Before conversion to Christianity often people will go through ‘the nihilism stage.’ I went through the nihilism stage. What, ultimately, shook me out of it? Grinding me to an abrupt halt… Guilt.
But why should I ‘feel guilty’ as a practising nihilist? How could I even know this feeling? A feeling that went much deeper, and was far stronger, than anything that events in my life or my childhood could have caused? Because, on a nihilistic world-view there is no Guilt! Guilt cannot even ontologically exist. For we are just animals governed by the naturalistic overtures of our genes and environment. Everything just IS. And things would have to have objective value in order for guilt to have any ontology. On a nihilistic world-view there are no objective values to anything, moral or otherwise.
It was obvious – I had always known that life was precious. That people’s lives actually mattered. And certainly not just my own. I could not escape the fact that, unless one is profoundly damaged, the sanctity of all human life remains as ingrained an objective moral value as anything that is in us. As real as anything that we can trust with our own eyes.
When we engage with our guilt, then, we are engaging with something both intrinsic to, and beyond, us. Whether we realize it or not, we are actually engaging with the numinous: a divinely endowed set of values. We are actually seeking God.
I think I may always ‘suffer’ from guilt. If you are like me, I want to encourage you – Do not try to supress feelings of guilt. Acknowledge them and be uplifted by what they actually mean! Then guilt will never defeat you.