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Religion is "a tremendous gruesome shadow," (Nietzsche 167). Christianity, and all institutionalized religions like it, has no real truth to it. Therefore, the masses dilute the meaningless of their lives with lies. The thinkers of the world are responsible for the death of God in the idea that they no longer believe in Him. Yet, there is a multitude of others who still blindly follow in His shadow. It is therefore, the job of the thinkers in society to rid the world of a useless concept which no longer imparts any real sense of meaning into the world; " -- And we -- we shall have to vanquish his shadow," (Nietzsche 167). It is a form of nihilism, which Nietzsche wanted to avoid by looking deeper than its teachings. When the masses found out the truth about the truth, he feared nihilism would take over and continue to spread a message of a meaningless world
In aphorism number 125, this image is continued, but with an even darker twist. In this, the one true thinker is seen as a madman. The one who knows that God is dead is lost in a sea of those who still use his existence as a drug to cure their boredom in an otherwise meaningless life. The madman continuously searches for God, ye he knows he is dead; "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him," (Nietzsche 181). This also explains further the concept that we as a society have killed God ourselves with our pursuits of finding knowledge out side of His existence. We took meaning out of His existence; therefore, we killed Him ourselves. Thus, the madman is the thinker, the new mind which at first disrupts society and looks like he himself is insane. Yet, after time it becomes clear that it is really the society that is insane based on their continuing a belief that is meaningless. He knows, yet no one else does, for "This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men," (Nietzsche 182). It is ironic that we as a society still revel in our blindness and ignorantly follow the institutions which serve to provide us with no meaning in our lives. We killed Him, yet we still have no idea that He is even dead; "This deed is still more distant from them than the most distant stars -- and yet they have done it to themselves," (Nietzsche 182). The revelation of His death would surely be a disaster within human society. It would take all conceived meaning out of our perceived lives, and this is why we continually perpetuate His existence as a way to provide a fallacy of meaning in order to prevent our lives from becoming whole heartedly insignificant.
Nietzsche's philosophy focused on the internal struggle to find any sort of real meaning in life in a world where God is dead -- thus the sense of crisis in modern times. We use diversions to escape our boredom and quell the sense of angst and anxiety that comes with a meaningless existence. The greatest of these escapes is in deed religious institutions. We create our own worlds of experiences. Thus, humans try to find meaning in life, as well as a cure for their boredom. It is within this sense and understands that Nietzsche posited the fact that we create our own myths and beliefs about existence to quench our never ending quest to find meaning in our lives and end the boredom. We create escapist fantasies that we then substitute as reality. This philosophy makes up Nietzsche's first aphorism, which is first introduced in Book I and continued later throughout the work. We are an escapist society, one that seems to want the diversion over the truth of reality.
Religion, then, serves as our largest and most popular escape mechanism. Nietzsche himself states that "Prayer has been invented for those people who really never have thoughts of their own and who do not know any elevation of the soul or at least do not notice when it occurs;" (Nietzsche 185). Religion is regurgitated to us by others, and not internal conceptions which would at least make it more of perspective truth. Rather, it is a lie that serves as a way to ease the angst and anxiety of the masses who would otherwise be bored with a meaningless existence. Therefore, trying to find any real sense and meaning utilizing religious ideology is senseless. Additionally, falsely and blindly believing in what we know to be false only hinders our search for any sort of real meaning in our lives.
Thus, Nietzsche must look deeper than the religious exploitations of what is supposed to constitute meaning in his search for it. Although he posits radical and provocative ideas, he states that this is necessary to pave a new path towards deeper understandings of ourselves and the world around us. In order to make any real hedge way, we must first abolish the old ways which represent pure fallacies. This radical thinking is seen as controversial, but according to Nietzsche, "What is new...is always evil, being that which wants to conquer and overthrow the old boundary markers and the old pieties; and only what is old is good. The good men are in all ages those who dig the old thoughts, digging deep and getting them to bear fruit -- the farmers of the spirit. But eventually all land is exploited, and the ploughshare of evil must come again and again," (Nietzsche 79). Thus, it is his mission to look deeper than religious zealously, which is imposed upon us by human institutions. In this mode of thinking, the death of God is a gift. It is the opening to a new understanding, and a way to pull ourselves out of the cave and expose our minds to more than just mere shadows; "as if the new dawn shone on us; our heart overflows with gratitude, amazement, premonitions, expectation," (Nietzsche 280).
Nietzsche also explains the idea of eternal recurrence in his work The Gay Science. This idea posits the concept that the universe does not change, but inevitably repeats itself throughout time and does so for eternity. It always has and always will be recurring in some form or another. Although many of us like to assume that there is some sense of progression, some forward motion toward more meaningful truth; Nietzsche states that this is not the case at all. Rather, it continuously repeats itself throughout eternity. Thus, there is no progression towards higher meaning by itself. With no God, this continues to make life meaningless. However, it does also show that life can exist without the deity. We can exist and persevere if the meaning is taken out of our current falsehoods. This shows that there might be a way to continue forth even with the knowledge of the death of the deity.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. Vintage Books Publishing. 1974.
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