The Return of the Madman: Nietzsche, Nihilism, and the Death of God, circa 2020

The young people who are burning our cities and issuing impossible demands are fighting with the only weapon left to them: the will to power.

Portrait of Nietzsche by Edvard Munch, 1906 [Wikipedia]

Anyone of a certain age will surely recall the almost palpable ripple that reverberated through public awareness when, in April 1966, Time Magazine famously featured a stark black cover interrupted by a single startling question: “Is God Dead? The words shouted from the newsstands in large, bold, red text. Up until that moment, interest in the question, while growing, had been limited to a small group of radical (mostly Protestant) theologians as the so-called “Death of God movement” gained traction in academic circles. But, as usual, the public lagged behind the academy. The editors of Time had posed a question that had never even occurred to the average American. In 1966, fully 97% of Americans reported a belief in God. The notion that he might have died – or that he even could die – no doubt came as a surprise. Those who took the time to read the accompanying article would have been even more surprised to learn that, according to 19th-century philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), God was dead because we had killed him.

The backlash was immediate and heated, sparking more than 3500 angry letters to the editor. Time was accused of blasphemy and criticized by pretty much everyone, from ordinary Christians to politicians to entertainers. Even Bob Dylan, the acknowledged celebrity icon of the era, objected. It is not known how many actually read the cover story, which was a somewhat superficial attempt to offer a coherent account of the topic. But it likely would not have mattered anyway. Most of the criticism was directed at the inflammatory cover itself.

Though it would ferment in the underbelly of academia, as an actual movement within theology, the “Death of God” school was short lived, losing much of its momentum by the end of the decade. Indeed, Time ran a follow up cover story just two years later, asking, “Is God Coming Back to Life?” But by then the die was cast. The question had captured the imagination – and the fears – of the public. After all, many still remembered the horrors of the Second World War, most had witnessed the shocking assassination of President Kennedy, the Cold War was in full swing, the “skirmish” in Vietnam was well underway. The cover of Time had put into words a question that people did not realize they had – until they heard it said out loud. In 2008, the Los Angeles Times named the “Is God Dead? issue among the “12 magazine covers that shook the world.”

It is surely one of the great tragedies of the last century that so few grasped the real nature of Nietzsche’s terrible, prophetic voice. For his famous declaration, articulated in his parable, The Madman, was not in fact a theological pronouncement on the death of God; it was a declaration of a cultural fact. The Madman was really a warning, intended to alert the listener to what would follow upon God’s demise. Perhaps at some future date, an exceptionally insightful historian will record the cover of Time as evidence of the one moment when we might have taken heed of Nietzsche’s profound appeal to the men of his time, restated anew. If only it had been heard as a call to wake up to the nihilism poised to descend on our culture in 1966. Had we understood what Nietzsche saw during the twilight of the 19th century, it might have caused us to pause – or even to reverse – a movement that, in 2020, seems finally to have arrived at its destination.

It is a well-documented fact that America’s commitment to its religious heritage has been declining now for decades. A notion that, in 1966, had not yet seeped into the common sense of the culture has become the de facto assumption at work in the public square. Recent studies show that the percentage of those in “Gen Z” (ages 5-24) who identify as atheists is already double that of the adult population. What may be worse, anecdotal evidence suggests that this phenomenon is often due more to a fear of being “outed” as a believer than any real convictions on the subject. This should not surprise us. The effort to purge God from our culture has been going on for a long time now. Those who continue to affirm his existence are often ridiculed and sidelined. The campaign seems to be working. Perhaps we have finally been successful in convincing our young people that life has no meaning. Perhaps the Madman’s time has finally come.

It would be difficult to dispute Nietzsche’s pivotal significance in the history of Western thought. Indeed, scholars tell us that few thinkers of any age can claim to equal his influence. His legacy is complex and disputed, defying any attempt at quick reduction. His outright rejection of the possibility of any systematic account of reality, of metaphysics, of the possibility of arriving at truth in any stable form, brought the modern project to its logical conclusion and provided a point of departure for the new strands of thought that followed. He reveled in what he saw as the constantly shifting incommensurability of opposing points of view. And unquestionably, he is the progenitor of the proudly dogmatic irrationality of post-modern thought, having declared reality to be inherently conflictual, irreducible, irresolvable. (Fast forward, for example, to Derrida’s “différance.”)

But, above all, Nietzsche was preoccupied with Christianity, which he considered to be the “archenemy of reason” even as he admitted the central role it played in his work. To Christianity he attributed the cultural decline and decadence he witnessed all around him. For Nietzsche, Christianity elevated the weak and the poor above the heroic and the great, valued passivity and obedience over the noble strength of real men, and had deluded mankind by making a non-existent God the arbiter of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not.” Such a stance was unsustainable, he declared; its very absurdity was causing the culture gradually to rot away from within – in a misguided effort to preserve it. Christianity had already lost its grip; it was simply a matter of time until men realized it. The only alternative was to abolish the Christian code of values and find a replacement.

