It is striking how often modern secular people assert that human life is intrinsically delusional.
A delusion is a psychotic symptom - a false belief or idea that is held with conviction and which affects behaviour.
Classic examples would include delusions of grandeur ('I am Napoleon'), delusions of guilt ('I caused world war two'), paranoid delusions ('when I read a newspaper, the stories are directed at me, they are about me'), delusions of persecution ('there is an international conspiracy of Opus Dei/ Freemasons/ the CIA who have me under surveillance and intend to capture and kill me').
Simply put, a delusion is a subjective belief which is mistaken for objective reality.
But how do we know reality from delusion?
It is normal, in the modern secular world, that people regard the meaning of life as a delusion and any purpose in life as a delusion.
In other words, modern secular people believe that - objectively - life has no meaning or purpose; and that therefore anyone who believes that there is an objective meaning or purpose to life, outside of the human mind, is deluded.
To put it another way, secular modern people believe that the meaning of life comes purely from humans, from the human mind - a product of human creativity (either individual or social creativity).
That humans create meanings by which they live, by which they keep themselves going.
Human morality, beauty and truth are likewise manufactured (perhaps covertly, unconsciously) by the human mind - they are a delusional system.
This belief in the fundamentally delusional (subjective) nature of life is quite remarkable: or it would be remarkable if it were not so common.
Yet people often say that although life has no real objective external meaning, this doesn't really matter, because humans are able to create meaning and then live by it.
Humans, in other words, are equipped to manufacture the delusions by which they live - are, indeed, able to reach down and grab their shoe-laces and, by tugging hard, levitate themselves.
I certainly managed to 'believe' this for many years.
It is a remarkable thing to try and live by a delusion, yet that is supposed to suffice for the modern world.
Furthermore, the secular elite believe that self-aware delusions are better, superior, to unconscious or unreflective delusions. It is a matter of pride among secular intellectuals that they see-through the delusions by which other (dumber) people live.
For instance, atheists regard atheist morality as delusional - but also regard it as superior to Christian morality, because the atheist knows that he is deluded while the Christian believes his delusion to be real.
'At least' (as they say) atheists recognize that their lives really are objectively meaningless and purposeless and that humans are sustained by delusions, whereas dumb Christians are delusional without even knowing it.
But how do we know we are delusional? It is a deep question.
Presumably we recognize delusions in ourselves by reasoning on the basis of publicly-shared and 'tested' knowledge (by science, or maybe common sense).
But if we know we are delusional, live by delusions; why then should we trust our reasoning and our supposed 'knowledge'? Why should the reasoning of self-confessedly deluded individuals be valid?
So atheism is led into nihilism, and to despair, alienation, purposelessness - the absurd world of Samuel Beckett, and indeed the mainstream view of thoughtful 20th century art.
Yet somehow, intellectual atheists, perhaps by sheer animal spirits, do manage to get up in the morning and keep going in their consciously-deluded lives, they mostly manage to live by their admitted-delusions that life has meaning and purpose, some things are better than others, and all the rest of it.
This, then, is the situation of the intellectual elite. They 'know' that in reality there is 'nothing more' to life than our perceptions - than our emotions and feelings.
And given that life is pointless and meaningless, the intellectual elite take it upon themselves to make it as painless and pleasant as possible - while life lasts.
This is their heroic task: to bear the burden of knowledge that life is meaningless and purposeless, yet to create a situation in which the dumb masses are allowed to live in a painless and pleasant state of of ignorance.
Because when all is delusion and nothing really matters in an objective sense, then subjectivity is primary. When 'being alive' is just 'being alive' then pleasure is the best thing and suffering is the worst thing. Self-evidently.
Subjective perception is therefore 'reality' (since there is no humanly relevant objective reality).
And the modern secular elites have taken-it-upon themselves to make a reality which (so far as they understand these matters) will be as pleasant and painless as possible.
This created-reality is liberalism, socialism, leftism - Political Correctness.
Political Correctness is a self-consciously created delusion, designed to make life as gratifying as possible, made by the self-aware elite for the benefit of the ignorant masses.
