An Age of Nihilism
Of colorless green religions and cogito ergo sum
We live in an age of nihilism. People don’t believe in the government. They don’t believe in vaccines, they don’t believe in evolution, they don’t believe in intelligence. Some don’t believe in economics or physics or gender.
And certainly none of those people believe in השם. Historians should note the Trump era as being the end of the influence of organized Christianity in politics. John Kerry’s erudite Catholicism of faith and deeds was entirely ineffective for Democrats a decade earlier, but Trump marked the end of a GOP tied to Christian leaders. The likes of Lauren Boebert may identify as “non-denominational Christian”, but a far different form than the “non-denominational Christian” who is an Episcopalian who married a Presbyterian1.
What people do believe in are memes. If it sounds true, it is true.2 GPT-3 is excellent at conversing in memes, and far less excellent at conversing in facts. Twitter uses a form of Mechanical Turk to accomplish the same thing with the social discourse. How else can Tweets such as this be explained?
We recently passed Simchat Torah, the day of the Jewish Liturgical Calendar where the Reading of the Bible begins from the beginning.
We no longer are in an era where we need to listen to politicians who claim the Bible is the Literal Word of God. If you look at the table of contents you can put that to rest. It is a series of mythical histories, histories, poems, and parables. Was Jonah swallowed by the fish? Did David write his sacred chord?
The motte of that claim, that the Bible contains the Sacred Word of God, is less easily dismissed. In practice, the various translation issues cause difficulties regarding any specific claim; it is simply too difficult to translate in such a way as to provide useful guidance.
The second motte is that the Sacred Word of God exists. And here it is the opponents who are seemingly easily dismissed. The opponents must yield, or else they will find themselves arguing against any concept of true or false whatsoever. They must abandon right and wrong; presumably they even reject right and left. One cannot argue about the moves on the chess board with an adversary who rejects the concept of rules or the existence of a chess board.
For those who don’t remember your WASPs: the Episcopalian Church is the established Church of England operating in America. “Presbyterian” refers here to the non-hierarchical Church of Scotland.
“If it sounds true, it is true.” - it may not be true that anybody deliberately acts in this manner, but it certainly sounds true.