April 02, 2007

Coping Mechanisms: religion's not the only one.

Many Christians place blame on authors of secular philosophy for causing the downfall of the modern Church. Nietzsche, who is considered one of modern Christianity’s most formidable philosophical foes, espoused the idea that “God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him!” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science). His writings have no doubt influenced modern society and culture in vast and prolific ways, still, the American Church fools itself into thinking that what Nietzsche had to say in the 1880s actually bears any weight in the Christianity of today.

Growing up in church, I always heard about the evils of secular philosophy, and how they are at fault for the Church’s lack of reverence and “Pure Religion” (see James 1:27). As I have grown, however, I see that the Church is often in a state of great complacency. Even if the world is going to Hell, it doesn’t mean that the Church must decline. On the contrary! She should do no less than to rise to the occasion and prove that religion is no more a “coping mechanism” than secular philosophy. She must turn around the argument.

Even if the supernatural and the religious only existed simply because religious individuals subconsciously think that there is a need for it, or that it will give them comfort when facing the fears of death and eternity, I would argue that the atheistic and the anti-religious exists for the exact same reason. The religious may need their God, but the irreligious of the world crave godlessness, if only to justify their immorality or to make sense of their pain.

I would say that in a sense, Nietzsche is no more a realist that the Romanticist writing in order to eradicate the past, tradition, and the religiously stiff, but just as the Romantic period sought to break away from the Enlightenment, so the Realist Movement sought to break free of the tenants of the Romantic Era. Nietzsche aimed in all his work to provide a new meaning for human existence in a meaningless world. In the absence of any transcendent sanction, men must create their own values. Nietzsche's writings are either analyses and criticisms of the old system of values or attempts to formulate a new system” (Gale Literary Index).

By reading the selection of Nietzsche assigned by my Western Literature professor, I have come to recognize that the ideals of one man cannot be at fault for the complacency of an entire institution which he was not even connected to. I have also recognized the fact that Nietzsche was only doing what countless other writers have done-- pressed forward in a social reform which conveys very little logic, and even less benefit for the world.


Slatts said...

Interesting read. but is not "turning the argument around" really evading the skeptic's criticism? Even if I succeed in proving that their belief system is a coping mechanism, that doesn't negate the idea that religion is also one, and in fact, such a silence would be tantamount to an affirmation.

Arguing over the psychological origin of beliefs is an informal logical fallacy anyway, and only pushes the the real question ("is a belief true, and if so can it be grounded?") further into the background.

Bob Carder said...

Very thought provoking! Excellent

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