How dod the expression “God is dead” originate, and what were they referring to?
“The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
–Mark Twain, cable from London to a New York newspaper.
“God is dead!” was the concensus amoung many post-modernists following World War I. The reasoning was that such a terrible event couldn’t occur in a world still looked over by a supreme being. Read up on the DaDaists and existentialism for more on this.
Nietzche is dead.
I killed “Bob”! Then I peed on his head …
Obviously, when the nihilist philosopher Nietzsche said “God is dead,” he did not mean literally that Jehovah was once alive, but has since kicked the bucket. Nietzsche himself did not believe that ANY god had EVER existed, so he wasn’t speaking of a literal death. And, for that matter, a Christian can believe in God and STILL concede that Nietzsche was right in the larger point he was trying to make. What he WAS saying, in effect, was “Let’s face it, folks: our society’s laws and morality were based on Christianity- and the important people in our society don’t really believe in Christianity any more!”
And Nietzsche was right: by the late 19th century, Europe’s intellectual class was no longer religious, and hadn’t been religious in centuries! Europe’s aristocracy had long since ceased to think of religion as anything more than an archaic tradition. In other words, traditional ideas about God and morality were becoming meaningless to the leaders of Europe. God was not PHYSICALLY dead, but he was becoming irrelevant to the way people led their lives.
Now, earlier secular philosphers like David Hume and Immanuel Kant had tried to show that reason and logic could uphold traditional notions of morality, even if God did not exist. And MOST 19th century Europeans seemed to want to carry on with traditional morality, as if their growing disbelief in God didn’t really change anything.
Nietzsche wasn’t about to let secular Europe off so easily. Nietzsche saw that, once you stop believing in God, EVERYTHING ought to change! NOTHING could or should be the same as before! Without God, notions like altruism and delayed gratification of our desires make no sense at all!
Nietzsche and his contemporary Dostoevsky were both intelligent enough to see that “Without God, everything is permitted.” That bothered the hell out of Dostoevsky. It didn’t bother Nietzsche a bit!
The problem with Nietzsche’s reasoning (as summarized by Astorian) on a Godless society is that he seems to assume the only reason for a person to behave in a moral fashion is a fear of divine retribution. The fact is that most people want to live in a secular society guided by moral principles, irregardless of how this affects them in the spiritual world. So a person may behave morally because he feels his actions make for a more moral society and he wishes to live in such a society.
I don’t see what a war would have to do with this. I thought people fought wars to see if God were on their side.
I agree with Mike King, irrespective of his misspelling of the word regardless.
What is the headline question on the copy of Time Magazine on the table in the waiting room of Mia Farrow’s psychiatrist in the 1968 Roman Polanski film Rosemary’s Baby?
As a Catholic, I certainly won’t claim Nietzsche as an ally. He had nothing but scorn for religious people in general, and Christians in particular. He considered Christianity a crutch for weak-minded people and, more diabolically, a lie to keep the strong and powerful in check. Oddly enough, however, Nietzsche had even GREATER scorn for those who don’t believe in God, but would like to pretend there is some OTHER basis for traditional morality!
Nietzsche saw, as men like Hobbes had seen centuries earlier, that Nature is ugly indeed. In Nature, the stronger animals kill the weaker animals and take what they want, without any concerns about morality. For example, the biggest strongest lion kills his rivals, and the offspring of his rivals, and takes all the females he wants for himself. THAT is the natural way of things. To use Hobbes’ famous line, in nature, life is “nasty, brutish and short.” This is no less true for uncivilized humans.
Now, as the Christian Hobbes and the virulently ANTI-Christian Nietzsche realized, religion (and Christianity in particular) gave men a set of laws and principles that forced them to sublimate their selfish desires and work for the betterment of others. Take away those principles, and you’re left with two sets of people:
the “nice” secular folks, from Immanuel Kant to Mike King. These people think they can do away with the Judaeo-Christian god, but still retain the “nice” parts of the Judaeo-Christian tradition (“love your neighbor,” etc.)
The strong and powerful, who want what they want when they want it, and don’t see any point to delaying their personal gratification, and have only scorn for those who do.
If THAT’s what it all comes down to, who’s going to come out on top? Pretty obvious, I should think.
In the absence of God, there is only one thing that matters in this world: Power. Religious people have always known that, and shuddered. Nietzsche recognized that fact and embraced it: he thought the idea of chaos and war of all against all was rather cool!
Nietzsche understood that morality is totally artificial in the absence of a higher power. Though he mocked Christian morality, he could at least understnad its hold on people (as ridiculous as he found it, he knew it promises people something attractive). He couldn’t understand the “nice” atheists who refuse to admit where their unbelief logically takes them.
Gee, I would never have believed that Nietzsche and C.S. Lewis had anything in common! Lewis’s many works, most notably The Abolition of Man, also held that there was ultimately no way to maintain moral values without reference to some supernatural order.
If we are so naturally brutish, then why did every culture ever known invent its own religion and/or code of ethics? The fact that we frequently behave immorally is often used to “prove” that we have no inherent morals. The reverse is true. Having morals, we take notice when we do not live up to them.
The cartoonist Walt Kelly, creator of 'Pogo", once wrote—“God is not dead, He is merely unemployed.”
No, no he’s resting. Look!
*The Idol of American Youth *
If that God hadn’t been nailed to its cross it would have been pushing up daisies. He wouldn’t twitch if you put fifty thousand volts through Him.
Oh my Kenny, they killed God! You bastards!
Ranger jeff-that was great.
Atsorian–that was great too.
Lumpy–Theology makes strange bedfellows…
“It all started with marbles in school…”
Did you hear the one about the 3 blasphemers who all go to Hell…
Kidding, guys! Just kidding! A little-known trait of mine is that I am omnisarcastic.
What? Nietzsche scorned me? Already, Freddy boy, the gloves are off! I’ll be waiting for you in the parking lot and I’m planning to kick some ubermensch ass! I’ll whoop you so bad even Zarathustra won’t know you! Word!
I find it hard to believe that astorian, who I thought was smarter than this, would buy the idea that immorality (or amorality) is a necessary logical consequence of atheism. It could very well be that the set of behaviors we call “morality” are an inevitable partner of the evolution of human intelligence; as intelligence would grant us the ability to recognize pragmatic ideas like “We should refrain from indiscriminately killing each other or taking each others’ stuff if we want to protect both individuals and the species.”
I also seriously question:
Religious people rarely shudder at that idea, and are often the ones most frequently attempting to grab power; and what’s more, astorian damn well knows it, too.
The whole “morality-is-impossible-and-contrived-in-the-absence-of-Judeo-Christian-religion” is a line of shit I wouldn’t expect to hear from him, and is not borne out by any observations of history or socioanthropology.