London Live TV, a London-based channel, aired my recent documentary: Is God Dead in the City which you can watch here:
As a documentary-maker, journalist, and Christian, I wanted to challenge Nietzsche’s assertion that:
‘God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us?’
I always found a paradox in Nietzsche’s philosophy. He laments ‘us’ as ‘murderers of all murderers’ for the death of God and the morals that spring from religiosity. Yet, his way out of this is to value our lives as individuals. The Ubermensch, or ‘Super Man,’ would represent the individual who could build a world based purely on their value system without conforming to societal or religious values, and carve a reality that could only be recognised as their’s.
So what sprung from Nietzsche’s philosophy?
Firstly, his own madness. Whilst in Turin, Nietzsche saw a horse (as the story so goes) being whipped by his master. The inconceivable suffering of the horse sent Nietzsche into an existential quandary from which he never recovered. The medical analysis at the time meant Nietzsche was diagnosed with tertiary syphilis. As knowledge of mental illness has progressed, however, it is more likely he suffered from manic-depression, dementia and psychosis.
To say that his denial of God lead him to psychosis is extreme. I do, however, find it interesting that as he had started to rewrite Bible passages under the title The Antichrist, he became immersed into a devilish nightmare, sprung from his own disconnect to goodness and light.
Secondly, Nazism. Whilst Nietzsche himself would not (we can assume) condone Hitler’s vile actions, it was Hitler’s reading of Nietzsche that opened his mind to the Ubermensch. The concept of the ‘Super Man’ led characters like Hitler and Mussolini to construct the perfect race: ‘the Aryan race.’ In carving an individual value system that denied religious morality and God, Fascist’s like Hitler were capable of being free from omnipotent rule and became God Himself; a ‘God’ that killed millions of innocent people and prevented the birth of many more.
Now, you may read this and scream ‘God’s killed millions of people too!’ But that is where you are wrong. Man kills man. God does not. He created free-will for people to chose how to behave and function on Earth. Choosing to kill in the name of God doesn’t mean God did it. It is like killing in the name of ‘Francesca Nicholls’ although I myself never asked you to do it.
In the documentary I spoke to a number of people, from Atheists to Imam’s, Aetherian’s to the Baha’i. What I recognised was that spirituality and belief is a miracle. As Johannes Climacus claimed, faith is a gift from God whereby an individual can conceive of time beyond the temporal. It is a gift that entitles human beings to have an awareness of their consciousness as ordained by God. Faith is not a construct made by people who are fearful of death and are concerned about providing meaning for themselves, it is a gift bestowed by God himself. It is the act of, what Climacus calls ‘virtue of the absurd,’ or repeating our faith, that stops us from losing touch of the miracle we have been blessed with.
Now, to reiterate why faith is not some construct to make people ‘feel better’ but is, rather, a gift, we only need to look at history. Atheistic writings existed in 570-475 BCE by Xenophanes of Colophones, Plato himself acknowledges that there are atheists in his society and Epicureans were a society of atheists. In all societies atheism has existed and, consequently, secularism can no longer be seen as ‘the world evolving and removing religiosity from the world.’ It’s, to be frank, bollox. Atheism has always existed. It isn’t a badge of intellectualism or progression that you have completely denied all faiths and the spiritual realm. In fact, as a once atheist, I can safely say that I closed off anything beyond the seen. In doing so, I was ignorant of attempting to understand why millions of people over the centuries have revered the spiritual realm. Getting off my high-horse, I began to examine faith and recognise that, regardless of the institution through which you find God, having faith is beautiful, enlightening and integral to humanity.
To be an atheist is to believe in no God which is, therefore, a belief system. To believe in no God is your right. Yet I warn you that if you claim like Nietzsche had done that ‘God is dead’ you are already recognising he was once alive.
We have been killing him throughout history, as is evident in the atheistic belief that has always been in our society.
I learned a lot through my documentary. Notably it was this: Faith in God, no matter what form that takes, is a gift, like Climacus says. It is the gift that keeps on giving, and the gift we must constantly remind ourselves of.
To be ignorant, in faith or out of faith, is unacceptable. But I know for sure that I would rather be singing and worshipping a divinity in spiritual realm with any of the wonderful faith leaders I met then only engage in the temporal, seen world and to be blind from the magnificence of God.
If you can genuinely look out into the expanse of the Universe and tell me this is all there is then I lament your inability to expand your mind beyond the now.
Please comment below if you’d like to engage with this discussion.
(Screenshot of Rabbi, Priest and Imam I interviewed as part of ‘Is God Dead in the City?’ for London Live TV)