„The Death of God“ – in Atheism and Christianity

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[written in August 2014]

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him”, said the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900). This was not primarily an affirmation that there is no God, but that mankind should have control and power, that it should be the active force. The death of God will lead, Nietzsche says, not only to the rejection of a belief of cosmic or physical order but also to the rejection of absolute values themselves — to the rejection of belief in an objective and universal moral law, binding upon all individuals. In this manner, the loss of an absolute basis for morality leads to nihilism. Within this nihilism, Nietzsche worked to find a solution by re-evaluating the foundations of human values that should replace Christian values. He would find a basis in the “will to power” that he described as “the essence of reality”. – In our times, the “new atheists” continue the forceful and loud outcry of men against their Creator.

But the atheism of our times is in most instances silent: the silent atheism of indifference. We organize our lives “as if God did not exist” (etsi Deus non daretur) [1] He was highly misunderstood later on!] God disappears from our daily lives, from our communities, from our societies. The only place we concede to him is the private space of each individual. And we therefore also eliminate him from our work places, also from our laboratories, offices, research stations…..

God is dead. In the Emmaus story (Lk 24:13-35), the disciples have lost their hope: ” To them, something like the death of God has happened: the point at which God finally seemed to have spoken has disappeared. The One sent by God is dead, and so there is a complete void. Nothing replies any more. But while they are there speaking of the death of their hope and can no longer see God, they do not notice that this very hope stands alive in their midst.” [2] – Jesus Christ stands alive in their midst: “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over!” We need prayer and God’s grace to resist the “Death of God”. “Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.” [3].

Picture Credit: Emmaus, Kloster Nuetschau, Germany

[1] This term was first coined by Hugo Grotius (1583 – 1645) who as expert in law and philosophy wanted to put the foundations based on natural law such that it would hold, “etsi Deus non daretur” [even if God did not exist]).

[2] Josef Ratzinger [aka P. Benedict XVI.], Introduction to Christianity

[3] Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei,  57

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