The Twilight of the Idols - The Antichrist

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The concept of God falsified; the concept of morality falsified: but the Jewish priesthood did not stop at this. No use could be made of the whole history of Israel, therefore it must go! These priests accomplished that miracle of falsification, of which the greater part of the Bible is the document: with unparalleled contempt and in the teeth of all tradition and historical facts, they interpreted their own people's past in a religious manner,—that is to say, they converted it into a ridiculous mechanical process of salvation, on the principle that all sin against Jehovah led to punishment, and that all pious worship of Jehovah led to reward. We would feel this shameful act of historical falsification far more poignantly if the ecclesiastical interpretation of history through millenniums had not blunted almost all our sense for the demands of uprightness in historicis. And the church is seconded by the philosophers: the of "a moral order of the universe" permeates the whole development even of more modern philosophy. What does a "moral order of the universe" mean? That once and for all there is such a thing as a will of God which determines what man has to do and what he has to leave undone; that the value of a people or of an individual is measured according to how much or how little the one or the other obeys the will of God; that in the destinies[Pg 159] of a people or of an individual, the will of God shows itself dominant, that is to say it punishes or rewards according to the degree of obedience. In the place of this miserable falsehood, reality says: a parasitical type of man, who can flourish only at the cost of all the healthy elements of life, the priest abuses the name of God: he calls that state of affairs in which the priest determines the value of things "the Kingdom of God"; he calls the means whereby such a state of affairs is attained or maintained, "the Will of God"; with cold-blooded cynicism he measures peoples, ages and individuals according to whether they favour or oppose the ascendancy of the priesthood. Watch him at work: in the hands of the Jewish priesthood the Augustan Age in the history of Israel became an age of decline; the exile, the protracted misfortune transformed itself into eternal punishment for the Augustan Age—that age in which the priest did not yet exist Out of the mighty and thoroughly free-born figures of the history of Israel, they made, according to their requirements, either wretched bigots and hypocrites, or "godless ones": they simplified the psychology of every great event to the idiotic formula "obedient or disobedient to God."—A step further: the "Will of God," that is to say the self-preservative measures of the priesthood, must be known—to this end a "revelation" is necessary. In plain English: a stupendous literary fraud becomes necessary, "holy scriptures" are discovered,—and they are published abroad with all hieratic pomp, with days of penance and lamentations over the long state Of "sin." The "Will of[Pg 160] God" has long stood firm: the whole of the trouble lies in the fact that the "Holy Scriptures" have been discarded.... Moses was already the "Will of God" revealed.... What had happened? With severity and pedantry, the priest had formulated once and for all—even to the largest and smallest contributions that were to be paid to him (—not forgetting the daintiest portions of meat; for the priest is a consumer of beef-steaks)—what he wanted, "what the Will of God was." ... Hence-forward everything became so arranged that the priests were indispensable everywhere. At all the natural events of life, at birth, at marriage, at the sick-bed, at death,—not to speak of the sacrifice ("the meal"),—the holy parasite appears in order to denaturalise, or in his language, to "sanctify," everything.... For this should be understood: every natural custom, every natural institution (the State, the administration of justice, marriage, the care of the sick and the poor), every demand inspired by the instinct of life, in short everything that has a value in itself, is rendered absolutely worthless and even dangerous through the parasitism of the priest (or of the "moral order of the universe"): a sanction after the fact is required,—a power which imparts value is necessary, which in so doing says, Nay to nature, and which by this means alone creates a valuation.... The priest depreciates and desecrates nature: it is only at this price that he exists at all.—Disobedience to God, that is to say, to the priest, to the "law," now receives the name of "sin"; the means of "reconciling one's self with God" are of course of a nature which[Pg 161] render subordination to the priesthood all the more fundamental: the priest alone is able to "save." ... From the psychological standpoint, in every society organised upon a hieratic basis, "sins" are indispensable: they are the actual weapons of power, the priest lives upon sins, it is necessary for him that people should "sin." ... Supreme axiom: "God forgiveth him that repenteth"—in plain English: him that submitteth himself to the priest.


Christianity grew out of an utterly false soil, in which all nature, every natural value, every reality had the deepest instincts of the ruling class against it; it was a form of deadly hostility to reality which has never been surpassed. The "holy people" which had retained only priestly values and priestly names for all things, and which, with a logical consistency that is terrifying, had divorced itself from everything still powerful on earth as if it were "unholy," "worldly," "sinful,"—this people created a final formula for its instinct which was consistent to the point of self-suppression; as Christianity it denied even the last form of reality, the "holy people," the "chosen people," Jewish reality itself. The case is of supreme interest: the small insurrectionary movement christened with the name of Jesus of Nazareth, is the Jewish instinct over again,—in other words, it is the sacerdotal instinct which can no longer endure the priest as a fact; it is the discovery of a kind of life even more fantastic than the one previously conceived, a vision of life which is even more unreal than that which the organisation[Pg 162] of a church stipulates. Christianity denies the church.[3]

I fail to see against whom was directed the insurrection of which rightly or wrongly Jesus is understood to have been the promoter, if it were not directed against the Jewish church,—the word "church" being used here in precisely the same sense in which it is used to-day. It was an insurrection against the "good and the just," against the "prophets of Israel," against the hierarchy of society—not against the latter's corruption, but against caste, privilege, order, formality. It was the lack of faith in "higher men," it was a "Nay" uttered against everything that was tinctured with the blood of priests and theologians. But the hierarchy which was set in question if only temporarily by this movement, formed the construction of piles upon which, alone, the Jewish people was able to subsist in the midst of the "waters"; it was that people's last chance of survival wrested from the world at enormous pains, the residuum of its political autonomy: to attack this construction was tantamount to attacking the most profound popular instinct, the most tenacious national will to live that has ever existed on earth. This saintly anarchist who called the lowest of the low, the outcasts and "sinners," the Chandala of Judaism, to revolt against the established order of things (and in[Pg 163] language which, if the gospels are to be trusted, would get one sent to Siberia even to-day)—this man was a political criminal in so far as political criminals were possible in a community so absurdly non-political. This brought him to the cross: the proof of this is the inscription found thereon. He died for his sins—and no matter how often the contrary has been asserted there is absolutely nothing to show that he died for the sins of others.

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