Is Nietzsche's "God is dead" misunderstood?

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Reply Fri 31 Oct, 2008 02:03 pm
Many people don't seem to realise that Nietzsche's "God is dead" speech was directed at atheists. The point is that if you "kill" God, what then? If you destroy that which was most holy, the fulcrum of belief of billions of people, do you just shrug your shoulders and declare yourself to be a liberal humanist like Richard Dawkins? Dawkins would have nauseated Nietzsche with his bland and banal statements about "morality".

Nietzsche's position was that if you kill God you must live up to that astounding act by doing astounding things yourself. "We are the new, the unique, the incomparable, those who impose on themselves their own law, those who create themselves," he said.

God is the creator and if we kill him we must become creators in his place. In fact we must become gods in God's place to justify our assassination of him. In short, we must become ubermenschen. Can anyone seriously imagine that a world of atheist ubermenschen would in any way resemble a world of Dawkins-style atheists?

So, where do others stand on the Nietzsche/Dawkins atheist spectrum?

Do you believe, like Dawkins, in God without God (liberal humanism is morally indistinguishable from Christianity hence can be described as "God without God"). Or do you believe in creating new values, challenging all conventions, proposing radical new moralities - like Nietzsche.

How about a new book: The Liberal Humanism Delusion? Or is that too radical for the likes of Dawkins?

[Moderator edit: thread moved to more appropriate forum. jgw]
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Fri 31 Oct, 2008 02:40 pm
@franciscus,
Ok then what justifies us inventing him if not to destroy him?
 
boagie
 
Reply Fri 31 Oct, 2008 05:08 pm
@Holiday20310401,
:)Holiday


Give the man a cigar!! Well the expression god is dead, refers to the mental maturity of Europe at the time of his writing. God is dead because that population is nolonger naive enough to believe in him/her/it, can nolonger seriously entertain the concept.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Fri 31 Oct, 2008 05:54 pm
@franciscus,
Nietzsche was stating a historical crises, that God (and indeed all transcendent values) was dead and no longer given any credence. (Remember that he also said that the Christian will-to-truth would be its undoing). This historical "fact" which was beginning to dawn on European thinking, could have , as Nietzsche saw it, both positive effects (freeing men to strive for the ubermensch) and negative effects (the nihilism that rather than have nothing to believe would believe in nothingness).
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Fri 14 Nov, 2008 10:45 am
@franciscus,
Did Nietzsche ever say "God is Dead" himself, with an editorial voice, or was it something he only imagined coming out of the mouth of a character called "the Madman" in Thus Spake Zarathustra (the only place I can recall him placing the phrase)?

If it is just an utterance by a "madman", then I would agree that it is commonly misunderstood. The Madman may well stand for athiests or some other gestalt collective - not necessarily a conviction Nietzche held himself.

As an aside: I feel the same way about Satre's "Hell is other people" - it is a line spoken by a (clearly flawed) character in one of his plays - so I find it quite unfair that it is so regularly used to sum up his supposed view of things.

Whilst I find Dawkins rather (and ironically) zealous and evangelical in regards to athiesm I am not sure he firmly believes in humanism - I often see John Gray level this accusation at him but Dawkins has specified a number of times that he would rather hear bad news that was true as opposed to good news that is false.

He must also know enough about Darwinian thought to find the deification of humanity niave. I don't know where he stands on ecological thought, but I would be surprised to learn that he didn't harbour deep doubts about the ability of humans to manage their environment (which would fly in the face of some kind of belief in a manifest destiny for humanity).

Dawkins does argue along some humanistic lines though, without doubt. I perceive his humanistic arguments to tend to be as a riposte to religious critics who wheel out the cliche that to be athiest to be immoral and/or pessimistic. To point them towards humanism as a counter example in such debate strikes me as fair - and doesn't necessarily mean that he is himself humanist or attempting to revive the church of positivity.

