Live a meaningless life: Embrace Nietzschean atheism

By Hanne Nabintu Herland

Read Hanne’s The Herland Report.

The famous sociologist of religion Peter Berger argues that modern liberal society creates a kind of homelessness, a rootless existence without access to the firm pillars that defined historic, traditional Western societies. Man is left utterly alone, without the rational, religious answers that explain the deeper meaning of life. He has no hope for eternity, no comprehension of the afterlife, no purpose beyond materialism. His life is lived without the deep joy – and existential inner peace – of delving into the universe of his own spirituality. He does not explore the deeper metaphysical realities that are the root cause of that which is good in this world.

Berger calls Western atheist relativism a recipe for cultural self-annihilation. Where cultural stability disappears, the foundation for the individual’s spiritual health is also threatened, as the culture is weakened by the doctrine of meaninglessness. In “The Social Construction of Reality,” Berger points out that man dreads this existential loneliness; he fears being ostracized and isolated from society and yearns for meaningful experiences. This drives him toward social relationships with others, as the world outside of the fellowship of men becomes a demonic, horrifying space.

Equally, the demonic nihilism ingrained in today’s mainstream Marxist outlook on life renders life a meaningless exercise where the only battle worth fighting is that between the rich and the poor. Nihilism is often equated with the teachings of atheist Friedrich Nietzsche, in describing the need for the abolition of traditional morality.

By denying the profound religious ethics found in Christianity, which are based on selflessness, humility and servitude to others, the legalization of promiscuity, greed, faithlessness and egoism now dominates the West. The sole dimension that thereby exists is the material, tangible world, as God is considered dead.

The Nietzschean creed somehow argued that man should take the place of God, ruling this world by his own might rather than in submission to the law of nature as God’s order. The idea was to join the demons in the rebellion against God’s authority. Materialism, therefore, becomes man’s only goal; his desire is to get access to more wealth, to steadily fight against those who own more than he does. The problem is, the wealth in this world does not satisfy the depth of man’s soul. Money only satisfies the surface. Thus, existential emptiness and loneliness prevail.

The ethics of Christianity used to be the basis for reflection in the West, the moral code that represented consensus and unified us. This deep sense of spiritual awareness has in history shown itself to translate into actions such as compassion, empathy and solidarity with others. Without compassion, democracy itself becomes impossible as it depends on empathy between groups, the quest for justice and equality for all its citizens. Where nihilism prevails, solidarity disintegrates. Tyranny becomes a possibility. Where promiscuity and selfishness become socially desirable solutions, it is increasingly hard to form faithful marriages and family bonds based on trust, fidelity, loyalty and mutual patience.

Political commentator and author, Patrick J. Buchanan has written a number of books about the ongoing Western cultural self-annihilation. In “Suicide of a Superpower,” he points out that it was spiritual Christianity – not religious corrupted political and institutionalized power-play – that revived Europe and held it together as a civilization. Western hedonism’s greatest flaw rests on its failure to recognize that compassion for others is a fundamental component of civil solidarity and genuine happiness, without which the stability in society will crumble.

Peter Berger speaks of the meaning of existence and the path to a fulfilled life. This need is unmet in the Western mainstream today, as fragmentation, lack of values and a loss of cultural identity characterizes a divided, impoverished people, separated along racial, religious, class and party lines.

Modernity’s fluid lack of limits erodes communities and creates a stress that over time becomes unbearable, says sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. The modern world suffers from a loss of anchoring in a permanent value base. This causes serious strains on the human identity.

After studying this topic for many years, Berger had a dramatic mid-career transformation regarding how he perceived religion in modern societies. Earlier in life, he assumed that modernization would cause religion to decline, stating that a globalized society would gradually lead to religious alienation. He later found this to be erroneous and adjusted his hypothesis, convinced by overwhelming new research and statistics. Far too many scientific studies show that people who live in a secular, atheist, mainstream narrative largely remain religious. Berger came to the conclusion that religion satisfies deep human emotional and spiritual needs and meets desires for social belonging, as well as provides valid explanations for the meaning of life.

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