Is God Dead?

In an era where the American people and the president argue about “whose side God is on,” many are left questioning whether or not a higher being even exists. Still others embrace their faith unconditionally, even during trying times. Was Nietzsche right, could God be dead in our society, or is he more alive than ever before?
Professors, ministers and students, mostly studying philosophy, were asked to analyze and explain their views on the existence of God. In philosophy, their course of study requires them to recognize and understand both controversial and traditional theories regarding spirituality.
With a ring fastened neatly around the center of his lower lip and an unimpressed look on his face, Matt Erck, a religious studies and philosophy senior, has a clearly defined view on God.
“God as a person or some sort of metaphysical being never existed, so it can’t be dead,” Erck said. “But God as a metaphysical idea is definitely dying because we are no longer in a time of superstition where scientific beliefs are more easily rationalized and explained by fairy tales.”
Erck raises the important point of time, perhaps the fundamental issue behind the evolution of spirituality in our society. Fewer people probably questioned the existence of God when a higher, all-knowing being was the only explanation for the workings of the country, the world, and the universe. Now with science able to explain so much, the idea of God has changed for many people.
However, youth minister, D. Johnson, disagrees, and follows the Bible in his quest for answers.
“In response to that, I would go back to the Bible first and state what it says,” Johnson said.
“The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” For some, faith never falters.
Others saw God as an all-encompassing entity. “God is everywhere, but people have to seek him,” Jonathan Joyner, a first-year law student, said. “He reaches out to all of us, but we don’t always hear him.”
[god] None of the philosophy students provided a resounding response stating God was, in fact, alive and well in American society. Sean Higgins was hesitant to fully explain the existence of “the Almighty.”
“You can’t prove God exists, but you can’t prove he doesn’t either, so is God dead in most people’s lives? Yes,” Higgins said. But that doesn’t mean that he has given up his own faith. “Personally, I hope he exists. I can’t prove it, but I hope so,” Higgins said.
Like many, assistant professor of philosophy Frederick Rauscher, also straddled the middle line, unsure of whether or not our culture has given up on God.
“Nobody can know whether God exists or not, but precisely for this reason, we as a society, have to interact with each other on a human level and particularly in our political institutions,” Rauscher said.
Perhaps this is the ultimate paradox. Does God now exist more realistically in our actions as human beings, and in the way we relate to our peers and govern our people? Rauscher is suggesting, despite whether we are sure that God is watching over us, we must live with respect for others and a willingness to better our world. If there is no God we must try even harder without the supervision of a higher power.
“In philosophy last year, I read small exerts of Nietzsche, famous for saying, ‘God is dead.’ I gathered that it is not so much that God is dead, but that he is absent in many customs and practices… He is being acknowledged less and less and therefore appears to be dying,” said Amanda Goodrich-Stuart, a German junior.
God, or an abundance of religious customs, may be “dead” to some and very alive to many others. Yet, if the possible existence of a higher power makes people act more tolerant and peaceful it might not matter.
“… I see his influence in my daily life,” Goodrich-Stuart said.