Though Nietzsche celebrated this state of affairs, he was deeply fearful of what would happen once man woke up to the inevitable – to the nihilism of a world in which there was “no one to command, no one to obey, no one to transgress.” It is this concern that finds its most eloquent expression in The Madman. The parable is a profound exploration of what happens when the world comes unmoored from that which has secured its orbit, a desperate plea to the men of the age to wake up to the darkness they had themselves wrought. Of even greater concern, the Madman points out – if we do away with God, who will take his place? This is the question that would lead Nietzsche to proclaim the advent of his famous Ubermensch. The “overman” who, because he has mastered himself, will take the place of the gods. It was the “will to power” that would have to serve as a substitute. Though not Nietzsche’s intent, the Nazis would exploit this feature of his work in the next century.

Nietzsche’s protagonist represents a modern-day Diogenes, the ancient Cynic who lit a lantern in broad daylight and ran to the marketplace in search of an honest man. The parable opens with the frenzied entrance of the Madman, who also lights a lantern in “the early morning hours,” who also runs into the marketplace. But he is in search of God. “I seek God! I seek God!” he cries. The unbelieving on-lookers, astonished, begin to laugh and to taunt him, saying “Is he lost? Has he gone on a voyage?” In frustration, the Madman jumps into their midst and, “piercing them with his glances,” declares “Whither is God?” I shall tell you,” he says. “We have killed him, you and I. All of us are his murderers.”

Desperate to shed his light on the consequences of this unimaginable act, the Madman continues his plea. Don’t you realize, he shouts, that the death of God is like unchaining the earth from its sun? Can you not perceive that we are plunging further and further through an infinite nothing? That we have no way of knowing up from down, backward from forward? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? The Madman’s words evoke the sense of vertigo that comes with a blind plunge into space – a void with no boundaries, no signposts, no true north. They render visible the spread of a shadow gradually encroaching over bleak terrain. Darkness replaces the light – and the earth grows cold. Now it is man who is losing his grip. And we sense it.

A wordless uncertainty, often more felt than understood, lurks below the surface of our anxious culture, silently informing the vague but persistent anxiety that characterizes our common life. Nietzsche has explained it to us. Is it not clear that this is the world our young people inhabit? Is this not what they have been taught? In university classrooms throughout our country, they learn that science has “proven” that God does not exist, that their earthly home is one giant cosmic accident, the result of random particles colliding in space hundreds of millions of years ago. They are taught that they themselves are merely bundles of sense impressions, their bodies constructed from malleable matter, their thoughts, emotions, and urges the product of purely material processes and constantly firing neurons. They are indoctrinated into the idea that their identity is of their own construction. They have been left alone in a cosmos with nothing to guide them, not even a firm grasp of what constitutes their basic humanity, and no means of finding the way home.

Many fine attempts have been made recently to diagnose the current strife; many contain a great deal of truth. Who could deny the Marxism, cultural or otherwise, that fuels it? Or the clear evidence that well-organized forces of anarchy have been waiting in the shadows of our society, ready to pounce when the right moment came? Perhaps we will find the will and the strength to beat back the evil these forces represent one more time, enough at least to restore the order of law. Let us hope we do. But if our triumph is only political – or one realized only through superior might – it will be but a temporary victory. For the core of the problem will have gone untouched. Unlike the more overt violence running amok in our streets, it is hidden, but in plain sight. And Nietzsche’s madman shows us where to search. Yes, we have killed God, he says. But how? “How have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the horizon?”

Yes – who, indeed.

In the university classroom of Nietzsche’s time, professors were tasked with cleaning their blackboards once their classes were complete for the day. They were provided with a pail of water – and a large sponge with which to wipe away the residue of their lesson. The Madman’s question is Nietzsche’s stark indictment of the academy of his time, a world Nietzsche left in disgust barely ten years after reaching the pinnacle of academic achievement. He resigned his post as the Chair of the Philology Department at the University of Basel – and left behind what he called the pedantic sophistry of the professorial class. It was the academy that gave us the “sponge” with which to wipe away the horizon. University professors (though in Nietzsche’s mind, in league with Christianity) were enabling the descent of nihilism on the culture of his time.

It is an understatement of the first order to declare that the same is true today. The academy continues to “wipe away the horizon” for our young people, unformed children still, who enter university life already inclined to pick up the sponges themselves. The calamity we face is above all a failure of those who, with our full permission and a great deal of our hard-earned cash, have been given free rein over what our children are taught. It is the result of corruption in public schools, in higher institutions of learning, in academia itself, promoted by an intellectual elite with an ideological agenda that manifestly seeks the deconstruction of the person, the breakdown of the family, and the ruin of souls. Abandoned to the isolated world of social media where nothing is as it seems, our children are without defenses, having been robbed of the only armor effective in such a battle.

