God is dead

statement by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche

"God is dead" (German: "Gott ist tot"; also known as the death of God) is a widely quoted statement made by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche used the phrase to express his idea that the Enlightenment had eliminated the possibility of the existence of God. However, proponents of the strongest form of the Death of God theology have used the phrase in a literal sense, meaning that the Christian God, who had existed at one point, has ceased to exist.

Quotes edit

  • With Nietzsche's saying that God is dead one arrives at the core of his philosophical endeavors. In Nietzsche's greatest book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Zarathustra, who to some extent is the self-idealization of Nietzsche, asserts the death of God near the very beginning of the work. He does not at first prove that God is dead but makes it, as it were, a matter of personal honor that God be dead. The belief in God has become an indecency for all men except those who have had no opportunity to hear of the death of God...Nietzsche's atheism is historical atheism. The saying that God is dead implies that God once existed. God existed while one could believe in God; God is dead because belief in God has become impossible.
    • Werner J. Dannhauser, "Nietzsche", in Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, eds. History of Political Philosophy (3rd ed., 1987).
  • The death of God is the last event in the history of Christianity, but with the death of the Christian God all other gods die also. With the exposure of man's most universal horizon as mere horizon, all belief in eternal truths and beings becomes impossible. At the end of Part I of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Zarathustra proclaims the death of all gods. The death of God is also the death of the Platonic ideas and of metaphysics. Traditional philosophies and traditional religions have shared a belief in a true world which they distinguished from the world known by man through his senses, the apparent world. Both philosophy and religion have been other-worldly. The impossibility of the belief in God is also the impossibility of the belief in a true world, but the abolition of the true world is also the abolition of the apparent world: the world known by man through his senses and feelings and through his whole being is now the only world and not the apparent world. Or, one could say that with the death of God the apparent world becomes the true and real world.
    • Werner J. Dannhauser, "Nietzsche", in Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, eds. History of Political Philosophy (3rd ed., 1987).
  • Friedrich Nietzsche saw—through the mists of his contempt for all things English—an even more cosmic message in Darwin: God is dead. If Nietzsche is the father of existentialism, then perhaps Darwin deserves the title of grandfather.
    • Daniel Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995), Chap. 3 : Universal Acid
  • In spite of increasing production and comfort, man loses more and more the sense of self, feels that his life is meaningless, even though such a feeling is largely unconscious. In the nineteenth century the problem was that God is dead; in the twentieth century the problem is that man is dead.
    • Erich Fromm, The Sane Society (1955), Ch. 9: Summary — Conclusion.
  • The proper praise, hymn, and canticle of praise is namely this: by joyous and unconditional obedience to praise God when you cannot understand him. To praise him on the day everything goes against you, when everything goes black before your eyes, when others might readily want to demonstrate to you that there is no God – then, instead of becoming self-important by demonstrating that there is a God, humbly to demonstrate that you believe that there is a God, to demonstrate it by joyous and unconditional obedience – this is the hymn of praise.
    • Soren Kierkegaard, Christian Discourses (Christelige Taler) by Soren Kierkegaard Apr 26, 1848 Hong translation 1997 P. 86
  • New battles. - After Buddha was dead, they still showed his shadow in a cave for centuries - a tremendous, gruesome shadow. God is dead; but given the way people are, there may still for millennia be caves in which they show his shadow. - And we - we must still defeat his shadow as well!
  • The madman. - Haven't you heard of that madman who in the bright morning lit a lantern and ran around the marketplace crying incessantly, 'I'm looking for God! I'm looking for God!' Since many of those who did not believe in God were standing around together just then, he caused great laughter. Has he been lost, then? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone to sea? Emigrated? - Thus they shouted and laughed, one interrupting the other. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. 'Where is God?' he cried; 'I'll tell you! We have killed him - you and I! We are all his murderers. But how did we do this? How were we able to 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? Where is it moving to now? Where are we moving to? Away from all suns? Are we not continually falling? And backwards, sidewards, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an up and a down? Aren't we straying as though through an infinite nothing? Isn't empty space breathing at us? Hasn't it got colder? Isn't night and more night coming again and again? Don't lanterns have to be lit in the morning? Do we still hear nothing of the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we still smell nothing of the divine decomposi­tion? - Gods, too, decompose! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How can we console ourselves, the murderers of all murderers! The holiest and the mightiest thing the world has ever possessed has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood from us? With what water could we clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what holy games will we have to invent for ourselves? Is the magnitude of this deed not too great for us? Do we not ourselves have to become gods merely to appear worthy of it?
  • How to understand our cheerfulness. - The greatest recent event - that 'God is dead'; that the belief in the Christian God has become unbelievable - is already starting to cast its first shadow over Europe. To those few at least whose eyes - or the suspicion in whose eyes is strong and subtle enough for this spectacle, some kind of sun seems to have set; some old deep trust turned into doubt: to them, our world must appear more autumnal, more mistrustful, stranger, 'older'. But in the main one might say: for many people's power of comprehension, the event is itself far too great, distant, and out of the way even for its tidings to be thought of as having arrived yet.
  • When Zarathustra had heard these words he took his leave of the saint and spoke: “What would I have to give you! But let me leave quickly before I take something from you!” – And so they parted, the oldster and the man, laughing like two boys laugh.
    But when Zarathustra was alone he spoke thus to his heart: “Could it be possible! This old saint in his woods has not yet heard the news that God is dead!” –
  • Indeed, with different eyes, my brothers, will I then seek my lost ones; with a different love will I love you then. And one day again you shall become my friends and children of a single hope; then I shall be with you a third time, to celebrate the great noon with you.
    And that is the great noon, where human beings stand at the midpoint of their course between animal and overman and celebrate their way to evening as their highest hope: for it is the way to a new morning.
    Then the one who goes under will bless himself, that he is one who crosses over; and the sun of his knowledge will stand at noon for him.
    Dead are all gods: now we want the overman to live.’ – Let this be our last will at the great noon!” –
  • Oh, where in the world has greater folly occurred than among the pitying? And what in the world causes more suffering than the folly of the pitying?
    Woe to all lovers who do not yet have an elevation that is above their pitying!
    Thus the devil once spoke to me: “Even God has his hell: it is his love for mankind.”
    And recently I heard him say these words: “God is dead; God died of his pity for mankind.”
    Thus I warn you against pity: from it a heavy cloud is coming to mankind! Indeed, I understand weather forecasting!
    But note these words too: all great love is above even all its pitying, for it still wants to create the beloved!
    “I offer myself to my love,and my neighbor as myself”–thus it is said of all creators.
    But all creators are hard. –

