Nietzsche: An Affirmation of Life After the Death of God

What follows is an excerpt from a recent paper composed for an Undergraduate course in Religious Existentialism. I would just like to emphasize my status as an undergraduate student and one who is, to a large extent, philosophically inept and unlearned. With that being said, and now with the bar set bearably low, please read on. Feel free to comment. I welcome your thoughts and critiques.

 

L. Nathan Oaklander prescribes that “Nietzsche’s famous slogan that ‘God is dead’ means, first and foremost, that there are no objective values.”[1] It seems that as Travis Elborough describes, “Without God, Nietzsche argued, there was no point clinging to old morality.”[2] Thus, “Nietzsche’s main concern in this parable is with suggesting the nature of a world that is, in effect, now meaningless.”[3]

Oaklander goes on to elucidates,

 In asserting that ‘God is dead,’ Nietzsche is not merely claiming that we cannot know which value judgments are true. He is making the more radical claim that we must reject the very idea of a World in itself that could serve as the ultimate standard or foundation for the truth of any value judgment.[4]

“There was no ultimate meaning or value,” as Karen Armstrong illustrates, “and human beings had no business offering an indulgent alternative in ‘God.’”[5] Alone amidst a vast and endless expanse, set adrift on a horizonless sea of infinitude, the individual is lost without compass or guide. As the author of the book of Ecclesiastes wrote, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”[6]

Though the death of God is marked by anguish, it is not ultimately a nihilistic proclamation. This is a moment of clarity, traumatically joyous, tragically celebratory, and tumultuously liberating. “If…God is dead, the effect is exhilarating.”[7] We see here, as Karen Armstrong displays, “Nietzsche’s madman insisted that the death of God would bring about a newer, higher phase of human history.”[8] The moment of awakening that occurs as a result of the death of God may be frighteningly terrifying but, it brings with it the priceless gifts of freedom, possibility, and the knowledge that the individual alone holds the responsibility of existential decision. “We can become legislators of our own values…we can become masters of ourselves.”[9] We are our own makers, and none other.

“[Nietzsche] believes that by creating our own values the world can have meaning. It is just a case of casting aside the stodgy intellectual hunt for truth and embracing a better, in the sense of life-affirming, wisdom.”[10] The meaningless world is not an abysmal void of barrenness, utterly absent of substance but, rather Nothingness pregnant with everything, a clean slate, a blank canvas, marble yet to sculpted, clay yet to be fashioned, an empty page upon which is yet to be written. “The free-spirit is creating, shaping, changing power whose tireless process of recreation resists the temptation to rest on one’s laurels or to be an imitator or parasite of others.”[11] Above us only sky, below us only earth, God is dead and we have only just begun to live.


[1] L. Nathan Oaklander, Existentialist Philosophy: An Introduction 2nd ed. (Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall, 1996), 77.

[3] Ibid., 37.

[4] Oaklander, Existentialist Philosophy…, 77.

[5] Armstrong, A History of God…, 357.

[6] Ecclesiastes 1:2 (New International Version)

[7] Oaklander, Existentialist Philosophy, 77.

[8] Armstrong, A History of God…, 356.

[9] Oaklander, Existentialist Philosophy…, 77.

[11] Oaklander, Existentialist Philosophy…, 83.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s