Is God Dead?

time-is-god-deadTime magazine said it in the interrogatory.  In his Thus Spoke Zarathustra and in an article in The Gay ScienceNietzsche said it in the affirmative – God is dead.  Period.  Here is a quote from his article:

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

—Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125

Nietzsche is accused by many who have never actually read him as being a nihilist.  Quite to the contrary, he did not gloat about the human act of deicide, rather he lamented it.  He did not believe that humans had literally murdered God, but he felt that they were replacing God with less important things and, in the process, making God inconsequential in their lives.  In fact, Nietzsche warned against nihilism and said that it was a dangerous thing to not have a supreme being as a moral guide.

To the question, Is God Dead? I say – we can only hope so.  Much as Nietzsche has been misunderstood, I could easily be hung upside down from the church rafters for making such a statement too loudly.  So, lest the doctrinal SWAT team show up at my door with Bibles drawn and my excommunication papers in hand, let me clarify that statement.

Since humans have been capable of cognition and certainly since the advent of Roman systematic theology, we have been seeking, hoping for even a mere glimpse of who and or what God is.  In our search, we walk away with more questions than answers.  “If God is in control, then how can evil exist?”  “If God is omnipotent, then how can bad things happen or does God just not care?”  “If God created everything and God is good, then how is it possible for Satan to exist?”  “If God has a plan for everything, where is the good in suffering?”  “If we are ultimately responsible for the evil in the world, what about natural disasters?  We couldn’t possibly cause earthquakes and tsunamis.”  “If God is capable of anything, then why did he have to kill his son so that we can be ‘saved’?”

Such questions are quite valid within the framework in which this God exists, yet lead only to more questions and even worse answers.  How about some of these: “God gave us free will, so we are ultimately responsible for evil.  Our evil acts caused God to curse the world and that is why the earth is imperfect and sometimes has natural disasters.”  “God allows Satan to exist to test us and see if we truly will obey him.”  “God allows suffering so that we can be molded by it.”  “God  has a plan and sometimes works in ways so mysterious that we cannot comprehend them, therefore we should not even try.”

Ok, you get the point.  I could go on forever, but such thinking can only lead to circular reasoning.  So what’s our problem?  Personally, I think it is that we have created one version of God who is imperfect and irrational and therefore requires much explanation and futile attempts at logic so as to reconcile the complete inanity of it all.  Ironically, we call this God perfect and blame our own feeble minds for their inability to comprehend such a being when it is those feeble minds that created this deity in the first place.  If we are going to ever make any existential progress, I think we would do well by letting this God die the same slow and painful death that “He” purportedly lets others withstand.  On second thought, it’s probably best that we “kill” this senseless deity as quickly as possible so that we can get on with our lives.

I can recall as a young boy even into high school I would spend the night with my great-grandmother at her home.  We would go through the same routine of watching Murder, She Wrote, Empty Nest, The Golden Girls, and Wheel of Fortune.  When it was time for bed, I would say the prayers that she taught me: The Lord’s Prayer and The Serenity Prayer.  I would also say a prayer that, as much as I tried to mix it up, always came out about the same – “Dear God, please let grandma be alive and well in the morning.”  I always felt that if I did not pray with just the exact words that God would find a loophole and I would wake up to find her having died in her sleep.  In order to close up these loopholes lest a certain wily deity sneak one through, I would pray the same thing in as many ways as I could think to verbalize it.  It doesn’t take a PhD in theology to realize that this is not a healthy view of God, but nonetheless it’s the one that we usually pray to in the dead of night.  I killed this God long ago, but in the darkest hours when the lightning is flashing outside and finger-like branches are tapping on the window, I sometimes catch myself resurrecting him.

I realize that this all sounds rather cynical and perhaps it is.  Rest assured, though, that my intention is not to be sacrilegious, but rather just the opposite.  I would love nothing more than to have folks encounter God for the first time because they were finally willing to let go of the God they created.  The God that Nietzsche claimed that humans had killed was imagined at a particular time for a particular reason.  “He” no longer serves a purpose, so how about a discussion about what God might be if we let God be God?  To be continued . . . .

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