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What does a world look like post-God?
The literature about the death of God seems to begin with Emmanuel Kant, and carries on with theorists Heine, Hegel, Mainlander and more. All of their ideas come together and explode with Friedrich Nietzsche, who was an atheist philosopher. I’m going to dive right in to respond and question, starting with his thoughts.
Nietzsche writes about a “madman” who runs into his village screaming that “God is dead!,” one of the first to make such a proclamation. But Nietzsche is mostly wondering what the world will be like post-God. He thinks that we cannot trust any of our old knowledge because it was all based on the assumption of God's existence. As people grow to mistrust their knowledge, philosophers seek answers. Is there somewhere else? What does elsewhere look like? Nietzsche suggests a world that demands the elimination of our previous knowledge or ourselves. Both are, for Nietzsche, paths to nihilism.
Nihilism is the idea that there is no meaning, for anything. According to Nietzsche, humans created God to give meaning to their lives. In Gay Science, Nietzsche states that people cling to faith as a sort of crutch. For him, faith is a weakness, a “demand for support” when people feel their own lack in “will.” The solution to this lack of “will” is to call on God to guide us. But what if faith isn’t a crutch? Can I have faith in a higher power and still exercise my own will and power? Of course for some, faith in a god can sometimes mean that their life already has a predetermined path—hence there is essentially no need for one’s will anyway. I believe that God has a plan for me. Indeed, scripture tells me He does—“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord in Jeremiah 29:11 . Is it possible for me to still have faith in that path while at the same time exercise my own will? Nietzsche thinks that embracing one's will and power will cause the end of religion, so I suppose his answer would be no.
He writes that people need to abandon the “wish for certainty,” which faith resolves, in order to liberate the spirit. He wants people to love their lives as they are, because they cannot be changed. Can I love my life as it is while still knowing that I am on a path? If my faith doesn’t tell me I’m on that path—and my certainty is replaced with doubt—would I not still find myself on a path, one of chaos? Nietzsche thinks we are already on the way to becoming more, so would he rather I put my certainty in his idea of a path of chaos? I suppose Nietzsche would say that trusting in any path—even one of chaos—would be creating an “aim,” an end goal to our lives, which he would say is a shadow of the dead God. That path of chaos would then give meaning to our lives, meaning which Nietzsche thinks does not inherently exist and that we are compelled to create (hence the creation of God). Perhaps that is the answer to nihilism? Put our faith in chaos and embrace the path it leads you on?
It seems that Nietzsche’s greatest critique against Christianity and religion in general is that faith takes away our ability to exercise our own will But can I not take it upon myself to choose religion? Can I use my will, my power, to choose God? Of course I can, because that’s what I have done and will continue to do. God gave us free will because He wants us to choose Him. He wants our love for Him to be our own decision.