The Twilight of the Idols - The Antichrist

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—I will retrace my steps, and will tell you the genuine history of Christianity.—The very word "Christianity" is a misunderstanding,—truth to tell, there never was more than one Christian, and he died on the Cross. The "gospel" died on the cross. That which thenceforward was called "gospel" was the reverse of that "gospel" that Christ had lived: it was "evil tidings," a dysangel It is false to the point of nonsense to see in "faith," in the faith in salvation through Christ, the distinguishing trait of the Christian: the only thing that is Christian is the Christian mode of existence, a life such as he led who died on the Cross.... To this day a life of this kind is still possible; for[Pg 179] certain men, it is even necessary: genuine, primitive Christianity will be possible in all ages.... Not a faith, but a course of action, above all a course of inaction, non-interference, and a different life.... States of consciousness, any sort of faith, a holding of certain things for true, as every psychologist knows, are indeed of absolutely no consequence, and are only of fifth-rate importance compared with the value of the instincts: more exactly, the whole concept of intellectual causality is false. To reduce the fact of being a Christian, or of Christianity, to a holding of something for true, to a mere phenomenon of consciousness, is tantamount to denying Christianity. In fact there have never been any Christians. The "Christian," he who for two thousand years has been called a Christian, is merely a psychological misunderstanding of self. Looked at more closely, there ruled in him, notwithstanding all his faith, only instincts—and what instincts!—"Faith" in all ages, as for instance in the case of Luther, has always been merely a cloak, a pretext, a screen, behind which the instincts played their game,—a prudent form of blindness in regard to the dominion of certain instincts. "Faith" I have already characterised as a piece of really Christian cleverness; for people have always spoken of "faith" and acted according to their instincts.... In the Christian's world of ideas there is nothing which even touches reality: but I have already recognised in the instinctive hatred of reality the actual motive force, the only driving power at the root of Christianity. What follows therefrom? That here, even in psychologicis,[Pg 180] error is fundamental,—that is to say capable of determining the spirit of things,—that is to say, substance. Take one idea away from the whole, and put one realistic fact in its stead,—and the whole of Christianity tumbles into nonentity!—Surveyed from above, this strangest of all facts,-a religion not only dependent upon error, but inventive and showing signs of genius only in those errors which are dangerous and which poison life and the human heart—remains a spectacle for gods, for those gods who are at the same time philosophers and whom I met for instance in those celebrated dialogues on the island of Naxos. At the moment when they get rid of their loathing (—and we do as well!), they will be thankful for the spectacle the Christians have offered: the wretched little planet called Earth perhaps deserves on account of this curious case alone, a divine glance, and divine interest.... Let us not therefore underestimate the Christians: the Christian, false to the point of innocence in falsity, is far above the apes,—in regard to the Christians a certain well-known theory of Descent becomes a mere good-natured compliment.


—The fate of the gospel was decided at the moment of the death,—it hung on the "cross." ... It was only death, this unexpected and ignominious death; it was only the cross which as a rule was reserved simply for the canaille,—only this appalling paradox which confronted the disciples with the actual riddle: Who was that? what was that?[Pg 181]—The state produced by the excited and profoundly wounded feelings of these men, the suspicion that such a death might imply the refutation of their cause, and the terrible note of interrogation: "why precisely thus?" will be understood only too well. In this case everything must be necessary, everything must have meaning, a reason, the highest reason. The love of a disciple admits of no such thing as accident. Only then did the chasm yawn: "who has killed him?" "who was his natural enemy?"—this question rent the firmament like a flash of lightning. Reply: dominant Judaism, its ruling class. Thenceforward the disciple felt himself in revolt against established order; he understood Jesus, after the fact, as one in revolt against established order. Heretofore this warlike, this nay-saying and nay-doing feature in Christ had been lacking; nay more, he was its contradiction. The small primitive community had obviously understood nothing of the principal factor of all, which was the example of freedom and of superiority to every form of resentment which lay in this way of dying. And this shows how little they understood him altogether! At bottom Jesus could not have desired anything else by his death than to give the strongest public example and proof of his doctrine.... But his disciples were very far from forgiving this death—though if they had done so it would have been in the highest sense evangelical on their part,—neither were they prepared, with a gentle and serene calmness of heart, to offer themselves for a similar death.... Precisely the most unevangelical feeling, revenge, became once more[Pg 182] ascendant. It was impossible for the cause to end with this death: "compensation" and "judgment" were required (—and forsooth, what could be more unevangelical than "compensation," "punishment," "judgment"!) The popular expectation of a Messiah once more became prominent; attention was fixed upon one historical moment: the "Kingdom of God" descends to sit in judgment upon his enemies. But this proves that everything was misunderstood: the "Kingdom of God" regarded as the last scene of the last act, as a promise! But the Gospel had clearly been the living, the fulfilment, the reality of this "Kingdom of God." It was precisely a death such as Christ's that was this "Kingdom of God." It was only now that all the contempt for the Pharisees and the theologians, and all bitter feelings towards them, were introduced into the character of the Master,—and by this means he himself was converted into a Pharisee and a theologian! On the other hand, the savage veneration of these completely unhinged souls could no longer endure that evangelical right of every man to be the child of God, which Jesus had taught: their revenge consisted in elevating Jesus in a manner devoid of all reason, and in separating him from themselves: just as, formerly, the Jews, with the view of revenging themselves on their enemies, separated themselves from their God, and placed him high above them. The Only God, and the Only Son of God:—both were products of resentment.


—And from this time forward an absurd problem[Pg 183] rose into prominence: "how could God allow it to happen?" To this question the disordered minds of the small community found a reply which in its absurdity was literally terrifying: God gave his Son as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. Alas! how prompt and sudden was the end of the gospel! Expiatory sacrifice for guilt, and indeed in its most repulsive and barbaric form,—the sacrifice of the innocent for the sins of the guilty! What appalling Paganism!—For Jesus himself had done away with the concept "guilt,"—he denied any gulf between God and man, he lived this unity between God and man, it was this that constituted his "glad tidings." ... And he did not teach it as a privilege!—Thenceforward there was gradually imported into the type of the Saviour the doctrine of the Last Judgment, and of the "second coming," the doctrine of sacrificial death, and the doctrine of Resurrection, by means of which the whole concept "blessedness," the entire and only reality of the gospel, is conjured away—in favour of a state after death!... St Paul, with that rabbinic impudence which characterises all his doings, rationalised this conception, this prostitution of a conception, as follows: "if Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith is vain."—And, in a trice, the most contemptible of all unrealisable promises, the impudent doctrine of personal immortality, was woven out of the gospel.... St Paul even preached this immortality as a reward.

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