God in a Godless Time

From Leszek Kolakowski’s  essay  God in a Godless Time

….

The world in which we live, however, is not a world of people who are fixed in satisfied and contented lives of belief or unbelief. It is much more an era of refugees and exiles, the “eternal Jew” searching for a lost—spiritual or physical—homeland. In this nomadic life nothing is certain, nothing is guaranteed, nothing is finally set in stone, nothing—apart from wandering—is unquestionably given.

A God who once confirmed the well-established order of values, social relations, rules of thought, and the physical cosmos and who was meant to be the dome over this order is no longer there because the order itself is no longer visible. So long as people could trust the durability of this order, the godless also had their place in it (I only have the Christian-European civilization in view). Whether they counted as mistaken, as crazy, or as messengers from hell, their place within the recognized world order was accounted for. Whether they were also persecuted, punished, or sentenced to death, they were in a sense fortunate, because not only was their cause secure, it was also spiritually worry-free.

But along with the self-confidence of belief, the self-confidence of unbelief has also been broken. In contrast to the cozy world of old, protected by the well-intentioned, friendly Nature of the atheistic Enlightenment, the godless world of today is perceived as an afflicted, eternal chaos. It is robbed of all meaning, all direction, all road signs, and all structure. Thus spoke Zarathustra. For over a hundred years, since Nietzsche announced the death of God, one has rarely seen cheerful atheists. A world in which a person is left to his own powers, in which he has declared himself a free lawgiver for any order of good and evil, in which he—freed from the condition of a slave of God—had hoped to recapture his lost worth, this world has transformed itself into a place of endless worry. The absence of God became the ever more open wound of the European spirit, even as it slipped off into oblivion, brought on by an artificial anesthetic. Let us simply compare the godless world of Diderot, Helvétius, and Feuerbach with that of Kafka, Camus, and Sartre. The collapse of Christianity that was so joyfully awaited by the Enlightenment took place almost simultaneously with the collapse of the Enlightenment itself. The new, shining order of anthropocentrism that was built up in place of the fallen God never came. What happened? Why was the fate of atheism in such a strange way tied to that of Christianity, so that the two enemies accompanied one another in their misfortune and in their insecurity?

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