The New God of Man by Lauren E. Munroe
During the 19th century, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) states that the Christian God is Dead. Nietzsche argues that the destruction of the Christian God-driven society should not be mourned. By this monumental destruction, individuals will become the creator of their own destiny through their own will and ultimately, enter the level of Übermensch. German philosopher Max Weber (1864-1920) understood Nietzsche’s argument for the destruction of the Christian God to refuel individual creativity while remaining loyal to the individual will. Both Nietzsche and Weber recognize that humans keep constructing new Gods to mask the primal phobia of emptiness. The most recent God of man is—capitalism.
In this paper, I first explain Nietzsche’s argument for the death of the Christian God, the birth of art and science, passive nihilism, good versus evil, herd mentality, the camel, lion, and child, active nihilism, creativity, the will and the Übermensch (overman). Second, I explain Max Weber’s argument of characterology and anthropology that creates Total Personality. Third, I explain that American society has created a God called capitalism that one must follow to be “successful”, and when one fails (like the sinner under the Christian God), an individual will enter economic “Hell”. Lastly, I argue that an individual must implement their own will to test this God called capitalism to decide if it is a destroyer or supporter of creativity and the will.
Nietzsche made a damning declaration within western society that the Christian “God is dead” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 125) when he witnessed men and women no longer wanting to invest his time and works into religious devotion and doctrines that confined their choices to only contemplation and ultimately, physical works that benefited the church and every household as long as their foundation was built upon the Christian doctrine which kept society in order under the guidance of The Bible (doctrine). More importantly within the Christian faith, collective contemplation and any works should only benefit the ultimate maxim—the Christian God. The Christian God emphasizes that this world is not to be lived for; this world is a testing ground for the eternal resting place for souls which is heaven. However, if human beings do not follow the laws of the Christian God that are explicit in how a human being should live their life, then human beings will find themselves in hell for their disobedience.
Out of a combination of fear, faith and obedience, human beings followed these rules blindly and without question. Even when some of the laws were deemed to be too harsh or not clear in explanation, there was an immediate dismissal of the questioning within the individual. Human beings, fearing that the questions that were building within themselves were only remnants from sin that man inherited from the first human beings, Adam and Eve, and not just natural curiosity as to why they were following and or condemning a person, place or thing. Religious artworks were needed to reiterate the message within everyday life that human beings are to remain in their societal station and perform their duties well; the collective hard work benefits the church and ultimately those who sacrifice (mainly the poor) were to reap the most benefits within heaven after they were dead. Early forms of artwork supported this framework (normally, a peasant in real life would be painted as a peasant and a king in real life would be depicted as a king). Also, it was imperative that the detail of artworks that depicted religious leaders (pastors, popes, priests, martyrs, monks) have a sever, aesthetic appearance of or look forlorn and otherworldly. Again, artistic works were not to deviate too much from this formula, as it would disturb the order in which everyone was to adhere to so that the Christian God would bless them and root his divine power into western society.
Developments and practices within the realm of science was viewed many times as blasphemous because science negated many explanations of Earth’s beginnings and ultimate end as it was discussed within versus of the bible such as Genesis and The Book of Revelation. An example is scientist Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) who, after being charged with heresy by the pope, was burned at the stake because he supported Copernicus’s discovery that earth is not the center of the universe. This blatant dismissal of both common sense and natural curiosity resulted in a warped practice of Christianity and patriarchy that resulted in numerous bloody wars, violent, incoherent politics and millions of innocent lives lost. Over time, this tower of religious inconsistency crumbled due to the birth of the enlightenment where creative individualism within the artistic world as well as proper logic within the communities of science unignorably swelled to mass proportions and their unique concepts were a compliment to the celebration of life instead of loathsome.
