Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was an iconoclast first, a philosopher second. Few were spared the so-called “philosophical hammer” and his vicious wit. Nietzsche observed that the spirit of the German people was decadent, it was in moral decline and was leaning heavily toward nationalism and anti-Semitism. In “The Gay Science” (1883), we are exposed to a staggering 483 aphorisms, one of which proceeds to be spoken of today and looms as a shadow over society and its institutions:
God is dead. God remains dead and it is who we have killed him.
His later philosophy would lean more toward that anti-theistic brand with which we have all become familiar, but this was no reference to the physical death of God, nor is it in any way a celebration. As much as atheists may take stabs at Christianity, they cannot dispute the pivotal role that religions have played in organising people after the chaotic state of nature from which we have emerged. Our capitalistic and consumerist culture simply cannot fill the void that God left. God has not died, but the idea of God has. Here is where Nietzsche and I differ in opinion:
How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers…Must we ourselves not become Gods simply to appear worthy of it?
Nietzsche sees this substitution of roles as a problem and I do not. We should aspire to become the authors of our destiny and not live life with the crutch of belief, but with the that fire in our step called “fact”. Nevertheless, society would benefit from the awareness of becoming more inclined toward culture – loving wisdom, the arts and education. Religion managed to take care of it for the past 2000 years and now a trial awaits us. Let’s see how we do.