What are the consequences of Nietzsche’s idea that God is dead?
Some would say that as long as people believe and worship God, He is alive and well. In this sense, an esoteric nineteenth-century philosopher could never have changed reality and his exclamation “God is dead” was as empty and bombastic as the rest of his writings. Actually, the concept that people’s subjective worlds create reality (maybe all reality?) is very attractive for me personally and consistent with evolutionary thinking about the functions of the central nervous system.
But I think the people who have read Nietzsche over last 150 years have a much more literal concept of God in their minds and souls.
It is why the philosopher’s war cry that “God is dead” sounded very bold and significant.
It was original: nobody before had put it so bluntly through the words of the Madman “”I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers…… Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” It was iconoclastic and adventurous and maybe it is mainly why it reverberates for more than century in the intellectual circles of the world.
According to Adrian Samuel (Nietzsche and God (Part I) Richmond Journal of Philosophy 14 (Spring 2007) page 1, pdf) Nietzsche worries about the world without God as a world without values. “Rather, the madman’s search for God is taken as a bit of a joke – worthy of being mocked and little more. Nietzsche coins this sociological movement towards not taking ‘God’ seriously as the ‘death of God’. That is, the former importance ‘God’ had in structuring our lives has ended.”
My reading of Nietzsche is limited to Twilight of Idols and some scattered excerpts from other books and on the basis of that, I see him as a sociologist, a psychologist and mostly a hellraiser, rather than a philosopher. Except for a precious few people, he vehemently and recklessly criticizes everybody and everything he turns his eyes on. He carelessly contradicts himself, he wants to “relax” and be “affirmative”, and start “the war” at the same time. This doesn’t spoil his appetite to destroy and “kill “ every establishment and authority known to man.
Talking about the death of God can be understood in many ways, but as for Nietzsche, Christianity is a favorite target of attack, it seems that he means that the Christian God is no longer a credible source of absolute moral principles” (Google, Wikipedia, “God is dead”) and “one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet” (Twilight of Idols, Expeditions of an Untimely Man, sect.5).
This is the literal way to understand the Madman and Twilight of Idols. But as we read the text, the way he attacks other authorities seems almost too flippant. Socrates is too ugly? German schools are too crowded? The people are too obsessed with their stupid diets? Is it not a Kirkegaard-like case of indirect communication? It seems that pathos is purposely inappropriate, vehemence exaggerated, the mixture of the style of the joke with the content of the vitriolic attack tells us something about the author’s underlying quest.
In “The problems with Socrates”, Nietzsche says ”I recognized Socrates and Plato as symptoms of decay, as agents of the dissolution of Greece… as anti- Greek” (sect. 2). He gets emotional, calls Socrates “a rabble”, “decadent”, complains about his dialectic method and reasoning, He is unconvincing, just mean, and he obviously doesn’t care.
The same frenzy in condemning established values is repeated in “morality as anti-nature”. He calls the church” hostile to life,” (sect1) he criticizes the monks for the renunciation of desire, even worse are those who are too weak to do it! “What alone can our teaching be? – That no one gives a human being his qualities: not God, not society, not his parents or ancestors, not he himself. No one is accountable for existing at all…one belongs to the whole…” (sect. 8) Similar is his rant against the Germans, their organization, their education and all Reich is “decadent and mediocre”. The more he attacks this and that, the more irrelevant the content becomes, making the attack ineffective. Surely he knows this and does it on purpose. The purpose is to question the values, question the sources of morality, ponder over the world where God is not treated seriously, where people are not treating their lives seriously- the world where geniuses and warriors are treated as Madmen and ignored.
Nietzsche calls for the rule of instinct and nature, calls for the Dionysian Man, where art and sensuality and power are all mixed together. Even this naive and benevolent form of the Ubermensch does feel ominous for a person born in Poland in 1944…
From the perspective of a century and a half, I see Nietzsche’s ideas as not only a “revaluation of values,” but as a desperate call to make the process of the exploration of one’s values a standard for the modern, new human. To create your own values, to be an individual, to think freely, be yourself, should become your “meaning of life”. Astonishingly, this call of an almost insane, ranting lonely man, with no money and no academic position, was answered.
In the nineteenth century, similar to now, people worried that when “God is dead” there would be a horrible hole in the human soul, no values, no meaning, no hope. It did not happen, people worked, loved and died as before.
Now, in 2015, we call this “hole” the worldview. Everybody has a worldview, but like in Nietzsche’s times, most people do not realize this. This is an implicit worldview, inherited, built during childhood and schooling, containing sometimes mostly subconscious opinions, gut feelings, and the “things which make one tick”.
Nietzsche calls us (as God is dead) to find our values, to explore and find our individual, unique, personal worldview. And to express it, make it explicit, be our own personal warrior.
And the response is tremendous: everybody tries to write a book, to be an artist, to have a rock-and-roll band. The Internet and YouTube and social media are all magical individual creativity boosters. The creativity and individuality of the 21st century Ubermensch are slightly tainted though.
1.His values are very materialistic and boring: all the “renaissance man” activities are really aimed to conform to the modern man success image.
- Comparing to Nietzsche’s Dionysian Man this new Ubermensch lost the reckless spontaneity, sensuality, the sense of the instinct, and the will to power means only “more money”.
- His worldview is really not explicit enough.
This explicitness of the worldview is what I am most interested in, and I think it has huge importance, not appreciated by Nietzsche, for the different reason than that of our modern people.
Socrates said “An unexamined life is not worth living”, but I think that “lonely life is not worth living”. We are a hyper-social species and our lives have meaning only as a set of relationships, communications, conversations, and observations. All of them are really the same thing. When you see a fierce tiger roaring he relates, he communicates, he expresses his worldview. When you listen to “ pam, bam, bam, baaam” of the Beethoven’s fifth, he relates, he communicates, he expresses his worldview. The same with the Sistine Chapel, Nietzsche’s Ubermensch- all perfections…. and yet.
These guys are oh, so lonely. We say that art, beauty, spiritual passion, well, any passion, all bring people together…. and still we are lonely.
Clement Vidal writes about the worldviews, he calls one’s worldview a “position”.
Writing down your personal position is an arduous, difficult task, few philosophers even did it. But it allows you to 1. edit it (actually keep editing until you die!) 2. Show it to the friend and compare your views and 3. most important, show it to an enemy and compare and discuss.
The more I know myself (explicitly- in the language) the better I relate to the other. Creating friendships should be my laboratory of the relationships with the other (again, explicitly- in the language). The very survival of the humankind may depend on it.