In "God is dead" the name "God," thought essentially, stands for the supersensory world of ideals that contain the goal that exists beyond the earthly life for this life; they determine it thus from above and so in certain respects from without. But when the pure faith in God as defined by the Church fades, when theology in particular, the doctrine of the faith, finds itself curbed and forced to one side in serving its role as the nonnative explanation of beings in their entirety, then in no way does that fundamental structure break down in accordance with which the goal set on the scale of the supersensory has dominated the earthly life of the senses.

The place of God's vanished authority and the Church's profession of teaching has been taken by the authority of conscience and, forcibly, by the authority of reason. The social instinct has risen up against these. Historical progress has replaced the withdrawal from the world into the supersensory. The goal of eternal bliss in the hereafter has been transformed into the earthly happiness of the greatest number. The diligent care that was the cultus of religion has been replaced by enthusiasm for creating a culture or for spreading civilization. Creation, once the prerogative of the biblical God, has become the mark of human activity, whose creative work becomes in the end business transactions.

Whatever is thus going to be put in the place of the supersensory world will be variations of the Christian-ecclesiastical and theological interpretation of the world, an interpretation which adopted its schema of the ordo, the hierarchical order of beings, from the Hellenistic-Judaic world and whose fundamental structure was established through Plato at the outset of Western metaphysics.

The realm for the essence and event of nihilism is metaphysics itself, always assuming that by "metaphysics" we are not thinking of a doctrine or only of a specialized discipline of philosophy but of the fundamental structure of beings in their entirety, so far as this entirety is differentiated into a sensory and a supersensory world, the former of which is supported and determined by the latter. Metaphysics is the space of history in which it becomes destiny for the supersensory world, ideas, God, moral law, the authority of reason, progress, the happiness of the greatest number, culture, and civilization to forfeit their constructive power and to become void. We are calling this essential ruin [Wesenszerfall] of supersensory its putrefaction [Vervesung]. Unbelief in the sense of apostasy from the Christian doctrine of faith is therefore never the essence or the ground of nihilism; rather, it is always only a consequence of nihilism: for it could be that Christianity itself represents a consequence and a form of nihilism.