This entire upheaval was the history that Nietzsche was examining when he made his God is dead declaration. Next, Nietzsche realized that after this abrupt death of God, many human beings would mourn the remains of the Christian God. Then, there were those persons who were not mournful (and were instead, preoccupied with the artistic world, the scientific community and or were atheists) that wasted no time with ripping the Christian God from society and destroying him maddening fervor. Nietzsche’s Madman states “We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murders” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 181). Next, Nietzsche realized that those persons (lovers of art, science and atheists) who were full of pride once they removed the Christian God from society, did not have any plan as to what would be the proper direction for human beings once they destroyed the Christian God that ruled their society. Nietzsche’s Madman reflects within his words the same arrogance that the people of the market display when he breaks down the results of the destruction of the Christian God. The madman references Copernicus’s scientific discovery; that in supporting this scientific discovery, there was no demise of all humanity and creation when turning from the creation and sustainment concept within Genesis to man accepting scientific proof and explanation of this natural occurrence—a flippant response to those who are embracing creationism and reject science “What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun?” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 125). Again, the people’s pride clouded their judgement as to what was needed to rebuild a society that, even though art and science were now prevalent, there were many who were still suffering because they did not feel that these two practices that replaced the Christian God were enough to heal the raw, jagged hole that was now present within the. They still moaned for the passion of their Christian God.
Nietzsche describes this behavior as a state of emptiness when a human being is caught between the states of both stagnation (in a state of mourning) and creativity (a full acceptance of a world destroyed for the creation of a better one). Overtime, because of a refusal to enter a state of creativity, one instead enters a pessimistic state, or more specifically, passive nihilism. Passive nihilism is the belief that there is no intrinsic meaning to life and or living “That there is no truth, that there is no absolute nature of things nor a “thing-in-itself.” This, too, is merely nihilism—even the most extreme nihilism” (Nietzsche, The Will To Power, 14). This, again, normally occurs after an abrupt upheaval of one’s core beliefs (mostly religious) and has been replaced with a more concrete system that eliminates the false, psychological light that one dwells in out of fear of meaningless strife and no reward; that we as human beings just exist robotically until we die “Our pessimism: the world does not have the value we thought it had. Our faith itself has so increased our desire for knowledge that today we have to say this. Initial result: it seems worth less; that is how it is experienced initially” (Nietzsche, The Will To Power, 22). Nietzsche states that a human being should not fall to despair after a rough revelation such as their beliefs and or God(s) being destroyed due to overwhelming logistic, scientific discovery and or other fact(s) that other persons lay new foundation for.
Why such resistance to dynamic change? Nietzsche describes this both internal and external conflict due to the emotional, psychological and even physical breakdown of human beings by the learned Christian doctrines that are necessary to destroy independent thought, spirit and become a “child” (new, malleable) for the Christian God to use you as he sees fit. With the direction of the Christian God gone within society, the teachings are still buried within the individual and the believers, collectively, become one herd “Most of the Christian God’s children are suffering economically, emotionally, physically and even spiritually due to a person having to have faith no matter the circumstance and having no immediate proof of divine communication except written biblical text that was written many years after Jesus’s (the Christian God’s son) death. The next burdens that the Christian believer must adhere to is viewing every action within this life as either good or evil and judging every human being and their station within society as good or evil. The Christian believer is not allowed to judge each person and or situation through an Aristotelian lens. The person observed is only forgiven and accepted as good if they renounce all material things, their station, and this world for the next world, which is heaven. This way, everyone who is a follower of the Christian God are all equal—there is no one greater or better than anyone; there is no one striving to be greater than the other, no room for innovation that negates the numerous laws of the Christian God, and every follower according to Nietzsche, is part of the herd mentality “The lower species (“herd,” “mass,” “society”) unlearns modesty and blows up its needs into cosmic and metaphysical values. In this way the whole of existence is vulgarized: in so far as the mass is dominant it bullies the exceptions, so they lose their faith in themselves and become nihilists” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, 19). If there are people who defy negating innovation and instead, desire to embrace it and become, materialistically better than their religious counterparts, then they are evil sinners who are drowning in greed, because there is a refusal to join the herd mentality within the Christian way of life.
