"Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him"
(The Gay Science, Friedrich Nietzsche 1882)
The idea that “God is dead” (from the German Gott ist tot), also referred to as “the death of God,” first appeared as commentary in 1882 as part of a German publication Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (The Gay Science). Attributed to Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844 -1900), a German philosopher, poet and cultural critic, “the meaning of the phrase is often misunderstood.” Nietzsche did not believe “in a literal death or end of God.” His concern was more with the “western world’s reliance on religion as a moral compass and source of meaning.” His philosophy, in general, was more centred on the idea of “life-affirmation” and a passive, nihilistic point of view.For some, this statement defined Nietzsche as an atheist. For others, it “reflects a more subtle understanding of divinity.” For Nietzsche, it expressed his fear that “the decline of religion, the rise of atheism, and the absence of a higher moral authority would plunge the world into chaos.” He recognized that “the western world had depended on the rule of God for thousands of years” and so religion “gave order to society and meaning to life.” Nietzsche believed that, without God, “society will move into an age of nihilism” (complete denial of all established authority and institutions). He warned that life “will turn away from itself,” leaving “nothing of value” in this world. Although Nietzsche is considered a nihilist by definition, “he was critical of it and warned that accepting nihilism would be dangerous.”
“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. 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?”
(The Gay Science, Section 125, Friedrich Nietzsche 1882)
(The Gay Science, Section 125, Friedrich Nietzsche 1882)
The question “Is God Dead?” appeared on the cover of the April 8th 1966 edition of Time. The inside article “addressed growing atheism in
The ‘death of God’ movement had reared its ugly head in North American
theology. Also known as theothanatology
(the belief that God is dead), the idea that religion was dying off and that a
theistic God may not exist was much in fashion in intellectual circles at the
time. It was a growing trend among Atheists, Agnostics and secularists alike.
The article speculates that the question of God’s status “tantalizes both believers, who perhaps secretly
fear that he is, and atheists, who possibly suspect that the answer is no.” Although
the idea of God being dead is no longer in vogue, it continues to garner debate in academic circles and throughout
theological schools of thought. America
A May 2011 Gallup poll showed that “when given only the choice between believing and not believing in God, more than 9 in 10 Americans say they do believe.” The 1 in 10 surveyed revealed that “they have no formal religious identity.” Other statistics showed that “a lack of religious identity increased in every
U.S. state between
1990 and 2008,” however, “less than 2% of the population describes itself as
atheist.” Indicators show
that “the number of
Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid
pace.” People autonomous to religion “increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. U.S. adults,” with more than “13 million
self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the public),
as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious
affiliation (14%).” On the 12th of September 2011, a Canadian Ipsos
Reid poll, titled "Canadians Split On Whether Religion Does More Harm in
the World than Good", sampled 1,129 Canadian adults. 30% claimed they “do
not believe in a god.” The study found that the number of Canadians “who
believe in a deity are dropping at a significant rate.” U.S.
“What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.”(Christopher Hitchens, British-American author/journalist)
On occasion, I saunter down to the end of my street and seek refuge from my wacky world in Victoria Park. On a summer day, I usually take a good book and a bag of treats for my feathered friends. The park is located in the downtown core ofMy regular spot hides just over the creek on one of the small islands which direct the flow of the quaint waterway. An aging iron bridge leads me there. Amid dense spruce trees, and next to several large flowerbeds, my bench is secluded for the most part. I come here to clear my mind and free my spirit. Like a form of meditation, the time I spend alone in this haven seems to cleanse both my body and soul. When the wind softly blows and the trees sway in accord, I close my eyes and I am taken away. I can hear the rustle and sense the other people, but for a moment or two, I can always find a glimmer of peace. I feed the wildlife, even though I am not supposed to. It is an experience I never tire of. To commune with God’s creation, to recognize my place in it all, this is what it means to be alive. This is the reason I return again and again to my favourite spot just beside the water at the end of my street.