If everyone (or at least the ignorant masses) can be made to believe the gratifying delusion of Political Correctness, then it will become 'reality' (as real as anything is, in a nihilistic world).
And life will become as pleasant and painless as it is possible to make it.
And that is the best that humans can hope for (given that the real reality is unbearable): the best we can hope for is a pleasant delusion that makes us feel good, rather than a nasty delusion than makes us feel bad.
This is a high aim indeed! To make life 'good' for the ignorant masses, while hiding and guarding the devastating secret that life is a pointless nothing: a mere spark of energy in eternity.
But why must the Politically Correct elite be aware of the delusional nature of life?
Because they must recognise that Political Correctness is a delusion - a delusion for the good of the masses - and since it is a delusion it is therefore the responsibility of the intellectuals to maintain the delusion.
Since so much depends on maintaining the delusion of Political Correctness (i.e. the whole [fake] meaning and purpose of life as seen by the ignorant masses), the elite are forced to be, must be, utterly ruthless in its defence.
The true liberal elite know perfectly well that PC is a delusion, but they have taken on the responsibility of protecting the masses from this knowledge. That is their duty, like it or not.
If the validity of the delusion of PC is threatened in any way, they will act in any way necessary to negate that threat.
The stakes are high - life itself
(or at any rate 'life' as perceived by the dumb majority).
Therefore Political Correctness is a logical (although not inevitable) consequence of a secular elite who have gone through nihilism (disbelief in reality) and come out the other side with the idea that at all costs the masses must be protected from the devastating insight that life is a delusion.
The solution is to create a 'nice' delusion - the delusion of Political Correctness, a delusion based around the primacy of (where possible) reducing suffering and maximizing pleasurable lifestyle choices (especially sexual choices, since the pleasurable effects of chosen sexual behaviours are apparently self-validating).
For the time being this mission involves the elite in the horrific realization of nihilism, and the degrading work of policing the system of PC - which entails unpleasantness such as lying, vilification, mockery, shunning, injustice, violence, ugliness and multiple other forms of coercion.
In a nutshell, the liberal elite must utterly monopolise the medium of legitimate public discourse.
All this nastyness and bullying and deception to defend PC is regrettable - but at this stage it is still necessary in order that the benign delusion of PC can be nurtured.
However, the hope is that there will come a time when Political Correctness has grown so big and strong that it will be the only form of legitimate discourse in public and also in private. And when this is achieved all the coercion can be allowed to fall away, and wither (like the Marxian state).
Instead of dwelling outside the delusional system, defending and manipulating it; PC will have become automatically self-perpetuating. The liberal elites can then allow themselves to become as blissfully ignorant of the delusional nature of PC as everybody else.
On that glorious, impatiently anticipated day, the elites can lay-aside their burden and joyfully join the ignorant masses inside the delusional system of Political Correctness.
Oh blessed day. But until then it is a life of secrecy, ruthlessness, toil and heaviness for the poor liberal elites.
All this really can happen - according to modern elite understanding (which denies the reality of reality).
And the only requirement for this blissful state of humankind is a complete monopoly of all forms of discourse, at all times, and everywhere in the world - and then all will believe, and universal belief is truth.
The benign modern delusion of Political Correctness will permanently and everywhere have replaced the wicked delusions of the past.
Because, to thorough-going nihilists such as the modern secular, liberal elites - when a delusion is made universal, then it becomes eternal reality - and secular humankind will have escaped from nihilism.
Deeper than it need be. My own guess is that though many subscribe to repeating the tenets of PC, very few live their lives by them. Or as I am wont rudely to demand "You mean to say your wife is white? How on earth do you justify that?"
Note to the dim: you may replace "white" by any other category that fits the bill - or, more precisely, doesn't.
I've never understood how the existence of God is supposed to save us from nihilism, how his existence would give life an objective purpose or meaning or make some things objectively better than others.
Suppose God exists and has a purpose for us. Well, plenty of thinking beings already exist and have goals of their own. What would make God's goals the goals and his purposes the uppercase Purpose of Life? What would give God's purposes the objective validity that all other goals and purposes presumably lack? Is it the fact that he's all-powerful? (Might makes right?) That he created us? If a mad scientist created us in a lab, would that make our lives objectively meaningful? If we were brought into existence for a purpose -- well, the same is true of any common farm animal.
