"God is Dead." -Friedrich Nietzsche

"God is dead" remains one of the most famous quotes from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
It has been more than 130 years since the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche declared: “God is Dead” (or Gott ist tot, in German), giving philosophy students a collective headache that’s lasted from the 19th century until today. It is, perhaps, one of the best known statements in all of philosophy,
The quote is often misunderstood or taken out of context.  Nietzsche was referring to how the Enlightenment had contributed to the erosion of religious beliefs, which had long served as a foundational belief system for much of the world. 
Nietzsche was an atheist for his adult life and so he didn’t mean that there was a God who had actually died, but rather that our idea of one had. After the Enlightenment, the idea of a universe that was governed by physical laws and not by divine providence had become mainstream. Philosophy had shown that governments no longer needed to be organized around the idea of divine right to be legitimate, but rather by the consent or rationality of the governed — that large and consistent moral theories could exist without reference to God. This was a tremendous event. Europe no longer needed God as the source for all morality, value, or order in the universe; philosophy and science were capable of doing that for us. This increasing secularization of thought in the West led the philosopher to realize that not only was God dead but also that human beings had killed him with their scientific revolution, their desire to better understand the world.

The death of God didn’t strike Nietzsche as an entirely good thing. Without a God, the basic belief system of Western Europe was in jeopardy, as he put it in Twilight of the Idols: “When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident… Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole.”

The Übermensch

Of course, as Nietzsche saw this coming, he offered us a way out: The creation of our own values as individuals; the creation of a meaning of life by those who live it. The archetype of the individual who can do this has a name that has also reached our popular consciousness: the Übermensch.
But you might ask, if God has been dead for so long and we are supposed to be suffering for knowing it, where are all the atheists? Nietzsche himself provided an answer: “God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown.” Perhaps we are only now seeing the effects of Nietzsche’s declaration.

Indeed, atheism is on the march, with near majorities in many European countries and newfound growth across the United States heralding a cultural shift. But unlike when atheism was enforced by the communist nations, there isn’t necessarily a worldview backing this new lack of God, it is only the lack. Indeed, British philosopher Bertrand Russell saw Bolshevism as nearly a religion unto itself; it was fully capable and willing to provide meaning and value to a population by itself. That source of meaning without belief is gone.
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