GOD IS DEAD
Tuesday 23rd August 2016
SUMMARY of meeting on 7 August 2016.
Geoff Locke spoke about FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, the man who said "GOD IS DEAD".
Nietzsche's father was a Lutheran pastor, but when Nietzsche was 4 yrs old, father contracted a brain disease and died within a year. This had a major impact on Nietzsche, who in young adulthood fell off a horse in the cavalry and later as a medical orderly contracted a disease from a war casualty. Suffering was a major feature of his thinking.
He shared Shopenhauer's view that suffering was the essence of existence, caused by a clash of human wills; the only escape lay in the extinction of will or in enjoyment such as music, a view also shared by Wagner, who was a friend of Nietzsche. Eat, drink and be merry even to excess was part of his lifestyle. It is to throw yourself into pleasure like a raindrop into the ocean, loosing your identity and hence not suffering.
The friendship between Wagner and Nietzsche ended when the composer produced 'Parsifal' which uses many Christian images.
At the university of Bonn, he gave up on theology as untrue, even though it was very rationalistic and studied classical literature, especially of the Greeks, with its emphasis on life's tragedy. Socratic logical thought led to atheism and on to pessimism and nihilism. There are no absolutes of any kind, even in Science.
He wrote much and it was in his poetic book 'Thus spake Zarathustra', he made the famous statement 'God is dead', meaning God has been killed as a concept. This probably came from the Zoroastrian thinking that good and evil are opposites but equal. Nietzsche proposed that no view is right or wrong, but (as in his book 'Beyond good and evil'), behaviour is governed by saying 'I will', might is right and the superman shall rule.
Nietzsche eventually became mentally broken, thought to be caused by contracting syphilis in his rebellious youth, was committed to an asylum and died in 1900 at the age of 55.
Hitler had a high regard for Nietzsche and we can see why, but it is thought there was no direct link and Nietzsche would not have condoned what the Nazis did. Likewise Nietzsche was not anti-semitic or anti any person. Shortly before he became mad, he intervened when he saw a horse being badly beaten and lovingly put his arms around the horse's neck. His nihilistic thinking did not lead him to abandon the need for human care and love.
This raised a question about the divide between our reasoning and our practical living. The antidote to nihilism was to avoid logical thinking and get drunk, but can anyone live at all with pure nihilism ?
A comment was made that the Bible is more concerned about people living as though God did not exist, rather than any simple theoretical statement against belief in God.
Yet another is the question of truth; often perhaps what matters most is what works in life, though this assumes we have some basis for judging what works and what does not work. There has to be some underlying values that we subscribe to, such as goodness, peace and fulfilment. It is sometimes said that Christianity is accepted by trying it as a way of life, rather than persuasion by arguments of belief. Likewise, caring for each other is so fundamental; a recent item was seen on a website showing a church congregation and above them were the words 'We belong before we believe'.
In our ideas about God, there seems to be two differing views for practical living; one says God has a plan which we must discern and obediently follow; the other says we too can play our own part and make our own contribution to the ongoing creativity of life.
This is linked to the question of authority; who or where does authority lie, in society, in politics, in church etc.?
In Nietzsche's thinking, God is replaced by individual will and in society by whichever mighty human can take charge.
(Nigel Jones, 9 Aug'16)