.” In those same
notebooks Nietzsche wrote of a tremendous socialist explosion. Later,
in his autobiography, he said, “The concept of politics will have merged
entirely with a war of spirits; all power structures of the old society
will have been exploded. …” Nietzsche explained that the 20th century
would bring forward a new Caesarism and super-dictatorships. “There
will be wars the like of which have never yet been seen on earth,” he
And how did Nietzsche foretell the future with such stunning
Nietzsche saw that the West was beginning to lose its Christian
faith. This loss was metaphorically described by Nietzsche as “the
death of God.” To be more precise, this death was a murder. In fact,
Nietzsche said we were the murderers — the crucifiers of God. In his
parable of the madman, Nietzsche wrote: “But how could we do this? How
could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the
entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its
Nietzsche suggested that mankind had begun to stray into the
“infinite nothing,” into the “emptiness of space.” He suggested that
civilization was growing colder, that a new darkness — a new dark age
– was upon us.
“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?” he
asked. “What was holiest and mightiest of all … has bled to death
under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us?”
In this metaphorical depiction, Western man lost his faith, his
innocence, his belief in right and wrong, his very sense of the world.
And this loss was a case of murder, pure and simple. In fact, this
murder was the beginning of a tremendous crisis — the “crisis of
modernity.” Nietzsche saw that in losing its faith, in turning against
God, mankind had no choice but to take the place of God. In other
words, Nietzsche saw that a great horror was about to begin — the
horror of a nihilistic totalitarian dictatorship in which the dictator
usurps the place of God.
“Nihilism stands at the door,” wrote Nietzsche in 1885. In our day,
in the year 2000, nihilism has opened the door. It has entered. It is
in our midst.
Allan Bloom, in his book “The Closing of the American Mind,”
described the effects of modern nihilism on American university
students. These effects include philosophical relativism, a lack of
inner motivation, and a superficial niceness which does not partake of
real moral commitment. Today’s students, he explained, know less and
less. They are cut off from Western traditions, from the political
wisdom of our Founding Fathers. Today’s youth, said Bloom, are “much
It has been said that mankind is always one generation from
barbarism. If we fail to transmit our heritage, our understanding, our
concept of right and wrong, our faith in God and country, then the
outcome will be barbarism. This is how, metaphorically speaking, we
have crucified God. This is how we have murdered our country, betraying
the legacy of Washington and the Founding Fathers. Apostasy and treason
have appeared in our midst. As it happens, this twofold crime was not
accomplished by the criminal negligence of Generation X. Setting aside
the notable exceptions, this treason belongs to an earlier generation –
a generation that neglected its duty to transmit faith and patriotism to
the young. This negligence must, by necessity, bring in its train an
age of destruction and chaos. And all this comes at a time when
thermonuclear weapons are the main instruments of war.
“Skepticism regarding morality is decisive,” wrote Nietzsche. “The
end of the moral interpretation of the world … leads to nihilism.”
And what is nihilism? How can it be described?
There are three forms of nihilism. Each of the three afflicts us
today. Each has appeared in our universities where the country’s elite
is trained. The three forms of nihilism can be listed as follows:
Metaphysical nihilism, epistemological nihilism and ethical nihilism.
The metaphysical nihilist is the most deranged of the three. He
denies that reality exists. Since reality does not exist, everything is
automatically subjective. To the metaphysical nihilist all statements
of truth and all moral pronouncements are “negative” and “oppressive.” A
vague existential haze envelops everything. In this instance,
schizophrenia has been philosophically induced. It is a case of
insanity by precept.
The epistemological nihilist denies the reality of objective truth.
For this type of nihilist there is a reality, but the human mind cannot
know it. This leads to an amusing contradiction. The epistemological
nihilist says there is no truth; but then, even this proposition cannot
The ethical nihilist denies any objective ground for moral
principles. In other words, for him there is no right or wrong. In
fact, ethical nihilists believe that morality itself is an unreasonable
imposition. Abortion, for example, is a perfect instance of ethical
nihilism in action. One justifies murder in the name of convenience.
