I wrote a paper about Nietzsche's view of christianity for my philosophy class, and so I decided to post it for you all. enjoy
“What defines me, what sets me apart from the rest of humanity is that I uncovered Christian Morality (pg. 788).” It is for words like these that the 19th century philosopher, Fredrick Nietzsche is best known. Unlike any philosopher before him, Nietzsche attempted to discredit Christian morality as life-denying, and one of the greatest calamities to ever have befallen mankind. “Christian morality – the most malignant form of the will to like, the Circe of humanity – that which corrupted humanity. “ Nietzsche claimed that the fundamental drive of all life was what he called “will to power.” Life itself, he said, was will to power – the power to have control over one’s own life and environment. (pg. 238) Christian morality then, is a way of suppressing that ill, and in turn, suppressing what it is to be an organic being. Nietzsche goes on to state that Christianity is simply a people’s version of Plato’s theory of forms, and who’s messages of self-denial, love, and a meek personality are a way of denying ones own life. Nietzsche begins his critique of Christian morality by first exploring its origins. First, he says, Christianity was created so people could feel better about their seemingly meaningless lives. “To ordinary human beings…religion gives an inestimable contentment with their situation and type, manifold peace of the heart, on ennobling of obedience…something of a justification for thee whole everyday character, the whole lowliness, the whole half brutish poverty of heir souls.” This is even found in the Bible, the book of Ecclesiastes reads: “So I hated life. It made me sad to think that everything here on earth is useless, like chasing the wind…What do people get for all their work and struggling here on earth? All their lives their work is full of pain and sorrow and even at night their minds don’t rest. This also is useless. The best that people can do is eat, drink, and enjoy their work. I saw that even this comes from God, because no one can eat and enjoy life without him. If people please God, god will give them knowledge, wisdom, and joy (Ecc. 2:17-29).” Nietzsche believes that some people are not strong enough to handle the truth about the reality and mortality of their lives, so they invented a belief system that will give them hope that everything will end up perfect. Another origin of Christian morality according to Nietzsche is one that isn’t blatantly obvious, but never the less true. It comes, he asserts, from the sufferer’s desire to come out form the rule of his oppressors, whether it be in this life or the next. “For the strong and independent who are prepared and predestined to command…religion is one more means for over coming resistances, for the ability to rule – as a bond that unites rulers and subjects and betrays and delivers the consciences of the latter, that which is more concealed and intimate and would like to elude obedience to the former (pg. 262).” Once again, there are direct examples of this in the Bible. Ecclesiastes 4:1 are the words of a man mourning being under the rule of others; “Again I saw all the people who were mistreated here on earth. I saw their tears and that they had no one to comfort them. Cruel people had all the power, and there was no one to comfort those who hurt.” Belief in God guarantees that one will be better off than his oppressors in the afterlife. A parable by Jesus in Luke 16:19-24, tells the story of a poor man named Lazarus who lay at a rich mans gate, hoping to get the scraps of his food. When both of the men die, Lazarus goes to heaven, and the rich man goes to hell. The rich man sees Lazarus in paradise and asks for a drop of water to cool his burning tongue. It is denied him, as well as his request to warn his brothers of their impending doom. So Christian morality and values, then, come not only from a desire to live in a perfect place, but also from a desire to see one’s oppressors suffering in eternal torment – a quest for revenge. In order for the oppressed to free themselves from their oppressors, Christian Morality encourages the rich and powerful to give up their wealth to become humble servants of Jesus. In Luke 18:18-23, Jesus meets a rich young ruler who asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life in heaven. Jesus replies by saying that he must follow the laws written in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). The young man responds, saying he had done this since his youth; Jesus then tells him he must sell all his possessions, give to the poor, and then follow Him. In Christianity then, it is the weak and humble that are favored. Jesus teaches, in Matthew 5: “Those who are sad now will be happy, because God will comfort them. Those who are humble are happy, because the earth will belong to them…Those who are treated badly for doing good are happy, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. “ What is required then is that all people be equal, and that none should oppress the other. The influence of this belief system can even been seen effecting Western culture. Nietzsche wrote: “What they, [in all the countries of Europe, and in America,] would like to strive for with all their powers is the universal green-pasture happiness of the herd, with security, lack of danger, comfort and an easier life for everyone; the two songs and doctrines which they repeat most often are “equality of rights” and “sympathy for all that suffers” – and suffering itself they take for something that must be abolished (pg. 244).” This very thing is seen in our own country’s Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The cause of this thinking is one of the principle reasons for Nietzsche’s harsh criticism of Christian morality and values – that it hinders the progress and advancement of mankind. The danger of this belief system only increases when Christianity, or any other religion, claims to be the only way to get into