Is “God is Dead” dead?

Great post by Brad Wright:

In 1882, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche declared that “God is Dead.” With this statement, he didn’t mean that God has suffered a physical death of some sort, like slipping on an icy planet or something, but rather that humans had lost their ability to believe in God, and as such religions, like Christianity, had lost their moral basis and would not last long. Nietzsche wasn’t the first or last person to predict the decline of organized religion. Among the other predictions: clip_image002

  • In 1710, English thinker Thomas Woolston said Christianity would be gone by 1900
  • Voltaire said in religion would crumble in 50 years
  • Thomas Jefferson said in 1822 that “there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian”
  • Famous dead-white-guys Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Sigmund Freud each predicted that religion soon crumble
  • Renowned sociologist Peter Berger wrote in 1968 that in “the 21st century, religious believers are likely to be found only in small sects, huddled together to resist a worldwide secular culture.

Read the rest of Is “God is Dead” Dead?

14 thoughts on “Is “God is Dead” dead?

  1. steph says:

    I think generally speaking human beings need religions. They need to ‘know’ the answers to questions about existence. They need the comfort of community with ‘purpose’. And most importantly, I think, they need to know what happens when we die and I don’t know any religion that doesn’t offer some sort of comforting continuation after death while most religions expect animals to expire without a future beyond their death. God(s)will only die if humans do. Mind you even the chimpanzee do the raindance so perhaps they are religious too. 🙂

  2. Ben says:

    Are you willing to tease out a little more how an agnostic processes the need for religion? It would be good for us to hear.

  3. steph says:

    That’s just my own opinion from several years of studying religions, religious and non religious people and the questions they ask – and just looking at how societies work. The questions are what do people believe, why do they believe it, what is it about and where does it come from. I don’t know what happened to me – I’m just left with that empty hole of giving up on ever knowing anything and expecting to expire forever when I die. But that just makes me more determined I think to be useful during my existence and make my existence have had a purpose. It doesn’t really matter to me that I will never know how I came to exist. I was never that interested in science. 🙂

    • Ben says:

      Thanks, Steph. I’m sure if we ever met, we’d have a some fun discussions.

      From my own faith perspective, I know that belief for many people is just socio-cultural shaping. I think people of faith that break out of their socio-cultural mold have to have some kind of personal (subjective) encounter with God that helps them beyond what one of my professors called the “the circle of despair” – the despairing realization that all intellectual reasoning (including our own rationals for our beliefs) will eventually be found to be circular.

      Paul’s recorded “Damascus Road” experience is a dramatic example of the subjective encounter I’m thinking of. (Although I didn’t say “conversion,” this encounter radically reshaped Paul’s understanding of God). In my own experience, this “encounter” with God seems to have radically different manifestations depending on the person. (Emmaus Road–Luke 24–is another striking image that comes to mind, but in reality this “encounter” is usually much more subtle). The bottom line is that God seems to subjectively “meet” us and somehow gives us the gift of belief. I’m guessing that religious sociologist have explanations for all of these radically different “encounters”, and I suppose I’m agnostic about how that process actually occurs (a bit mystical?).

      In my own periods of “emptiness” (to use your words)–two of them lasting years–I felt like I needed some type of subjective evidence of God active in the present. Otherwise, what is the point? I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but for what it’s worth, that has been my own experience. My suggestion to people that are openly questioning is to simply to pose a question to God (if there is one) to give some kind (any kind) of subjective evidence. I know this sounds hokey, but frequently I hear surprising results.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective and getting me to reflect more on my own.

  4. steph says:

    I don’t feel empty holes in the sense of despair. I chose the wrong words … I’m not much of a scientist, I don’t know much about biology and medicine, and I don’t know why we are here or what we are and what it’s all about. Gee, I can’t know everything and that doesn’t stress me out. But there are lots of things that excite me that I can investigate. Life would be dull if I had all the answers for things I may not need to know. But if I have a revelation and understand all about medicine or have an experience and believe in a God, I’ll embrace the new knowledge. I find it quite difficult to explain myself. Although I study religion I never really think about my own perspective on Goddy things. 🙂

    • Ben says:

      I guess in our field, there is a good chance we’ll run into each other at some point. I’ll look forward to it.

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you were despairing. I was reading “emptiness” for you as simply “absence” of any specific feeling or spiritual experience of a God. Is that about right?

      It is interesting how we can study a subject, but not reflect too much on our own perspectives of it.

  5. steph says:

    ps I’m sure we will meet some day. 🙂

  6. steph says:

    Not really – I don’t feel any lack of experience, absence or emptiness. Maybe it’s filled with the knowledge of no knowledge. Besides, I don’t think I lack a sense of spirituality – perhaps inspired by nature like the sea, the bush and the mountains.

    • Ben says:

      I feel the same way about being out near the sea, mountains, and other open nature.

      I won’t try any more qualifications; “emptiness” is officially dropped ;-). Maybe we can just leave it at agnostics don’t claim to have the same “encounter” with God that many followers of Jesus are claiming to experience.

  7. steph says:

    Probably, but remember I speak for myself, not for ‘agnosticism’. This weekend my cousin and I are going to Mahia Beach where Moko the dolphin hangs out, and then across to Lake Waikaramoana to tramp through the bush around the most awesome place on the planet. This is my ‘God’ experience.

  8. stephanielouisefisher says:

    Check out the panoramic view – my cousin lived four months in the bush last year, (doing something for the department of conservation) Gorgeous.

    And here are more photos:

    and stories about Moko:

    on Mahia Peninsula…

    We’ll rent a cabin at Waikaramoana and stay in a family cottage/bach at Mahia.

    • Ben says:

      Enjoy it. I won’t complain too much. I just spent two days next to a small lake ringed with flamingos, giraffe, zebra, hippo, and other wildlife. Just me and Christi. (I said a brief hello to the 4 people we saw the entire two days.) In such peaceful settings, I always like to ask, “God, do you have anything specific to say to me here while I enjoy your scenery.” I really enjoy those moments.

  9. stephanielouisefisher says:

    The thick dense dripping luxurious native bush of NZ and our birds, and clear waters, are what make me tingle. It was awesome in the true sense of awesome. I felt the presence if there was one. The area is very sacred according to Maori tradition and the waters sure did have healing qualities. I swam miles across the lake, and walked miles up through the bush. Waterfalls, thermal gushes, … it was BLISS!!!!

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