I suspect Dawkins' own worldview is somewhat less humanocentric than the position he often adopts, and that he adopts it in order to counter claims that his worldview is depressing (though I accept that this is little more than a hunch).
 
jgweed
 
Reply Fri 14 Nov, 2008 12:10 pm
@franciscus,
Nietzsche discusses the consequences of the profound event of the the demise in the belief in the existence of God in the Gay Science, particularly at Section 125. One may find similar passages in the WTP as well.
The death of God, moreover, is directly related to his discussions of Nihilism and the demise of objective values many of which were tied to religion (EH,"Destiny," 8.) For N, it is "Dionysus versus the Crucified" (ibid., 9) that sums up his project of "philosophising with a hammer" to create new, and healthy values.
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Fri 14 Nov, 2008 12:40 pm
@franciscus,
Thanks for that, I have read a few primers on Nietzcshe and books on Zoroastrianism that give a precis of his life (including a very funny anecdote about him terrifying one of his classics students), but Zarathustra is the only book he wrote that I have read.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Fri 14 Nov, 2008 01:10 pm
@franciscus,
Nietzsche remarks, in Ecce Homo I think, that he purposely choose Zarathustra (Zoroaster) for his protagonist because he felt that since Zoroaster had been the first to create good and evil, it was only proper that he should end it.

Heidegger makes this observation:
"Nietzsche uses nihilism as the name for the historical movement...that already governed the previous century while defining the century to come, the movement whose essential interpretation he concentrates in the terse sentence: 'God is dead.' That is to say, the 'Christian God' has host His power over beings and over the determination of man. 'Christian God' also stands for the 'transcendent' in general in its various meanings---for 'ideals' and 'norms,' 'principles' and 'rules,' 'ends' and 'values,' which are set 'above' the being, in order to give being as a whole a purpose, an order, and....'meaning.'
(Nietzsche , IV,1).
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 10:23 pm
@franciscus,
I think "God is dead" is a three word text capable of being constantly reinterpreted. One can argue about what Nietzsche meant by putting this phrase in the mouth of a madman, and one can also self-consciously "mis-read" it for all it's worth.

I think Nietzsche would have criticized Dawkins the way he criticized Socrates in the Birth of Tragedy. Dawkins seems to cast reason as virtue. But I'm no expert on Dawkins. Pop atheism bores me. It's not an exclusive enough in-crowd. (Nietzsche really wanted to be an in-crowd of one, tossing his new and improved tablets down on an idolatrous generation. Something o' that.)Wink
 
richard mcnair
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 10:39 pm
@franciscus,
Nice OP, although I don't entirely agree - Nietszche certianly thought the time to abandon a personal god had come about, although he was worried about the nihilism that might follow.
'God is dead' is certainly often misquoted. Often it is used very nastily by the militant atheists, thinking that nietzsche was someone who shared their views, which largely he wasn't. He was someone very spiritual, who lead an ascetic life, and called the thing we know as 'consciousness' - the spirit, along the lines of alot of mysticism.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 10:47 pm
@richard mcnair,
Yes, I agree that he was indeed quite spiritual. Spengler called him a socialist, meaning by that someone who concerned themselves with the ethics of others. Nietzsche can be described also a moralist, one who questioned the value of pity.

I see him as a conflicted spirit, moody and ironic. He tossed off genius with one hand and absurdity with another. He could be lazy, unfair, indulgent. But at his best he is an extension of critical philosophy, questioning the will-to-truth itself.

His Superman reminds me of Christ the Lion, and I refer to Michelangelo's Last Judgment. Christ who came as a lamb and returns as a lion. I reverence Christianity as a body of sublime myth. Hence my contempt for the shallowness of pop-atheism.

