Human All-Too-Human, Part 1

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At the Sight of Certain Antique Sacrificial Implements.—The fact of how many feelings are lost to us may be seen, for instance, in the mingling of the droll, even of the obscene, with the religious feeling. The sensation of the possibility of this mixture vanishes, we only comprehend historically that it existed in the feasts of Demeter and Dionysus, in the Christian Easter-plays and Mysteries. But we also know that which is noble in alliance with burlesque and such like, the touching mingled with the laughable, which perhaps a later age will not be able to understand.


Christianity As Antiquity.—When on a Sunday morning we hear the old bells ring out, we ask ourselves, "Is it possible! This is done on account of a Jew crucified two thousand years ago who said he was the Son of God. The proof of such an assertion is wanting." Certainly in our[Pg 123] times the Christian religion is an antiquity that dates from very early ages, and the fact that its assertions are still believed, when otherwise all claims are subjected to such strict examination, is perhaps the oldest part of this heritage. A God who creates a son from a mortal woman; a sage who requires that man should no longer work, no longer judge, but should pay attention to the signs of the approaching end of the world; a justice that accepts an innocent being as a substitute in sacrifice; one who commands his disciples to drink his blood; prayers for miraculous intervention; sins committed against a God and atoned for through a God; the fear of a future to which death is the portal; the form of the cross in an age which no longer knows the signification and the shame of the cross,[3] how terrible all this appears to us, as if risen from the grave of the ancient past! Is it credible that such things are still believed?


What Is Un-greek in Christianity.—The Greeks did not regard the Homeric gods as raised above them like masters, nor themselves as being under them like servants, as the Jews did. They only saw, as in a mirror, the most perfect examples of their own caste; an ideal, therefore, and not an opposite of their own nature. There is a feeling[Pg 124] of relationship, a mutual interest arises, a kind of symmachy. Man thinks highly of himself when he gives himself such gods, and places himself in a relation like that of the lower nobility towards the higher; while the Italian nations hold a genuine peasant-faith, with perpetual fear of evil and mischievous powers and tormenting spirits. Wherever the Olympian gods retreated into the background, Greek life was more sombre and more anxious. Christianity, on the contrary, oppressed man and crushed him utterly, sinking him as if in deep mire; then into the feeling of absolute depravity it suddenly threw the light of divine mercy, so that the surprised man, dazzled by forgiveness, gave a cry of joy and for a moment believed that he bore all heaven within himself. All psychological feelings of Christianity work upon this unhealthy excess of sentiment, and upon the deep corruption of head and heart it necessitates; it desires to destroy, break, stupefy, confuse,—only one thing it does not desire, namely moderation, and therefore it is in the deepest sense barbaric, Asiatic, ignoble and un-Greek.


To Be Religious With Advantage.—There are sober and industrious people on whom religion is embroidered like a hem of higher humanity; these do well to remain religious, it beautifies them. All people who do not understand some kind of trade in weapons—tongue and pen included as weapons—become servile; for such the Christian[Pg 125] religion is very useful, for then servility assumes the appearance of Christian virtues and is surprisingly beautified. People to whom their daily life appears too empty and monotonous easily grow religious; this is comprehensible and excusable, only they have no right to demand religious sentiments from those whose daily life is not empty and monotonous.[4]


The Commonplace Christian.—If Christianity were right, with its theories of an avenging God, of general sinfulness, of redemption, and the danger of eternal damnation, it would be a sign of weak intellect and lack of character not to become a priest, apostle or hermit, and to work only with fear and trembling for one's own salvation; it would be senseless thus to neglect eternal benefits for temporary comfort. Taking it for granted that there is belief, the commonplace Christian is a miserable figure, a man that really cannot add two and two together, and who, moreover, just because of his mental incapacity for responsibility, did not deserve to be so severely punished as Christianity has decreed.


Of the Wisdom of Christianity.—It is a clever stroke on the part of Christianity to teach[Pg 126] the utter unworthiness, sinfulness, and despicableness of mankind so loudly that the disdain of their fellow-men is no longer possible. "He may sin as much as he likes, he is not essentially different from me,—it is I who am unworthy and despicable in every way," says the Christian to himself. But even this feeling has lost its sharpest sting, because the Christian no longer believes in his individual despicableness; he is bad as men are generally, and comforts himself a little with the axiom, "We are all of one kind."


Change of Front.—As soon as a religion triumphs it has for its enemies all those who would have been its first disciples.


The Fate of Christianity.—Christianity arose for the purpose of lightening the heart; but now it must first make the heart heavy in order afterwards to lighten it. Consequently it will perish.


The Proof of Pleasure.—The agreeable opinion is accepted as true,—this is the proof of the pleasure (or, as the Church says, the proof of the strength), of which all religions are so proud when they ought to be ashamed of it. If Faith did not make blessed it would not be believed in; of how little value must it be, then!

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A Dangerous Game.—Whoever now allows scope to his religious feelings must also let them increase, he cannot do otherwise. His nature then gradually changes; it favours whatever is connected with and near to the religious element, the whole extent of judgment and feeling becomes clouded, overcast with religious shadows. Sensation cannot stand still; one must therefore take care.


The Blind Disciples.—So long as one knows well the strength and weakness of one's doctrine, one's art, one's religion, its power is still small. The disciple and apostle who has no eyes for the weaknesses of the doctrine, the religion, and so forth, dazzled by the aspect of the master and by his reverence for him, has on that account usually more power than the master himself. Without blind disciples the influence of a man and his work has never yet become great. To help a doctrine to victory often means only so to mix it with stupidity that the weight of the latter carries off also the victory for the former.

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