As I see it, God can save us only from despair, not from nihilism. Supposing we already believe that happiness is good and death is bad and so on, the existence of God reassures us that lasting happiness is attainable, death is conquerable, etc. But if we don't already value some things more than others, what good does God's existence do us?
@wmjas - I shall do my best.
Nihilism is disbelief in objective reality
An 'abstract' God is a guarantee of reality - and an abstract God (with properties such as being the first mover, and ultimate source of all change) was believed by ancient pagans such as Aristotle - such a conceptions seems to be an inference of reason and common sense.
I think the concept of God that you describe is this type of abstract 'philosophers God', which Christians would recognise as (broadly) true but grossly incomplete.
However, even such an abstract God saves us from nihilism. It guarantees that reality really is real!
But meaning and purpose come from a *personal* God, who has an interest in each individual's salvation; in Christianity meaning and purpose come specifically from a relationship with Jesus Christ.
This means that, for example, humans are never 'alone' or isolated; and it means that 'everything matters' (everything we do or do not do, no matter how apparently small) - so that alienation - or a sense of detachment from life, or meaninglessness of life - is not possible.
Indeed, life becomes almost unbearably meaningful and purposeful - and the essential orientation of humans towards worldly gratification (which is what Christians mean by 'sin') is an impossible burden.
So part of Christianity is also to save believers in God (such as the ancient Jews) from this horrific weight of their own 'sin'.
(Modern people do not have this perception of 'sin' - because we do not believe that life is real, meaningful, purposeful - hence we cannot perceive our failures - nor can we understand the impossibility of success by our own efforts.)
Essentially, Christ made possible salvation *despite* the intractable imperfection of the human state.
Dr. Charlton, thanks for taking the time to reply.
I'm using "nihilism" in a more limited sense, to refer to the position that life has no objective meaning, purpose, or value -- and I think my point still stands.
Suppose God "has an interest in each individual's salvation." Suppose we can have "a relationship with Jesus Christ." What new properties would those facts add to the universe? How would they transform it from fundamentally purposeless to fundamentally purposeful? Even without God, there are plenty of beings who have an interest in me and with whom I enjoy relationships. If those interests and those relationships cannot make my life objectively meaningful, why would the existence of God and Christ make things any different?
Christ makes salvation possible; he does not and cannot make it meaningful if we don't already consider it so.
What I'm really asking is for you to explain the deduction: God exists; therefore, some things are better than others. To me it's a non sequitur.
(By the way, your use of the phrase "everything matters" got my attention because I recently posted on how that idea is in some ways the equivalent of nihilism.)
@wmjas - I looked at your post. I don't agree when you say that everything matters and nothing matters are *equivalent*, party because these phrases are simplifications.
I think that the 'everything' in fact refers specifically to human free will - i.e. it should say something more like every 'decision' or 'choice' matters.
"What I'm really asking is for you to explain the deduction: God exists; therefore, some things are better than others."
I can offer a few perspectives - one is to look historically. It seems to me that the modern sense of nihilism is indeed modern, and indeed recent (past few centuries at most, past 150-200 years as a common phenomenon).
Another is to be more specific than just talking about 'God' - since the god of Christianity is a different god with different character, properties, wishes than, say, the Islamic god.
It is *not* the *existence* of God which makes life meaningful. God (and gods) existed for Plato and Aristotle - but this was not a creator god, nor was god good, nor was he/ they a god of love.
And the Christian god was incarnated and came to earth etc - all these aspects are essential to there being a meaning and purpose to life.
So I completely agree that "God exists; therefore, some things are better than others" is indeed a non sequitur.
God as an abstract property of the universe (as the ancient Greek philosophers saw god) does not lead to some things being better than others - which lack led to philosophy - and is perhaps one reason why Plato had to introduce transcendental ideals, and Aristotle had to introduce teleology and form.
In other words, for P and A philosophy was needed (in addition to their concept of god) to to provide a purpose and meaning for life.
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