Friedrich Nietzsche


Friedrich Nietzsche's declaration 'God is dead' made him notorious as a stringent critic of Christianity and all forms of otherworldly religion. His criticisms are part of a more general philosophical rejection, on both metaphysical and ethical grounds, of all ideas of transcendence (such as classical Platonism). Nietzsche (1844-1900), born into a family of Lutheran ministers, became a professor of classical philology while young, and wrote a series of polemical books against much traditional religious and philosophical culture; he sharply criticized many nineteenth-century attempts to reconcile science and religion. Philological scholarship involved intense study of deconstructive readings of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures by higher critics such as Strauss and Wellhausen. Many nineteenth-century philosophers and scientists were atheists or agnostics because they accepted Kant's denial of knowledge of things in themselves and saw the consistency of a scientific naturalism that could be expanded with Darwinian explanations of human behavior and culture. Yet Nietzsche dismissed the naive 'enlightenment' view that people would abandon religion simply because of rational argument, and warned that an enlightened scientific culture, having marginalized religion, would be faced with a total crisis of meaning or nihilism.

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Copyright © 2007 Routledge. This book chapter first appeared in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion.

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