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I'm listening to Westernhagen's self-titled album, and there's a line in Ganz und gar that I'm having trouble with, because my intuitions about kein as an article and der as a pronoun are pretty fuzzy.

Und glaubst du deiner Mutter
Denn sie schwört auf gute Butter
Und glaubst du deinem Vater
Der sein Leben lang gespart hat

Denn Garantien gibt dir keiner
Kein lieber Gott, auch der nicht - leider
Wenn du lebst bist du alleine
Ganz und gar

My prose translation is this, but I want input on it.

Because no one gives you guarantees;
even beloved God doesn't, unfortunately

Because no one gives you guarantees;
no beloved God does either, unfortunately

Is either of these translations correct? Is one better?

Does either/both/neither of the translations I provided accurately capture the meaning of the emphasized lines? Is there an alternative translation that would capture it better?

Does kein lieber Gott imply some rejection of Christianity?

To my second-language-learner ear it first sounded like it could be interpreted as implying the absence of any lieber Gott, or possibly treating lieber Gott as any god rather than "the" God.

In English, the words "no god" together make me immediately think of things like "no gods no masters", "there is no god", "no loving god would ...", all of which strongly imply some level of rejection of god/religion. Is that true of this sentence in German as well?

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    It may be helpful to note that "Lieber Gott" is basically a set phrase in German to address God, for example in (children's) prayers, christian song lyrics and the like. It also found its way into exclamations like "Oh mein lieber Gott!" ("Oh my dear lord!"). Jan 17, 2022 at 20:11
  • He plays around with the meanings that God is not lieb, or there is no god, or only other god(s). But you and the answer below missed the "auch der nicht", which states that the "Liebe Gott" exists and is lieb, so an instant reversion of that play with meaning. So a very direct translation: "Guarantees are given to you by no one. Not by a Dear God, even not from/by him, sadly."
    – Sebastian
    Aug 7, 2022 at 19:44

1 Answer 1

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Being a second-language English speaker, I would say your second translation is more appropriate:

Because no one gives you guarantees;
no beloved God does either, unfortunately

But actually, lieber Gott would better translate to "dear god", or even just "god", as it is an idiomatic fixed phrase just referring to god, especially when talking to children. Thus "beloved god" feels like exaggerating.

The lines are ambiguous with regards to the question whether they imply that god does not even exist. They are very clear, though, that not even god (if she exists) would give you any guarantee.

To my German ear, "kein lieber Gott" raises an association to a line of the socialist anthem Die Internationale:

Es rettet uns kein höh'res Wesen
Kein Gott, kein Kaiser noch Tribun

But of course it is not possible to tell whether this association was intended let alone taken into account by the author. An argument on this topic would require a broader analysis of the context and the work of the author. Ad hoc, I would deem this rather improbable.

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  • why do you think the train of thought from the last paragraph improbable? Jan 17, 2022 at 22:31
  • @planetmaker Hard to tell. When it comes to these impressions, it is rather a gut feeling. The strongest argument is that kein lieber Gott is different from kein Gott, and evocates more a critique of christian child belief ("Kinderglauben") than the socialist anthem. But I could err, it is really just an intuition and I also don't know the work of the author. Jan 18, 2022 at 6:17

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