Jensen / Big answer behind the census question

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed Him.”

FRIEDRICH Nietzsche wrote these words in 1882 in the “Parable of the Madman”. This narrative revolves around a local man who informs the gathering crowd that they have killed God. He claims that they did this unknowingly and without any realisation of the consequences of such an act. He finally concludes that no-one understands what he is talking about, and that this truth is far beyond them. Thereby he is ultimately dismissed as a madman.

Nick Jensen.
Nick Jensen.

Jump forward 134 years, and suddenly it doesn’t seem like such a mad idea. Atheism is on the rise in Australia, with more people than ever before in our history declaring a symbolic “death of God”. So much so, that the ABS has decided that the term “no religion” should now take pride of place in our August 9 census. Indeed, a campaign has formed to encourage people to tick this box in order to lessen the “undeserved” influence of religion in our society and increase the lobbying power of the faithless.

What I love above Nietzsche is his honesty. He recognises the ultimate significance of his statement. Once God goes, Nietzsche explains, then morality, meaning, and truth go with Him. It is simply foolish to dismiss the notion of God, yet still live in a way that is fundamentally attached to His existence. Put simply, if chaos is all that runs the universe, then speaking and acting as if there is anything “good” is inauthentic.

To quote Nietzsche: “Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder?”

His solution of course is that we have to create our own meaning, our own individual truth, essentially become our own gods. We can be and do whatever we want on one proviso – that we have the power to do it. Why does the eagle swoop down and eat the lamb? Because he can. Good and evil do not come into it.

In essence, the question on the census is probably the most significant one that could ever be asked (though ironically an optional one to answer).

It is the question of whether we hold something to be transcendent and bigger than ourselves, or whether we declare, with a stroke of a pen, there is no higher mind than mine. Indeed, this question affects everything in our society from our laws, our work and even our motivations and actions towards each other.

Although some may see this census question of one’s religion as no more than a power struggle for influence, I honestly have a different attitude. No matter which box people pick, it is a wonderful opportunity to ask ourselves, at least every five years, what do we believe? Our understanding of truth, purpose, human identity, right, wrong, life, death, and indeed the very nature of reality all hang on our response to this one question.

For me, the beauty, love and goodness I see in this world can draw me to only One conclusion.

Nick Jensen is the director of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, which helps develop leaders in public policy (lmi.org.au)

Who Can You Trust?

In a world beleaguered by spin and confused messages, there's never been more need for diverse, trustworthy, independent journalism in Canberra.

Who can you trust? Well, for more than 25 years, "CityNews" has proudly been an independent, free, family-owned news magazine, serving the national capital with quality, integrity and authority. Through our weekly magazine and daily through our digital platforms, we constantly and reliably deliver high-quality and diverse opinion, news, arts, socials and lifestyle columns.

If you trust our work online and believe in the power of independent voices, I encourage you to make a small contribution.

Every dollar of support will be invested back into our journalism so we can continue to provide a valuably different view of what's happening around you and keep citynews.com.au free.

Click here to make your donation and you will be supporting the future of journalism and media diversity in the ACT.

Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Previous articleArts / In praise of Mr Quentin Crisp
Next articleHelp! Vicar needed by Tempo Theatre

7 COMMENTS

  1. Weird logic to end with; “For me, the beauty, love and goodness I see in this world can draw me to only One conclusion.” Sure you are entitled to incredibly believe in some form of magical, mystical, fairy creator(s). It’s utterly ridiculous to think that we cannot have beauty, love and goodness in the world, without believing in the preposterous. Morality, ethics, fair social and legislative laws come from intelligent argumentation. Have you read the horror in holy books, or did you skip over all the bad bits? Do you not see religions awful treatment of women, LGBT, apostates, children, the poor? The child abuse.

    You have a right to believe whatever nonsense you want, but stop harming others and claiming the fairy tale books are the only way to peace, morality and beauty. l advise modernising religions;write another holy book, one that is reasoned, fair and in touch with reality.

    • Want reality? Read the bible with all its angst and fear and reality of mans condition but of a God wh stayed with His creation through it all and finally died for their sake. THEN READ a newspaper and ell hat changed in the human condition.

      • I hate to break it to you, but the various holy books are fiction. The earth is around 6000 years old? A rickety old boat was able to carry a male and female of every creature across rugged seas and propagate? Magical figures walking on water?

        Believe in fiction if you want, but l highly recommend modernising religions to rid of glaring nonsense and instead treat each other fairly, humanely and without domination.

        Humanity will prosper if the vast majority put their ‘faith’ in science, rationality and evidence-based thinking. Some ethics and philosophy too. I’ll still fight for your right to believe in your faith, as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others.

        Hope you are a happy and healthy person.

  2. Do those replying to Nick Jensen’s article really know what the bible is about? Have they read it, or are they just picking bits that someone has told them or has written about? They seem to take allegory as fact. They seem to think their great-great-great …great-grandfather was a jelly blubber which happened to evolve into them. A thorough reading of the bible would show that the bible is a book about God, not science. Do they know where there are conflicting accounts of creation in Genesis? Do they know the sun wasn’t created until the 3rd day in one account so did God mean his 24 hour day to be taken literally?. Was God simply saying he created the world? He didn’t express creation in scientific terms because there were no scientists. Look at the world around you. A flower provides food for bees and bees pollinate flowers. It takes a male and a female to mate to form a baby. Was this chance? Could there have been a creator behind it?

Leave a Reply