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How to Fight Evil

What We Need is Nihilism Control

The recent, all-too-familiar school shooting in Nashville prompted the usual calls for gun control, as usual presented as a clear-cut, moral solution only heartless monsters would oppose. Gun control opponents understandably tend to resist making any explicit defense of the Second Amendment on such fraught occasions, deflecting any such talk as “politicizing a tragedy.”

This time, however, Tennessee congressman Tim Burchett offered a response as blunt as it was bleak: “We’re not gonna fix it.” If someone wants to kill you and is prepared to die in accomplishing this, noted Burchett, there’s not much you can do about it. The only way out is “to change people’s hearts.”

Predictably these comments made Burchett a poster boy of GOP cruelty. To be fair, “changing hearts” seems woefully vague compared to decisive legislative action. But is it? Could adding another bureaucratic layer of “waiting periods” and “background checks” really hope to defeat the nihilistic rage destroying us, one terrible massacre at a time? And what law could hope to eliminate the millions of firearms already in circulation?

Even if by some miracle we permanently and in perpetuity disarmed all would-be murderers, the crisis of meaning at the heart of our troubles would remain. We must face it. We can begin by grieving each of the victims of Monday’s senseless carnage. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Nashville shooter Audrey Hale was in treatment for “emotional disorder.” Surely one manifestation of this was her decision to identify as “trans.” (She was also autistic, like most young women who report gender dysphoria).

It should be clear by now that a trans diagnosis is ideological rather than medical; by enabling rather than treating mental illness it alienates its adherents from their families, their communities, and themselves. And yet the influence of the transgender movement on our culture continues to grow, particularly among children.

Courage is a Habit is a non-profit organization that seeks to empower parents to resist trans indoctrination in schools. It offers a wealth of free resources (tax-deductible donations are always appreciated) for anyone concerned about the effect of this delusion du jour, particularly on the most innocent.


Full disclosure: I am Catholic because I believe the Church’s claims about reality are true; any attempts to discern how we should live that don’t start with Christianity’s basic assumptions are bound to fail.

That said, in the spirit of meeting people where they are, I recommend the well-designed work-in-progress Meaningness, an earnest and intelligent online book that in part concerns itself with defining and overcoming nihilism.

Where it falters is in proposing alternatives to nihilism. Like many “atheists,” the author blithely makes the untenable claim that meaning is human-created:

“The underlying emotional problem is usually not that you genuinely believe meaning doesn’t exist, nor that the right kind of meaning doesn’t exist, but that life doesn’t seem meaningful enough. This is a psychological and practical problem, not a philosophical one, so psychological and practical methods may help. There are many ways to intensify one’s experience of meaning, making it more powerful, more obvious, more compelling, and more enjoyable.”

It’s all very interesting and thought-provoking, but as I said, bound to fail.


The title of Frank Sheed’s Theology and Sanity combines two notions we don’t often contemplate together. Religion in 2023 seems best understood as a personal preference or a lifestyle – just one of many ways we can create meaning for ourselves. And yet Sheed’s more than 75-year-old book offers a bracing reminder of what’s really at stake in the question of faith: “To overlook God’s presence is not simply to be irreligious: it is a kind of insanity, like overlooking anything else that is actually there…Sanity, remember, does not mean living in the same world as everyone else; it means living in the real world.” How many of us these days do?


In a recent talk my friend Peter Paik observed that

“To see more deeply within, it is necessary to venture upwards. It is this elevated perspective, namely that of the most exalted of human possibilities, whether embodied by the saint, the hero, or the poet, that serves as the
appropriate vantage point for surveying the entire terrain of the human personality as such. For to see ourselves and others clearly and justly, we need a standard of what the greatest and most extraordinary human beings have achieved. Only then can we develop the humility to subject ourselves to judgments that are rigorous and exacting.”

Aspiring to any such elevated standard is out of fashion; today we valorize those who can claim the most oppression. And yet exemplars of virtue still exist, for anyone with eyes to see. Consider the decisive, selfless courage with which Nashville police officers Rex Engelbert and Michael Collazo ended Hale’s rampage after just four minutes. It’s doubtful they consider themselves “heroes” — they were just doing their jobs with quiet competence and determination. One wonders how much longer we’ll be able to take the existence of such men for granted.