Wednesday, October 22, 2008

God is Dead.....Probably

Gott ist tot’ - 1882

In 1882 Friedrich Nietzsche published what he described as ‘the most personal of all my books’, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (The Gay Science). The book contains the first occurrence of what is possibly his most famous formulation:

‘God is dead: but as the human race is constituted, there will perhaps be caves for millenniums yet, in which people will show his shadow.—And we—we have still to overcome his shadow!’

Nietzsche looked at the ebbing belief of the society around him and recognised that the rejection of the cosmic order would lead to the collapse of humanity’s belief in an objective and universal moral law, and eventually to nihilism. Seeking to avoid this, Nietzsche looked for foundations that went deeper than Christian values and defined the "will to power" as "the essence of reality. The Christian values of Western culture, Nietzsche reasoned, were simply a way to make the individual conform to something that was less than desirable and corrupt the character. Christianity, said Nietzsche, is the most dangerous system of slave-morality the world has ever known.

‘It has waged a deadly war against the highest type of man. It has put a ban on all his fundamental instincts. It has distilled evil out of these instincts. It makes the strong and efficient man its typical outcast man. It has taken the part of the weak and the low; it has made an ideal out of its antagonism to the very instincts which tend to preserve life and well-being.... It has taught men to regard their highest impulses as sinful - as temptations.’

Christianity, according to Nietzsche, robbed mankind of all those qualities which fit any living organism to survive in ‘the struggle for existence’. For the culture of the West to depart from basing its values on superstition it would have to throw out the values which had enslaved it and prevented it from reaching its potential. Christianity, he said, ordered that the strong should give part of their strength to the weak, and so tended to weaken the whole race.

‘Another Christian concept, no less crazy: the concept of equality of souls before God. This concept furnishes the prototype of all theories of equal rights’

Self-sacrifice, he said, was an open defiance of nature, and so were all the other Christian virtues such as pity.

‘Christianity is called the religion of pity. Pity stands opposed to the tonic emotions which heighten our vitality: it has a depressing effect. We are deprived of strength when we feel pity. That loss of strength which suffering as such inflicts on life is still further increased and multiplied by pity. Pity makes suffering contagious’

Humanity should reject Christianity, as the "greatest of all imaginable corruptions," and admit freely and fully, that the law of natural selection was universal and the only way of making real progress. ‘God is Dead’ thus became a rallying cry to society to rid itself of its shackles.

‘There's probably no God’ - 2008

In October 2008 the news broke that the UK's first atheist advertising campaign will begin proclaiming the gospel to the streets of London in the form of an evangelising bus. The poster will bear the powerful slogan ‘There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life’. ‘God is dead, but keep the Christian values anyway, and don’t worry about any philosophical inconsistency’.

I would suggest that it would be better for all concerned if the bus were to steer well clear of the borough of Tower Hamlets, unless of course they change the slogan to ‘There’s probably no God but Allah!’ as per the Shahada.

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Click here to read the first chapter of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science absolutely free.

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