heaven. Nietzsche says of such religions: “they agree with all those who suffer life like a sickness and would like to make sure that every other feeling about life should be considered false and should become impossible (pg. 264).” What Nietzsche is claiming, then, is that religion is created in order to discourage the strong and their quest for progress – to keep man on a lower rung, so that the weak can survive. Progress is even viewed as rebellion against God. An example of this is found in Genesis 11:1-9. In the story, all the people of the earth gather together to build a tower that would display their wealth and power. God does not like the idea, so he confuses the languages of the people, and they are forced to stop their work. Nietzsche continually condemns the encouragement of this simple mindedness, and commends those who accept these values. He adds that modern, industrialized, and busy societies prepare people for “unbelief.” He continues by saying: “Among those, for example, who now live in Germany at a distance form religion I find people whose “free-thinking” is of diverse types and origins, but above all a majority of those in whom industriousness has…dissolved the religious instincts, so they no long even know what religions are good for and merely register their presence in the world with a kind of dumb amazement (pg. 259).” Religion creates a fear of real progress in man, and claims instead that “knowledge begins with the [fear of] the Lord, but fools hate wisdom and self-control. (Prov. 1:7)” What commitment to such Christian values is a symptom of, then, is fear. Fear of the truth of one’s own situation is the reason for the belief that one day everything will be perfect in God’s kingdom of heaven. Fear of death is another reason for a belief in an afterlife. Fear of one’s own life and natural instincts are also reasons for the upholding of Christian values. Christian morality continually discourages acting on the impulses that we are born with, and causes us to feel guilty when we do. An example of this comes from Proverbs 16:17, which reads: “Good people stay away from evil. By watching what they do, they protect their lives.” Another example can be found in Matthew 10:39: “those who try to hold on to their lives will give up true life. Those who give up their lives for me will hold on to true life;” and still another in Mark 8:34: “If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing even to give up their lives to follow me.” Nietzsche despises this denial and fear of life. He claims that the stronger a person is, the more truth about their lives they can stand. Religion is simply a way for people not to have to deal with the truths of their lives, despite the fact that they’ll be better for it. “It is the profound, suspicious fear of an incurable pessimism that forces whole millennia to bury their teeth in and cling to a religious interpretation of existence: the fear of that instinct which senses that one might get a hold of the truth too soon, before man has become strong enough, hard enough, artist enough. Piety, the “life in God,” seen in this way, would appear as the subtlest and final offspring of the fear of truth (pg. 261).” Religion then, according to Nietzsche is almost necessary to an extent, in order to preserve those who are not yet strong enough to realize the truth of their own existence. Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity is indeed a harsh one. He goes so far as to compare Christian morality to vampirism, in that it sucks the blood out of life itself. (pg. 790) To Nietzsche, the Christian values are a way to suppress what it is to be a natural organic being, and to devalue the only world there is. He states that the good man is “presented as one who is weak, sick, a failure, and suffering of itself (pg 790).” The Christian God, he says, is simply Plato’s “form of the good,” and Christianity is “Platonism for “the people.”” Nietzsche’s ideal world is one in which mankind embraces their natural instincts, does not deprive the world in which they live of value, where revenge isn’t man’s central motivation, and where progress, strength, and power are sought after. This, says Nietzsche, is the type of world where the human race would be most happy – where they embrace what they are, and where the knowledge of the truth does not drive them over the edge into insanity.
I found a typo! =p Besides that it was a really good read. Good work. I'd give kudos but cannot.
Yes, there's probably a couple grammatical and spelling errors...I suck at proof-reading. And thank you. :)
I've only skimmed it (I'm low on time, it's 11 oclock and I have to take a shower) but it seems to sum up what I have been trying to say in the Religious thread, and get ignored for. This, I guess, is the key to the argument. This isn't the reason why religion (my opinion) is wrong, it's why it exists.
For the Emperor! Knights of Caliban!
16th March 2004
Impressive...indeed do tell us what grade/mark you get on the paper
[color=#000000][size=2][b][i]Heralds of the coming doom, Like the cry of the Raven, we are drawn, This oath of war and vengeance, On a blade of exalted iron sworn, With blood anointed swords
I actually only got a B on it...mostly because I didn't proof-read it well before I handed it in. Many grammatical and spelling errors. I corrected most of it before posting it here.
Ah, Nietzsche... so right... yet such a Nazi... Unfortunately, all of Nietzche's criticism of Christianity overlooks the fact that his alternative is probably worse. Being able to define our own morals and crap through our instinct is not the road of "civility." Though Nietzche would probably criticize that notion as well, the fact is we do have to suppress our instinctual desires in favor of societal norms and whatnot. I prefer his successor - Heidegger - in alternative modes to acheive morality, etc., though Heidegger talks about stuff quite a bit differently. His alternative options are a bit more sound in my mind.
(PS: I know he wasn't a nazi...)