Nietzsche’s “God is dead” is one of the core philosophical events that shaped what I have called the “postmodern perspective”. Now, if this is the case, can we still talk about religion from such a perspective? If the “death of God” is a constitutive event of the postmodern perspective, one would expect that religion has no role to play in such a world. However, as I will try to explain in this post, this is not the case and on the contrary the postmodern perspective lays a new ground where religion, if rightly oriented, could regain a key role in men’s life.
When thinking about religion from a postmodern perspective, one most begin with the following question: what do we mean exactly by the “death of God”? My answer is as follows: The “death of God” can be described as the end of a particular notion of deity, meaning the idea of God as a “law-giver”. The God that Nietzsche killed is the one that was understood as the absolute ground of our conduct: the moralizing God. In the present configuration of reality —where the plurality of beliefs and ways to live life is broadcasted as never before in the history of mankind— the rigid belief in God as the monolithic possessor of the unique truth is untenable.
From a postmodern perspective that has come to see man as constant possibility of interpretation —as the object of a never-ending exercise of redefinition— the belief in God as a universal legislator is dissolved and this is exactly how we understand Nietzsche’s “God is dead”. Conceiving God as the source of all truth contradicts the very core of the postmodern perspective by reintroducing a hypothetical foundation to our action, one that can only be seen now as a foolish attempt to reestablish a metaphysical and unique order. For us, postmoderns, the idea of God as a law-giver figure is dead. It’s in that sense that we are heirs of Nietzsche and his “God is dead” postulate.
However, it is worth noting that “God is dead” is not an atheistic statement claiming to posses clear evidence of God’s inexistence; it is rather an invitation to drop a particular conception of God that is no longer tenable in an interconnected world where the plurality of interpretations and ways to live life is impossible to hide. The fact that the idea of God as a universal legislator is no longer tenable does not mean that therefore any type of religious belief is excluded and that atheism becomes the only plausible way of living life in a postmodern world. Although it seems paradoxical, the postmodern perspective reopens the door to religion and reintroduces it as a philosophical topic ending the exile that she was forced to take since the Enlightenment when religion was a synonym for obscurantism and anti-scientific thought.
Religion is a possibility for the postmodern man, but it is a transformed religion since it is always conceived as an election of life, always conscious of being another way of living among many others. The postmodern man can believe in God, but it must be a belief that is always in line with the idea that we are, above all, possibility of interpretation and constant redefinition. Any religion that tries to reintroduce immutable truths and absolute moral dogmas is doomed to fail in a postmodern world. This explains why nowadays it is more and more common to find people abandoning the rows of institutionalized religions but whom nevertheless still believe in God. For us postmoderns, the moralizing postulates of the church sound as conceptual anachronisms; however, some among us feel the necessity and the call of a spiritual life and a relationship with God, a God that is not seen as the dictator of our moral life, but as a force that complements and enriches our spiritual life.
A postmodern religion is one that understands that the realm of “knowledge” —understood in a pragmatic positivistic way— belongs to science. When past philosophers fought against religion they fought the belief in God as the source of all truth because this view of deity generated constant contradictions with new scientific discoveries and subsequent political transformations. This was a legitimate fight in a world that had a metaphysic conception of men and their world, and where both science and religion where struggling to be the real method to access the unique and eternal truths about them. But once again, when looked from a postmodern perspective, this clash between science and religion dissolves. We are now, so to speak, in another level of discussion.
In a world that abandoned the idea of an ultimate truth that is there to be discovered and that instead acquired consciousness of the undeniable interpretative character of life, science and religion can coexist. On the one hand we have postmodern science that understands herself as a particular way of describing the world, as a particular “language-game” to quote Wittgenstein, constantly shaped and changed by the rules of what we call the “scientific community” and on the other hand we have postmodern religion whose aim is to provide comfort and take care of the spiritual side of men introducing them to the power of, for instance, love and charity. Science and religion cover different aspects of human life hence they should be able to coexist, but even if they were to differ in their opinions they both should have now the consciousness of being non-foundational interpretations of life, and in that sense, dialogue can and should be reestablished. In a metaphysical world both science and religion thought they were the bearers of truth, curtailing any possible dialogue; in a postmodern world, where truth reveals its interpretative nature, religion and science can and should flourish but always under the condition of striping all dogmatism and embracing the new interpretative consciousness.
Believing in God, from a postmodern perspective, is just another possibility of interpreting life within the infinite possibilities of interpretation. Using my favorite Nietzsche’s metaphor, the postmodern man dreams knowing that he dreams; he chooses the dream of a spiritual or a lay life consciously, he always chooses it knowing that it is just one more interpretation, one more dream to be dreamt.