    Thus spoke Zarathustra.

  • Christianity perishing by its morality. 'God is truth', 'God is love', 'the just God'. - The greatest event - 'God is dead' - felt obscurely. The German attempt to transform Christianity into a gnosis has burgeoned into the profoundest suspicion, with 'untruthfulness' felt most strongly (- against Schelling, e.g.).
  • Nietzsche knew of the ambiguity in all life. He knew of the creative and destructive elements which are always present in every life process. If you want to find out about his idea of God, do not look first to his statement that "God is dead." Read instead the last fragments of The Will to Power, which is a collection of fragments. It is not a book in itself. The last fragment describes the divine demonic character of life in formulations which show the ambiguity, the greatness, and the destructiveness of life. He asks us to affirm this life in its great ambiguity. Out of this he then has another kind of God, a God in which the demonic underground, the Dionysian underground, is clearly visible. The victory of the element of rationality or of meaning is not as clear as in other philosophers like Kant or Hegel, Hume or Locke, but there is an opening up of vitality, and its half-creative, half-destructive power.
  • If God exists, then arguments about him are arguments about the cosmos and of cosmic importance, but if he does not, they are not about anything. In that case, the important questions must be about human beings, and why, for instance, they ever believed that God existed. The issues about religious ethics are issues about the human impulses that expressed themselves in it, and they should be faced in those terms. For those who do not believe in a religious ethics, there is some evasion in continuing to argue about its structure: it distracts attention from the significant question of what such outlooks tell us about humanity. Nietzsche’s saying, God is dead, can be taken to mean that we should now treat God as a dead person: we should allocate his legacies and try to write an honest biography of him.
    • Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (1985), Chap. 3 : Foundations: Well-being

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