(Posted to my MySpace Weblog on December 30, 2007)
Nietzsche was an atheist and as militant a one as Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris are now, but unlike those three, Nietzsche did not think that the world would suddenly become all sweetness and light if it abandoned all belief in God and became good little Enlightenment worshippers of scientific reason.
Nietzsche did not think that the dawning of the atheistic age would bring sweetness and light but nihilistic decadence and banality of the human soul. He was too much a student of history not to know that the tradition of theistic metaphysics was the thing that made the occident great and thriving, and now with that tradition destroyed by enlightenment science, Nietzsche perceived a great vacuum of values which modern science, precisely because of its denial of teleology, could not fill.
In other words, the West had lost its purpose. Before the Enlightenment, the West existed to give glory to God, but the Enlightenment killed off God and left the West with nothing but a purposeless mechanical universe to praise. If a culture no longer has a lofty purpose, Nietzsche argued, it will succumb to a pusillanimous nihilism, wither, and die. Therefore, the task of the philosophy in the age of the Death of God is not to reconcile people with atheism. Nietzsche would have had nothing but spitting scorn for Wittgenstein's and Rorty's conception of philosophy as therapy. The philosopher's task is to come up with a new set of values that will replace those predicated upon the now dead Christian traditon, a new tablet of commands that will give our Western Culture a new sense of purpose so that it will continue to thrive (and rape and pillage non-Western Cultures). This is what the Nietszchean project of the transvaluations of all values means.
It is my contention that this project has failed and will always fail simply because man cannot fashion his own meaning or purpose. Unless there is an Eternal Mind behind this world of ours, then the world is devoid of any intelligible meaning. Nietzsche's project was even more daunting than trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear for mere man cannot conjure meaning out of meaninglessness. Nietzsche set out to slay the ugly monster of nihilism, to be sure, but he failed and thereby became a nihilist himself.