HIS father was very active in their parish where he served as sexton or sacristan. Also his mother was a devout Catholic. And so when Martin Heidegger, a brilliant student, decided to become a Jesuit, the parishioners were besides themselves for joy.
However, the strict Jesuit training which stressed military-like training, for after all St. Ignatius of Loyola wanted to have a “company of Jesus” (compania de Jesus) to fight for God and the Church under the banner of the pope, made Heidegger rebel. Moreover, the young man did not appreciate scholastic philosophy based on St. Thomas’ teachings.
Leaving the Jesuits, Heidegger later accused traditional philosophers of serious intellectual crime, namely “forgetfulness of Being.”
He raised two fundamental questions in philosophy: 1) What is Being? (Was heist Sein?) and 2) Why is there something instead of nothing? (Warum gibt es etwas anstatt an nichts?)
In his monumental work, Being and Time (Sein und Zeit) Heidegger stressed the key role man in the here and now must play in order to know being as such. To achieve this, God must be set aside; to use a phrase he inherited from his teacher, Edmund Husserl, man must “bracket the existence of God” i.e. phenomenological reduction.
Well and good, but here comes the rub: when man sets aside or “brackets God’s existence” in serious attempts to know the answers to the deepest questions about reality, man loses the real meaning of life and human existence.
Or as Leo Tolstoy said, “If there is no God, all things are permitted.”
Sadly, this happened to Heidegger. The once devout Catholic and ex-Jesuit fell into the ways of the world. Although properly married in the Church, Heidegger got romantically entangled with Hannah Arendt, one of his students.
Without condemning Heidegger outright, his life reminds us of Jesus’ wisdom, “What does it profit a man if he gains (the knowledge of the) whole world, but loses (the meaning of) his soul.”