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Nietzsche and the "death of God"

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Christopher Barnett

on 27 July 2017

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Transcript of Nietzsche and the "death of God"

and the "Death" of God

Thomas J.J. Altizer
William Hamilton
Loretta Lynn,
"Who Says God is Dead?"
Radical Theology and the Death of God
Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (1882)
A genealogy of the "death of God":
The Proclamation of the "Madman"
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Arthur Schopenhauer
What we *will* constitutes what is real for us; there is no order or purpose in the world apart from our individual desires, which are fated to clash and to be frustrated; life "is suffering," a ceaseless collision of wills
Religion is a "dream of the human mind," a projection of human self- consciousness; to experience God is simply to experience oneself
Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (1818)
Das Wesen des Christentums
Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872)
Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Nietzsche's mentor
Promoted the thought of Schopenhauer and Feuerbach in his work
Had a falling-out with Nietzsche in the early 1880s, on account of his opera,
Social progress entails transcending religion, especially Christianity
Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)
"[I]t is old Jehovah himself who is making ready to die. We have known him so well, from his cradle in Egypt...[to a] move to Rome....We have seen him purify himself, spiritualize himself still more, become paternal, compassionate, the benefactor of the human race, a philanthropist....But nothing could save him! Don't your hear the bell? Down on your knees! The sacrament is being carried to a dying God."
Gott ist tot:
What does it mean?
For Nietzsche: a choice, "an action of the will"
"[I]t is our preference that decides against Christianity--not arguments."
For Altizer and Hamilton: an "event," a modern experience
But of what? Some possibilities:
1. Of the realization that God doesn't exist (atheism).
2. Of the fact that there
a God, but God is now gone.
3. Of a sense of the inadequacy
of language about God.
4. Of Christianity's lack of relevance in modernity.
5. Of the passing of certain conceptions of God, e.g., God as "ruler" of the universe.
6. Of the purging of idolatrous gods/"onto-theology."
7. Of a Golgotha-like "death" of God, which is preparing the world for his rebirth in us.
Is the "death of God" over...
...or just beginning?
"We are now facing the end of Protestantism. America's god is dying. Hopefully, that will leave the church in America in a position where it has nothing to lose. And when you have nothing to lose, all you have left is the truth.
So I am hopeful that God may yet make the church faithful--even in America."
--Stanley Hauerwas
"If the “death of God” is understood as an affirmation that God does not exist, Christianity (and any other religion) is debunked as an illusion (I think that this was fully Nietzsche’s intention): Theologians, like typewriter repairmen, should retrain for other employment. If on the other hand the phrase is understood as a metaphor for secularization, thought to be an inevitable accompaniment of modernity, the empirical evidence does not support it: Most of the modernizing world today is intensely religious. To say the least, the “death of God” has been very much relativized."
--Peter L. Berger
What this class presupposes
A few points
That modernity marks a real change in Western thinking and life, so much so that we can speak of a modern "condition."
That this change involves--not accidentally, but essentially--the Christian faith.
That, in a variety of senses, this change can be understood as the "death of God."
That all aspects of Christian life, including spirituality, have to come to grips with this development.
That "postmodernity," if it exists at all, does not overcome this condition and, arguably, exacerbates it.
Ongoing Questions
For the semester (and beyond)
What are some features of the modern world? Where do they turn up in the assigned readings?
What, in your view, is the "death of God"?
How is this "phenomenon" dealt with--either directly or indirectly--in the works we read?
How has modernity impacted Christian spirituality?
Which Christian spiritual writers have
best met the challenges of the modern world?
Which ones have failed to do so? Why?
Should Christians separate from secular society? Why or why not?
Is holiness possible
without religion?
Unrecognizability or
What is freedom?
What is transcendence?
What is love?
Is spirituality political?
Contemplation or
Can atheism *help*
one's spiritual life?
Coping with science...
The weakness of God...
And finally:
Guiding Us into These Questions
Or why these things don't happen overnight
Precursors to the Madman
The split of faith and reason
The rise of
natura pura
Ecclesial division
Innovations in Christology
Philosophy's "Speculative Good Friday" (Hegel)
The implosion of Christendom
O große Not!
Gott selbst ist tot,
Am Kreuz ist er gestorben,
Hat dadurch das Himmelreich
Uns aus Lieb' erworben.
"O Traurigkeit, o Herzeleid"
by Johann von Rist (1607-67)
Can spirituality survive without the supernatural?
Can the world survive
without spirituality?
Fleshing it out:
The "death of God" in film
Discussion Questions
Nietzsche believes that willing the death of God has been and should be done for a number of good reasons. Name and describe two of these.
For Nietzsche, what difference should the death of God make in our lives? Is it to be liberating or troubling? Why?
What was your response to Nietzsche? Shock? Appreciation? Indifference? Why?
Ritt der Walküren
Johnny Cash,
"God Is Not Dead" (1969)
Full transcript