And those who become powerful eventually look down upon those that are stuck within the herd mentality as weak, sickly and lacking economic power and or nobility. Ultimately, what is supposed to strengthen and gather humanity as one flock—using the Christian doctrine and God—is instead dividing humanity and causing unnecessary chaos. Nietzsche (through observing the actions of his hero, Zarathustra) offers a remedy for humanity (not to convert the remedy into a belief to worship and follow!) but instead, a remedy which is for every human being to analyze their actions and direction through the camel, lion and child process. The camel is the person who is the follower of the Christian doctrine who views actions, people and the world through a good versus evil lens and is willing to accept all burdens as proper punishment for the original sin of Adam and Eve to gain paradise (heaven).
The person must recognize the error within their lens and abruptly remove themselves from the level of camel and become the lion—the lion which takes responsibility for their own thoughts and actions, whatever the outcome, and not blame the outcome on any other person, original sin or other circumstance. Nietzsche explains that when one becomes the lion, one must use this raw power to destroy the Christian doctrine that sustains their world. This allows the person to exit passive nihilism and rip off the lens of good versus evil. Now, the person, being brand new with potential can become the child; awake, blissfully curious and possessing enough energy to create a new world without unnecessary guilt—the three metamorphoses of the spirit “For the game of creating, my brothers, a sacred “yes” to life is needed: the spirit now wills its own will; the one who had lost the world now attains its own world. Three metamorphoses of the spirit have I told you: how the spirit be- came a camel, the camel a lion, and the lion at last a child (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 26).
The person who was part of the herd a has become an individual again. Even if their This is where Nietzsche describes his definition of creativity, where a human being should not fall prey to the pathetic, inertia of passive nihilism, but instead, embrace creativity to renew the life that is within a human being so that they may be able to reinvent themselves and enter a new state of living where one enjoys all forms of freedom and pleasures and not to renounce existence within this mortal life because occasionally, one will face suffering, whether short and or long term, or when life does not give one an absolute answer to the meaning of their life, other living things and life itself, the person will give up their search for meaning within their lives. Do not give up. Of course, human emotion is complex, so there may still be remnants of fear and hurt within the person, however, because this person is now recognizing themselves again as an individual and has taken the steps to reinvent themselves, a type of active nihilism where they are still in emotional turmoil, however they are forging forward to becoming a creator again. Human beings applying this way of life could in fact create a new society and world. One must become a creator to stimulate creativity within one’s life to properly flourish and create their own path in life. This, Nietzsche describes, activates the individuals will to power, the ability to again, create your own understanding of your own life through your own choice of actions, and being responsible for them through the process of deconstructing the bruised spirit that has been crushed under the Christian doctrine to reconstruct the spirit through creativity and the will. Nietzsche’s Zarathustra reminds the reader to not use the will to lament the past “But now learn this likewise: the Will itself is still a prisoner. Willing emancipates: but what is that called which still putts the emancipator in chains? “It was”: thus is the Will’s teeth-gnashing and lonesomest tribulation called. Impotent towards what has been done – it is a malicious spectator of all that is past” (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 113). This behavior is counter to the power that one receives when implementing individual creativity through the will. What is past is done—accept this—for if it was not for your specific past, it might not have led you to this very moment of creative will to power.
The new creator is also not to worship life, either, but instead, harness the power to create the individual you want to be within an everchanging, dynamic world—to master the art of destroyer and creator to gain the will to power to remain strong within the unpredictable world as Nietzsche’s Zarathustra declares “Will – so is the emancipator and joy-bringer called: thus have I taught you, my friends!” (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 113). With continued work towards creativity through the will, Nietzsche speaks of a point where mere man can enter a higher level of existence called The Übermensch or overman. The Übermensch, or overman, meaning an individual now possessing a superior will that is no longer concerned with the trivial emotions and or practices that most of human beings are still frustratingly fighting with; the overman is a superior human being outside, separate from the regular human being. Nietzsche does warn that The Übermensch is a level of living, unprecedented and that there is a possibility that one may not reach this level within this lifetime or ever. Even still, one must be loyal to the power of will to remain dynamic, even when there will be those who are jealous of the transformed human being and or the human being having entered the level of The Übermensch “And truly, you good and just! In you there is much to be laughed at, and especially your fear of what has thus far been called “the devil!” So alien are you in your souls to what is great, that to you the overman would be frightful in his goodness!” (Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 117). These overmans are labeled devils for abandoning the nature that underdeveloped human beings consistently replay; emptiness, envy and enmity.
