Friday, July 08, 2005

The Death of Atheism and the Birth of Malignant Gods

When Nietzsche made his proclamation “God is dead,” that death had in fact already occurred quite some time previously. He predicted the century of genocide that was to be the Twentieth century. In a sense Nietzsche’s writings simply articulated and recorded what most already understood. Nietzsche marked this historical event in approximately 1899, the same year Freud completed The Interpretation of Dreams. Nietzsche was stating what had become uncomfortably obvious: In light of empirical science, burgeoning technology and contemporary economics, faith in a personal God had disappeared --died-- from the educated classes. And this death had begun even before Darwin, who had described the basics of evolution as we now know it in the Origin of the Species in 1859, thirteen years before Nietzsche’s first major work the Birth of Tragedy was published 1872. We were entering a terrifying age of nihilism and for Nietzsche our obligation was to develop life-embracing moralities to stem the consequences of the death of God.

Darwin also diagnosed our divine ailment. He too made it undeniably clear that we humans are in fact a peculiarly recent animal, and our grand human history is really no more than the slimmest smidgen at the end of a vast geological time line. Where Copernicus had taken us out of the center of space and put earth on a cosmic lazy Susan wobbling around the sun, Darwin had taken us out of the center of time and left us only a hair’s breadth at the edge of recent biological existence. Humans, as we now know, have only been wearing clothing for about 80,000 years, to say nothing of the very few (less than ten?) thousand years we have embraced civilization. Nietzsche took these events in human history and applied them to the finite history of our personal Judeo-Islamist-Christian god, God.

But God’s death is not to be blamed on these two scientists of time and space, Copernicus and Darwin, nor on their most eloquent philosophical mouth piece, Nietzsche. At least 500 years before the birth of Christ, Xenophanes had rightly recognized “that were humans horses our gods would have the faces of horses too”, meaning that our notion of God is no more than an extension of our own irrepressible human arrogance. God is simply man writ large, larger even than the Republic.

And of this I agree. For I am an atheist now, in a time when atheism is dying. And there is a new God coming. We can see his stern face in the new radical religious extremisms now racing around the world. And this new God may well be a more virulent God than the last God. Christianity was based on the divinity of the body of Christ and God as love. A good person was one who used his earthly body like Jesus Christ. The new Twenty-first Century God, on the other hand, seems a god of vengeance, terror and exclusivity. And I fear this may well prove to be a time more dangerous than the day when God died, just prior to the century of genocide.

I do not however agree with Bertrand Russell that were God to exist he would be a differential equation. This too is a false hope. No, that God is dead. This is certain. The God of the Modern era is not to be replaced with more physics, equations and Jesuitical logic. Einstein was wrong; the great Crap Shooter above is no more. That God really, really, really is dead. And as Nietzsche rightly saw, it was we who killed him, by accident and truly without culpability certainly, but we did it. And I do miss God, though to be honest the God of love was dead before I was even born. And I dread the new God on the horizon.


Post a Comment

<< Home