Is God Dead?
345-102-MQ Nietzsche and Dostoevsky
I have never been a believer in God, however when the time came to pick a side in a debate about whether “God is Dead,” as the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche announced, I could not help but say that no, God cannot be dead. In all honesty, I had not realized how difficult answering this short question would be. After countless hours of researching, that is to say rearranging the words “God” and “death” in every combination in Google’s search engine and doing various tasks to the sound of hour long debates on God’s existence found on YouTube, I still feel wholly unequipped to discuss the matter. All I can do is share the arguments that I found along the way, the arguments that, while not fully converting me to any type of spirituality, broadened my horizons in a surprisingly refreshing way.
Obviously, the grip that Christianity had on our society has died down leaving our western world run by science, but does that truly answer the question of God’s supposed death? Is it not ridiculous to think that the sterile practice of science can replace God? What people fail to recognize is that even if God is a completely man-made construct and pure delusion, the complexity, the ambiguity of the lie is a further reason to disentangle the two. We clearly have a need for God, even if it is only a made-up concept. In my research, I tried to steer clear of any religious text that tried to convince me of the existence of a miraculous man in the sky, because in my opinion, God is much deeper than organized religion. If we agree that God is something bigger than us, then God can be found in those expansive, irrational, transcendent feelings that we feel as humans. The feelings of awe and bliss we feel upon seeing the beauties of nature or the overwhelming joy we are overcome with when listening to our favourite songs. These out of body, ecstatic feelings, these are the signs that we’ve come upon something greater than ourselves. I am claiming this, quite unsure of how smart it sounds but then again, how can the experience of God ever truly be verbalized? There is no way around the shakiness of the claim. God is in the nuances, always.
Furthermore, if God is dead, there can be no transcendent reality because “God” is the name we give to this concept. Transcendence is a daunting word mainly because of the meaning it holds, or tries to hold because we know that such a complex idea cannot be contained in a simple 13-letter-word. Transcendence means a reality that is beyond our physical one. A universal, infinite reality that is merely felt. As humans, we are much more than bodies on this earth. Even Nietzsche, who claimed that “God is dead,” had to use terms such as “spirit” and “soul” to solve his questions and explain the intangible concepts or forces that transcend us and our language. Dostoevsky too, in his love for the human psyche saw humans in all their intricacies. In Crime and Punishment, he explores Raskolnikov’s drives, the ones that are bigger than him. His confession to a crime he would never have been caught for, for example, is fuelled by an intangible will to do good and right his wrongs. That transcendent reality is what I would call “God”.
To explain God’s death, one could claim that God does not create anymore. But how is that so? What about babies, plants, and animals? After all, new ones are being born everyday. Of course, the species have been created, but does their uniqueness not make them distinct creations? Additionally, God creates meaning. It could be said that God does not exist. That it is us as humans that create the meaning we put onto God but does this not mean the same thing? If one finds meaning through their belief in God, does the meaning not still come from God? Maybe it does not come from the Holy Father in the clouds, but it comes from God as a greater force, a will to find meaning, something that all of us experience, regardless of the semantics.
After reading this ramble, one might ask: “If you are not describing God, why bother calling it that?” It is true, I am not describing the God we usually talk about, the omnipotent, omnipresent, divine father, but I am confident that my definition is valid too. I use the word “God” because of the meaning that the word holds. By calling these complex experiences, drives, impulses, irrational feelings, “God,” we allow them to hold significance, we accept their importance to us. Science cannot explain everything that makes us humans. In this sense, Nietzsche would agree with me. We need a God, or simply, we need the label. So go out. Live. Experience all the complex emotions that make you human. Experience God.