Hart on modern nihilism

August 4, 2009

Here is another selection from David Bentley Hart’s new book.  The basic claim will be familiar to those who have read his superb essay “Christ and Nothing”.  You have read that essay, right?


“To be entirely modern (which very few of us are) is to believe in nothing.  This is not to say it is to have no beliefs: the truly modern person may believe in almost anything, or even perhaps in everything, so long as those beliefs rest securely upon a more fundamental and radical faith in the nothing — or, better, in nothingness as such.  Modernity’s highest ideal — its special understanding of personal autonomy — requires us to place our trust in an original absence underlying all of reality, a fertile void in which all things are possible, from which arises no impediment to our wills, and before which we may consequently choose to make of ourselves what we choose.  We trust, that is to say, that there is no substantial criterion by which to judge our choices that stands higher than the unquestioned good of choice itself, and that therefore all judgment, divine no less than human, is in some sense an infringement upon our freedom.  This is our primary ideology.  In the most unadorned terms possible, the ethos of modernity is — to be perfectly precise — nihilism.”

David Bentley Hart
Atheist Delusions.

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