Wink
 
rmcgurk
 
Reply Fri 12 Mar, 2010 12:24 am
@Reconstructo,
The genetic changes that "created" humans from the humanoid beings that preceded them was the separation from nature (God) that Nietzsche, whether he realized it or not, was referrring too. The procession of human intellectual and technological progress from that point forward, has proven humanity's inability to recognize its responsibility toward nature (God). Instead, humanity has created a false journey toward an ethical society doomed to failure. It has continually disregarded a call to return to that humble connection to and reverence of the natural world. As it stands and to this point, we have failed miserably in the capacity of gods.
The question is: with our proclivity toward mismanagement in full bloom, can we humble our "supernatural" intellect and technological prowess to return to a sustainable co-existence with the biosphere and thereby resurrect and renew the image of God? I fear the madman had reason to " up his requiem aeternam deo."
 
Doubt doubt
 
Reply Fri 12 Mar, 2010 04:00 am
@rmcgurk,
rmcgurk;138869 wrote:
The genetic changes that "created" humans from the humanoid beings that preceded them was the separation from nature (God) that Nietzsche, whether he realized it or not, was referrring too. The procession of human intellectual and technological progress from that point forward, has proven humanity's inability to recognize its responsibility toward nature (God). Instead, humanity has created a false journey toward an ethical society doomed to failure. It has continually disregarded a call to return to that humble connection to and reverence of the natural world. As it stands and to this point, we have failed miserably in the capacity of gods.
The question is: with our proclivity toward mismanagement in full bloom, can we humble our "supernatural" intellect and technological prowess to return to a sustainable co-existence with the biosphere and thereby resurrect and renew the image of God? I fear the madman had reason to " up his requiem aeternam deo."


When Nietzsche spoke of separation from nature he meant nature not god. He knew we are animals and thanked his lucky stars that the people that would believe in a god did so. He saw that people that would believe in a god would be the kind of people that you wouldn't want walking around with a get it while the getting is good mentality.
 
rmcgurk
 
Reply Fri 12 Mar, 2010 04:22 am
@rmcgurk,
@Pepijn Sweep: I believe the point of Nitzsche's parable does not show that Nietzsche thought God was dead. On the contrary, he believed in God with the clear transcendental sight of the true philosopher. Few have understood that what he was lamenting was not the death of God, but the death of God within the devices of human society and their concomitant inadequacy to measure up to such a monumental rejection through their failed and impotent institutions.
Nietzshe's God was the organic reality of an ideal imagination fixed on the purity and perfection of its transcendant vision. Such a vision did not depend on or look to any gods, religion, or traditions constructed by humans. His vision places Nietzsche among the pantheon of the .
 
Fido
 
Reply Fri 12 Mar, 2010 06:13 am
@franciscus,
It is much easier to cast god is dead in psychological terms which is the light in which all of nietzsche's philosophy must be seen... God is ones father...Before a man can become a man he must confront his father in defense of the mother who once protected him from his father, and in this way, he take his fathers place and see all from a new perspective... This was denied to Neitzsche by the death of his father, and as a result, like many boys raised only by their mother, he never grew up, and held women in contempt... His fantasies were of a super man minus a super women or a super baby... The super powers of a god, the really demandiing stuff of understanding, ordering, and forgiving he denied completely... It was only because in his instance he felt god to be fundamentally unjust, which he to was Nietzsche if he existed...
 
qualia
 
Reply Wed 5 May, 2010 05:14 pm
@Fido,
The crazy man announced in the market place (which is significant), god is dead, and we have helped kill god.

It is my belief that this assertion generates the problem of interpretation, that the demystification of myths - as say conducted by the project of the Enlightenment, Sapere Aude - leads to the problem of finding meaning in a world which is no longer god centered.

This does not mean that there cannot be religions, churches, religious beliefs, or holy wars, just that an all-encompassing cosmological story-system in which everyone could fit into, a system which provided a background, a place and significant life meaning for the individual is now radically missing and in its place are mere structural relations in which what you do in say the market-system amounts to an absolute ontological condition of what and who you are.

The consequence is a newly constructed category of the individual, no longer a member of the community of God, but the atomised competitor, someone who must construct their life in singularity, upon their own resources.