and tends to act as a gathering
point for bikers, walkers and overheated children. A large splash park, a small
lake and paved paths leading in all directions attract a cornucopia of citizens
out to experience nature in an urban setting. Ducks and geese abound and
children, usually screaming for gratification, attempt to scatter away from their
families throughout the play areas, all the while running through goose poop
and wet grasses. Schneider Creek
feeds the manmade lake and encourages trippers to stop and sit on a bench to
enjoy the view. Kitchener, Ontario
She cried out from the bridge and quickened her pace towards me. She wasn’t more than four or five years old, but her vocal chords were already well trained. She stood only so tall, but her auburn hair was long and free flowing. Her purple shorts matched her colourful t-shirt; it was painted with white daisies and fit her ever so tightly. She was slim and energized and did not even notice me as she ran to the flowerbed just before my position. Her mother followed right behind. For a moment, I cursed them both under my breath for intruding on my privacy. Damn the public park!
With little hesitation, she climbed right into the mass of geraniums and purple lilies, almost a match for her colour scheme. She seemed like a sweet little girl, but man, she sure could scream. Her cries of exuberance were not quite enchanting, but her joy could be heard throughout the area. You could tell from her energy that she was thrilled to be amidst the rainbow of plant life. She walked about the garden rapidly, spying on each blossom, each flower, like it was a piece of heaven. Her Mom cried out to her, “Carrie, get out of that garden!” Little miss sunshine simply continued to gaze.
Sometimes when I am around children I forget how innocent and impeccant they really are. They never cease to amaze me with their insight. The simplest things are the most incredible to them. I sat there watching with a smile, despite her banshee wailings. They still lingered in the air like fog and smoke. Once again, her mother called out for her to cease and desist, but these sounds of fury outweighed them all. The wee thing bent over, picked herself a lily, and after hiding it behind her back, then made her way in leaps and bounds to the bench her killjoy had found for herself. She stopped dead, revealed her gift and said, “Mom, look what Jesus made.”
“Only sheep need a shepherd.”(Voltaire - François-Marie Arouet, French historian and philosopher)
He must have been at least seventy-five, perhaps even eighty years old. He stood on the corner with his small wicker basket, nodding to all as they passed his way. Although limited by the lack of teeth, he tried to smile nonetheless. It was not that he appeared frayed, by any means, but his body looked weak and frail beneath an oversized suit jacket and ill fitting slacks. His hat was dapper, brimmed with a light blue trim-ribbon, and pinched perfectly to each side of his face. Perhaps it had been Sinatra’s fedora, tossed to the crowd when he played the Toronto C.N.E. Grandstand in September of 1984. Just maybe this younger fellow had reached out from that crowd of revellers and clutched the prize. It seemed to make this man.I just assumed that the pamphlets he attempted to give each passerby were either promotional flyers from some business in the area or Watchtower material from the Jehovah’s Witness temple down the street. Each soul within his reach was met with a colourful page with wording I could not discern from my vantage point. With only fifteen minutes left in my lunch break, eye spied this old man in a sea of people. It was not that he seemed timid, rather he struck me as unobtrusive, careful not to offend. He was sure to offer each one his gift of paper, but he never forced it upon anyone. As each message disappeared into an ocean of irrelevance, he carefully took another and then another, not once hesitating in his mission. He never spoke a word.
The wicker basket that held his revelation was made for a fisherman, but the cap to hold things in tight had been removed and was nowhere to be seen. His shoes were old, but nothing in comparison to this gent. Each sole had seen far better days. Even the obvious polish he had used to hide their scars was aging rapidly and crumbling from being well worn. Despite his attire, and overall appearance, I didn’t feel sorry for him. Sometimes people just glow with a form of energy, an aura if you will. He may have appeared to be one way, but his output was vibrant. No lack of nimbus could explain his glow away. He radiated, apparently quite happy to be doing what he was doing.
