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DEATH OF GOD IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE: A CRITIQUE

Philosophy and Religion Project Topic: Death of God in the Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche: A Critique


ABSTRACT

Nietzsche was so much concerned with a philosophical polemic against western metaphysics. His struggles take the form of a comprehensive critique of culture, of which Christian religion is not an exception. As far as he is concern, there are two kinds of morality, namely, slave morality and master morality. The former slave taught by Christianity. It is the morality that encourages weakness of character, and fears the strong and the powerful that have liberated themselves from divine commands and prohibitions, and have rejected the slave morality taught by Christianity. This work is centered basically on Nietzsche’s moral philosophy, which has for a foundation on his assertion that God is dead. Nietzsche’s atheism is peculiar he does not actually mean that God does not exist but that God is dead. Furthermore the death of God is seen in one hand as liberation for man. God is dead and man is free, man is being freed from the oppressive divine commands and prohibition. But on the other the death of God is seen as a disaster. For the hole of European civilization was based on belief in God as taught by Christianity. Therefore the death of God means the collapse of European civilization and morality and so by saying that God is dead Nietzsche simply means that he is dead in the heart of man in Europe during his time. In other words what he is saying in essence is that people no longer believe in god despite the fact that god is the very foundation of European civilization. In chapter one I discuss a philosophical attack on religion. The notion of different philosophers about religion or God. Chapter two, Nietzsche as an atheist. Chapter three, society as religion-less, the effect of society without religion or morality. And finally, chapter four is the critical evaluation and conclusion.

CHAPTER ONE

PHILOSOPHICAL ATTACK ON RELIGION

1.1     RELIGION AS THE OPIUM OF THE PEOPLE- KARL MARX

About two centuries ago, Karl Mark, one of the great Proponents of communism posited that Religion is the opium of the people, that is, what makes people to become dazed. He thought this was because he presumed that religion did not allow people to think and develop their potential. It keeps them asleep and incapable of doing anything useful for the self. That is why he proposed his own “religion”, “Communism”, where he looked forward to a time that the proletariat would rise up and conquer the bourgeoisie, the ruling class. He envisaged religion as a form of oppression where the rich and the powerful would be protected by religion and the poor were neglected. At the time many thought that he had dealt a very deadly blow to religion by perceiving it as a means of oppression that made people sleepy. The Marxist era is very far away from the contemporary world where money and its possession have turned religion into a powerful tool in the hands of the crafty and shrewd human beings. A little illustration will throw light on the discussion at hand. Some years ago chief Zebrudaya, a comedian presented a certain pastor who demanded some money for Baptism and indicated that to obtain complete baptism, the person involved had to pay a certain amount of money otherwise it would be incomplete. The pastor in question used an American accent. He emphasized that to be baptized in the Trinitarian Formula -in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit- the person had to pay ten naira at the pronouncement of each of the three persons in one God. Ten naira at the time would have been about Ten Thousand Naira equivalent in today’s world. To be baptized with full right in the Trinitarian formula with triple immersion, according to the supposed pastor, would cost thirty naira then and about thirty thousand naira now.[1]

1.2     NEGATION OF CREATIVE POWER OF GOD BY THEORY OF EVOLUTION-CHAR LES DARWN

Darwin’s theory of evolution does not have space for God nor religion. He proposed that humans evolved from animals and later on evolved from animals and later on developed. Although evolutionary theory conflicts with religious doctrines on creation, its scientific ideals are never controversial among biologists Darwin stressed that there is a struggle for existence (or survival). According to him, “some individual have better equipment for survival than others and they pass the favourable traits (Characteristics) offspring.”[2] By the same token, Individual who lack the outstanding characteristics are likely to die without reproducing, He referred  to this disadvantages as being weeded out by natural l selection.

1.3     NON OBJECTIVITY OF RELIGION/SOCIAL DIMENSION –   LENIN.

It was above all Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, whose unhappy experiences of state and religion in Czarist Russia (his brother Alexander had been executed in connection with the murder of Czar Alexander 11 on march1, 1881: an event that deeply shook Lenin) had filled him with an indescribable hatred for everything religion, who argued and agitated most vigorously against religion. For him, religion was no longer, as it had been for Marx, “opium of the people”, to whom the people abandoned themselves to alleviate their misery. Religion for Lenin was more on the lines of the pre-Marxist enlightenment “Opium for the people. But a slave who has become conscious of his slavery, and who has risen to the height of fighting for his emancipation, has half ceased to be a slave. The class-conscious worker of today, brought up in the environment of a big factory, and enlightened by town life, rejects religions prejudices with contempt. He leaves heaven to the priests and bourgeosis hypocrites.

In his main philosophical work, materialism and empiriocriticism, Lenin confirmed his view of religion and at the same time rejected any complementation of Marxism by other philosophical trends such neo-Kantianism, positivism or empiriocriticism. But he was shrewd enough, even after the October Revolution, to tolerate supporters of deviationist ideological trends in important positions in party and government. Nevertheless, there could be no doubt about the party line and Lenin’s wholly personal view of religion. Nowhere did he express more clearly his decided rejection of Christianity than in a letter in 1913 to the writer Maxim Gorky, who was inclined towards religions socialism (belonging to a group that claimed to be “God-seeking or God-Creating”) and tried to reconcile religion with Marxism . “The popular conception of little gods and of the divine is the result of popular ignorance, exactly as is the ‘popular’ conception of the Tsar, of goblins, of dragging wives by the hair. How you can call the popular conception of God a ‘democratic’ one is absolutely beyond me”.

1.4     EVIL IN THE WORLD – DAVID HUME

Hume’s resolve to devastate religion did not end in stripping the argument for the existence of God of its glamour; He launched a menacing attack from his observation of evil in the world. He contends that “if a very limited being who is totally ignorant of the universe were assured that it were the production of a very good, wise and powerful being. The limited being will form a different notion of what the world is by experience. He would never imagine from the attribute of the being which he is informed that the effect i.e. the world could be replete with vice, misery and disorder as it is in this life.”[3] Assuming that this limited being were brought into the world still assured that it was the workmanship of such a sublime and benevolent being, he would certainly be perplexed and disappointed. Hume further argues that supposing this creature is not antecedently persuaded of a supreme intelligence, powerful and benevolent but is left to gather such a belief from the appearance of things, the limited being will never find reason for such a conclusion5

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[1] D. Udoette, “Commercialization of Religion in Nigeria”, in L. Umoren, ed, Shalon, Vol.20,No.2, 2009 p.6

2  A.A. Okezie,  The Failed Attempts to Assassinate Religion, Enugu: God’s Will Prints Entr, 2007, p. 50.

[3] A.A. Okezie,  Op. cit; p.7.

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