At first, when God is left out of the picture, everything apparently goes on as before. Mature decisions and the basic structure of life remain in place, even though they have lost their foundations. But, as Nietzsche describes it, once the news really reaches people that ‘God is dead’ and they take it to heart, then everything changes.

This is demonstrated today, on the one hand, in the way that science treats human life: man is becoming a technological object while vanishing to an ever greater degree as a human subject, and he has only himself to blame.

When human embryos are artificially ‘cultivated’ so as to have ‘research material’ and to obtain a supply of organs, which then are supposed to benefit other human beings, there is scarcely an outcry, because so few are horrified any more. Progress demands all this, and they really are noble goals: improving the quality of life-at least for who can afford to have recourse to such services.

But if man, in his origin and at his very roots, is only an object to himself, if he is ‘produced’ and comes off the production line with selected features and accessories, what on earth is man then supposed to think of man? How should he act toward him? What will be man’s attitude toward man when he can no longer find anything of the divine mystery in the other, but only his own know-how?

What is happening in the ‘high-Tech’ areas of science is reflected wherever the culture, broadly speaking, has managed to tear God out of men’s hearts.

Today there are places where trafficking in human beings goes on quite openly: a cynical consumption of humanity while society looks on helplessly. For example, organised crime constantly brings women out of Albania on carious pretexts and delivers them to the mainland across the sea as prostitutes, and because there are enough cynics there waiting for such ‘wares’, organised crime becomes more powerful, and those who try to put a stop to it discover that the Hydra of evil keeps growing new heads, no matter how many they may cut off.1

And do we not see everywhere around us, in seemingly orderly neighbourhoods, an increase in violence, which is taken more and more for granted and is becoming more and more reckless?

I do not want to extend this horror-scenario any farther. But we ought to wonder whether God might not in fact be the genuine reality, the basic prerequisite for any ‘realism’ so that, without him, nothing is safe.

 

Adapted from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI) April 2000 Preface to the new edition of ‘Introduction to Christianity’ Ignatius Press pp 17-18.
1 Editor’s note: Here one can also refer to the tens of thousands of viciously-exploited migrants who are being abandoned to their fates in the waters of the Mediterranean.

This article can be found in Mirror 0415.