THE MADMAN----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 seek God! I seek God!"---As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?---Thus they yelled and laughed
The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him---you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.
"How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us---for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto."
Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars---and yet they have done it themselves.
It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: "What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?"
Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125; Walter Kaufmann ed. (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp.181-82.]
This parable was included in my Philosophy for Philosophy II class, taught by Professor Brent McMillan, one of the two classes I took for my philosophy minor that was not taught by Dr. Nathan Kerr. In an unexpected turn of events, it has fundamentally shaped the way that I look at Christianity so much of the time.
I think everyone in America has probably heard the horrible misquote and summarization of this parable: "G-d is dead" (which isn't even the actual quote printed) as printed by TIME Magazine in 1966. But I wonder how many people have taken the time to understand the parable from which it came, rather than angrily dismissing it as an attack on religion (which TIME, undoubtedly meant it as).
But I think that the story is mishandled entirely. You see, the most important quote from it is not the infamous, "G-d is dead." No, the most important part lies buried deep into the parable, something you cannot find if you're busy steaming over what appears to be an attack on Christianity (mind you, it is an attack, but not on what you think): "This tremendous event is still on its way..."
Nietzsche is not attacking G-d. Nietzsche is saying that
WE are attacking G-d.
In the way that we live.
In the way that we speak.
In the way we look at each other.
In the way that we even think.
We are killing G-d, removing him from our society, making Him unbelievable to a society that doesn't want to believe in ultimate consequences and retaliations. WE are still nailing Him to the cross, two thousand years later.
Christ has died.
And it's funny - just like this day every year, I feel dead, too. I don't know if that happens to anyone else, or if it's just because I'm always so involved in Holy Week services, or if it's something so much bigger than me, but I feel dead.
The question now, is how will I live when Christ rises again tomorrow? Will I allow him to rise again in me? Will I finally turn from nailing Him to the cross? Or will I only pause long enough to smell the lily next to it and continue pounding away?
How about you? What will you do?