Fiat is Dead
In 1882, Fredrich Nietzsche wrote the Parable of the Madman, where he infamously proclaimed that “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.”
The meaning of this, often overused, phrase is that the idea that a unified concept of morality, social construction, and especially religion has dissolved. The madman has recognized that the society he lives in is in the process of losing the very thing that holds it together. Bear in mind, at the time when Nieztchse was writing, practically everybody took for granted the idea that civilization was held together by the notion of God– a higher being where all our positive attributes derive from.
When the madman says that “we have killed” God, he means that the human race has successfully de-coupled itself from the idea God, and is slowly drifting away from the notion of a higher being. This was triggered by developments in science, altered philosophical views, and changes instigated by The Enlightenment Period. While The Age of Reason definitely predates Nietzsche’s work, its effects were felt for a deeply extended time, and are still being felt to this day. In particular, this period brought about a wave of secularism. This might sound relatively insignificant, but it was not so much that religion was stopping to matter, but rather that the things that we often attached to religion were stopping to matter, too. For instance, morality: the historian of philosophy Stephen Gaukroger has noted that “[i]t was generally assumed in the 17th century that religion provided the unique basis for morality, and that without religion, there could be no morality”.
Another major factor that gets lost when religion is lost is that of community. In the past, churches were commonly used as third places, which are places other than home and work, where people feel a sense of belonging. The loss of religious communities also means that people may face diminished health, as they have been linked to far greater mental and physical health.
And so, when Fredrich Nietzsche proclaimed that God is dead, what he was really saying is that the core bindings of life at that time were falling apart, leaving the people to live in a reality that is far less interlocked and attached than it used to be.