Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ravi Zacharias Blames Darwin, Nietzsche for Moral Decline of Society

Ravi Zacharias is featured in a new video from Focus on the Family  explaining how we got to this state of moral decline in our society.
Full Transcript: emphasis added
How we got to where we are today...It has not happened without warnings, that is for sure.
If I were to take one hinge on which this slide was hanging, I would say it was Fredric Nietzsche the German Philosopher.

When he popularized the phrase "God is dead", and uh [unintelligible] in the 19th century he said then we are going to live either with megalomania or erotomania: the drive for pleasure or the drive for power, the clenched fist or the phallus, Hitler or Hugh Hefner. It's exactly what happened. 
Going back even slightly before Nietzsche, Charles Darwin in his Descent of Man...Darwin had said that if his Naturalistic Framework were taken as a scaffolding for metaphysical extrapolations and judgments and so on, he said the violence that would break out would be unparalleled.   
Because if Naturalism is all we have, man is nothing more than nature, then we have got no moral framework to look to.  He talked about the violence that would come. Nietzsche said that the 20th century would become the bloodiest century in history, because of the philosophical ramifications of the death of god. So how did we get here?  We got here starting off by killing god, then killing ethics, now we are killing men.

Now Nietzsche did write "God is Dead," though the words were uttered by a character he created called the Madman.  Nietzsche also wrote that "there will be wars the like of which have never been seen on earth before." Also it is generally accepted that the 20th century was the bloodiest in history.  But here ends Ravi's overlap with reality.

Nietzsche's "prediction" that the 20th century would be the bloodiest century never existed.  He never said the 20th century, the next century, or anything like that.  He also did not attribute the wars to a moral failing in God's death, as Ravi asserts.  Here is what he actually said. Sorry that it's so long, but context is important here. I've highlighted the important bits.
I know my fate. There will come a day when my name will recall the memory of something frightful—a crisis the like of which has never been known on earth, the memory of the most profound clash of consciences and the passing of a sentence upon all that has before been believed in, demanded and sanctified. I am not a man, I am dynamite. And with it all there is nothing of the founder of a religion in me. Religions belong to the rabble; after coming into contact with religious people I always feel that I must wash my hands. I do not want "believers”, I think that I am too full of malice to believe even in myself; I never speak to masses. I have a terrible fear that one day I shall be considered "holy”. You will understand why I publish this book beforehand—it is to prevent people from wronging me. I refuse to be a saint; I would rather be a clown. Maybe I am a clown. I am nevertheless, or rather not nevertheless, the mouthpiece of truth; for nothing more false has ever existed than a saint. But my truth is terrible: for hitherto lies have been called truth. The Revaluation of all Values, this is my formula for mankind’s greatest step towards coming to its senses—a step which in me has become flesh and genius. My destiny ordained that I should be the first decent human being and that I should feel myself opposed to the falsehood of millennia. I was the first to discover the truth and for the simple reason that I was the first who became conscious, to sense the lie as a lie. My genius lies in my nostrils. I contradict as no one has contradicted before and yet I am the very opposite to a negative spirit. I am the herald of joy the like of which has never existed before; I have discovered tasks of such a height that has never been seen before my time. Mankind can only now begin to hope again, now that I have lived. Thus I am necessarily a man of Destiny. For when Truth battles against the lies of millennia there will be shock waves, earthquakes, the transposition of hills and valleys such as the world has never yet imagined even in its dreams. The concept "politics” then becomes entirely absorbed into the realm of spiritual warfare. All the mighty worlds of the ancient order of society are blown into space—for they are all based on lies: there will be wars the like of which have never been seen on earth before. Only after me will there be grand politics on earth.
Nietzsche predicts that there will be wars not because "God is Dead" and we have no grounding for morals. He said when the religions, so entrenched in society, began to be exposed as lies they would not go quietly.

Nietzsche laid the blame for these predicted wars directly at the feet of those who would seek to defend lies against Truth.  The shockwaves and conflict would come from the overturning of the paradigm, not a destruction of morality.

But Ravi would clearly never give this quote context because he simultaneously holds up Nietzsche as devil and prophet, destroyer of God and clairvoyant. If Nietzsche held such great predictive power, would Ravi accept his judgement of religions as lies?  I doubt so.

Still, Ravi at least twisted Nietzsche's actual words to his purposes.  In contrast, he appears to have invented from whole cloth Darwin's fears of a naturalistic world. Despite my best efforts I could find nothing remotely close to Ravi's words in Descent of Man or in Origin of Species to be generous. I challenge the reader to find the source Ravi draws from, but until a textual origin is found for the sentiment I must assume that Ravi has extracted it from a rather unsanitary orifice.


  1. Nietzsche was wrong about the source of the carnage is all.

  2. Interesting take, and keeping with the title of your blog, I am reminded of this quote from a holocaust survivor:

    “If we present a man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone.
    I became acquainted with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment; or as the Nazi liked to say, ‘of Blood and Soil.’ I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.”

    ― Viktor E. Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy

  3. This blogger fails to acknowledge that all of Nietzsche's statements are founded upon his fundamental declaration that he himself is god and, therefore, God is dead. Frankl clarifies that connection in the quotations offered by Mr Joshua Hughes. Nietzsche's voice cannot be excluded from "the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers" during the first half of the 20th century, after being such a strong nihilistic voice during the last half of the 19th century. Nietzsche's failure to specify the 20th century simply indicates he had no way of knowing that the consequences of nihilism and it's premise of the death of God would come so swiftly.

  4. How can any human being made in the image of God, could become so hostile and so evil and so destructive to so ordinary another human being also created in the image of God?

  5. This is one of the most pathetically written, poorly researched articles I have read in a while. You do not have to read much of Nietzsche to realize you are completely wrong in your refute of what Ravi claims. Also, your conjecture of how religious people are at fault for the bloodbath as they are confronted by their truth being false, and claiming that is what Nietzsche meant is dead wrong. The most ignorant and inaccurate take on history is that religion is responsible death, war, and atrocity. Go do your history, and I'll help you get started: "The Great Big Book of Horrible Things," by Matthew White and “Encyclopedia of Wars,” by Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod. This is exactly what Nietzsche was predicting.

  6. Nietzsche died insane and from outside sources with sexually transmitted disease. This is not exactly the inspiration one would like to have from one of the German writer philosophers of the early 20th century espousing the God is dead movement.

  7. Nietzsche died insane and from outside sources with sexually transmitted disease. This is not exactly the inspiration one would like to have from one of the German writer philosophers of the early 20th century espousing the God is dead movement.

  8. While Nietzsche didn't specifically say, "the 20th century" you can infer that from this aphorism (362) from 'The Gay Science' -

    "We owe it to Napoleon (and not by any means to the French Revolution, which aimed at the “brotherhood” of nations and a blooming universal exchange of hearts) that we now confront a succession of a few warlike centuries that have no parallel in history; in short, that we have entered the classical age of war, of scientific and at the same time popular war on the largest scale (in weapons, talents, and discipline). All coming centuries will look back on it with envy and awe for its perfection."