Anyone who, in the past, might have read my blog posts knows that I have kept quotes to a minimum. But after a few mostly random visits to a recent thread which, among other things, featured a lively debate involving atheists and Christians, I thought that I might profitably post several relevant quotes, one from Friedrich Nietzsche and one from Dr. David B. Hart.Nietzsche, as you should know, is a very influential figure, arguably the founder of, and the motivating spirit of, what we now call post-modernism.
Although we might disagree with his arguably seductive but inconclastic, poisonous and notably bleak philosophy, we must concede, nevertheless, that Nietzsche has turned out to be one of the most prescient and insightful of the so-called post-Enlightenment philosophers, someone whose words we ignore at our peril.
Dr. Hart, a college professor and philosopher, has in turn, written much about modern society and the intellectual miasma in which we now find ourselves. However, because he is a Catholic writer, he will no doubt be summarily, perhaps angrily, dismissed by most non-Catholic readers, atheists or agnostics especially. Yet, one can always hope that at least a few readers will judge his arguments on their merits, not rejecting them because of the his alleged religious "bias".
But to cut to the chase, lets now attend to what Nietzsche had to say:
"....Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern...ran to the market place and cried incessantly: I am looking for God! I am looking for God!...Where has God gone? he cried. I shall tell you. We have killed him, you and I. We are his murderers.But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? WHAT DID WE DO WHEN WE UNCHAINED THE EARTH FROM ITS SUN? WHITHER IS IT MOVING NOW? AWAY FROM ALL SUNS? (emphasis added)....Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space?...........God is dead. God remains dead......What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed to great for us......[but] I have come too early....my time has not yet come...The tremendous event is still on its way......".Yes, the great event, was then (i.e. in the late nineteenth century) still on its way.
Yet, for many it has now arrived: it is "old news". For many, however, it may still be in transit.
But for those to whom the package has already been delivered as well as for those who may not be expecting delivery any time soon, we must now turn to Dr. Hart:"......It is, at the very least, no longer possible to believe, in naive Enlightenment fashion, that moral truth is something upon which all reasonable persons can agree, or that it is something that, in being grasped, exercises an irresistible appeal upon the will; nor is it possible any longer to deceive ourselves that a humanity free from religious authority must inevitably advance toward higher expressions of life rather than retreat into....barbarism. Either human reason reflects an objective order...which awakens the will to its deepest purposes and and commands its assent, or reason is merely the instrument and servant of the will........
"When Nietzsche....pondered the possibilities that had opened up for Western humanity in the age of unbelief, the grimmest future he could imagine was a world dominated by the 'Last Man,' a race of empty and self-adoring narcissists sunk in banality, complacency, cynicism and self-admiration. For him, the gravest danger confronting a nihilist culture was the absence of any great aspirations that could prompt humanity to glorious works........
"Nietzsche's fears seem almost quaint now, given how much more nihilistic we know a truly earnest nihilism can be. Christian society certainly never fully purged itself of cruelty or violence; but it never incubated evils comparable in ambition, range, systematic precision [than did the twentieth century]......If the quintessential myth of modernity is that true freedom is the power of the will over nature -- human or cosmic--and that we are at liberty to make ourselves what we wish to be, then is it not necessarily the case that the will of the individual should be privileged over the 'will of the species'. If there is no determinate human nature or divine standard to which the uses of freedom are bound, it is perfectly logical that some should think it is a noble calling to shape the facile clay of humankind into something stronger, better, more rational, more perfect.............To fail to acknowledge this would be to close our eyes to the possibilities for evil that have been opened up in our history......".