The ethical nihilist is guided by lust, greed, pleasure — whatever
comes along. With ethical nihilism passion and desire become the
guideposts of life. That is why marriage and sexual restraint are the
first things to disappear with the advent of moral nihilism. It should
be noted that freedom, for the ethical nihilist, is freedom from
And this was the freedom that Karl Marx was reaching for.
If you read the letters of Marx, especially those written to Engels,
you will see that the modern founder of communism was a moral nihilist.
It is interesting to note that he believed in an objective reality. He
also believed there was an objective ground for truth. But for him
there was no objective morality, no spiritual dimension. For him there
was no God.
In the 20th century, as the West slowly descended into moral
relativism, revolutions broke out on the periphery of civilization — in
Russia, China, Southeast Asia and Africa. These revolutions, for the
most part, were secular and grounded in the ethical nihilism of Karl
Marx. It is no wonder, therefore, that the leaders of these revolutions
always proved to be criminals, murders and gangsters. Communism is a
materialist philosophy. Its attempt to form moral categories — in
Soviet Russia and Red China — has always been a cynical exercise. The
unrestrained passions of dictators brought hell on earth. Stalin and
Mao became gods. In reaching for divinity, these man-eaters realized
the need for a devil and a hell. In keeping with the necessities of
Marx’s atheist formula, the West became the devil and the labor camps
served as hell.
Carl Jung, one of the founders of modern psychology, once suggested
that communism was the concentrated essence of the Antichrist force in
history. Like Christ, the Antichrist promises salvation to mankind.
But Antichrist delivers the exact opposite of salvation. Instead of
peace, Antichrist brings war. Instead of prosperity, Antichrist brings
poverty. Instead of salvation, Antichrist brings destruction.
It was a fatal symptom of our own inward decay that we did not
proceed against the enemy of our civilization at the outset. Our own
rottenness had progressed to the point that our initial efforts against
communism degenerated into retreat. First, there was the White army in
Russia and the feeble Allied intervention. There was the surrendering
of Eastern Europe at Yalta. There was our retreat from the Yalu in
Korea. There was our retreat in Southeast Asia and Africa. We allowed
whole regions of the earth to sink into totalitarian slavery and
degradation, where they yet remain.
The ordinary wars and politics of other nations and continents are
not, properly, our business. But communism forms an important
exception. As Aleksandr Solzehnitsyn observed many years ago, if your
neighbor’s house catches fire you are obligated to help him put the fire
out. For we are told to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and a
fire in our neighbor’s house is certain to spread until our own house is
Communism is not dead and the fire is not out. Materialists animated
by gangster instincts rule the world’s largest country — Russia. In
the Far East the world’s most populous country — China — is also ruled
by criminals. Communists, as ethical nihilists, are spiritually
deranged. And in both Russia and China these people have the nuclear
button. It is within their power to wipe the United States off the face
of the earth. In other words, the fire yet promises to spread.
And yet, to this day we parlay with the gangsters. We equivocate and
we temporize. We make excuses for their ethical lapses when we should
have come to the rescue of the Russian and Chinese people while such
rescue could have been effected. But now the situation is far gone. We
have come to the point of covering our eyes and pretending the problem
does not exist.
Our lack of moral resolve at the outset led to a progressive
abdication. We have made a pact with the devil. We have signed treaty
after treaty with the enemies of mankind. We have maintained a
temporary prosperity by appeasement.
Unless we rediscover what is real, what is true and what is right, we
are doomed. Readers of this column write to me. They ask me for a
solution to the crisis. Well, here are the keys to the solution:
Reality is something that doesn’t go away when you stop believing in
it. The truth must be upheld. Learn what is right and uphold it.
Our civilization is failing because we no longer respect reality,
truth or morality. This is the essence of our modern nihilism. And it
stems from the collapse of our faith.