How Does Nihilism Lead to Tyranny?


Only someone with self-respect is capable of respecting someone else. Likewise, only someone who understands and accepts that they are a flawed person can tolerate the flaws of others. And only someone who has felt selfless love from someone else is capable of extending such love to others. It’s easy to understand why parents have always tried to keep their kids in sports and other competitive environments (self-respect), church (accepting of our flaws), and extended family (love). The destruction of our traditional society has isolated kids from all those things, with predictably catastrophic results.

But the modern left’s bizarre combination of nihilism, narcissism, narrow-mindedness, apathy, and anger has led to profound changes in interpersonal relationships over the past decade or so. Why does someone so nihilistic, who thinks that nothing really matters – why does that person care so much about which lightbulbs I use? Why do narcissists, who care only about themselves, care about my opinions about homosexual wedding cakes? Why does a narrow-minded middle-aged adolescent care about my opinions about COVID vaccines or recycled plastic? How does anyone as apathetic as a narcissistic nihilist get so angry about anything I do?

I can understand that some people, having grown up without the nurturing of family, church, and other stabilizing influences, have moved from anxiety to pessimism to nihilism. Those brought up with no faith in anything tend to have no faith in anything. Regrettable for the individual and possibly catastrophic for society at large, but understandable. But why are such people tyrants? If they think that nothing really matters, why do they care so much about my opinions and my choices?

Due to the heroic efforts of my parents and others, I understand self-respect and respect for others, I understand my flaws and the flaws of others, and I understand love. So I’m a reasonably stable, self-sufficient adult.

And I don’t care what narcissistic nihilists do.

Why do they care what I do?

Nihilists think that nothing really matters. I disagree – I think that a lot of things matter a great deal. So why am I less interested in the behavior of others than the nihilists?

How does nihilism lead to tyranny?

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  1. Headedwest Coolidge

    It’s an interesting dilemma. If you’re an atheist, you have to believe that the world and everybody in it are random collections of cells without any meaning.

    A good friend has become, along with his wife, a militant atheist. To the point where they claim they have no soul, because that is a myth. The logical conclusion is that, if there is no existence beyond this life, there is no meaning for anything you do in this life. Yet they treat their grandchildren like precious jewels and try to help them to become successes in life and they clearly want their progeny to contribute to society.

    But why? If they really believe all is random, it would be no more interesting for them to kill the kids as promote their welfare.

    My guess is that they are still motivated by the remnants of the Judeo-Christian culture they grew up in. They just haven’t quite achieved full nihilism.

    When they do achieve that, the only reason for them to do anything is for their comfort. What else could motivate a nihilist? And if you’re an atheist, how can you not be a nihilist at heart?

    So if your car ownership or setting your thermostat to the wrong number seems to them to interfere with their comfort, they might as well kill you. Maybe that’s why they care about what you do.

    • #31
  2. E. Kent Golding Member
    E. Kent Golding

    Barfly (View Comment):

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Peter Drucker (Austrian, lived in Germany between the wars) wrote his first book, The End of Economic Man, about the rise of European Fascism. He saw one major factor as the loss of belief in all institutions and counter-institutions…governments, the Church, business…and Marxism.


    Who said when a man stops believing in God he’ll believe anything? Was that Chesterton?

    I thought it was Dostoevsky

    • #32
  3. Phil Turmel Inactive
    Phil Turmel

    Headedwest (View Comment):
    My guess is that they are still motivated by the remnants of the Judeo-Christian culture they grew up in.

    Bingo.  And if they passed any significant fraction of their attitude to their children, then their grandchildren will likely grow up to be the unrestrained monsters that atheism inevitably produces.

    Atheism is incapable of producing moral values.  Athiests who claim so are coasting on past conditioning to Judeo-Christian values.

    • #33
  4. Percival Thatcher

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Barfly (View Comment):

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Peter Drucker (Austrian, lived in Germany between the wars) wrote his first book, The End of Economic Man, about the rise of European Fascism. He saw one major factor as the loss of belief in all institutions and counter-institutions…governments, the Church, business…and Marxism.


    Who said when a man stops believing in God he’ll believe anything? Was that Chesterton?

    I thought it was Dostoevsky

    I did a bit of research on this a while back. The Chesterton Society says that the earliest version so far found was written by Émile Leon Cammaerts, a Belgian poet, playwright, and author.

    The line Cammaerts wrote in The Laughing Prophet: The Seven Virtues and G.K. Chesterton was:

    “It’s drowning all your old rationalism and scepticism, it’s coming in like a sea; and the name of it is superstition.” The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything: “And a dog is an omen and a cat is a mystery.” 

    The line in question isn’t a quote, it is a paraphrase. Chesterton would likely have agreed with it, though.

