F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines

Week of:
April 2, 2000
Nihilists Have Nothing To Brag About

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

"Not many of us doubt God's existence and then start sinning. Most of us sin and then start doubting. . . ."

In the preface to his new book from Spence Publishing, The Revenge of Conscience, University of Texas philosophy professor J. Budziszewski reveals the real reasons he became a nihilist in his youth. The first reason, he recalls, "was that, having been caught up in the radical politics of the late 1960s and early 1970s, I had my own ideas about redeeming the world, ideas that were opposed to the Christian faith of my childhood. As I got further and further from God, I also got further and further from common sense about a great many other things, including moral law and personal responsibility. That first reason for nihilism led to a second," Budziszewski continues. "By now I had committed certain sins that I didn't want to repent. Because the presence of God made me more and more uncomfortable," he explains, "I began looking for reasons to believe that He didn't exist."

Budziszewski also absorbed nihilism in his education. "I may have been raised by Christian parents," he affirms, "but I had heard all through school that even the most basic ideas about good and evil are different in every society. That is empirically false," he concedes. "But by the time I was taught the false anthropology of the times, I wanted very much to believe it." Nihilism was communicated to him in "the very way I was taught to use language," Budziszewski remarks. "My high school English teachers were determined to teach me the difference between what they called facts and what they called opinions," he relates, "and I noticed that moral propositions were always included among the opinions."

Budziszewski admits that his nihilism was motivated in part by his desire to "get back" at God "for the various things which predictably went wrong in my life after I had lost hold of Him." He confesses, as well, that he "had come to confuse science with a certain world view . . . that nothing is real but matter." Budziszewski emphasizes, however, that "the main reason" for his nihilism was "sheer, mulish pride. I didn't want God to be God; I wanted J. Budziszewski to be God."

Budziszewski began to feel "a greater and greater horror" about himself, and that sense of horror forced him to confront the contradictions inherent in nihilism. Eventually, he "became aware again of the Savior Whom I had deserted in my twenties. Astonishingly, though I had abandoned Him, He had never abandoned me," Budziszewski marvels. "I now believe He was just in time. There is a point of no return, and I was almost there." Budziszewski now writes and teaches about "those very moral principles I used to deny -- the ones we can't not know because they are imprinted on our minds, inscribed on our consciences, written on our hearts." He specializes in "understanding the ways that we pretend we don't know what we really do -- the ways we suppress our knowledge, the ways we hold it down, the ways we deceive ourselves and others."