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Nietzsche: The Anti-Christ

My feeble attempt at existential understanding:

Question: What is Nietzsche criticizing when he targets “Christianity” in The Anti-Christ? Is his criticism on target?

The central reason why Nietzsche criticizes Christianity is because he sees it as the source of the slave morality that has reigned supreme in Europe for two thousand years. He sees it as the reason for why the “higher” type of man has fallen and ultimately been excommunicated. The higher man was one who followed his instincts, praised the passions, lived and enjoyed life on this earth, and emphasized his will to power. But Christianity, for Nietzsche, does the opposite. It subdues the instincts and the passions. It lives for another world. And it emphasizes pity and sympathy rather than power. And “what is more harmful than any vice? – Active sympathy for the ill-constituted and weak – Christianity” (487).

To sum up his condemnation of Christianity he states, “I bring against the Christian Church the most terrible charge any prosecutor has ever uttered…The Christian Church has left nothing untouched by its depravity, it has made of every value a disvalue, of every truth a lie, of every kind of integrity a vileness of soul” (498). In other words, it has reversed master-noble morality into slave-resentment morality.

But Nietzsche’s critique only makes sense if there was once a time when master morality and the higher man reigned supreme. He thinks exactly this: the Greeks and the Romans and even the Muslims had achieved the greatness that Nietzsche is after. But the Christians did away with such cultures: “Christianity robbed us of the harvest of the culture of the ancient world, it later went on to rob us of the harvest of the culture of Islam” (497). For Nietzsche, this is the greatest historical travesty to have ever occurred.

Historically speaking, I think Nietzsche is probably correct in many ways. Morality does seem to have made a major shift upon Christianity spreading and ultimately coming to power. Of course, slave morality was probably existent prior to Christianity, but it may not have become so widespread until Christianity became widespread. Also, I think Nietzsche is right in that many Christians throughout history have sought after another world as well as rejected the passions. But while this might be true of many Christians, I do not think it is true of all. Personally, I think Christianity can be very much about living in this world and enjoying life now. Many Christians do not seem to understand this. I think Nietzsche was right: “The ‘kingdom of God’ is not something one waits for; it has no yesterday or tomorrow, it does not come ‘in a thousand years’ – it is an experience within the heart; it is everywhere, it is nowhere” (493). The Kingdom of God is here now.

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  1. 04/26/2009 at 9:48 pm

    Oh, a Nietzsche post. Me likey. I was reading a critique of Nietzsche's master-slave morality and I think it brought up a good, yet somewhat sad, point. The point was essentially that humans require slave morality. In the end, traditional, weak values are the ones that humans require. I haven't finished reading the critique, but it makes an interesting point. Labeling traditional morality as "slave" morality doesn't really tell us about the truth, value, and legitimacy of this morality. What if the best way to live one's life is in accordance with slave morality? What if slave morality is really better than master morality in terms of usefulness? And isn't the purpose of morality to protect the "weak"? If so, than slave morality works.With regards to Christians rejecting this world and being primarly concerned with the next, is this really true about Christians? I remember writing a blog post about Chrisitans hating life and I got a lot of flack for it. But basically, if you believe in another life after this one, then there must be some sort of "hate" towards this one. Otherwise, why would you want another life? But when I said this argument, most people asserted they were truly concerned with this one.

  2. 04/29/2009 at 12:28 am

    Yeah. Some moralists have argued that the sort of altruism that we might associate with slave morality is something that we actually find to be deeply satisfying, deeply fulfilling. Although I don't know if that is something I would call sad. Perhaps that is something to rejoice over. Or perhaps it just is: neither good nor bad. Personally I am very attracted to slave morality. I find it allows people to make the deepest and most profound connections to each other. And you're right. Debasing traditional morality as "slave" morality doesn't tell us about its legitimacy or truth. But I'm not sure Nietzsche really cares. For him–whether or not it works–slave morality is simply another disguise of the will to power. It is the morality that arises from the resentment of slaves (or the weak) who wish to overcome their current position in life by overthrowing their master. So even if slave morality is something that we seem to naturally find fulfillment in, perhaps that is only a product of our weakness or our society's weakness. In other words, perhaps this natural attraction to slave morality is merely an illusion of our culture, an illusion that has been perpetrated by Christians for two thousand years. And that's one reason why Nietzsche writes: to call us beyond these traditional values that have latched onto us so tightly. To call us beyond good and evil. As far as Christians and an after life are concerned, I think a brief historical survey would show how important the afterlife has been in Christian circles since or almost since its beginning. And I'm not sure that a belief in an afterlife means you hate this life (I know you didn't quite mean this as you put hate in quotations) but it might point toward some sort of dissatisfaction about this life. Or it might just point toward the fact that people are afraid to die (which is a sort of dissatisfaction I suppose). And I think for Nietzsche, the afterlife is another thing made up by the weak, by the slaves, to cope with the fact that they are the weak/have no power. And when one is forced to come to grips with this–and with the fact that one cannot overcome the strong–you make up another world in which you will become the strong. Or something of that sort (I don't know Nietzsche that well).

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