All posts tagged Friedrich Nietzsche

  • A Formula For Atheism

    Askull

    (This is my foreword for Faith in the Shadows: Finding Christ in the Midst of Doubt by Austin Fisher.)

    A Formula For Atheism
    Brian Zahnd

    A few years ago the pastor of an evangelical-fundamentalist church with whom I’m acquainted announced on the Sunday after Easter that he had become an atheist. He told his stunned congregation that he had been an atheist for a year and a half and that all attempts to revive his faith had failed. So on the Sunday after Easter he publicly left Christianity and moved on with his life — a life with no more Easters.

    A few days after his bombshell resignation I met with this now erstwhile pastor. As I listened to his story, it quickly became apparent that he had not so much lost his faith in Christianity as he had lost his credulity for fundamentalism. But sadly he had been formed in a tradition where Christianity and fundamentalism were so tightly bound together that he could not make a distinction between them. For this fundamentalist pastor, if the Bible wasn’t literally, historically, and scientifically factual in a biblicist-empiricist sense, then Christianity was a falsity he had to reject. When his fundamentalist house of cards collapsed, it took his Christian faith down with it. In one remarkable leap of faith, a fundamentalist became a newly minted atheist. I did my best to explain to him that he had made the modern mistake of confusing historic Christian faith with early-twentieth-century fundamentalism, but by now the damage was done and it appears his faith has suffered a fatal blow.
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  • Saved from Rage

    Iliad
    Saved from Rage
    Brian Zahnd

    Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
    murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
    hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls…
    What god drove them to fight with such fury?

    –The Iliad

    Homer’s Iliad — the closest thing the pagan world had to a Bible — is a five-hundred page war poem. Homer doesn’t sing his song in praise of war, though courage and valor are given their due; rather Homer alerts the world — then and now — to the senseless carnage that can be wrought once rage is let loose in the world of arrogant humans. It’s no accident that the first word of the ancient world’s greatest epic is Rage. And it’s noteworthy that in just the ninth line of the poem Homer asks, What god drove them to fight with such fury? Indeed, what god?

    The ancient world saw rage not as a mere human emotion, but as a kind of malevolent entity, a demon, a monster that if let loose could not easily be brought under control, and in its chaos could lay waste entire civilizations. The Iliad is Homer’s beautiful, but bitter testament to the destructive potential of unchecked Rage.
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  • The Charm of Beauty In an Ugly Age

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    The Charm of Beauty In an Ugly Age
    Brian Zahnd

    “It is the prerogative and charm of beauty to win hearts.”
    –Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

    It’s an ugly time right now. Especially in the public discourse in the land in which I live. Politicized and polarized, public discourse has devolved into the polemical napalm of give-no-inch, take-no-prisoners, burn-it-all-down flaming rhetoric. Ugly “Us versus Them” ideology goosesteps across the American stage. Hysterical screams of fear-infused hatred are heard in this nation of immigrants.

    Deport ’em all!
    Build a wall!
    No refugees!
    Don’t tread on me!

    I was in New York last week and saw the Statue of Liberty. I think she had a tear in her eye…or maybe it was just in my eye. The tired and poor, the wretched refuse, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free…are basically given the finger these days. For the sake of honesty maybe it’s time to commission a new statue.

    Are we entering a dark age where the only thing we can build is a wall and where nothing is sacred but a gun? I wonder.
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  • Halloween: A Search For The Sacred

    the-bored-gargoyle-of-notre-dame-2

    Halloween: A Search For The Sacred
    Brian Zahnd

    It’s Halloween. The season of ghosts and goblins, haunted houses and horror movies. The modern observance of Halloween seems, for the most part, to be an innocent celebration of the strange joy of being scared. There’s no doubt that a significant number of us do enjoy being scared as a form of entertainment. After all, Stephen King has sold 350 million books! But why? Why do we like to be scared? I think it has to do with a search for what is most missing in the modern world: the sacred. We like being scared because we are so very secular.

    When modernity came of age it banished the sense of the sacred. Empiricism, materialism, positivism had won the day. Science was now the high priest that would answer all questions and religion was merely the superstition of the hopelessly naïve. We found ourselves in a world without God or gods, a world beyond good and evil (as Nietzsche said), a world without angels and demons. Religion was but hucksterism and nothing was truly sacred anymore. Bob Dylan captured it well when he said,
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  • Saints and Sages

    anthonythegreat

    ________________________________________

    This morning I read an op-ed piece by a local freelance journalist entitled “Finding Their Religion”. In the column the journalist writes rather disparagingly about “organized religion,” likening it, as Nietzsche did, to “herd mentality.” The writer tells us how she vowed that her children would never be part of the religious herd. Instead, her children will be left to “find their own path” so that they might possess “beliefs they can wholly claim.”

    Yes, authenticity is the order of the day.

    And tradition, so soundly critiqued by modernity, is passé.

    (Of course it remains to be seen if Enlightenment modernity can survive the trial of postmodernity holding up the mirror and revealing [to its horror!] that it too is a tradition—the tradition of critiquing and rejecting all others traditions. The evidence seems to suggest that modernity cannot not survive this withering self-revelation.)

    In her column our interlocutor writes—

    It’s not necessarily a certain God that I want my children to embrace. I can’t say that I believe in the father figure sold by Christian religions. Or the beautiful, gauzy tales of Hellenic gods and goddesses. But I believe in beauty. I believe in awe. I believe that the world is bigger than the tiny chasm of my existence. I want my children to find spirituality in themselves and their surroundings. The wonder of a brightly colored butterfly and a dip in tepid ocean waters should always be reason to celebrate. The Grand Canyon should make them feel small. The suffering of others should bring tears to their eyes…[But] there are so many people, rushing about spouting off their certainties…My voice should be there. It doesn’t matter that my beliefs don’t come prepackaged in ancient text.

    Well, I believe in beauty too. I’ve written a book on the subject of redemptive beauty and I have been a relentless critic of confusing faith with certitude. But one wonders if this critic of organized religion will take the same approach to her children’s mathematical, literary, and scientific education? Read more

  • On The New Idol

    The book of Revelation is primarily a prophetic critique of empire—a prophetic denunciation of the all-powerful state as a devouring, dehumanizing beast. In John the Revelator’s day the Beast took the form of the Roman Empire. In subsequent history the Beast has flown other flags. The drama of the Apocalypse is found in the contest between the monstrous Beast which devours humanity with its military and economic might and the Lamb of God who redeems humanity with his blood. The hope we find in the final book of the Bible is in the prophetic picture of the ultimate triumph of Jesus and his kingdom over the satanic empires of Babylon. And thus the Bible is a book which gives us the happiest of all possible endings.

    But the Beast is subtle. Like the serpent which is its father. And though the shed skin of the Beast is easily recognized once it is relegated to the realm of history, the Beast can be difficult to spot in its contemporary incarnation. It takes a prophetic eye to spot the shape-shifting monster that is the Beast.

    Today I read one of these prophetic observations. Allow me to share it with you (in a somewhat edited form). Read more