I've uploaded my essay on the meaning of Nietzsche's claim that 'God is dead.' It is not overly philosophical, so give it a read.
For background information, I've included the full Madman passage from The Gay Science. For me, it remains a piece of unimpeachable literary excellence.
A couple weeks ago I wrote a paper on Nietzsche's Madman and his pronouncement of the death of God. While researching I came across this passage by Bernard Martin, which is certainly not what Nietzsche meant by "God is dead" but is interesting nonetheless.
It is necessary to kill God! Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ One can, in all good conscience, kill God, for the true God does not himself be killed. He is beyond all deicidal tendencies. And yet, it is necessary to kill oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s God!Ã‚Â
It is necessary to kill the God that we have learned! God is not learned. And if I have learned something about God, I can be certain that this is not truly he. The instruction that I received about God in my childhood was perhaps necessary. But today the God learned in my childhood no longer has any meaning. I am no longer young, and I need another God, the true God! Thus I must kill the God learned, even if it means that I can no longer proceed!
It is necessary to kill the God that I devise! The God that I dream up is never God. The thoughts that I am able to come up with concerning him never begin to express his majesty. My understanding can be extremely cultivated, yet the God that I imagine is always inevitable other than what he truly is. So I must kill the God that I have imagined and conceived, or I will risk remaining in a sterile and permanent thought. This God that I have imagined must die.
It is necessary to kill the God of my faith! Throughout my life I have been devoted to God with all my soul. In spite of appearances, I am still devoted to him with all my soul. But what must die is the God of my faith. My faith cannot reach God, and my theology, no matter how orthodox, will never be able to be a durable and absolute theology. And if I claim it because one day I make it on my own, then I am condemned to no longer understand what it is about. God is not dependent on my faith. He is, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all. I must acquiesce in killing the God of my faith! Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
From If God Does Not DieÃ‚Â (pg 19-20) as qtd. in Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Graveyard TheologyÃ¢â‚¬Â by Vernon C. Grounds in Is God Ã¢â‚¬Å“DeadÃ¢â‚¬Â? (pg 32).Speaking of Nietzsche, I was at Barnes & Nobles and ran across Benjamin Wiker'sÃ‚Â 10 Books That Screwed Up the World. Nietzsche's Beyond Good and EvilÃ‚Â was in there, along with Marx, Darwin, Freud, etc. It's basically fundamentalist anti-intellectualism masquerading as serious scholarship. I almost laughed out loud when Wiker said Nietzsche's madness & then death was a result of his profound atheism and not, say, of syphilis-induced dementia.Ã‚Â
John Caputo: In Circumfession, you say that you “rightly pass for an atheist” (“je passé à just titre pour une athée”) Instead of just saying that you are an atheist, you know. Why don’t you just say, “I am an atheist” instead of “I rightly pass…” Is it because you have some doubts between the distinction between atheism and belief in God? Or some doubts about whether you are an atheist? I mean, suppose someone said, interpreted that to mean, “I am to all appearances an atheist, but appearances can be deceiving. So don’t be too sure, perhaps I am not”…?
Jacques Derrida: I, I’m not, simply the one who says “I.” On the other hand, I think that we may have some doubts about the distinction between atheism and belief in God. If the belief in God is not a cultural adaptation, if it doesn’t go through a number of atheistic steps –- that is, not only the critique of idolatry, of all sorts of images in prayers (especially in prayers) but also in the critique of onto-theology, the re-appropriation of God in metaphysics, which as Heidegger says, doesn’t know anything like prayer or sacrifice, the ontotheology –- so if one doesn’t go as far as atheism one doesn’t believe in God. So the true believers know that they run the risk, have to the run the risk, of being radical atheists – even [Emmanuel] Levinas says somewhere that in a certain way he’s an atheist because he doesn’t understand God as an existing Being. God is not an absolute Being – so if you go through what we know as negative theology, apophatic theological criticism, and so on, and deconstruction – if we don’t go as far as possible in this direction of atheism, then this belief in God is naïve and totally inauthentic.
Now, in order to be authentic – this is a word I almost never use – but in order to be authentic, belief in God must be exposed to the absolute doubt. And I know that the great mystics are experiencing this. They are experiencing the death of God, or the disappearance of God, or the non-existence of God, or God as being called as non-existent: “I pray to Someone who does not exist in the strict metaphysical meaning of ‘existence’ that is ‘to be present as an essence or substance’ or ousia.” When we think of epekeina tes ousia [Good beyond Being] according to Plato’s, even Heidegger’s, terms, “being beyond Being” the Good, in Plato’s terms being beyond Being, epekeina tes ousia. If I believe in what is beyond Being, then I believe as an atheist, in a certain way. Believing implies some atheism, however paradoxical it may say. I’m sure that the true believers know this better than others, that they experience atheism all the time – and this is part of their belief. In this epoche, this suspension of belief - suspension of the position, the existence of God – it is in this epoche that faith appears. The only possibility is faith in this epoche.
So when I say “I rightly pass as an atheist” I know that because of everything that I’ve done so far, say in terms of deconstruction and so on and so forth, I’ve given a number of signs of my being a non-believer in God in a certain way, an atheist. And nevertheless, although I confirm that it is right to say “I’m an atheist”, I can’t say myself “I am an atheist” as a position, see “I am” or “I know what I am”: “I am this, and nothing else and I’m identifying myself as an atheist.” I would never say… this would sound obscene: “I am.” I wouldn’t say “I am an atheist” or I wouldn’t say “I am a believer” either. These statements, I find them absolutely ridiculous: “I am a believer, I know that I am a believer.” Who knows that? Who can affirm and confirm, “I am a believer.” And who can say “I am an atheist?” I just write such sentences, that is the only thing I can say…