A Catholic Drawn to Nihilism

This is interesting, why do you think nihilistic atheists are wrong? Nihilism is very attractive to me, and if I am not Catholic I would be a nihilist.


Would you enjoy living in a society where there are no laws, where murder and theft is not a crime? Would you go around killing, raping, and pillaging if you weren’t a Catholic?

Whoa, is that what nihilism is or says? I certainly didn’t think so.


None of this is implied by nihilism. Nihilism does not mean that there could be no laws. Also, if I don’t find value in it, why would I go around killing/raping/etc?

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Pretty sure that’s anarchy. Which might be one aspect of nihilism but not an aspect all or even most nihilists agree with.

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From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

That’s exactly what nihilism means. Laws would be extensions of morality, and morality can’t exist in nihilism.

Wikipedia has an article on Nihilism that also leads into an article on moral nihilism.

THE IEP article:


I disagree. First of, the relation between personal morals/system of meaning and laws of the land is not as clear cut as you said. I am Catholic, but I don’t want laws based on Catholic morality because I do not think that it is the role of the government to act as moral police.

Further, a nihilist would have no moral axioms, or any axioms that tells them the value or things. However, this does not mean that they cannot have drives that are purely societal or biological. They might want laws to support these needs.

Finally, a nihilist is free to put in place as many or as few laws as they want, because in the end, nothing matters.

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So murder and theft doesn’t matter in nihilism. That’s the problem.

I am guessing that there are things you do care about outside of religion. I am pretty sure there are things in your life that give it meaning, be it your relationships with family and friends or causes you are passionate about. I really don’t see how a sane human can be a nihilist.

A nihilist is allowed to have the “illusion of meaning” that is completely biological. For example, my love for my family is just prescribed in the patterning of my brain through evolution. This does not mean that family actually has any meaning.

@NLENTS I just finished a Great Courses series titled “Big History” in which the lecturer operated from a perspective that seemed to think of Christianity as scientifically disproven, yet nonetheless found in the complexity and possible uniqueness (though not certain uniqueness, by any means) of humanity if not meaning, then at least great significance. I don’t suggest it’s the only way of seeing things, but the view was surprisingly hopeful and even encouraging.

If anyone is interested, I recommend getting the series on Audible (it’s worthwhile for anyone wishing to place the large story of the universe as we understand it scientifically in context) as that’s the most cost-effective means that I’ve found. The suggestions of meaningfulness are worked throughout the series, but crystallized in the final lecture. I think the treatment of Christanity is significantly lacking in nuance, but for the person trying to understand why a post-Christian view of the universe can nonetheless carry great meaning and even a kind of hope (though certainly not the Christian hope), this series may prove helpful.


That seems to be a distinction without a difference. If your biology causes you to care for your family then you actually care for your family.

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I disagree. There is a difference between meaning and value in the philosophical sense and biological wants.

Let me try to get to the issue from another angle: You claim that nihilists, or at least atheistic nihilists, are wrong. It seems that you believe this because

But you never prove to me that murder and theft are wrong, or that a crime free society is right, or that killing/raping/pillaging etc are wrong. Indeed, due to the fact-value distinction, it is impossible to say that the previous statements are true except if you arbitrarily say that they are true axiomatically. These are the moral axioms of a person. A nihilist just does not have these moral axioms (at least a moral nihilist, a stronger nihilist will also not have other sorts of axioms). Logically speaking, this is an impeccably rational position to take.


It was implied in the (rhetorical) question. Obviously, you don’t want to live in a society where murder and theft are legal. Morality is based on what humans want and need. Morality is based on what we care about. These wants and needs aren’t unimportant things. These are the things that are most important to us as humans. Anyone who says that humans lack wants, needs, and cares is wrong because we obviously do. Anyone who says wants, needs, and cares are unimportant lack basic human function.

What we want, need, and care about are not arbitrary. The basics of being human are universal across cultures. Consistently we find that people care about their family and friends. Humans consistently value protection from murder over wanton murder.

It makes no logical sense to construct a social order that ignores everything that matters to us.

Again, let me repeat: I am not talking about social order or laws, but personal morals and sets of values/meanings. Plus, I don’t know what you mean by “logical sense”. When I mentioned “logically” in my previous post, I am talking of logic in the sense of formal mathematical logic, and how a nihilistic set of axioms is formally consistent. I don’t see how your claim is true in the formal logic sense unless I added various axioms that a nihilist might not subscribe to.

I disagree with this. It would be very easy to be moral if morality is just what humans want and need.

I never claimed that nihilists would say that humans lack wants, needs, cares, etc, or that those things are arbitrary.

Nevertheless, it does not matter that all human beings agree that certain things are “right”. It still does not mean that there are morals and values that do not need to be imposed axiomatically:

  1. If Hitler won and killed everyone that disagree with him, all human beings would agree that his views are “right”, even though they are “wrong” to me
  2. Human intuition is wrong on so many physical things. There is nothing to say that they should be right in terms of morality and values
  3. There is no proof that morality and values even exist

The crux of the issue is that I cannot see how you can say that: “atheist nihilists are wrong” without evaluating them with your own views of values and morality, which are things that they do not share.

Edit: Grammar

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The logic is simple. Humans have the choice of constructing a society. Humans have basic needs and wants shared between them that are important to them. Humans want to live in a society that conforms to their wants and needs. Therefore, it is logical to construct a human society that people want to live in.

What makes it difficult is that those wants and needs can conflict with each other. Wanting a lot of money can conflict with not wanting your stuff stolen. We, as a society, work together to figure out which of these takes precedent. We figure out which is most important to us.

  1. Hitler’s followers would not want to be wiped out as part of a genocidal pogrom. Therefore, they already believe that genocide is wrong.

  2. Morality isn’t a physical thing. Morality is what we choose it to be.

  3. Human society is proof that morality and values exist.

I fully admit that some humans fall outside the norm. I don’t see how that changes things. We put the mentally ill in hospitals, not in political office.

What about whether white supremacy is right or wrong?

I never claim that morality is physical, just that if the human mind is wrong on many physical things, what makes it right in non-physical things (e.g. morality). Morality is “What we choose it to be” is an axiom - e.g. a Christian will not agree to it.

I can’t see that this is true. Human society is just a collection of atoms - I find it difficult to attribute values inherent in such society unless I axiomatically impose that this is true.

Let me put it this way: In saying that nihilism is wrong, and that its “wrongness” is not based on your own axiomatic view of values and morality, you are making a huge claim. As existential nihilism is an active field of research in philosophy, you are going against the grain here. As we discussed before: The Paradox of Scientific Consensus this should not be done lightly.

I am beginning to wonder whether we should start worrying that the theists are actually nihilists.

And now I am beginning to wonder whether philosophers are inherently nihilist.

And yet theists often accuse me of being a materialist.

I should note that none of this is intended as personal criticism of @PdotdQ – it’s just that I am really surprised at what he has just posted.


Haha as I said, nihilism is quite attractive to me. That or some flavor of absurdism would be my go to if I’m not Catholic.