German philosopher Nietzsche (1844 – 1900), declared that god is dead and dedicated several of his works to ponder over what man must do to fill the vacuum created by death of god. In his famous legend of madman, Nietzsche says,
Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market-place, and cried incessantly: “I am looking for God! I am looking for God!”
As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. Have you lost him, then? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances.
“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? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God’s decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us – for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.”
Here the madman fell silent and again regarded his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern to the ground, and it broke and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time has not come yet. The tremendous event is still on its way, still travelling – it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the distant stars – and yet they have done it themselves.”
Here, he metaphorically suggests that rationality, objective and inquiring human mind has killed god. But now what? Does the morality, which he essentially though was inspired by faith, also die? Is mankind going to fall in some kind of bottomless ditch?
Answering his own question, Nietzsche put forward the idea of rise of uberman – a man who overcomes himself, a man who organizes himself and binds himself to his own version morality. The idea of uberman (Übermensch) eventually got misconstrued as superman, the all powerful tyrant man who replaces god. He most probably didn’t mean that.
Well, as we know today, human morality developed as one of the evolutionary pressures and religion did not design morality. Religion just adopted morality. Hence, Nietzsche’s worry that universe may implode unless people turn themselves into ubermen , seems unfounded today. World will be equally good and moral regardless of existence of religion or belief in god, though Nietzsche was quite correct in thinking otherwise during his times.
A great BBC documentary on Nietzsche could be found here,