    • #34
  5. I Walton Member
    I Walton

    Good questions good observations.   I know folks even older than I am who seem to believe what the left says, but when engaged, don’t.  They go along because they’ve been convinced that everyone on the “right” is dangerous.   The key is the media which we have to change but may not be able to in the short term.   However, there may not be a medium term if we don’t fix our schools.  We must abolish teacher union run schools, put parents and teachers in charge of schools and make them compete.  It is the largest union run institution in the US and we just sit here and complain.   Turn public schools over to teachers competing for students with parents free to choose any school anywhere.  Abolish all the overhead, unions, public school bureaucrats, etc. Make them compete for students or fail.  Abolish public funding and fund parents who need it and let all parents choose whatever schools they want.  Markets work and a market for schools should work better than any as vast economies of scale do not exist for them.  Universities are also corrupt.  Perhaps the key is also funding.  Make kids pay for their student loans, do not subsidize students or universities.   It seems the key to the rot destroying this country is easy funding paid for with easy debt.  Frankly I think the only solution should we not win both houses and the Presidency is for states and pieces of states to leave and form a new Republic, but that won’t happen so we have to come as close to the original design as possible.  Do folks understand what will happen to this economy should we continue to build top down governance?  

    • #35
  6. Flicker Coolidge

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):

    I think that, for at least some of them, it goes beyond narcissism and becomes a sort of wishful-thinking solipsism. They genuinely think that if they believe something hard enough, they can reshape reality to their liking. So when someone like us comes along and refuses to play their game, they get angry. And they resort to the power of the state to compel us to at least pretend, thus protecting their self-delusion.

    And their sense of self-worth.

    • #36
  7. JoshuaFinch Coolidge

    Dr. Bastiat: And I don’t care what narcissistic nihilists do.

    Do you really mean that?

    ‘No Man is an Island’

    No man is an island entire of itself; every man 
    is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; 
    if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe 
    is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as 
    well as any manner of thy friends or of thine 
    own were; any man's death diminishes me, 
    because I am involved in mankind. 
    And therefore never send to know for whom 
    the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. -- John Donne

    Although the poet speaks of being diminished by “any man’s death,” I think this could be applied to those to whom the OP refers.  That is, it is easy to think of those who jettison faith in God and traditional values as being unredeemable or dead, at least to us.  But their breaking away from “the main,” to borrow the poet’s metaphor, diminishes us and we are obligated, as best we can, to return those wayward souls to the fold, as it were.

    The most sinful people in the Bible resided in Sodom.  Yet Abraham did his utmost to save them from destruction.  Ultimately, they were destroyed but the decree came from God and not through Abraham’s acquiescence to their fate.

    • #37
  8. Flicker Coolidge

    Unrestrained free will always leads to tyranny.

    I don’t know that I believe in total depravity, but I believe in conspicuous pervasive depravity.  I won’t get into the Spirit of God, or prayer, or the sins of the father being visited upon the great grandchild, or the role of acculturation, but I think that Man when left to his own devices, and out of the control of great authorities and broadly accepted expectations, shows a great lack of goodness, near total.  Perhaps the reign of the id suffices to describe it, the wants and rantings, and demands of infants or toddlers.

    I listened for the first time to an interview with Ayn Rand, and I was appalled.  Notes on 1959 Ayn Rand explaining her Objectivism (as I recall I types these as direct quotes): “A new morality based on objective reality and reason, not faith or emotion”; “Man’s highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own habits.”  “Each man must live as an end in himself, and follow his own rational self-interest.”  “I am challenging the moral cult of altruism, the precept that man’s moral duty is to live for others, that man must sacrifice himself for others.  Self-sacrifice is evil.”  “I say that man is entitled to his own happiness and that he must achieve it himself.  Nor should he wish to sacrifice himself for the happiness of others.”


    This is what the Bible says:

    Rom 1:28-32
    And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

    Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.


    James 4:1-5
    From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?  You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not.  You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts.


    Fortunately, God is Love and gives love to others to spread.

    1 Cor 13:3-6
    Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.


    Unrestrained self-will always leads to tyranny.  As it is said, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    • #38
  9. Percival Thatcher
    1. Nihilists tear everything down.
    2. Chaos results.
    3. Someone somewhere starts to build something up.
    4. Due to the chaos, the nihilists don’t notice until it’s too late.
    5. The new thing tears down the nihilists out of self-defense.

    The Bolsheviks weren’t more numerous than the Mensheviks – rather, the opposite. However, the Bolsheviks got to the machine guns first.

    • #39
  10. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    This tangent about narcissism kinda lost me.  Exactly how does this affect me?

    • #40
  11. Raxxalan Member

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    This tangent about narcissism kinda lost me. Exactly how does this affect me?

    Well played sir!

    • #41
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