What did Nietzsche mean when he claimed that God is dead?

Leila asked:

When Nietzsche said that God is dead, what exactly did he mean? What I think is this. That men are making a mistake by believing in a God’s society (the Church) is presenting him, who is supposedly dead because of the society changing and that one should search for a God through their own consciousness and use that for the individual determination of values. I know I must be completely wrong on this.

Answer by Martin Jenkins

How do you know you are completely wrong?! On the contrary, many writers maintain what you propose. Nietzsche could be saying that the Judeo-Christian God has died along with his philosophical/ theological justification (i.e. metaphysical theology/ philosophy). If there is to be a new God (or many gods? See Old and New Law Tables 11. Thus Spoke Zarathustra) it will be either one corresponding to the table of values of a people. For instance, in The Anti-Christian, 16, 17, 18, 25, 26, he traces the alterations of the Jewish peoples’ understanding of their God made in response to their changing material circumstances. In this sense, Nietzsche is similar to the Non-Realist school of Theology. This mode of thought proposes that ‘God’ is a projection of human traits and values. (See the works of Ludwig Feuerbach and Don Cupitt.) It does not objectively exist independently, it is a human creation but non the less, possesses a reality as an ethical construct. So God would be a symptomatic projection of a peoples ‘table of values’ at a given time and place. Nietzsche may well be read as opposing the Judeo-Christian conception of God and opening a space for the re-valuation of It.

However, Nietzsche opposes the equality of human beings because this defies the nature of life itself-which is will to power. As are all supposedly equal as creations of and, as before God, it seems safe to conclude that Nietzsche would oppose this. Let’s not forget that a lot of his writings are an attack of Judeo-Christianity and its descendants in the modern forms of secular equality and democracy! In addition, if equality follows from the one God, that Nietzsche opposes equality, he must therefore oppose the one God. In this sense, he could be opening up the possibility ‘that one should search for a God through their own consciousness’ and their determination of values. Fine, but this seems to me to create more problems.

Firstly, an individual determination of values is open ended: it might result in the very rejection of a God as we know it along with all the Biblical and Theological/ Philosophical architecture which informs us we are talking and thinking of the same entity. Secondly, the ‘individual determination of values’ would be lauded by Nietzsche but it does not prima facie, lead to a single God-it could lead to as many gods as there are creators. Again, a plurality of gods, their natures and characteristics, might be irreconcilable with that of the single God. Thirdly, the concept of God might be superfluous with Nietzsche’s revaluation of values. People remaining true to the earth would realise that they-and not any other entity-are the authors of their values. God would be redundant.

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