Max Weber, also recognizing the dynamic changes of the enlightenment period of the 19th century, understood the philosophical nature of Nietzsche analyzation of how human beings remove one form of worship of a system only to replace it with another. Weber discovered after years of observation, that capitalism was not created by human beings inventing new forms of technical or monetary innovation, instead, capitalism was created out of an overwhelming fear of the lack of power a Protestant had over their final eternal destination—heaven or hell. In the beginning, this fear paralyzed the Protestant with many entering a similar state of nihilism that Nietzsche witnessed in some people who could not handle the abrupt destruction and removal of the Christian God from western society. Aside from the nihilism, many Protestants could not handle the pressure of the Calvinism (a branch off from the Christian faith) doctrine—the idea that some people were possessing souls that are predestined for heaven and others possess souls that are not destined for heaven, however all have fallen short of God’s grace and having direct contact with him due to original sin inherited from Adam and Eve. This teaching was frightening to many Protestants and it forced them to seek signs that their soul was destined for heaven by dedicating themselves to hard work via their occupation and living an aesthetic lifestyle of no gluttony, sexual excess or frivolousness ” (Weber). If they were successful and reinvested their surplus and avoided frivolous spending and lived frugally, then it was a sign that their soul was destined for heaven. In addition, any extra material items earned through the business (such as new transportation, or buying a new house) would be considered rightfully earned due to the hard work that was put into building the company and not wasteful. The Protestant who embraced hard work and avoided sloth and as an individual contributed to society was a good soul. Responsibility of one’s own actions and not being dependent upon parents, siblings and or other family members was also crucial for the equality of society; no one was to receive more than another due to family ties. And anyone who were lax in their strife to possess these Protestant work ethic spirit traits, would live a life of struggle—a clear sign that they were not destined for heaven. With a combination of the period of enlightenment where society uses hard work, science and logic and rejects the Christian God’s divine intervention which Weber calls the Disenchantment of the World “The germinating grounds of human knowledge in the past, such as religion, theology, and metaphysics, were slowly pushed back to the realm of the superstitious, mystical, or simply irrational” (Stanford, 3.3). The practice of modifying maxims due to irrational thought and or actions (ad hoc revisions) were detrimental to the process of bringing society together and having it function as one unit. However, due to this disenchantment, Protestant practices of hard work, frugality and fruits of their labor seem to bring no purposeful meaning (no end reward). Therefore, Protestants, in reaction to this frightening, unknown status of the soul—whether it is destined for paradise or damnation under the Christian God through the doctrine of Calvinism, decided to strengthen the meaning of rejecting monotheistic myths and embracing rational thought through science, hard work and frugality which inadvertently created a new, metaphoric God that represents their old aesthetic called—capitalism. However, there is a type of circular struggle of opposing practices that arises when Weber discusses how Protestants within this newly created society reacts to the slow-inching death of the Christian God and the strengthening of science and industry. Eventually when human beings reach the point of disenchantment, their internal struggle to define their thoughts, actions and fruits of their labor becomes almost meaningless due to the rise of rigid reasoning; there is no mystical, monotheistic purpose to their works, and there is no guarantee that their works will define or reveal their predestined access to heaven. And there is no guarantee that the entrepreneurial spirit and its corresponding brick and mortar business will survive the ups and downs of the economy due to the fluctuating attitudes of the consumer.
The same system that the Protestant tries to remove, is the same system that unexpectedly arises through their thoughts, actions and fruits of their labor through hard work. Again, there is a desperation for the Protestant to feel as if what they do means something, therefore, capitalism is a type of metaphoric God that pacifies them, even though the end maxim is one sided due to the Protestant not having any guarantee of stability. The Protestant ends up a prisoner within their own works to serve capitalism and the spirit becomes burdened “What seems to underlie this seemingly self-contradictory imagery of modernity is the problem of modern humanity (Menschentum) and its loss of freedom and moral agency” (Stanford 4.2).