As modern men and women – to the degree that we are modern—we believe in nothing. We hold an unshakable, if often unconscious, faith in the nothing. Our religion is one of comfortable nihilism.
“We live in an age whose chief moral value has been determined, by overwhelming consensus, to be the absolute liberty of personal volition, the power of each of us to choose what he or she believes, wants, needs or must possess …. And a society that believes this must, at least implicitly, embrace and subtly advocate a very particular moral metaphysics: the unreality of any higher value than choice, or of any transcendent Good, or of God, so that its citizens may determine their own lives by the choices they make from a universe of morally indifferent but variable desirable ends unencumbered by any prior grammar of obligation or value (in America, we call this the wall of separation).” (pp. 1-2, In the Aftermath: Provocations and Laments, David Bentley Hart).
Although we are deeply committed to our belief in “the nothing,” and in “the absolute liberty of personal volition,” we still “invite moral and religious restraints on our actions” for, “…none but the most demonic, demented, or adolescent among us genuinely desires to live in a world purged of visible boundaries and hospitable shelters. Thus this man may elect not to buy a particular car because he considers himself an environmentalist or this woman may choose not to have an abortion midway through her second trimester, because the fetus, at that point of gestation, seems to her too fully-formed, and she – personally – would feel wrong about terminating ‘it.’ “…we take as given the individuals right not merely to obey or to defy the moral law, but to choose which moral standards to adopt, which values to uphold, which fashion of piety to wear and with what accessories. Even our ethics are achievements of will” (p. 2, In the Aftermath: Provocations and Laments, David Bentley Hart).
“We are free not merely because we can choose, but only when we choose well. For to choose poorly, through folly or malice, in a way that thwarts our nature and distorts our proper form, is to enslave ourselves to the transitory, the irrational, the purposeless, the (to be precise) subhuman” (Atheist Delusions, David B. Hart).