But the Madman is not finished yet. There is one more question that remains. How, he asks, shall we, who are “the murderers of all murderers” comfort ourselves? God 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? After so great a deed, do we not need to become gods ourselves simply to seem worthy of it?” And here, Nietzsche’s terrible prophecy meets the situation on the ground.

A dark faith has appeared in the public square. Public protest has become a new religion. It comes complete with rituals, prayer, and sacrifice, the current version of the Madman’s sacred games. Fervent homilies are shouted through microphones, spontaneous exhortations to the community to repent of its sins. There is even an opportunity for both individual and communal confession, most certainly a modern day “festival of atonement.” People bow their heads and genuflect before the unholy demands of the mob. But the sinner has little hope of redemption. There is no possibility of forgiveness. He can submit to shaming, apologize endlessly, humbly admit his wrongdoing – but there is no mercy to bestow on him. There is but one mortal sin and all have committed it. Forgiveness is no longer in the lexicon. The one penalty is excommunication. But in this religion, the sinner is not only shunned, he is canceled, erased.

Those who refuse to see the parallels to the Nazi onslaught, to the purges of Stalin, to the deadly Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao, are ignorant of their own history. They are living in an alternate reality. For just as in the innumerable totalitarian regimes that have come before, the symbols that speak to us of our culture, of our tradition, are being taken down, one by one. Holy rituals imbued with the meaning of the ages are attacked and denied their place. Such things are a threat to the new order. For they point toward a transcendent reality that has now been relegated to a sinful past. Even the signs of America’s greatest sin – that of slavery – are evidence of man’s ability to recognize evil in all its forms. They reveal his capacity for conversion, forgiveness, and redemption. Instead, the complexity of human experience is denied and violently erased. In the process, history itself disappears from view, no doubt only to be tragically repeated by those that come after us.

As shattering as they were, what is taking place in our streets in 2020 are not the angry protests of the 1960s. The steep descent of our culture was already underway at that time. Those events were merely the accelerant. We have been in free fall ever since. But the average American has not been watching. And suddenly we find ourselves in a new reality, an utterly predictable situation, searching for a way to respond to the hysterical tantrums of unschooled children raging against something they cannot name.

The young people who are burning our cities and issuing impossible demands are fighting with the only weapon left to them: the will to power. They are filling in the void left by the death of God with a fearful power, unmoored from any sense of right and wrong. They have been told that such things are up to them.

There is no one to blame but ourselves. For though the Madman tries valiantly to get the attention of his hearers, in the end, he realizes that he has come too early. “This tremendous event is still on its way,” he says sadly, “still wandering – it has not yet reached the ears of man.” Just as the light from a distant star requires time to reach us, so too, do deeds “require time even after they are done, before they can be seen or heard.” God’s death occurred long ago. But the event has taken until now – finally – to reach us.

The Madman is at last led away and called to account, having sung his requiem to the eternal God in diverse churches. “What are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?” he asks. He is clairvoyant. Have we not noticed that many of Europe’s historic churches have been turned into shopping malls and casinos? That the ones that remain are mostly empty? Is it not time to acknowledge that a similar fate could await our own? Are we going to watch in silence while the same shadow gradually darkens the landscape of America? Is it not time to light our own lanterns?

Perhaps the Madman’s time has finally come. Perhaps this time we will take heed of his warning.

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About Deborah Savage, PhD 4 Articles
Deborah Savage, Ph.D. is Professor of Theology and Faculty Associate with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She previously taught both philosophy and theology at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota for the past thirteen years. She received her doctorate in Religious Studies from Marquette University in 2005; her degree is in both theology and philosophy. Dr. Savage is the co-founder and acting director of the Siena Symposium for Women, Family, and Culture, an interdisciplinary think tank, organized to respond to John Paul II’s call for a new and explicitly Christian feminism.


  1. Thank you, Deborah, for a very fine, prophetic article, which I hope to share with many friends. A 79-year-old British man, I write to you from Nigeria where I feel blessed to be in daily contact with young people – and those not-so-young – for whom, no matter their material poverty, God is not dead at all, but real and alive. Western cynics will of course say that what has overtaken the West will come to Africa sooner or later. But I, who have blessedly been able to live here much of my life, continue to hope otherwise! Thank you, thank you. – DAVID

  2. Of today’s brainwashed/brainstem youth brigades, we read: “They are filling in the void left by the death of God with a fearful power, unmoored from any sense of right and wrong.”

