This is one of the famous proclamations of the atheistic philosopher Nietzsche in the later half of 19th century. He is not proclaiming that God was alive once and God is dead now (he was an atheist). But it is a proclamation which was echoing the decline of Christianity in the west, especially from social, cultural and political fields. God was the basis of morality, and the decline of religion is a problematic in that regard. Nietzsche saw it as a challenge and opportunity. (For those who are interested, simple articles are available online). I would like to reflect on that proclamation and want to see what it could mean today.
The death of God in the literal sense is not of much importance to theists (they won’t believe it) and atheists (they don’t believe in the existence, then what death). But as a religious, as a Jesuit, as a philosophy student, as a believer, what meaning this proclamation could hold. What sense we could take it?
- According to most of the world religions, God is invisible; You can’t have a normal perception/experience of God just as you experience a thing/person. Jesus says, let your light shine so that Others see God in and through you. The proclamations like that of Nietzsche could be seen as an invitation to lighten the candles of your life so that Others could see God in and through you.
- Many of the strongly religious countries are also involved with various kinds of inequalities, injustices, arms trade. Again they proclaim God is their official head, but for all practical purposes he is dead.
- Occasional justification of the injustices/sufferings of others on the basis of Karma theory (Indian tradition) and future glorious life (Christianity) is again proclaiming the death of God.(I am not saying suffering doesn’t have or couldn’t have meaning especially when it is unavoidable)
- As science develops, there is natural tendency to control everything including nature and even God. There is a tendency to define God. God, by the understanding we have is beyond all these. Such manipulators are proclaiming that he is dead and gone.
- Some of the spiritualities don’t allow the person to be authentically himself and put so many road blocks in the life of the person. Some of them are only for the sake of the growth of the patrons. They are proclaiming God’s death.
- For Christians, Jesus is both man and God. Human nature is also glorified. Any person who overemphasize body or soul and devaluing the other is proclaiming the death of God.
It is an invitation for us (especially believers) to look into our images of God. Throw away oppressive images (God as policeman, God as shopkeeper) and embrace liberative images (God as father and mother, God as love, compassion) of God. God is not Oppression personified, but love, compassion, freedom, liberation personified.