Sunday, September 27, 2009

Finding Strength when "God is dead"

Nietzsche's "God is dead" projects the idea that we have killed Him and now have to create our own values and morals, which he says is the most life affirming thing. He says that the "herd" mentality is having all the same morals and values as other under God, leveling everyone off. This brings up the question of if He ever existed at all, or maybe we just thought he was alive, as a way to sort of justify morals and values without having to create our own. With the idea of God being dead, another question is raised on how people will react to this statement. Some will be prepared to create their own values, again the most life-affirming thing, and be self-reliant, whereas others, the herd, will completely fall apart and not know how to live (a very slavish thing). As we discussed, they were so dependent on this "manufactured morality" under which the masses served to, that they do not have the strength that is so great as to be able to create their own morals.

When we first discussed this in class, I first thought that the "God is dead" statement would have gone in a different direction. I thought that another direction it could have taken is thinking about it in the point of view of these strong, devout, believers in God. With these people, if someone says that "God is dead" I would think that first of all they wouldn't, at least immediately, believe it and if they did, its not like they would completely fall apart. I feel like people who were strong in religious practice and devout believers in God would be strong enough to keep the morals and values that they found vital. They lived their lives according to these values and morals and attached their own meanings to them to adjust to their individual self. So, I almost think that being able to keep the values that they found in God and not completely letting go of them just because God might be "dead" to some people is just as "strong" as being able to create your own morals. I would think that the strongest believers in God at the time would be able to build on this "manufactured morality" and make it adjust to their own lives, even without a God. I understand that these morals would be nothing without God, i suppose, but being able to uphold the morals even without and being able to again, build on them according to each individual life, is being strong as well. I almost think it is unfair to say that these people would be trying to depend on a God that's already dead because that is how they were able to create their morals--I guess that's still herdish, but is it herdish still if they can apply these morals and if these morals are generally good for their own everyday life? If they truly believe His morals are how they want to live their own personal lives, and can adjust accordingly, would it even matter if God was dead or alive? Again, is it just as strong to be able to keep the same morals even "without" God?


  1. To answer the last question you posed, I think the strength of morals would depend on where they come from. Going back to Kierkegaard, it could be argued that a good bit of the morals and values we have as humans come from the universal rather than the absolute. A lot of basic social concepts (i.e., recognizing that stealing and killing people is bad) are derived from a kind of social contract, without the necessity of a belief in God having much to do with it. I think a lot of them overlap, but I would argue that millions of fellow humans could shape and give strength to one's morals and values more than a higher power, whether real or imagined.

  2. I agree with B_Mo. From my understanding of religion and the church, so much of what informs Christian morality isn't simply the unwavering belief in some higher deity but rather the very act of attending church, of participating in all the accompanying rituals and traditions, and sharing in the network of like-minded individuals coming together as one. Perhaps that only further attests to their "herdish" mentality but with or without God, I believe that truly devout Christians would continue to practice their religion. Why? Because for them, Christianity is more than just a means through which to prostrate oneself before an ethereal and unknowable Being. It's a way of social interaction, of individual understanding, of leading their lives. And to continue along that path while being continually told that the Being who's supposed to be leading them to salvation is dead - that most certainly requires a certain level of fortitude and strength.

  3. Sarah spoke about the idea that people can keep their morals and faith they found in God even if he is "dead". In my own post I discussed the idea of being born without a conscience and what that would mean for someone's morals. Sarah also brought up the idea of being "strong" enough to make your own morals. In light of these issues, is it fair to say that some people are simply unable to formulate their own satisfactory set of morals and they need something like religion to tell them how they should act? This is not to say religious people are unable to think for themselves, but maybe some members of this mindset need to be guided to good morals because otherwise they would fall into temptation. Some might need God to show them the right way, whereas others are simply able to find it for themselves. These two groups of people shouldn't be faced against each other, though, because even though they do not take the same route, their end goal is the same and they want the same results.

  4. In answer to your question about whether holding on to Christian morals is evidence of "strength," I think Nietzsche would definately disagree. To him, the Judeo-Christian morality of serving others, turning the other cheek, and being meek is life-denying. To Nietzsche, anyone who follows this moral code is one of the slavish herd who has a deep resentment of the strong and powerful human beings. Nietzsche would say that Christians would hold onto this morality either out of resentment to the strong or because of the conscience that has been ingrained into them by society.

    However, I do believe that there is a sort of strength in holding on to Christian morals despite debatable evidence about God's existence. However, if a Christian believed that God was dead, they would have to do some major reordering of their morals, i.e. God would no longer be the ultimate good, the Judeo-Christian code of morality would be the ultimate good.


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