    Almost half a century ago, we were already warned. In his 1975 New York City speech Solzhenitsyn warned: “We are approaching a major turning point in world history, in the history of civilization. . . . It is a juncture at which settled concepts suddenly become hazy, lose their precise contours, at which our familiar and commonly used words lose their meaning, become empty shells. . . .”

    Appearing for his courtroom sentencing, a young convicted felon was asked rhetorically by the judge: “Didn’t anyone ever teach you right from wrong?” His wide-eyed answer: “no” (Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, Warning to the West, 1976).

  3. The author has lit her lantern. Who will see it and respond? I only disagree with her on one point.I believe Abortion is America’s Greatest Sin.Over 60 Million times we have killed his Work & Creation.Who’s to weep for Rachels Children? One had to only listen to the words of the Song “Imagine” by Lennon,Ono,& Phil Spector back in the Fall of 1971.To see why we are in Madhouse of Today in America.

  4. Dr. Savage’s bleak assessment is, unfortunately, difficult to discount.

    What makes her doomsday scenario sadder yet is the fact that for the past hundred years, advances in science have revealed aspects of the universe that are increasingly difficult to explain without postulating a supreme intelligence outside the universe. A Creator, in other words.

    I’m referring to advances such as:

    — The ‘Big Bang’ in which all the energy/matter the universe now contains came into existence in a single milli-milli-millisecond some 14 billion years ago.

    — Quantum entanglement, which observes that on the sub-molecular level the universe can behave as if space and time are an illusion.

    — The Copenhagen Interpretation, which observes that the presence of consciousness affects sub-atomic matter in fundamental — you might say even existential — ways.

    — The unbelievable complexity of DNA, which is as likely to have formed spontaneously as the Encyclopedia Britannica is likely to have been typed at random by chimpanzees with a word processor.

    — The anthropic principle, which observes that the fundamental forces that give the universe its form — including gravity, the fine-structure constant and about twenty others — are perfectly and improbably balanced to enable the existence of life. One physicist posited that the odds of such an occurrence happening accidentally would be akin to the likelihood of a tornado striking a junkyard full of airplane parts and accidentally assembling a Boeing 747.

    Now, I realize that this sounds like just so much gobbledygook to most people — and that’s the point.

    These are very real and very dramatic developments in the scientific understanding of the universe. They mean that the likelihood of the universe forming “accidentally” or “at random” unimaginably, incalculably, insanely unlikely.

    And, trust me, I do not exaggerate.

    Yet, because, as Dr. Savage correctly observes, our culture lags behind science, people think that science has somehow “disproven” the existence of God, which has not been a scientifically tenable position since the late 19th century.

    Indeed, the science of the past hundred years would better support the opposite conclusion.

    Indeed, many renowned scientists from the past hundred years were compelled by their studies to embrace a theistic world view. These include Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Max Planck, Paul Davies and many others.

    One, John Polkinghorne, a physicist at Cambridge, actually resigned his post in 1982 to become an Anglican priest. He has since written on the harmonies between science and religious belief.

    All of this is to underscore the tragedy of Dr. Savage’s account. Our young people are being lied to at every turn.

    Every Catholic grade school and every Catholic high school should require its students to complete at least one course in the relationship between science and religion. There are such courses already available from Fr. Robert Spitzer’s Magis Center of Reason and Faith.

    Dr. Savage is right. We have failed our children, failed the future. Too many of our leaders have been defensive, apologetic, embarrassed in their approach to faith.

    Faith in a transcendent Creator is the only rational position to take.

    Atheism is, as philosopher Edward Feser puts it in his excellent book of the same name, ‘The Last Superstition.’

    • “Our young people are being lied to at every turn.”

      Exactly. The discoveries of modern science have rendered atheism more irrational than ever before. Too many Catholic educators seem committed to getting along with the world rather than to proclaiming the theistic implications of these discoveries. The following are some thoughts of mine that I was greatly honored to have published in Touchstone magazine. They were originally a post on the Crisis Magazine website, and were noticed by Anthony Esolen.

      On Noticing That Modern Science Has Rendered Atheism Irrational

      As a Catholic who makes his living writing computer software [I have since retired], I have an interest in science as well as in what’s going on these days in what is still mistakenly referred to as “Catholic” higher education. Any number of those who teach in these academies are willing to take contemporary atheism seriously, yet I wonder how many of them realize that modern science has rendered it irrational. Those who do realize it must be more committed to being accepted by atheistic academia than they are to promulgating orthodox Christianity.

      For the fact is that modern science now has very well corroborated evidence that the natural universe (time, space, matter, and energy) had a beginning. That fact making it irrational to take the very unscientific position that things popped into existence uncaused, from true nothingness (nothingness in terms of the absence of time, space, matter, and energy), the rational person would conclude that the natural universe must have been caused by a reality that transcends the natural, that is, by a supernatural reality.

