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Pop Nihilism and the Allure of ISIS: When Materialism’s Promise Proves Empty

By John Stonestreet

What’s with all these stories of Western defections to Islamic radicalism? Well, the answer may be more over here than over there.

News broke recently of two beautiful teenage girls from Austria, aged 15 and 16, who became burka-wearing recruiters for the terror group known as ISIS, or the Islamic State. And their journey to radicalism is not an isolated case.

In my own state of Colorado, a 19-year-old female just pled guilty to trying to join ISIS, too. And then there are the two young American men who died in Syria fighting for ISIS.

Why are young 21st-century Westerners converting to a brutal form of Islam? Why would young people, with seemingly so much to live for, leave the West for terrorism?

This question came up last month in a panel discussion with radio hosts Hugh Hewitt and Dennis Prager, as well as Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute and myself. We all agreed that the answer was not the radicalism of Islam, but the current emptiness of Western materialism.

The idea that matter is all that matters pervades everything young people see and hear these days. They hear it in science class, from the new Cosmos television series, and even, and as I added especially, in advertising and other media messages. Nearly every commercial message tells us that we’re born to be consumers, that stuff will make us happy and save us from our misery, and that there’s nothing beyond the immediate gratification of this world to live for.

As Dennis Prager said that night, “Secular society produces a lot of bored people . . . Secular society is a curse because ultimately life is meaningless if there’s no God.” The materialistic salvation sold to us promises to fill what Pascal called the God-shaped hole in our hearts … with stuff. But many see the meaningless of secular salvation, and they become bored; others become angry, even murderous.

Read more: Breakpoint.org



 

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