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Resisting the Vote

Despite the efforts of campaigns like “Vote or Die” and “Rock the Vote,” many young people are refusing to head to the booths to choose a president on November 2. But it is not always apathy that keeps them from the ballot box. In the case of many MSU students, it is frustration with the political system that leads them to believe that neither Bush, Kerry nor Nader deserve their vote.[sej]
Tommy Simon, a social relations and English sophomore, is affiliated with the campus group Students for Economic Justice. SEJ is an anarchist-influenced group whose main current cause is exposing the university’s ties to sweatshops. He is abstaining from voting for president. He is, however, casting his ballot on local matters.
“Bush and Kerry’s differences are only in rhetoric,” he said. “I’m a political activist, 100 percent. I am not voting for President because the day after the election, war will still be there- social injustice will still be there. It’s discouraging as an activist because no matter what guy is in there, the same thing happens,” Simon said. He made it clear that he is not telling others not to vote. He hopes that everyone will do what they each think is best.
[cartoon] “I won’t vote for Nader because ideologically, I feel that our centralized government is so removed from the people that the set up itself is illegitimate,” Simon added. He would like to see a progressive act that could at least start to right the wrongs of the past. He explained that he would like to see real change. “Successful political movements in the past have never happened through a ballot box. To get there they had to do something—early 1900s labor strikes, sit ins for civil rights, the Boston Tea Party, women’s suffrage, and the anti Vietnam demonstrations—people have to get involved but not through the U.S. electoral process,” Simon said.
Maggie Ryan, an international relations and political theory & constitutional democracy senior, is a member of the activist group Direct Action, based East Lansing and unaffiliated with MSU. The group’s website flashes the words “Bush wins, Kerry wins, we lose.” They also read not only mainstream media but other sources like Indymedia.org regularly, to broaden their views beyond messages filtered through corporate news.
“[Some] people don’t agree with the system,” she said. “The idea of people ruling over others just doesn’t make sense. Direct Action is activist group-they definitely care what is going on. They just don’t agree with the political system or those that are selected to be leaders.” Ryan also said that some people who ascribe to a certain party do not agree with many of the standpoints, but liberals tend to think it is at least better to fix things in the short term.
[protest] Other students have less activist reasons for not voting on Tuesday. On the eve of Election Day, international relations senior Mike Griffith will be dragging himself to the bar. “I’m hoping to be incoherent enough not to remember voting,” he said. “The whole political process is like drunkenly yelling out slogans anyway. I mean, the big issue today is that Cheney’s daughter is a lesbian. What kind of discourse is that?”
Griffith explained that he thinks the American political process is lacking in substance, which deters him from heading happily to the ballot box. “I just don’t think anyone has any real answers for our problems right now,” he said. “Neither [candidate] has a real plan to deal with Iraq, and either candidate will be stuck with the mess.”
Other students are disillusioned with the voting system because of the Electoral College that placed anunbalanced importance on the state of Florida in the 2004 Presidential race. Students like Lucus Hansen, a political theory senior, have lost faith in the political process because of the last election.
“I just don’t believe in the system,” Hansen said. “The last election proved it doesn’t mean anything. The people voted, and it didn’t matter.” Whether non-voting students are frustrated with the Electoral College or acting out against the current system, it is important to consider why they choose to abstain.
Rather than attempting to bring unregistered Americans to the voting booths in masses, Ryan suggests that the political leaders take into consideration why so many citizens refrain from practicing their right to vote.
“A broad number of people not voting says something about our political system- either that people do not believe in it, or they do not care about it, but both speak poorly of it,” she pointed out.

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Mulleted Men and Meeting the Locals

[club] One night in Northern Spain sticks out in Libby Samanen’s mind when she reminisces about her recent trip to Spain this last summer. It was outside the best club in the city of Satander, called Racombole, that her American friends decided to retire from the evening at an early 11:00 p.m. Samanen, a communications and Spanish senior, was not impressed by the early hour at which her companions had grown drowsy. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she thought, “turning in at 11:00 p.m. in Spain is like turning in at 8:00 p.m. in America, and I won’t have it.”
Just when she thought her night was heading toward a pathetically early end, she spotted two energized females walking by. Libby had to think quickly. She asked them what they were up to, and they said that they were off on an adventurous night. With the friendliness typical of Spaniards, they invited Libby to join them.
[libby] One of the girls that she joined had short curly dark hair with the bright red highlights. She wore a blue mini skirt with a yellow and pink tube top. She even had bell-bottom leg warmers on, but she was “rockin’ them,” according to Samanen.
“It was cool to see that they are different, but we have so much in common, too. The girls were experiencing the same love troubles and all that. We saw that we had the same sorts of views on the world, and we all loved to learn about each other.”
While dancing with the Spaniards, Libby noticed that their moves were not your typical American booty shaking. “[Spanish men] are a bit more gentlemanly when they dance. It was refreshing,” she said.
That wasn’t the only difference Samanem saw in the men. She said many were wearing their hair in the style of the mullet, the business in the front, party in the back ‘do endlessly mocked and ridiculed in the U.S. Apparently, this style abandoned here in the 1980s, has, for some reason, taken root in Spain.
“I have seen some gorgeous men with mullets in their hair,” she said.
That night, three girls who were once total strangers from different countries took off their shoes, danced until dawn, and shared their lives with one another. Something clicked, and they spent the rest of the summer hanging out.
Samanem, who has been to Spain five times, recommends everyone visit the country and meet the locals. “The people are good at living for the moment,” she said. “They have a philosophy that one should not do anything tomorrow that one can do today.”

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