The threat of such an endeavour is potentialy nihilism, - a culture in which there is no essential and permanent fabric in which to construct meaning, no enduring beliefs which can provide meaning for all its members of that culture.

It brings with it the sense of finality in which many will already know that their interpretative pursuits and those of others are always-already bound to fail.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 5 May, 2010 05:25 pm
@qualia,
qualia;160647 wrote:
The crazy man announced in the market place (which is significant), god is dead, and we have helped kill god.

It is my belief that this assertion generates the problem of interpretation, that the demystification of myths - as say conducted by the project of the Enlightenment, Sapere Aude - leads to the problem of finding meaning in a world which is no longer god centered.

This does not mean that there cannot be religions, churches, religious beliefs, or holy wars, just that an all-encompassing cosmological story-system in which everyone could fit into, a system which provided a background, a place and significant life meaning for the individual is now radically missing and in its place are mere structural relations in which what you do in say the market-system amounts to an absolute ontological condition of what and who you are.

The consequence is a newly constructed category of the individual, no longer a member of the community of God, but the atomised competitor, someone who must construct their life in singularity, upon their own resources.

The threat of such an endeavour is potentialy nihilism, - a culture in which there is no essential and permanent fabric in which to construct meaning, no enduring beliefs which can provide meaning for all its members of that culture.

It brings with it the sense of finality in which many will already know that their interpretative pursuits and those of others are always-already bound to fail.


All he meant (I imagine) is that the concept and the belief in God, so powerful at one time, was weakening and dissipating by the middle to the end of the 19th century. Which was true. Hume, Kant, and Darwin, had taken their toll. Of course, literally speaking, "God is dead" is nonsense. But no one should accuse Nietzsche of speaking literally. This was a jazzy way of talking about the dissipation of the concept of God. The notion (such as it was) arose again 1965 or so in America and, "the death of God movement". As Marx said, history repeats itself, "the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce". Although in this case, the first time was pretty farcical too.
 
Fido
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 04:35 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;160650 wrote:
All he meant (I imagine) is that the concept and the belief in God, so powerful at one time, was weakening and dissipating by the middle to the end of the 19th century. Which was true. Hume, Kant, and Darwin, had taken their toll. Of course, literally speaking, "God is dead" is nonsense. But no one should accuse Nietzsche of speaking literally. This was a jazzy way of talking about the dissipation of the concept of God. The notion (such as it was) arose again 1965 or so in America and, "the death of God movement". As Marx said, history repeats itself, "the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce". Although in this case, the first time was pretty farcical too.

The Oedipal explanation is much more likely... For a boy to become a man he must at least psychologically kill his father... It does not matter that rationalism was killing off the spiritual explanation of reality... It is more likely that rationalism would die than that God would ever fade completely as an explanation... No; when your father is dead, and so diefied, he cannot be killed except in the mind, but what does one become when killing god and not just father??? Overman??? Think of the freedom and power of a life without moral restraint...Think of all one might do if one had no reference to good and evil...Killing god and killing dear old dad are the same damned thing...
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 05:55 am
@Fido,
Fido;160755 wrote:
The Oedipal explanation is much more likely... ..


It is? As an explanation of what?
 
Fido
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 10:34 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;160761 wrote:
It is? As an explanation of what?

Of killing of God... When your father, dead and in Heaven has the distant and powerful qualities of a god without the ability to actually be killed, then killing with philosophy is the next best thing...It was Nietzsche trying to get out of his own particular trick bag, and so was his general attack upon morality... These are the sorts of things children do in order to put themselves apart from their families and be recognized as having distinct identities...Individualism is immorality, and nietzsche never found a better method than the one all children use, of denying family, denying God, denying morality, denying sin... He just never grew out of it, but was trapped in puberty forever...He is like a bug trapped in amber, thanks to his volumes.
 
 

 
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