Is God Dead? First Thoughts (1 of 2)

God is dead. No. That’s impossible. If there is a God obviously he (it) can’t die. Perhaps he (it) never was. Okay, then, in this case there was never a God that we at some historical point we foolishly say died.

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” (From The Gay Science (Section 125, The Madman)

Whether God is Real or not, what Nietzsche is telling us is that we have killed the idea of God. Existentialist Albert Camus wrote about the absurd, and this dead God thing is certainly absurd. From Laura Maguire she writes this about Camus’ philosophy of the absurd:

“Take religion. It certainly seems to provide comfort to many people, but this could not amount to genuine meaning for Camus because it involves an illusion. Either God exists or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, then it’s obvious why he could not be the source of life’s ultimate meaning. But what if God does exist? Given all the pain and suffering in the world, the only rational conclusion about God is that he’s either an imbecile or a psychopath. So, God’s existence could only make life more absurd, not less.”

From Fredrick Nietzsche we find ourselves swallowed in nihilism and from Albert Camus we are lost in absurdity. Not a fun place to be. How did we get here?

Let’s say it began in the Middle Ages, Medieval Times, Dark Ages, whatever name you want to think it. This classification was a European sociological construct, ex post facto, applied looking backwards. This in itself isn’t meaningful, it’s something we always do with history, give periods a name. Once you give it a name it becomes something, not just a period of time. Well, if it was “Middle Ages” what was the beginning and what the end? The beginning was the fall of Rome in 476 CE (AD), the end was the Renaissance that began in the 1300s, or 14th Century.

The Renaissance that began in Italy was a kind of awakening (woke) from supposedly a long winter’s slumber. Actually there was a lot going on during the so-called Middle Ages, it was just that the snobs of the Renaissance (French – “rebirth”) felt themselves superior to their ancestors and how smart it was of them to have re-found the treasures of antiquity that made them feel alive, modern.

This all really testifies to that cyclical aspect of history—what went around comes around again, now dressed-up. I grew up thinking of the Middle Ages as the Dark Ages because historians were still looking at this period as empty of significance still buying into the hype of the Renaissance. Once historians began wiping the sleep out of their eyes they began to see, while different, it was a period filled with significance, both good and bad, but isn’t all periods of history like that?

The Roman Empire in the Western world was a really big deal. Wow! I learned something today I didn’t know and it answers questions I’ve had about the so-called Germanic hordes, those tribes that swept through Rome all the way up to Britain. From Spark NotesI read this:

“The Germanic tribes important to Roman downfall originated in Scandinavia, from which they moved south around 1000 BCE. By 100 BCE they had reached the Rhine area, and about two hundred years later, the Danube Basin, both Roman borders. The western German tribes consisted of the Marcomanni, Alamanni, Franks, Angles, and Saxons, while the Eastern tribes north of the Danube consisted of the Vandals, Gepids, Ostrogoths, and Visigoths. The Alans, Burgundians, and Lombards are less easy to define.”

The part I don’t ever remember learning was about this Scandinavian migration to the Germanic territory that would become part of the Germanic peoples. It explains so much about German behavior. These tribes were barbarian, meaning that their sweep from Rome to Britain was not about building but destroying, unlike the Romans who swept northward and built so much that changed the Western world. If there was one positive that came from this Germanic sweep it was when the Anglo-Saxons kicked out Rome from Britain and whatever else they did in Britain they did establish a freedom and the common law that made Britain so different, interrupted only when Willian of Orange from Normandy swept into Britain with an iron hand.

Anyway, this sweep of the Germanic tribes changed the power structure of Western Europe. Power shifted to the Roman Catholic Church. You know the saying, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” well the Germanic hordes created a power vacuum when Rome fell and the Catholic Church stepped in to fill it. It was already becoming important because priests were educated and were called upon to help with documents and translations and brokering peace. 

“The Catholic Church became the most powerful institution of the medieval period. Kings, queens and other leaders derived much of their power from their alliances with and protection of the Church.

“(In 800 CE, for example, Pope Leo III named the Frankish king Charlemagne the “Emperor of the Romans”–the first since that empire’s fall more than 300 years before. Over time, Charlemagne’s realm became the Holy Roman Empire, one of several political entities in Europe whose interests tended to align with those of the Church.)” (History, “The Middle Ages”.)

Outside of Europe was the Rise of Islam would have an impact on Europe when the followers of Mohamad sent armies through the Middle East, even into parts of Europe creating an empire greater than Christendom. The tension between these two faiths centered around Jerusalem, the Holy City for the Christians (and Jews first) came because Muslims now controlled the city charging absorbent fees for anyone (Christians in particular) wanting to visit the Holy Sites. In our attempts to demonize the Crusades as Christian barbarism, like the Middle Ages there was a lot more going on than we give credit. It wasn’t just that bad Christians were out to slaughter good Muslims, and Jews, though there was an element of that, but they also wanted to break the control Muslims held over the city. So in 1095, Pope Urban summoned a Christian army to fight its way to Jerusalem, and this fight continued on and off until the end of the 15th century.

Architecture was influenced by the Church in the Middle Ages especially seen in the largest building of Europe, the Cathedrals, that first were built in Romanesque style, then in the 1200s a new Gothic style came about as seen in Notre Dame Cathedral that recently was greatly damaged by fire.

They didn’t know it at the time, and we know it today thanks to a little book by Thomas Cahill written in 1995, How The Irish Saved The World:The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. It wasn’t just the Irish, but it was mostly scholars in the Catholic Church that preserved history by copying and storing the writings of antiquity, the very writings that in the 1300s would explode into the Renaissance.