Friday, March 21, 2008

God is dead

The madman.-- Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: "I seek God! I seek God!" --As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated? --Thus they yelled and laughed.

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him--you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

"How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us--for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto."

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars--and yet they have done it themselves."

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: "What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?"

- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science:
with a prelude in rhymes and an appendix of songs
, §125.


Anonymous said...

From Nietzsche to Lennon, the prophecies of the "death of God" have never prevailed, even with its prominence in universities and the media. Even though churches aren't exactly booming, there is still a huge surge in seeking spirituality.

Both atheists and Christians are similar, they have a confidence (arrogance) that they're philosophy will win/survive/conquer, and we'll both have to wait till we're dead to find out...

byron smith said...

Do you think all Christians/atheists are like that?

Anonymous said...

Not arrogant, I shouldn't have used that word.

And are all Christians/atheists like that? No, not necessarrily. But I know Christianity to be true, because the Holy Spirit confirms it, but it won't be proved to the non-believer until death or Jesus returns, or unless the Holy Spirit convicts them otherwise.

Actually, second thoughts, I shouldn't subscribe that way of thinking to atheists just because of people like John Lennon and Nietzsche, or Freud. There is nothing in Athiesm that says Christianity or religion will fade away and atheism will prevail as the dominant belief. I recant!

byron smith said...

but it won't be proved to the non-believer until death or Jesus returns, or unless the Holy Spirit convicts them otherwise.
Depends what you mean by "proved". Or rather, to put it another way, I wonder whether the Holy Spirit can convict slowly and partially sometimes, through many small conversations and observations, in stages (Mark 8.22-25) rather than a blinding light (Acts 9.1-19).

And yes, for Nietzsche, he was not predicting the end of Christianity, just calling for it out of intellectual honesty. That is, he was pointing out that many Europeans had already dumped explicit belief in the Christian God and so he was urging them to finish the job and banish even the shadows of God from their thinking and lives.