The warm morning sun began to give way to darker afternoon skies, a harbinger of all the wet that met the rest of the day. With my free time quickly ending, I dropped my cigarette to the ground, stood rather quickly and fixed myself as I pressed my boot to ensure my bad habit would not spread to anything vulnerable. I took one last look at the man and his hat and started walking in a direction which would not cross his path. Something overtook me, rapidly reaching inside and suggesting that I turn around. I could not help myself, I just had to see. As I approached him, he reached inside his carrying case and pulled out a yellow page. Not two, not three, but just one perfectly timed to hand me. He nodded, as if offering a hello. I smiled at him and said “thank you” before I softly walked away, his canary coloured disclosure in hand. “God loves you and I do too,” was all it had to say.
“Alone, I often fall down into nothingness. I must push my foot stealthily lest I should fall off the edge of the world into nothingness. I have to bang my head against some hard door to call myself back to the body.” (The Waves, Virginia Woolf 1931)
She was mean, bitchy and quite the curmudgeon. She went to services anyway. Long before my family arrived in Strathroy and began attending theMy mother used to talk to Dora all the time back when the old girl was alive. Miss Fortner had taught her English and Poetry when my Mom was in public school. She only ever had good things to say about her friend. She never understood why I found the experience of her such a hard pill to swallow. I suppose I have never really taken to something so bitter. She was friendly enough, and well liked among the congregation, but I don’t ever remember seeing her smile. The more people talked about her, the more the newspaper published her work or got her input into current events, the more I struggled with understanding her disposition. I mean no disrespect, but every time I ran into her at Church or saw her out in public, I wondered how she had gotten such a big stick up her butt. I couldn’t even stand reading her poetry.
she was in her pew, in her spot, week after week for years. I always assumed
that someone of her social and intellectual calibre would not take part in
religion, but I was only a kid so what did I know? I have to admit that as a
pre-teenager I did not care much for Dora P. Fortner. She seemed sour to me.
Even when I won a poetry contest in grade six, judged by the Grinch, she
appeared to begrudge everyone for making her partake. Taking a photo with her for
the local newspaper, The Age Dispatch,
seemed more like torture than an academic reward. I wouldn’t say I didn’t like
her so much as I just didn’t get her. She was a well known citizen, a published
writer and poet who received great respect for both her achievement and her
wisdom, but she put off such a nasty vibe. I found it hard to be around her for
any period of time. United Church
When she died in 1988, the town celebrated her life. The Age made nothing but grand gestures regarding the lady and her work. My mother cried at the funeral, or so I was told. The Church welcomed her into heaven with not even a pause to consider it. She had lived most of her life primarily as a recluse, shielding herself from the world in a rugged home near the flour mill where my first partner passed away. Her poetry was well received and she published collections of it throughout her life. Her work in Flights of Fancy (1955) and Daydreams (1958) made her somewhat of a local celebrity. I’ve always found her work rather tactile and observational.
People never cease to amaze me. I am always surprised at what lies beneath our social facade. In the summer of 1980, I first realized that not everyone is who they seem. My Mom had arranged for me to take instruction, to be tutored by her aging friend. I recall being quite intimidated as I knocked on her door. For a moment, I thought that the house was about to cave in, all creaky and broken and frail. Inside was like a museum. Antiques and books, so many books, filled the space. It reminded me of some old professor’s office in those black and white British movies they used to play on late night TV. She welcomed me into her home and we headed to the back of the house and her private study. I stepped inside and I couldn’t believe my eyes. From floor to ceiling stood Christianity, represented through art and sculpture and literature. Everywhere you looked, you could tell that Jesus had been there. I would not have been shocked to have discovered Him under a pile of papers or magazines. Apparently, there was so much more to her than met the eye.
"Because you have seen me, you have believed;Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
(John 20:29, NIV)
I see glimpses of God almost every day. Since I was young, I have always been in tune with a presence I could not deny. I am aware of Him, in spite of the harsh life I have lived. I see Him in nature and hear Him in song. He can be found in children, in the aging, and even in memory. I will not believe that God is dead. He must live. I have witnessed Him in children, in the aging, and even in my memory. I can see him all around me and I am not the only one.
I am constantly noticing signs of life.