      Modern science now knows that even the simplest reproducing, single-celled life form consists of ultra-sophisticated, digital-information-based nanotechnology the functional complexity of which is light years beyond anything modern science knows how to build from scratch. It would be far easier to explain how a laptop computer might come about mindlessly and accidentally than to come up with a plausible explanation of how such beyond-our-own nanotechnology might have been produced that way. The computer you use everyday is crude technology compared to that of a living organism. Can your computer replicate itself, or even a simpler version of itself, using available resources? Can it build and install new parts for itself? Single-celled, reproducing life forms do all that and more utilizing digitally stored assembly instructions.

      Technology, by definition, is the result of the application of knowledge for a purpose. That is why technology never comes about mindlessly and accidentally. It is utterly obvious that life is technology that is astoundingly superior to our own, and therefore it must be the result of the application of knowledge (tremendously superior to our own) for a purpose.

      More Certain Than Gravity

      There are individuals who, because they are extremely naive about what it takes to develop software, could be convinced that a given suite of functionally complex applications running on a computer actually came about mindlessly and accidentally. But there are very, very few individuals who would believe, in addition to that, that the computer itself came about mindlessly and accidentally. Yet that is basically what contemporary atheism is asking the world to believe.

      Life is a suite of complex applications running in an environment that was far more unlikely to be arrived at mindlessly and accidentally than were the computer and operating system required by any functionally complex software. Just how unlikely was it that the Big Bang would produce an environment where life was a possibility? Renowned physicist/mathematician Roger Penrose (Stephen Hawking and Penrose were jointly awarded the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society), in his book The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe, calculates that the odds of the Big Bang mindlessly and accidentally producing a universe where life was possible were one in 10^10^123. The double exponent makes that number so large that one can have far more certainty that the universe was not a mindless accident than one can have that the laws of physics will continue to apply consistently to nature.

      So except, I suppose, for those who have all their possessions tied down just in case gravity stops working, it is now apparent that it is simply irrational to conclude that the universe and the living things within it are mindless accidents.

      Thus, God, in his perfect providence, has mocked the arrogant and darkened minds of the so-called Enlightenment with the results of militantly atheistic science’s own discoveries. It is too bad Catholic academia seems to be among the last to have noticed this, or worse, finds it easier to deny the truth than to point out the irrationality of the atheistic establishment. It was the humility of the child that allowed him to point out that the emperor was wearing no clothes.

      • harry!

        Excellent comment! Everywhere you turn, in virtually every scientific field, creation proclaims the glory of the Lord!

        People need to know this stuff! Most so-called intellectuals have a concept of science and religion In conflict that dates back to Sir Isaac Newton.

    • Brineyman,
      Regarding quantum entanglement, this is one of the few unexplainable phenomena of quantum mechanics that remains.

      To explain this, I suspect that the universe is much more interconnected than science currently assumes. One could posit that quantum entanglement suggests that space and time are illusions, but I feel that this is a less likely scenario.

  5. As fearfully and tearfully spot on correct as is Dr. Savage’s article I do believe in my heart of hearts that all is not lost for the simple reason that I believe in the goodness of man and the power of the Holy Spirit. There is I am convinced a quiet but powerful resistance to the Church of Anarchy currently conducting the civil unrest. I in no way dispute what Dr. Savage posits in this piece. Not at all. I am simply stating my belief that there is a sizeable presence daresay a majority (speaking only for these, my United States) of good people who will push back against the current anarchy. Fearful as are current events, what keeps me awake at night is what will happen when this sleeping force finally awakens and pushes back.

    • I am with you in the quiet and powerful resistance. St. Michael is our patron. Strangely I have been moved to say the Chaplet of St Michael and I pass this on if you care to join me. Blessed be God for the gates of hell will not prevail. (I’m glad He said that; otherwise one would despair)

  6. Thank you Deborah for this insightful expose.
    As a seminarian, my initial reaction on reading Fredrich Nietzsche’s satire was
    anger; I blurted “how dare him speak of God like that”. My young mind failed to grasp his depth of thought probably because the environment I lived (Imo State, Nigeria) spoke otherwise. For instance I obtained the minor seminary entrance application form in a public primary school. In the environment I was growing up both private and public forum were filled with religious flavor. Now serving in a developed Western world I could see how God is being “killed” everyday. This “kill God” culture is gradually but insidiously seeping into cultures that appeared insulated from foreign atheistic tendencies and influence. The bible warned us to be alert to the devices of the evil one. The devices are plentiful. The present generation are not so lucky(Past generation were a bit lucky)because now the devices follow us to schools, places of work, bathrooms, hospitals, bedrooms, kitchens, cars, airplanes, ships and church worship etc. The ubiquitousness of these devices, the atheistic contents promoted and projected through them and the gusto with which they are devoured and preferred over religious and moral prescriptions make Nietzsche a “prophet”.
    Although cultural options and tastes may shift, humanity may pretend to be at the apex of every reality, societies may refrain from the pursuit of age-tested values, God still exists, he is living. His being is not contingent upon the shifting values of societies or human judgment. He is preeminent, he predates creation, he remains the author and finisher of existence whether he is acknowledged or denied. He has given us freedom, he can equally take it away. We have life that grants us power for immanent activities but he can stop us at will whenever and wherever. Once he takes away the breath, every living man or woman returns to clay. However, he is a merciful Lord – and may he have mercy on us.

