In La Gaya Scienza (or, in English, The Gay Science or The Joyful Wisdom), Friedrich Nietzsche proposes that God—specifically, the Christian God—is dead. What Nietzsche means by this, and how it relates to the proper way to live one’s life, can be tricky to unpack.
When Nietzsche says God is dead, and when the madman announces, in Thomas Common’s translation, “We have killed him,” it’s unlikely that Nietzsche is speaking literally. God, an intangible entity, would be hard to kill. What Nietzsche really means is articulated at the start of book 5 when he claims that “the belief in the Christian God has become unworthy of belief.” For Nietzsche, the Christian God is a Western construct. God is inseparable from the “entire European morality.” With European morals “crumbling” and in "ruin,” God, the symbol of this tarnished virtue, is defunct as well.
This figurative death is a positive in Nietzsche’s philosophy. As Nietzsche demonstrates in other books, like The Genealogy of Morals, he doesn’t think highly of Western morals. Now that God and morals are out of the way, people can start living different lives and exploring new possibilities. “At last, the horizon seems open once more,” says Nietzsche.
These horizons come with risk. According to Nietzsche, peril should be sought. The best life, in Nietzsche’s estimation, is one of “love, danger, war, and adventure.” Nietzsche’s celebration of God’s death isn’t so much about the onset of happiness but about the promise of heroic clashes. Nietzsche foresees “a more manly and warlike age,” which will “bring heroism again into honor.”
In the temporary (or temporal) world, it appears as if Nietzsche wants people to lead sensational, daring lives. If one “compromises”—or emphasizes safety and security—they become “captured, conciliated, and stunted.” Such tamed persons are unlikely to achieve the heroic status that Nietzsche prioritizes.