“I look upon myself as a child of the age, a child of unbelief and doubt; it is probable, nay, I know for certain, that I shall remain so till my dying day. I have been tortured with longing to believe-am so, indeed, even now; and the yearning grows stronger the more cogent the intellectual difficulties that stand in the way.”
-Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1854
Every society throughout history has had at its core a religion of some sorts; some type of unifying faith which said that man either was, or had the potential to be, part something bigger. The faiths spoke of something that transcended our seemingly meager lives here on earth, and from this religion stemmed the essential notions of God, Purpose, and Truth.
From these faiths we drew our understanding of what was right and wrong; which aspects of society were constructive, and which were destructive.
In 1882, the German philosopher Frederich Nietzsche popularized the phrase, “God is dead, and we have killed him.” Thus the whole of western society, and indeed the world, began to walk down an unfamiliar road. Through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, man had strolled the streets of skepticism, questioning everything. In the twentieth century, he scaled the mountains of existentialism…denying the Truth of his neighbor, in favor of the Truth which he decided for himself.
And he reaches the twenty-first century already well established in the doctrines of post modernism.
For now the tree of civilization has been uprooted. What new soil will we contrive to plant ourselves in? By what waters will we quench our thirst? If God is dead, then as Nietzsche says, “Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”
For the whole of humanity has within her a desire, even a hunger for something greater than herself.
With the death of God we have robbed ourselves of that which has fulfilled a need within us since time immemorial. We have robbed ourselves of Purpose.
Now the notion of God is no longer acceptable in “rational” talk…for we have killed him, and in doing so have removed the respectability of the very ideas of God and Purpose from the shelves of our libraries and the lecterns of our academic institutions.
Through our questioning and our skepticism we have denied so much, and we have come to the conclusion that so much of humanity’s desire and supposed “need” for something greater is based upon childish ideas and primitive yearnings.
And there it seems, we have stopped.
We have questioned…yet not really sought answers.
And the tree that is humanity sits suspended in mid-air, starved of all nutrients; for we have taken the soil out from under it.
In the throes of mankind’s adolescence, we have shaken off all restraints and limits…and we have stepped into the place of creator and definer.
But as Chesterton says, “The moment you step into a world of facts, you step into a world of limits.”
The tiger has stripes and the elephant has a long trunk…to seek to define them as anything other than what they are is to seek to abolish the very idea of an elephant or a tiger…And the destruction of an idea fails rather miserably at defining it
We have decided that so much is not correct…but what then are we left with? What do we do now? Where do we go from here? Will science quench humanity’s thirst for Purpose? Does science really do away with humanity’s need for Purpose?
What is Truth?
What is Real?
Is Truth indeed relative?
In our crusade for correctness…have we been so skeptical, as to let even Truth pass us by?
My goal here is not to defend the notion of God (whatever you may understand the term to mean), and I certainly do not attempt to defend any religion .
Here I ask simply whether or not God/Purpose is really within our power to abolish? If it is, then should it really be done away with?
What are the ramifications for seeking to toss aside the greater things to which mankind might aspire?
Is whatever we might contrive to replace those things really better?
Nature abhors a vacuum, and the void within our hearts where God once dwelt will not remain empty for very long. What new thing will take it’s place? Will anything ever take it’s place?
Under the banner of Progression we march boldly forward into the unknown.
But what self-inflicted disaster might befall us if we march boldly off a cliff?
This is not to advocate societal stagnation, or even a childish fear of the unknown; but if we are to be a mature and responsible race then we should put aside the headstrong recklessness of adolescence.
We must temper boldness with prudence, and walk with wisdom down those paths we have not tread…
“No! Come back,
With all your torments!
Oh come back
To the last of all my solitaries!
All the streams of my tears
Run their last course for you!
And the last flame of my heart-
It burns up to you!
Oh come back
My unknown God! My pain! My last-happiness.”
- Frederich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Every One and No One