For Most Atheists, Atheism is a Lifestyle Choice [VIDEO]

Why Study Atheism with Conor Cunningham

Atheists, if they are true to their premises, embrace nihilism.* Conor Cunningham looks at what is involved in the claims of ‘atheism’ and why those claims can be useful to the studies of the theologian.


Source: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy. While few philosophers would claim to be nihilists, nihilism is most often associated with Friedrich Nietzsche who argued that its corrosive effects would eventually destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions and precipitate the greatest crisis in human history.

In the 20th century, nihilistic themes–epistemological failure, value destruction, and cosmic purposelessness–have preoccupied artists, social critics, and philosophers. Mid-century, for example, the existentialists helped popularize tenets of nihilism in their attempts to blunt its destructive potential. By the end of the century, existential despair as a response to nihilism gave way to an attitude of indifference, often associated with antifoundationalism.


  1. Alexis, Patron Saint of the Nice Guy says

    When I think of nihilism, I think of Frederick Nietzsche and his musical disciple, Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors. And we know the results of following the nihilistic principles. The Doors are a great band. Sadly though, the lead singer, a very intelligent and tortured soul, succumbed to Blake’s “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” I love the music of The Doors, but my Orthodox Faith grounds me in knowing that Jim Morrison’s life was the antithesis of the righteous life as manifested in the tenets of The Orthodox Faith, a beautiful plethora and richness manifested in the thousand year history of Byzantium and today. Recently, I had finished John Densmore’s (Doors drummer) book for the second time and sadly thought, “Wow! If Jim Morrison had embraced the deep spirituality of Orthodoxy, what would have happened?!” In many ways, he was kind, gentle, and creative, but what if his talents were generated and focused into The Faith? I would be interested to hear what others on this site have to say, pro and/or con. Thank you.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse says

      I remember reading somewhere that Morrison went to seminary for year or so. He apparently had some belief for a while.

      • Alexis, Patron Saint of the Nice Guy says

        Actually, I had no idea that he did that. I’ll have to verify that because thus far in my readings about him, I haven’t seen it. Thank you for the information.

    • Brother read father Seraphim Rose about nihilism

  2. M. Stankovich says

    I highly recommend a reading of Chapter Four of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, appropriately entitled, “We Agnostics.” I believe you would be shocked at the number of Orthodox Christians – laity and clergy – who began their “journey home” through this door.

  3. “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”


    Not to imply that these philosophies are outwardly identical (although inwardly they most certainly are), but the creed of Satanists is, “Violate nature, and she will reveal her secrets.” I am astounded at how much this creed/philosophy explains the state of much of modern man, whether they realize its source or not.

    “Pleased to meet you. Won’t you guess my name?”

  4. cyntha curran says

    Nihilistic, talking about Byzantium, think the greatest piece of Art was the Hagia Sophia created after a very nasty riot where people had acted nililistic and the Hagia Sophia was to the glory to God at the time. Sometimes events in history are kind of a paradox. Was there Medieval atheists, I can remember the Greek philosopher Epricurius and the Roman Poet Lucreatius who were agnostics.

  5. Michael Bauman says

    The thing about nilhism at least the Nietzchean variety is that it posits that the way of the world is worthless. It posits that people should strive for more because only in rejecting the way of the world and becoming as a little child can one overcome. (Thus Spake Zarathrustra: The Metamorphosis of the Spirit). Unfortunately, Nietzche went on to preach that such overcoming was possible by the efforts of the great human alone. God was not around to help and not necessary even if he was. Of course, Nietzche was reacting to the cold, legalistic, moralistic god of his father’s Lutheran Church. A god without life or salvific power. A god that no one in their right mind would ever accept if they really wanted to know Him.

    It is utterly unsurprising that those who really seek for true transcendence should pass through what seems to be a nihlistic phase: especially those who are deeply ascetic.

    The saddness is the so many without question accept that the god preached by the world, the Christ preached by the world is actually God, is acutally Jesus Christ. So there fervor devolves into mere destruction even to the destruction of their own soul.

  6. cyntha curran says

    Excavations in Jordan have unearthed 20,000-year-old huts that could reshape our view of how humans lived before the development of agriculture.

    The research, recently published in PLoS One, suggests hunter-gatherers in this region had fixed settlements with extensive trade networks 10,000 years earlier than previously thought. ‘Kharaneh IV is one of the densest and largest Palaeolithic open-air sites in the region,’ said Dr Lisa Maher, from the University of California.

    Between 2008 and 2011, investigations at the 2ha site uncovered evidence of intense occupation, including concentrations of animal bone and hundreds of thousands of stone tools. Inside the two huts, radiocarbon dated to 19,300-18,600 BC, archaeologists found hundreds of pierced shells, suggesting far-reaching trade links that are usually associated with much later cultures. ‘These shell beads were brought to the site from the Mediterranean and Red Sea over 250km away,’ Dr Maher said. ‘This shows that people were linked to regional social networks People further back were more like what the book of Gensis stated sophistcated even before the invention metal ttools or agriculturial development..


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