Saturday, January 12, 2013

Did Nietzsche say "God is dead?"

Well, not in his own words. Austin Cline explains the passage here. Nietzsche put the famous words in the mouth of a madman.

So apparently, this madman can't be talking about the literal God believed in by so many theists. Instead, he's talking about what this god represented for European culture, the shared cultural belief in God which had once been its defining and uniting characteristic.


B. Prokop said...

And look at the wonderful fruits of Europe's abandonment of God after Nietzsche - in the last century: two world wars, fascism and bolshevism, Stalinism and the Holocaust. In the current century: a collapsing birthrate presaging the end of European culture as we know it (continental suicide), and a soulless materialism whose greatest achievements are mindless consumerism and the Eurovision Song Contest.

im-skeptical said...


Why do people continue to believe that atheism is behind all the troubles in 20th century Europe? It has been pretty-well debunked. When I linked to some of that material here, it was ignored.

How can you think that the Holocaust (pitting Christians against Jews) was an atheist phenomenon? Is there any kind of evidence that atheists hate Jews more than Christians do? And please don't tell me that Hitler was atheist. He wasn't. His own writings contain numerous references to God.

"soulless materialism whose greatest achievements are mindless consumerism..." Really? If any country on this planet has been afflicted by mindless consumerism, it is the USA.

B. Prokop said...

" If any country on this planet has been afflicted by mindless consumerism, it is the USA."

Have you been to Europe lately? (I go there regularly.) The thousands-year old cultures across the continent are being swept into the dustbin at an absolutely astonishing speed. Gasthauses that have stood open for generations in Germany are being replaced every minute by international chain restaurants. Family shops in Britain are falling under the Walmart tidal wave. West country pubs in Ireland are exchanging their live music and traditional Irish bands for flat-screen TVs that blast out Europop crap at conversation-ending volumes. I could go on...

My first visit to Europe was when the US Army sent me there in 1977. Subsequent to that time, I was fortunate to live there for almost 10 years (first in Germany, then in England). After that, work sent me over on business trips more times than I can count. Now in retirement, I still visit the friends I made there whenever I get the chance.

The changes I've witnessed over the decades (all of them bad, by the way - except for the fall of communism) are unbelievable. The USA is in no way more consumerist than contemporary Europe.

B. Prokop said...

Now to your question "Why do people continue to believe that atheism is behind all the troubles in 20th century Europe?"

No, the linkage has by no means been debunked. It has been denied - usually by offended atheists, but they have not made their case by a long shot. And yes, yes, and again yes - the participation in the Holocaust by persons claiming to be Christians is one of history's greatest scandals, if not the very greatest ever. The sorry story of two thousand years of antisemitism is Christendom's most grievous sin, and there is no denying it, excusing it, or rationalizing it.

That said, the specific crimes of the last century were only made possible by the groundwork laid by generations of philosophers and political thinkers actively hostile to Christianity in general and the Catholic Church specifically. The so-called "Enlightenment" (has there ever been a more self-servingly deceptive label as this one?) opened the door to ideas such as Social Darwinism, and made acceptable the project to "improve humanity" by pseudo-scientific means.

For an honest, no-holds-barred account of Christendom's simultaneous resistance to and complicity in the Holocaust, might I recommend Sacred Causes, a history of church-state relations in the 20th Century by Michael Burleigh? (In my opinion, the author goes a bit off the deep end in the second half, where he lauds Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, but that's just me. The first half is really excellent.)

As I have said elsewhere, religion without science is superstition, but science without religion is Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Gulag. We desperately need them both.

im-skeptical said...


I too have lived in Europe, and I never observed anything matching the level of consumerism in the USA. The fact is Americans are still the biggest consumers in the world. But I probably haven't been there as recently as you have, so I imagine that you are startled more by the increase in consumerism you have seen than by the absolute level.

But that points out that the rise of consumerism isn't correlated with the rise atheism. Rather, it is the product of increased Americanization of the markets, driven by international corporations.

im-skeptical said...

"science without religion is Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Gulag. We desperately need them both."

Wrong. Those things are examples of ideology without ethics. Don't pin all that crap on atheism. And don't accuse atheists of lacking ethics or morals. That may be what you would like to believe, but it's not based on facts.

B. Prokop said...

Read what I wrote... not what you wish to read into it. "Atheism" isn't mentioned in that quote.

im-skeptical said...


When you say "fruits of Europe's abandonment of God" and "science without religion", I think you are talking about atheism. Sorry if I misread what you said.

Many atheists consider themselves to be "humanists", which brings an ethical dimension to their worldview. They would nor endorse these things that you attribute to godlessness or lack of religion. Atheism itself does not determine one's ethics or ideology.

Ideology, especially in the absence of ethics, motivates people to commit atrocious acts. Atheism is not an ideology, but I see those things conflated all the time, usually by religious people.

B. Prokop said...

It's not atheism that causes these horrors, but a lack of faith. I know you probably don't see any difference between those two, but I very much do. The first suggests that atheism is an active force resulting in Bad Stuff. The second suggests that faith (a.k.a., religion) is an active force preventing Bad Stuff, and that the absence of said active agent allows the Bad Stuff to happen.

Huge difference.

im-skeptical said...


If it is true that faith prevents Bad Stuff, then why is there so much Bad Stuff attributed to people of faith?

My opinion is that faith is not sufficient to prevent all manner of horrors from occurring. What is needed is ethics. And ethics are essentially independent of religious faith.

B. Prokop said...

An old argument, and one FAR bigger than this thread...

The best treatment of this issue I've ever seen was in Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, where he talks about ethics unhinged from faith gravitating towards expediency. I wish I could point you to the exact passage, but the book's three volumes long, and it's been a while since I've last read it.

Papalinton said...

"Gasthauses that have stood open for generations in Germany are being replaced every minute by international chain restaurants."

By the very same capital consumerist model created and propagated internationally by the 95% christianized United Sates, under which capitalism and the free-market economy are unmistakable signs of god's handiwork. Contrast this with a communist economy, the devil's work.

The idea that the world is going to pot after the abandonment of god after Nietzche is simply not true. Your reaction is more a function of unsettling realization that the seat christianity had at the table of humanity [or the Security Council of the UN for a more contemporary analogy] is being replaced by far better and improved forms of advice.