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The First Nihilistic Nation

09/15/2014

The seemingly sudden arrival of the Islamic State upon the world’s stage is disturbing in a number of ways.  After all, it even televises and broadcasts its atrocities and war crimes.  It truly celebrates a culture of death.  I suspect it is the first truly nihilistic nation – one that sees life as a mere waiting room for “nothingness.”

Nihilism has been defined as moral and spiritual bankruptcy.  ISIL labels itself as guardians of Islam, but is it?  I know Islam as a religion of peace.  (Of course, like all religions, it has its radicals, but Islam has more trouble marginalizing its radicals, and I don’t know why?)  ISIL is proud to be the deliverer of death, not peace.  That sounds like moral and spiritual bankruptcy to me.

The original nihilist was the Greek Gorgias (483-378 BCE) who said “Nothing exists. If anything did exist it could not be known. If it was known, the knowledge of it would be incommunicable.”  The word is derived from the Latin word for nothing, and it was popularized by the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev in the mid-nineteenth century.  The video for the hugely popular 1986 song by the Swedish band Europe entitled The Final Countdown showed crowds of young people joyfully awaiting the nuclear holocaust, which is the final step toward nothingness.  Many religious ministers have warned against the impact of nihilism on our culture.

But, ISIL is more than a nihilistic culture, it is the first nihilistic state.  It cannot exist without death.  When it runs out of people to kill, it will have to self-immolate.  Our job should be to facilitate them.  Contain them in a perimeter of carpet bombing, cut off their income, . . . and wait for them to achieve nothingness.

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