God Is Dead and We Have Killed Him
“God is dead...and we have killed him”
Great. Just great. Not only is the one being that half of the world's population believes created the very Earth we walk on dead, but we have in fact killed him in the process. We are murderers of our very aforementioned potential “Father of us all”. Was it barbaric? Did we find a way to get to where he lives and hammer him to a cross like we did his son? Or did we simply stop believing in him, becoming Atheists; people who not only do not believe a God ever existed, but all the values He holds true? Well, not quite. Although that would be a lot more exciting, especially finding out where God lives (probably some hole in the wall down the street that everyone visits, but no judgement).
However, instead of finding God's great hiding spot, brutally murdering him or becoming Atheists, Nietzsche explains, rather well, that God died a natural death brought on by our own changing views in the Enlightenment period. This makes us seem a bit like Atheists. We have changed the way that God intended for us to see him as, we have become something so entirely different that we have killed him by our changed way of seeing him. But if we killed Him, why would our Atheistic ears even want to hear about the fact that we “killed” Him? He should no longer be important to us, no longer hold any value to us in the long run. However, the sad part is that even those who do not believe in Him, like Atheists, have no choice in how he has infiltrated our very world. As a culture and society, all of us still fall victim to His values. God has taken over our world, pushed himself into the beliefs of our children and attached himself onto our values. And we have killed him for it.With the way Nietzsche was talking, it is no wonder that people called him crazy. His views on God being dead in itself have put religious people through fits and sparked debates on “can God create a boulder so heavy that even he cannot lift it?” Although, yes, Nietzsche was crazy, whether by inherited brain disease, syphilis from his one time “sexcapade” in a brothel while at school, a brain tumour or maybe it was his exceedingly large moustache weighing his head down so much that it compacted his brain. Either way, the fact that this work can be found at all today is proof that him saying that we have killed God in a published work was one of his less crazy writings.
So, what exactly did Nietzsche say that got people all up in a tizzy? He speaks of a madman (funny how he became a madman himself), who runs through a marketplace, yelling that he is seeking God (99 Nietzsche). Although running through a marketplace evokes the idea in the minds of us modern folk of a town square with women in corsets and horses with buggies, all of which went to church every Sunday and thanked God for their every meal, many of the people in that particular marketplace did not believe in God, just like people today. And so, those people in the marketplace laughed at the madman (99 Nietzsche). Like any true madman, this did not deter him. Jumping in the middle of the group, he answers himself: “Whither is God? ... I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers” (99 Nietzsche). Okay, so Nietzsche uses the word “murderer”, so we do kill him...intentionally so it seems, or we might have to change the wording to “killers” and give us several years in prison for “manslaughter”. Not to worry. When the towns people simply stare at the madman in astonishment, the madman throws down his lantern exclaiming that he has “come too early...this tremendous event...has still not reached the ears of men” (99 Nietzsche). Unfortunate really, and quite an intriguing addition. People considered the man crazy for even speaking of God, and yet, that small bit of doubt comes when he speaks of the fact that he has come too soon. Was this supposed to mean that the townspeople had time to save God? Possibly, although I am sure they simply went home and told their families about the strange man in the marketplace, and moved on with their lives. There would only be the occasional thought of that strange, strange man in the marketplace yelling about God being dead. Either way, it seems to be too late for us now. We are their future generations. God has already been murdered by us.
With God supposedly watching our every move, with the thought that He can make our decisions for us and plan our lives out so that the free will we think we have is really God projecting himself into our choice, maybe it is a good thing we killed Him. It is liberating! We have gotten rid of the one man who has controlled our lives. As Nietzsche put it,
“you shall become master over yourself, master over your virtues. Formerly they were your masters; but they must be only your instruments besides other instruments. You shall get control over your For and Against and learn how to display first one and then the other in accordance with your higher goal” (105 Nietzsche).
With this new liberty, comes this exhilarating feeling of freedom. There are no limits. Everything is possible and there is no turning back! Every decision we make is ours! Every thing we do is because we wanted to do it...wait...every decision we make is ours? And then it hits us: does that mean...that we have to take responsibility for our actions? There is no more blaming our outcomes on God's choices and how he ultimately makes our decisions, there is no more blaming God for taking your lover away from you, and no more blaming God for being five minutes late. It was not God's plan. He does not have a plan. He is dead, remember? This is too much pressure, there is too much that we can do now. Our newfound freedom has turned into a terrifying nightmare and an unfreedom (78 Oaklander). We are left alone with our entire belief and value system shattered, going only with our gut instinct which, lets face it, has been wrong on too many occasions. We have to live with what we did: we killed God, rejecting what was closest to us without any confidence that what we will exchange it with will be true (79 Oaklander). Our entire lives depend on the choices we make, and now that we have rejected God, the notion of a “right” choice makes no sense in a world without objective value (79 Oaklander). Way to go guys, way to go. Now we are all living in a world where we have to make our own choices, right or wrong, big or little, life changing or life ruining. We are making decisions based on principles that no longer exist and ruining lives like there is no tomorrow. What have we done?
So what exactly does Nietzsche mean by telling us that we have killed God? This happened in the time of the Enlightenment, a time when not many philosophers claimed there to be no God. Prior to the Enlightenment, religious views were almost universal; everyone went to church on a weekly basis, everyone gave thanks at the dinner table, and everyone prayed before bed. They believed God to be beyond the ability of human understanding, you could scarcely say his name, and even if He did not make sense to us, He had the right to exist. However, once the Enlightenment hit, this changed. If God did not make sense to you, then he did not have a reason or an obligation to actually exist. Post-enlightenment, people did not have a problem with “taking the Lord's name in vain” or expressing confusion over how God could actually live. More and more Atheists turned up. Beliefs changed so that God was made within the realms of human understanding. With God as an understood concept, it would appear that the people demoted God. God, essentially, died. Give us free will, and we use it to kill you; good move God.
We welcome new children into the world each day. We create life and end lives. We bring people into this world where we have killed our God. Will we live with this? Can we live with this? Can we live with the fact that everyone we bring into the world has to make their own decisions, that their life is not planned out for them, that they might make the decision—probably will make the decision—that will result in someone getting hurt? And what if in us killing God, we have ruined any chance of an afterlife? Sure, people are skeptical about religion, about God in general. In fact, there are more Atheists today than there have every been before, because it is acceptable. We have free will now. We are allowed to believe that a God had never existed. But can we live with that? Can we live with making our own decisions? Could we have lived if we did not?
Nietzsche, Friedrich. "From The Gay Science: The Meaning and Significant of the Death of God." Existentialist Philosophy: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1996. 90-106. Print.
Oaklander, L. Nathan. "Friedrich Nietzsche: The Death of God." Existentialist Philosophy: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1996. 75-81. Print.