Says the Madman: “Humanity Is Dead, and We Are Its Murderers”
by Tom Gilson
“Whither is humanity? cried the Madman. I will tell you. We have killed it. We are its murderers! But how could we do this? Are we not plunging continually? How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?”
When Friedrich Nietzsche’s Madman told the world, ”God is dead, and we are his murderers,” it was as if he alone understood the enormity of the crime. This deicide was never anything but a fiction: Nietzsche never thought there was a real God who could really be killed; instead he saw the idea of God dying in the European mind. (Others knew God was alive and laughing at the Madman.)
It took a Nietzsche to fathom the depths of what this “death of God” would mean:
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….”
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.“
And what if the Madman were to survey the world today? Would he not would cry out, “Humanity is dead!” Yes, and he would ask, “Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying humanity? Do we smell nothing as yet of the human decomposition?” And he might again conclude that his time is not yet.
But why would the Madman say such a thing? How have we killed humanity, you ask? Is this not a more clearly a fiction than Nietzsche’s ever was? Are there not 7 billion persons who can witness to humanity’s vitality?
Yes, humanity still lives, just as God still lived in Nietzsche’s day. It lives in spite of the universal mass murder that philosophical naturalism would inflict upon it: the attempted strangulation of the idea of the human…
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