Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher, a son of a Lutheran minister. His father died when he was five years old. Probably the loss of a father at such a tender age is what led him to detest religion with an unbridled fervor.
Among his literary works is the controversial parable known as the Parable of Zarathustra. In this parable, Nietzsche wrote about a momentous, cosmic catastrophe, the “death of God.”1 A mad man (probably symbolic of Nietzsche himself) announces the “death of God” to a jeering crowd of skeptics gathered in a market place for no apparent reason. The mad man proclaims hysterically, “God is dead…we have killed him.” Of course, that is impossible in the literal sense, for God is self-existent and uncaused. He is the only One whose reason for his existence lies within himself. What Nietzsche was doing here was heralding nihilism, which rejects religion and moral principles. By rejecting them, Nietzsche understood that he was rejecting their Source.
But the ramifications of having “killed God” are not lost on Nietzsche: “How can we the murderers of all murderers comfort ourselves? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now?” The magnitude of his pronouncement had the potential to unhinge the very order of life on earth, rendering everything meaningless. With the “death of God” comes the erosion of all values and morals, and the introduction of anarchy and lawlessness and unprecedented violence. Using metaphors and similes, Nietzsche admitted that nihilism could be calamitous as mankind would attempt to become his own god: “Do we not ourselves have to become gods…?” The repercussions of assuming such a morally autonomous position would result in a ghastly a debacle. Although the parable is presented in a pendulous and ambivalent manner by being both liberating and disastrous, the bottom line is that this kind of worldview would inevitably usher in an era in which the relevance of the Moral Law would be questioned if not rejected. Everything would become permissible, to echo Dostoevsky. A few decades after Nietzsche came individuals such as Sigmund Freud and others who claimed that religion was nothing more than a basic infantile intellectual level, probably classified as being at the bottom rung of the evolutionary ladder.
At the heels of the birth of such a worldview, came the 20th century; so far regarded as the bloodiest and most violent century.2 Slowly, as mankind distanced himself from the dictates of the moral values, life began to lose its sacredness. This trend continues as we hear of people getting shot or maimed or stabbed or bludgeoned to death for the most trivial reasons. Mankind is, indeed, straying through “infinite nothing.” As belief in the moral values began to wane, a wave of darkness began to encroach upon humanity, true to Nietzsche’s prophetic pronouncements: “Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning?”
Nietzsche himself spent the rest of his life in an insane asylum and in the care of his family. He was silent most of the time. In his book, The Last Journey of Jack Lewis: A Conversation of C.S. Lewis with Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud, Chang-Wuk Kang claims that “When he was in an insane asylum toward the end of his life [Nietzsche] recited Bible verses from time to time.” He was only 46 years old when he died in 1900.
1 Fordham University (n.d.). Modern History Sourcebook: Nietzsche: Parable of the Madman. Accessed from http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/nietzsche-madman.asp
2 Francis P. Sempa (2012). The Bloodiest Century. Accessed from http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2007/0103/book/book_sempa.html