What Nietzsche Meant by “God is Dead”

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? “

Few quotes in Philosophy have been as controversial as Nietzsche’s declaration that “God is dead”. Few quotes have been just as misunderstood.

In popular culture the phrase is often mistaken as an anti-Christian statement. Some sort of declaration of Atheism. This is most obviously manifested in Christian content like the film God’s Not Dead. In the movie, a disgruntled atheist professor demands his students declare the death of God and embrace atheism.

At first glance it could be understood why this is a popular Interpretation. “God is dead”, is a pretty bold statement that seems to be offering an anti-Christian message. This is pretty far from the truth though.

The line is part of The Parable of the Madman a section from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science. It depicts a maddened individual running around a village asking where he can find God only to declare that God must be dead. In his ever creative style Nietzsche is using this madman as an outlet to explore an idea. Particularly he’s interested in the shifting values of European culture during his lifetime.

Nietzsche saw Europe was slowly transitioning into a sort of cultural Nihilism. As advancements in science and technology lead to more and more questioning of the status quo, Philosophical values were beginning to shift. What Nietzsche is getting at here isn’t a declaration of the truth value of Christianity. In fact truth is a topic Nietzsche is extremely critical of. Instead he’s pointing out the weakening of Christian influences on society.

It might come to a surprise to some but Nietzsche didn’t really see this has a positive thing. In fact the anxiety of the madman reflects well on Nietzsche’s feeling towards evolving culture. He was actually fearful of losing Christianity as the dominant Philosophy. Even though he was extremely critical of it, he recognized how Christianity was very good at maintaining peace among the masses. It gave people purpose, kept them focused and mostly non violent. He was concerned that absent of Christian values there would be mass nihilism. Mass nihilism that could totally destroy Western Civilization and potentially lead it into chaos.

This fear of popular nihilism is actually a pretty common theme for Nietzsche’s work. A big focus of his philosophy was trying to find solutions for getting past nihilism. Finding ways for individuals and society to not get trapped by a lack of truth and meaning but to use it as a springboard into a more empowering lifestyle.

Nietzsche is extremely critical of Christianity but to take “God is Dead” as a sort of atheist statement is just wrong. Nietzsche is one of those thinkers that is easy to misunderstand and take out of context but hopefully this clears things up. “God is Dead” simply means “The Christian god is becoming increasingly irrelevant to philosophy and culture”. 

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Me and Mediocrity

I think one of my biggest character flaws is a certain contentedness with just being slightly above average. Sure I own a business and I’m on a forward tilt but I’m certainly not living out my potential.

For example just this February I got my tax returns and and was able to cover all my bills with very little work during the month. I probably put serious effort into projects no more than a couple days out of the month. I could have chosen to cancel one of my lunch dates and instead seek out a new job, but I didn’t. I could have gone to bed earlier and woken up with an extra couple hours to design new products for my t-shirt store, but I didn’t. Instead I spent the month just chillin’.I hung out with friends, consumed video content, all around just didn’t accomplish the things I could have. I did just enough to get by and feel sorta productive.

Is this a problem? Probably. I don’t need to be the next Elon Musk but I’d like to make some more money and reach consistent financial independence for once. So let’s disect my relationship with Mediocrity.

Life is a Rollercoaster

Most my periods of unproductivness are usually following some sort of truama or minor crisis. Unexpectedly a business I’m working on fails hard and I don’t feel motivated to do anything for a week. Or even more common, I develop some sort of relationship (a roommate, a girlfriend, etc) and that results in total choas. Throwing me for a bit of an existential loop. Just recently I escaped an unfortunate living situation. A mentally ill roommate was creating and unsafe and uncomfortable environment. It was difficult to get anything done when there was the constent risk of my roomie pulling me aside be they were concerned that they “heard” me saying terrible things about them. Hopefully it can be understood how this made things hard to productive. A clear lesson can be learned that I may need to become a better judge of character. Before working with people or moving in with them I need to get to know them better. However the real issue here is that after escaping the situation I was still in an on going unproductive mood. But why?

I think I can pinpoint maybe 2 causes and ideally 2 solutions will result as I write this out.

1) A fear of failure.

This one is probably obvious. I have a habit of doing just enough to get by because going beyond that has a lot of risks. I hate investing time and energy into a project just to end up loosing. If I’m already coming out of a bad experience then the last thing I want is to feel even more like an idiot. Maybe I can over come this with intense self evaluation (hopefully this post will help!). However I think fear is best handled head first. There’s a point where I just need to try harder and I’ll get over it.

2) A fear of missing out.

This one is bit more personal. I have an intense disinterest in the being the type of person who has to say no to social events or going on adventures. I can definitely pin point many times I’ve neglected work because some pretty girl invited me to go get high. I think this stems mostly from a lot of childhood confidence issues. I genuinely, for a long time, thought I would die some sort of virgin loser with no friends. As a result I had some hardcore effort to over come these social ineptitudes. I was successful in that regard! My social and romantic life is extremely fruitful. However now I don’t want to lose it. I hate saying no to party invites because I just never really know if I’ll get another and that makes me feel lonely. I think I would benefit from learning to say no more. This could start by committing to a more strict schedule, maybe only partying on weekends. I should also set more clear work goals. I should learn to only engage in fun after completing my work and if I can’t do that I should cancel and get back to the grind.

I know greatness is just around the corner. I just have some personal hurdles to overcome before I reach it. Fortunately ever year is better and better so I know I can do it.

On Reason and Emotions

There’s this understanding of the relationship between logical and emotional thinking that I particularly dislike. Its this idea that reason and emotions are somehow conflicting forces. That they are at a tug of war over our minds. That one can be “too logical” and therefor must learn the right balance. Popular culture often views reason and emotion as a Yin-Yang type force.

I think this is a poor way to understand logic. Instead of viewing logic and emotion as a Yin-Yang it would be better to look at them as hierarchy. A hierarchy where logic must be embraced before we get into emotional thinking. This is not to say you should avoid any passion. Passion is an essential part of the human experiencing. My point is that in order to make sure our emotions are legitimate we need to first filter it through our reason. Logic is simply the acceptance of the basic rules that govern our reality. Without a base understanding of truth our emotions can be unreasonable. Without a logical guard in place we simply get lost in feelings.

We ought not see reason and emotion as conflicting forces in need of a balance. They are compatible parts of an intricate system but a system where logic must come first. They part of an order of operations for an authentic experience.