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“Ask a Priest: I Feel Lost. What Should I Do?”
Q: I am educated in philosophy. Are you familiar with Seraphim (Eugene) Rose’s work on nihilism? I have written or come to the same nihilistic conclusions as Rose. The experience of nothingness is overwhelming and omnipresent. I am not sure what my question even is. At times I am the most confident in my beliefs (even though I do not like the consequences of nihilism), and other times I am in complete doubt. The nihilistic position is one riddled with contradictions, though the nihilist is not concerned with silly things like “logic” and “contradictions.” I guess my question is this: What do I do? I have no idea what to do. All religion, at least up till now, does not seem true to me, regardless if you take a view like Hick and say that all religions at least have some “portion” of the truth within them. I feel alone, empty and dead. Again, I am not sure what I am asking you. If you can make any sense of this, or have anything to say, then I am willing to listen. -A.M.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It would take a book-length answer to do justice to your questions. Let me attempt a quick response nonetheless.
We are made in the image and likeness of God. We have an intellect and a will. Now, God is a Trinity, three divine Persons in one essence, one Godhead. It is a mystery beyond our comprehension.
But those three divine Persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — give us a clue about ourselves. In a word, we are relational. We are made to be in relation with others. Ultimately the most important relation is with God. Our hearts were made for God, as St. Augustine said, and our hearts are restless until they rest in the Almighty. We can use our intellect and will — and our hearts — to search for God.
You seem restless. You need to find God. God certainly wants you close to him. You are his beloved son.
The surest way to find God is to focus on his divine Son, Jesus. So it might be helpful to take up the Gospels and read them. Learn about the person of Christ. See the way he deals with people. See his compassion, his mercy. He is the face of God on earth.
Entering into a relationship with him will help you set aside some of those abstract notions of nihilism, etc. We weren’t created for nihilism, after all. We were created for love — to love and to be loved. That is what our relationship with Jesus is about. That is what real religion is about.
Or try reading just about anything from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, too; many of his works are gems.
It occurs to me that you might have been given the wrong impression of Christian philosophy. Our Christian faith is not unreasonable, illogical and self-contradictory, like nihilism. On the contrary, it has a long and rich tradition of facing and tackling the toughest questions that human beings have ever had to face.
If you are at all intrigued by this often-overlooked reality, you might want to dip into the works of some of the great Christian philosophers, whether recent ones such as Etienne Gilson, contemporary ones such as Peter Kreeft, or past ones such as St. Thomas Aquinas. I encourage you to take a look. As Our Lord promised: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
I hope some of this helps. I wish you well on your journey.