Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is the philosopher most linked to the phrase “God is dead.” He used the phrase on several occasions in his writing. He was brought up in a Christian family but by the age of 20 he had rejected his Christian faith.
The phrase “God is dead” is often misunderstood as somehow referring to the literal death of God, but this is not what Nietzsche meant. Instead Nietzsche was pointing towards the end of the western world’s reliance on God as a source of morality and purpose. Nietzsche wasn’t talking about the death or end of an actually existing God, he was talking about the death of an idea, an idea that had for thousands of years given order to society and meaning to life, the idea of God.
For Nietzsche the idea of God had been eliminated as part of Western culture; God had been squeezed out. God is redundant and we no longer have any need for this idea. The emergence of scientific explanation and new philosophical ideas about morality meant there was no need for God to give us answers; we could work out the answers ourselves.
Nietzsche was concerned that this major event wasn’t being noticed by society. He was concerned with what we would replace this idea. He was cornered that having killed God, having got rid of the idea of God, we needed to replace God and this required us to most of all realise that God is dead.