    • Dear Fr Ugwuegbulem, I kwulu okwu ofuma. DAVID (see above). For readers who are not familiar wih Igbo, what I have said is: ‘You spoke well’.

  7. Even the signs of America’s greatest sin – that of slavery – are evidence of man’s ability to recognize evil in all its forms.

    God lives and is Life itself. Those for whom God is dead are dead spiritually. A great indicator of this death is thinking America’s greatest sin was slavery while remaining oblivious to the brutal reality of our current situation, one in which the gruesome murder of thousands of babies takes place in our midst — every day.

    God has the ability to get the attention of those who are oblivious to great evil. Through the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War slavery went from being the status quo to being unthinkable. That this was the work of God was expressed by Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address. The living (not dead) God had gotten America’s attention.

    In the next few decades after the Civil War every state in the Union criminalized deliberately taking the life of the child in the womb. America had finally reconciled its jurisprudence with the theistic principles proclaimed on its Declaration of Independence. American law would protect the inalienable, God-given rights of ALL humanity to life and liberty.

    So shall my word be, which shall go forth from my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please, and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it.
    — Isaiah 55:11

    Roe overthrew that America. God’s Word will go forth once again. It is only a matter of time. He will get the world’s attention. “Legal” baby murder will become unthinkable. But what kind of carnage will be required? What kind of chastisement for the murder of two billion innocent human beings in the last half century?

  8. Dear Deborah
    I can not thank you enough for this article. It describes some in my family and the prevailing culture to a tee. What I am grateful for is the call to arms for us who still believe. We must remain strong and clear in our faith. I have seen that this is effective even when one is shamed for believing. We can not do this alone – we need that transcendent and over-arching, firm and great power that is our God expressed in our Catholic Faith. I thank God for giving us the Holy Spirit, and I thank you because your article helps restore in me the will to keep going. I have felt as if completely razed because there is no one to talk to about this; now I realize there are others out there with whom I can bond to keep the faith and, I hope, to discuss where we are/what we need in the “keep the Faith and act on it to the extent one’s energy allows” department. Do you have online groups that do this?

  9. The academy continues to “wipe away the horizon” for our young people, unformed children still, who enter university life already inclined to pick up the sponges themselves. The calamity we face is above all a failure of those who, with our full permission and a great deal of our hard-earned cash, have been given free rein over what our children are taught. It is the result of corruption in public schools, in higher institutions of learning, in academia itself, promoted by an intellectual elite with an ideological agenda that manifestly seeks the deconstruction of the person, the breakdown of the family, and the ruin of souls. Abandoned to the isolated world of social media where nothing is as it seems, our children are without defenses, having been robbed of the only armor effective in such a battle.
    The above quote is exactly the same thing we are / will soon face here in Africa.
    Dear David, being a young Nigerian of 26,that interact healthily with folks, I would tell you that a Nietzsche’s prophetic warning is not far from us. Indeed, Nigeria is not so religious as it seems, at least, not Christianity. In fact, Christianity, which was at the centre of Nietzsche’s attack,is a cover up religion in most Nigerian tribes. 80% Nigerians are not truly Christians, they may not stop going to church and showing off out ward loyalty to God but there is always a hidden agenda. So if in earnest they are not Christians, the madman is not referring to them, but there is an aspect that is touching us today from Nietzsche’s Philosophy. And it is the quote I culled from Deborah’s beautiful article. We have taken up the sponges ourselves. We haven’t given free reign over what we are taught, we simply assumed the intelligence ourselves and it has now appeared too heavy for us to handle. We have never taken Christianity for what it was, and we fausily enrolled ourselves in academia of the Western world. The learned culture of the west was simply too much for us. We never understood God the way Christianity taught and yet we assumed this teaching, gave a false acceptance . And today we are caught up in our own game of traditionalists-christians.

    Humanity is in serious need of re-definition. Thanks so much Deborah for this wonderful and well articulated article.

