Liberal dogma asserts an anti-religious and anti-moral stance. We used to call this nihilism. Now we call it mainstream.
Nihilism used to be a dirty word. The nihilists were intellectuals who eschewed the absolutes of religion and morality. The most influential nihilists were folks like Nietzsche, Heidegger, Freud, Marx, and Weber. Twentieth Century academic liberals adopted much of the nihilistic philosophy, based on the rejection of absolute values, and incorporated it as a standard throughout the US university system. By the 1960s, the university system held nihilism firmly entrenched as a guiding philosophy of education.
The famous nihilists supplied us with an arsenal of terms for talking about nothing: charisma, life-style, commitment, identity (all from Nietzsche), caring, self-fulfillment, expanding consciousness, and so on ad nauseam. The fact that these phrases have such widespread use is a testament to the adoption and power of the nihilistic ideal.
In his book, The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom notes the following about the influence of the nihilists:
[Americans'] orientation became that of the self, the mysterious, free, unlimited center of our being. All our beliefs issue from it and have no other validation. Although nihilism and its accompanying existential despair are hardly anything but a pose for Americans, as the language derived from nihilism has become a part of their educations and insinuated itself into their daily lives, they pursue happiness in ways determined by that language....[These ideas provide] nothing determinate, nothing that has a referent....It is still a cause without an effect. The inner seems to have no relation to the outer. The outer is dissolved and becomes formless in the light of the inner, and the inner is a will-o'-the-wisp, or pure emptiness (p. 155).
The greatest proponents of nihilism are modern liberals, those Americans who reject absolute values and morals in order to accept the authority of the self - "the mysterious, free, unlimited center of our being." Yet modern liberals, for the most part, accept the philosophy of nihilism without understanding the roots of nihilism or the detrimental effects the philosophy has had on society.
Nihilism as a state of the soul is revealed not so much in the lack of firm beliefs but in a chaos of the instincts or passions (p. 155).
Here is the key to understanding modern liberals and their connection with nihilism. Modern liberalism bases ideals and programs on "a chaos of the instincts or passions." Such ideals can only drift from one extreme to another as instincts and passions change over time. Hence, modern liberal politics is a politics of feeling, of self, of instinct, of passions with no understanding of the underlying roots of its own behavior, let alone of the nihilism which drives it.
The lack of understanding stems from liberal nihilism infiltrating into the university system. Once nihilism was accepted as the standard, the university system rejected old values in favor of the new valueless system. In an amplifying feedback loop, the next generation of students came out of the universities immersed in nihilism, not realizing that they lacked anything at all in their education. They didn't even know enough to ask questions about what they might have missed.
There is a consequence to the adoption or acceptance of nihilism with no regard to US founding principles, morals, or religious constraints. Human nature always has a desire to some kind of foundation, some anchor from which to interpret life. By rejecting the foundational principles of the United States - Christianity, moral living, self-evident truths - the nihilist finds other ideologies to take their place - ideologies based on "a chaos of instincts and passions."
One of the best known historians of religions, Mircea Eliade, had this to say in his seminal book, The Sacred and the Profane:
Nonreligious man has been formed by opposing his predecessor, by attempting to "empty" himself of all religion and all trans-human meaning. He recognizes himself in proportion as he "frees" and "purifies" himself from the "superstitions" of his ancestors....He cannot utterly abolish his past, since he is himself the product of his past (p. 204).
Those who give up religion, morals, and foundational principles cannot free themselves from past principles because they are the products of the past and past experiences. Those who consider themselves "liberated" from the past can only respond to it, since without the past, they have absolutely no frame of reference.
Eliade gives this example of the attempt Marxists made to reject past values. Nihilists who buy into Marxism, socialism, or communism should note their dependance on Marx's substitute religion:
We need only to refer to the mythological structure of communism and its eschatological content. Marx takes over and continues one of the great eschatological myths of the Asiatico-Mediterranean world - the redeeming role of the Just (the "chosen," the "anointed," the "innocent," the "messenger"; in our day, the proletariat), whose sufferings are destined to change the ontological status of the world....Marx enriched this venerable myth by a whole Judaeo-Christian messianic ideology (p. 206).
What does this mean in real world terms? If we take, for example, a look at President Obama and his socially and fiscally liberal policies, we can see that all of his policies lack any definable reference to the foundational principles of the US. Instead, they adopt a Marxist version of a messianic ideology - the desire to create a pipe-dream world absolutely free from human problems. The government itself, just as Marxist doctrine taught, becomes the savior figure of the modern world. Obama becomes its chief prophet.
Those who do not accept nihilism can immediately see the problems inherent in this system. The ideology leads from a false premise to a false conclusion. Government cannot be salvation, since, by its very nature, is composed of people who do not transcend the problems of the modern day.
Nihilists presume to a knowledge of reality, yet it is knowledge based on a faulty system and a false premise. As Bloom states:
However profound that knowledge may be, theirs is only one interpretation; and that we have only been told as much as [the nihilist founders] thought we needed to know. It is an urgent business for one who seeks self-awareness to think through the meaning of the intellectual dependency that has led us to such an impasse (p. 156).
Without understanding the nihilistic impulse, without understanding the philosophical roots of nihilism, without self-awareness of the lack of knowledge of other systems, the modern liberal has no chance of breaking free from the boundaries set for them by ideologues of the past.
And today's nihilists will then be at the mercy of ideologues and tyrants.