Why is ISIS so attractive?


See this insightful commentary on the issue of ISIS and Nihilism and why  some teens are finding it more attractive than the meaninglessness of the secular world they live in.

Below is a piece of it:

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.


We’ve always had young murderers, but the nihilism of today is different. Writing in Time several years ago, Harvard’s student body president called it the “Rude Boy” culture. The tough guy of the ‘60s and ‘70s, he observed, would say, “I’m better than you, I can beat you up”—but the tough guy today says, “I flip you off; you don’t matter and neither do I.”

And that’s a whole new level of brokenness. That’s the cultural shift toward nihilism. A few years ago, the rock band Switchfoot hit the nail on the head when they sang, “We were meant to live for so much more. But we lost ourselves.”

Read it here.

What do you think? Has secularization lead to a loss of meaning in the West?



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Vernell Atwater

    I believe that young 21st century westerners are converting to radical extremists such Isis because of racism that have been going on in America since this country has started and stills goes on today. It is as if they fell this is the only way they can stand up for what they believe which is, blacks aren’t treated equally in america and this is they “get back”at the government.

    • Hi Vernell,

      Thanks for sharing this, but I don’t see how racisms of whites on blacks is part of this ISIS problem. It seems a more ideological issue of a clash of worldviews. Any more evidence or insights on how racism is contributing to the ISIS issue would be appreciated.

  • Briana Price

    I can understand what you mean by boredom and emptiness of the West. Today, as said in the article, we are nothing more than dollar signs in the eyes of the country. You hear the same complaints about how young people should want college, want a job, want a house, and etc. But that all costs money and too much. Over time, it has become painstakingly obvious we aren’t seen as anything more than consumers. Schools are shut down if there isn’t enough money to afford it or the school receives low-service equipment, books, and packed classrooms. But then the next day you’ll hear about how a million dollars is being put into a new baseball field. Adults need to realize, young people are not as stupid as they think. They have eyes and ears, they know what is going on and they see themselves as not worth anyone’s time if they don’t have a buck in their wallet. To see these kids attempting to join ISIS makes me think they want their lives to have some sort of value, that they want to do something to leave a mark on this planet and be known as something more than a credit card number. It saddens me though that they would go to this extreme to have some meaning in their lives. I only hope that in the near future, this way of seeing youth as new consumers will be washed and they will again be seen as individual people with value.

  • Jonathan Gilson

    Honestly boredom does seem like the most plausible answer to the question at hand but I don’t think that its all because of our currently Nihilistic society. I can’t help but wonder how many of the youth actually know what ISIS is for/against and how many actually agree with them. I myself have no idea what their point is. All we truly get from the news is that they’re terrorists who are killing hostages etc.

  • Hamadi Beloch

    As a Muslim myself, I do agree with this article. Islam in itself is peace, even the pope in a recent article agrees. ISIS seems to just be the latest trend and by the west living in a trend dominated society, it was bound that some westerners would ignorantly join something that has no benefits to them whatsoever.