  10. As pointed out by Eric Voegelin the metaphysics of nihilism is a denial of ordered structure in the reality of experience. Nietzsche was not the first but he understands this very well as Dr. Savage brings to light. But why, I have to ask, do so many religious instructors in philosophy and theology think that they must spend so much time on Nietzsche, Heidegger, Husserl, et. al.? These thinkers are anti-experience and anti-scientific in their fanciful musings. As such, they have no content to reveal. While scientists look to the reality of experience to expose underlying structures and sometimes to apply their findings to things like technological development, the pretend philosophers, like Nietzsche, focus on pushing the idea that structures do not exist in a self supporting and ordered reality. Nietzsche was not reporting a state of intellectual affairs that he had come upon; he was creating an imaginary world in line with his spiritual inclinations as much as he was building on his nihilist predecessors.

  11. Nietzsche’s dissolute death of God is more the murder of God by activists interwoven within the Nation’s protesters. Dr Savage identifies the self condemning [if your White you’re racist] features of the larger Nihilists. If I may contribute to her telling account I would add Bolshevism. Attorney General William Barr, certainly someone with political perspicacity was interviewed by Mark Levin and described the activists [who wish to strategically murder God similar to eliminating St Damien, now called a white supremacist] as Bolsheviks with a coherent agenda linked to America’s extreme political left. When the Tsar’s police hung Aleksandr Ulyanov for workers rights protest his younger brother Vladimir determined to first destroy, then coherently remake Tsarist Russia. Vladimir Ulyanov Lenin’s first revolutionary principle was a completely classless society. Egalitarianism understood as a more extreme classless society is exactly the agenda of the Far left. White, Catholic, Jew, Founding Father, Black, even Frederick Douglass anyone with class distinction is a class. Violent protests may not then be totally aimless, rather seemingly aimed at causing the conditions for a classless Godless society based on a concept of Liberty divest of moral principles that surpasses Lenin. “Are we going to watch in silence while the same shadow gradually darkens the landscape of America? Is it not time to light our own lanterns?”. Catholicism alone possesses the natural law principles and intellectual equipment to effectively resist, and perhaps succeed. What we require are leaders within our Hierarchy to recognize and wage war.

    • “Who could deny the Marxism, cultural or otherwise, that fuels it? Or the clear evidence that well-organized forces of anarchy have been waiting in the shadows of our society, ready to pounce when the right moment came?” (Dr Savage). Bolshevism, referenced by Ms Savage as Marxism is described in my comment evident in its early stages during the current protests. Focus on an extreme form of iconoclastic egalitarianism, the classless society envisioned by Lenin taken to the extreme. Now the creation of a faceless culture determined to produce a soulless culture. George Soros key player is on record for such a world. Although Jewish he worked for Hungary’s Nazi occupyers in tracking Jews. He later commented he has no religious values or affiliations with ethnicity instead favors egalitarianism. Perhaps his comments reflect the tone of organized violent groups within the protests. It’s best described as hatred for the divinity. A phenomenon found in Karl Marx’s poetry and letters. His poem Human Pride: “Words I teach all mixed up into a devilish muddle. Thus, anyone may think just what he chooses to think With disdain I will throw my gauntlet full in the face of the world,And see the collapse of this pygmy giant whose fall will not stifle my ardor. Then will I wander godlike and victorious through the ruins of the world. And, giving my words an active force, I will feel equal to the Creator”. The drama Oulanem: “My soul, once faithful to God, Now is destined for hell. I’ll set up my throne above, Cold and terrible will be the peak of it. Superstitious trembling is at its base, Master, most black agony. The one who will look with healthy looks, Will turn away, turn pale and deadly mute. Possessed by blind and cold deathness”. As Dr Savage seems to suggest, perhaps even subliminally Nietzsche turning away from God is elective rather than ignorance bringing with it hatred and a culture of Satanic self immolation. June 1 2016 an omen? Once thought staid Switzerland’s Gotthard Tunnel opening ceremony a slow deathlike march into darkness.

  12. This article is one of the finest I’ve read on any website! Thank you Deborah for an astoundingly penetrating and insightful analysis of our present cultural cancer. Your excellent exposition reminds me very much of the writings and conferences of Jordan Perterson. Would be wonderful when Peterson recovers if you can join him in a conference and together publicly share your views on our present crisis. Thank you once again for a stimulating, thought provoking reflection, something so clearly lacking from mainstream media.

  13. If only our Catholic hierarchy could help us and guide us in understanding the ideology of our times as you have! May they take your lead…

  14. Nietzsche might well have constructed his own imaginary world, as Martin Pagnan observes, but there is no denying the current cultural impact of his writings, even in popular culture – observe, for instance, the book being read by the ridiculous anarchist played by Kevin Kline, prominently featured in the opening scene of “A Fish Called Wanda;” or the ideas of the aspiring ubermensch, Tyler Durden, in Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club”(novel and film) that now enjoys cult status among many adolescent males. . . . The Catholic Church’s intellectual tradition is well placed, as Dr Savage’s admirable analysis here shows, to place the inflated status of Romantic gurus in their historical, philosophical and theological context, and thereby to reduce their destructive influence. But this tradition, based on the complementarity of faith and reason, must be exercised more widely and vigorously than it is at present in Catholic institutions of learning, particularly universities and high schools.

