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The fact that the strong races of Northern Europe did not repudiate the Christian God, certainly does not do any credit to their religious power, not to speak of their taste They ought to have been able successfully to cope with such a morbid and decrepit offshoot of decadence. And a curse lies on their heads; because they were unable to cope with him: they made illness, decrepitude and contradiction a part of all their instincts,—since then they have not[Pg 147] created any other God! Two thousand years have passed and not a single new God! But still there exists, and as if by right,—like an ultimum and maximum of god-creating power,—the creator spiritus in man, this miserable God of Christian monotono-theism! This hybrid creature of decay, nonentity, concept and contradiction, in which all the instincts of decadence, all the cowardices and languors of the soul find their sanction!——
With my condemnation of Christianity I should not like to have done an injustice to a religion which is related to it and the number of whose followers is even greater; I refer to Buddhism. As nihilistic religions, they are akin,—they are religions of decadence,—while each is separated from the other in the most extraordinary fashion. For being able to compare them at all, the critic of Christianity is profoundly grateful to Indian scholars.—Buddhism is a hundred times more realistic than Christianity,—it is part of its constitutional heritage to be able to face problems objectively and coolly, it is the outcome of centuries of lasting philosophical activity. The concept "God" was already exploded when it appeared. Buddhism is the only really positive religion to be found in history, even in its epistemology (which is strict phenomenalism)—it no longer speaks of the "struggle with sin" but fully recognising the true nature of reality it speaks of the "struggle with pain." It already has—and this distinguishes it fundamentally from Christianity,—the self-deception of moral concepts beneath it,—to[Pg 148] use my own phraseology, it stands Beyond Good and Evil. The two physiological facts upon which it rests and upon which it bestows its attention are: in the first place excessive irritability of feeling, which manifests itself as a refined susceptibility to pain, and also as super-spiritualisation, an all-too-lengthy sojourn amid concepts and logical procedures, under the influence of which the personal instinct has suffered in favour of the "impersonal." (—Both of these states will be known to a few of my readers, the objective ones, who, like myself, will know them from experience.) Thanks to these physiological conditions, a state of depression set in, which Buddha sought to combat by means of hygiene. Against it, he prescribes life in the open, a life of travel; moderation and careful choice in food; caution in regard to all intoxicating liquor, as also in regard to all the passions which tend to create bile and to heat the blood; and he deprecates care either on one's own or on other people's account He recommends ideas that bring one either peace or good cheer,—he invents means whereby the habit of contrary ideas may be lost He understands goodness—being good—as promoting health. Prayer is out of the question, as is also asceticism; there is neither a Categorical Imperative nor any discipline whatsoever, even within the walls of a monastery (—it is always possible to leave it if one wants to). All these things would have been only a means of accentuating the excessive irritability already referred to. Precisely on this account he does not exhort his followers to wage war upon those who do not share their views; nothing is more abhorred[Pg 149] in his doctrine than the feeling of revenge, of aversion, and of resentment (—"not through hostility doth hostility end": the touching refrain of the whole of Buddhism....) And in this he was right; for it is precisely these passions which are thoroughly unhealthy in view of the principal dietetic object The mental fatigue which he finds already existent and which expresses itself in excessive "objectivity" (i.e., the enfeeblement of the individual's interest—loss of ballast and of "egoism"), he combats by leading the spiritual interests as well imperatively back to the individual In Buddha's doctrine egoism is a duty: the thing which is above all necessary, i.e., "how canst thou be rid of suffering" regulates and defines the whole of the spiritual diet (—let anyone but think of that Athenian who also declared war upon pure "scientificality," Socrates, who made a morality out of personal egoism even in the realm of problems).
The pre-requisites for Buddhism are a very mild climate, great gentleness and liberality in the customs of a people and no militarism. The movement must also originate among the higher and even learned classes. Cheerfulness, peace and absence of desire, are the highest of inspirations, and they are realised. Buddhism is not a religion in which perfection is merely aspired to: perfection is the normal case. In Christianity all the instincts of the subjugated and oppressed come to the fore: it is the lowest classes who seek their salvation in this religion. Here the pastime, the manner of[Pg 150] killing time is to practise the casuistry of sin, self-criticism, and conscience inquisition. Here the ecstasy in the presence of a powerful being, called "god," is constantly maintained by means of prayer; while the highest thing is regarded as unattainable, as a gift, as an act of "grace" Here plain dealing is also entirely lacking: concealment and the darkened room are Christian. Here the body is despised, hygiene is repudiated as sensual; the church repudiates even cleanliness (—the first Christian measure after the banishment of the Moors was the closing of the public baths, of which Cordova alone possessed 270). A certain spirit of cruelty towards one's self and others is also Christian: hatred of all those who do not share one's views; the will to persecute Sombre and exciting ideas are in the foreground; the most coveted states and those which are endowed with the finest names, are really epileptic in their nature; diet is selected in such a way as to favour morbid symptoms and to over-excite the nerves. Christian, too, is the mortal hatred of the earth's rulers,—the "noble,"—and at the same time a sort of concealed and secret competition with them (the subjugated leave the "body" to their master—all they want is the "soul"). Christian is the hatred of the intellect, of pride, of courage, freedom, intellectual libertinage; Christian is the hatred of the senses, of the joys of the senses, of joy in general.
When Christianity departed from its native soil, which consisted of the lowest classes, the submerged[Pg 151] masses of the ancient world, and set forth in quest of power among barbaric nations, it no longer met with exhausted men but inwardly savage and self-lacerating men—the strong but bungled men. Here, dissatisfaction with one's self, suffering through one's self, is not as in the case of Buddhism, excessive irritability and susceptibility to pain, but rather, conversely, it is an inordinate desire for inflicting pain, for a discharge of the inner tension in hostile deeds and ideas. Christianity was in need of barbaric ideas and values, in order to be able to master barbarians: such are for instance, the sacrifice of the first-born, the drinking of blood at communion, the contempt of the intellect and of culture; torture in all its forms, sensual and non-sensual; the great pomp of the cult Buddhism is a religion for senile men, for races which have become kind, gentle, and over-spiritual, and which feel pain too easily (—Europe is not nearly ripe for it yet—); it calls them back to peace and cheerfulness, to a regimen for the intellect, to a certain hardening of the body. Christianity aims at mastering beasts of prey; its expedient is to make them ill,—to render feeble is the Christian recipe for taming, for "civilisation." Buddhism is a religion for the close and exhaustion of civilisation; Christianity does not even find civilisation at hand when it appears, in certain circumstances it lays the foundation of civilisation.