Friedrich Nietzsche is most remembered for three words “God is dead“. Sadly, his brilliance may very well have gone unnoticed without this commonly misconstrued sentence. It is important to understand what he is trying to convey in semantic fashion, rather than a literal sense. Nietzsche speaks of God in historical terms. He believes that just as history is created by humans, God is also one of our creations. God is dead because we have the ability and right to destroy it. This creation may have had significance in our past but is useless for our social development now. Unfortunately, we have forgotten this fact and have made the notion of God an ageless and omnipotent part of our lives. Nietzsche believes it is this blind faith that constrains us to a sterile state when instead we should be letting go of our pseudo past. He believes our created God is dominating our lives in an unfavourable fashion.
Nietzsche voices his views through a fictionalized character by the name of Zarathustra.
In ancient history, Zarathustra was an Aryan brahmin from Persia who claimed the existence of only one God.
At the time people worshiped many deities but it was only after him that people generally began accepting the concept of monotheism. The universal idea of one God, although in different forms, has been held to be true ever since. Nietzsche uses Zarathustra symbolically as the creator and eventual destroyer of God. He feverishly runs through a marketplace proclaiming the death of God, while spectators dismiss him as being insane. He seems to have had an epiphany that God is dead to us, but that we are oblivious to his death. The crowd silently stares in disbelief. The madman soon realizes he is ahead of his time and that the crowd isn’t ready for what he has said. The crowd represents humanity, which Nietzsche believes isn’t ready to comprehend that God is hindering our evolutionary progress. He is certain however that a bettering change will occur in the future.
The shock value of the statement is great, even in our modern-day but when put into context it reveals the essence of existentialist thought however difficult it may be to accept. Nietzsche purposely tries to shock his audience, not in a malevolent way but in a way that is conducive to positive change. In his words, the ideal goal is for man to become ubermensch or overman.