  15. If Schopenhauer posited a “will to live” as the basis of “being” so that the universe comes about ideally through a “will to live” which then primarily and metaphysically pervades all creatures, many believe that Nietzsche, who was influenced by Schopenhauer but abhorred the metaphysical, presented the “will to power” as an extended but pragmatic approach to combat the inevitable efects of psychological and societal modernism that would arise to replace Christianity. If I recall correctly Nietzsche considered Jesus to be the “noblest” human (and Spinoza to be the purest sage). This makes one have some hope that his “overman” (who would exercise the will to power) would have been a moral character who, if not concerned at all about heaven, would at least care about life on earth. Santayana believed that Nietzsche stood for attaining a human power that was beautiful if not cruel (reminding us Tolkienians of what Galadriel would have been if she had taken the Ring of Power)! This is in keeping with Nietzsche’s desire to transform the falling world through a heroic art which would overcome the stifling mass-culture which also disgusted Nietzsche. The human condition would then be like a great drama, which would from time to time have to fall into a great tragedy. Moving on… I don’t think that the rioters and Nietzsche would understand each other. The rioters are too confused to understand the power of will (free or otherwise). Theirs is more an “emotion-to-power”, (although a will to power at the academic level may be the power compelling them). Lastly, this problem lies at the doorstep of the Church which could begin to confront and defeat this growing nihilistic culture if only it had the “will to truth” which it still keeps deep in its treasury, but appears to have lost.

  16. God created Satan as the most blessed of all creation but God reserved the ability to create to Himself. On hearing of this Satan reacted like a spoiled brat and threw a tantrum. Satan griped, “If You will not let me create, then I will destroy what You have created. I will plant the seeds of weeds that hide all of creation from You so that it will come to serve me. My weeds will lead humans to imagine all sorts of fanciful creatures and ideas that they will accept as greater than You. They will come to believe with pride that they know what can and should be known even to the point of justifying destruction of all. One weed named Nietzsche will proclaim that Your creation is a boiling cauldron of disorder where You are not. In this world humanity will self-condemn to a ‘dawn’ of flippantly dancing through temporary and disposable ideas and values with a pride in a will to be vague, self-asserting and self-overcoming.“
    Thus Spake Zarathustra.

  17. When the Barque of Peter went adrift the whole world went mad. Catgholicism was the rock of Christianity and the Protestant Deformation has torn the Mystical Body of Christ into 30,000 pieces. Think what a culture we might have with a United Church. Of course we descend into madness – Only The Way the Truth and the Life is our Salvation.

  18. The desire for denial and thus accountability is overwhelming in some of our species. Thus, this “philosophy” will most certainly appear again even if in another guise. In fact, one can see glimmers of it in our streets even now.

  19. Deborah article holds promise, but flails a fire that has been smouldering for quite a while in Church, Christianity and A Christian Culture that looks its itself, has wilted to the cynical disdain of the Saints and even in the Priesthood panders to the Spirituality of Flesh.
    The crisis is not NeoNietzche. It is man who is exiled in the mammon of self-dependency and internalized doubt called philosophical thinking, because he(man) has good reason to hide and not present himself because he is filthy. The crisis is not capitalism, but cultural and philosophical syncretization the Church Lore, a cynical propagation of the Christian Faith. It is not inequality, but silent coveting that has checked and subverted Communion with Christ. The crisis is therefore Liturgical and needs to be restored in Faithful Liturgical Worship from whence flows a Genuine Christian Culture. From this distinction should follow a keener appreciation and openness to the following.
    1.Christianity is not and never a man made religion – or one of the several options, but one that came to men.
    2.Liturgical evangelization and catechization through the development of liturgical leadership, integration of locales in Christ’s Corporal Work of Mercy, as opposed to one historical epoch or locale inventing or defining its problems to suit its own or prevailing sentiments, as the article does.
    3.The Faithfulness of Christ who works through our failures and vulnerabilities, rather than our own or any human strength or institutional invincibility.

    Rather than to decry the uncertainty of the day and the confusion that arise in its wake, a genuine apostalate is one that having taken on Christ also suffers in him, and has Christ pronouncing a new advent, gives the world His Peace – His Love.

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. The Return of the Madman: Nietzsche, Nihilism, and the Death of God, circa 2020 - Catholic Mass Search
  3. The story of the rise, triumph, and nightmare of the modern self - Catholic Daily
  4. The story of the rise, triumph, and nightmare of the modern self – Catholic World Report

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