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Enlightenment And The Death Of God

3440 words - 14 pages

Enlightenment and the Death of God

Intellectual thought since Nietzsche has found itself one way or another addressing the death of God. Most of this thinking, however, has taken place from an atheistic starting point and has not considered its own presuppositions. It strives to find consistent outworking from these presuppositions and to eradicate the shadow of God carried over from the Enlightenment tradition because of its grounding in a theistic worldview. However, the outcome and implications of thinking after the death of God has been found hideous and many attempts have been made to transcend the absurdity there.

THE DEATH OF GOD

    Nietzsche proclaimed in The Gay Science, "God is dead: but given the way men are, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown.-- And we -- we still have to vanquish his shadow, too."[1] The death he witnessed was the tide of atheism that has dominated science and philosophy since his time. This atheism invariably comes from one of two different backgrounds: Enlightenment science and Enlightenment morality.

    One of the major products of the Enlightenment was science. As humans were deprived of their previous significance as children of God in the center of the universe, human knowledge was elevated and empirical science became enthroned as the greatest realization of human knowing. As a result, metaphysical knowledge was pushed aside in favor of strict empiricism. God and Christianity were not so much denied as pushed aside, first into deism, which removed him from the world without clashing too much with Western culture, and then all the way into atheism. For the most part, atheism that comes from this perspective has not been bothered by its own implications, yet it has become very widely accepted because of the continuous secularization of the modern world.

    The second type of atheism is much more rare. It is based on a moral denial of God, and usually carries a much deeper understanding of the implications of his absence. It is stated best by Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov, through the character Ivan Karamazov who takes issue with God over the suffering of innocent children and declares that since he cannot understand or forgive injustice he will reject God, preferring to stand with the wicked rather than accept the suffering as part of his Lord's perfect plan. Camus seems to advocate this form of atheism too in the section on metaphysical rebellion in The Rebel and also in The Plague, where the protagonist, Dr. Rieux, concludes, "since the order of the world is shaped by death, mightn't it be better for God if we refuse to believe in Him and struggle with all our might against death, without raising our eyes toward the heaven where He sits in silence" (117-118). This form of rebellion, the denial of God even if He does exist, is much more logical and coherent than the atheistic assumptions of science, but both rest on Enlightenment...

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