OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
arena of power. That is why it is not only a phenomenon of the present age, nor even a product originally of the nineteenth century, when admittedly a keen eye for nihilism awoke and its name became common. Nor is nihilism a product of particular nations whose thinkers and writers speak specifically of nihilism. Those who imagine themselves free of it are perhaps the ones advancing its development most fundamentally. Part of the eeriness of this eeriest guest is that it cannot name its own origin.
Nihilism does not prevail only when the Christian God has been denied, or when Christianity is embattled, or when a freethinking cheap atheism is still all that is preached. As long as we look exclusively at this unbelief which has abandoned Christianity and at its manifestations, our attention will be fixed externally on the meager façades of nihilism. The speech of the madman says specifically that the word "God is dead" has nothing in common with the opinions of those standing about and talking confusedly, of those who "do not believe in God." To those merely lacking faith in this way, nihilism as the destiny of their own history has not yet penetrated at all.
As long as we grasp "God is dead" only as the formula of unbelief, we are thinking in terms of theological apologetics and are eschewing what matters to Nietzsche, namely reflection that thinks about what has already happened with the truth of the supersensory world and with its relation to man's essence.
Nor, therefore, does nihilism in Nietzsche's sense in any way coincide with the state (conceived in a purely negative way) of no longer being able to believe in the Christian God of the biblical revelation, since by "Christianity" Nietzsche does not mean the Christian life that existed once for a short time before the Gospels were set down in writing and before Paul disseminated his missionary propaganda. For Nietzsche, Christianity is the historical, secular-political phenomenon of the Church and its claim to power within the formation of Western humanity and its modem culture. Christianity in this sense and the Christian life of the New Testament faith are not the same. Even a non-Christian life can affirm Christianity and make use of it for the sake of power; conversely, a Christian life is not necessarily in need of Christianity. Therefore, a confrontation with Christianity is by no means an absolute battle against what is Christian, no more than a critique of theology is a critique of the faith for which theology is supposed to be the interpretation. For as long as we fail to pay due attention to these essential differences, we do not move past the lowlands of the conflicts among world views.
Nietzsche's Word: “God Is Dead”