What Nietzsche Taught

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Nietzsche's accusation against Christianity, reduced to a few words, is that it works against the higher development of the individual; that, being a religion of weakness, it fails to meet the requirements of the modern man; in short, that it is dangerous. This conclusion is[Pg 254] founded on the principle of biological monism. Nietzsche assumes Darwin's law of the struggle for existence, and argues that the Christian virtues oppose not only this law but the law of natural selection as well. By this opposition the race has been weakened, for self-sacrifice, the basis of Christian morality, detracts from the power of the individual and consequently lessens his chances for existence. Furthermore, the Christian ideal in itself is opposed to progress and all that progress entails, such as science and research. Knowledge of any kind tends to make man more independent, and thereby reduces his need for theological supervision. As a result of the passing over of power from the strong to the weak, in accordance with the morality of Christianity, the strength of the race as a whole is depleted. Furthermore, such a procedure is in direct opposition to the laws of nature, and so long as man lives in a natural environment the only way to insure progress is to conform to the conditions of that environment. Nietzsche therefore makes a plea for the adoption of other than Christian standards—standards compatible with the laws of existence. He points out that already the race has been almost irremediably weakened by its adherence to anti-natural doctrines, that each day of Christian activity is another step in the complete degeneration of man. And he asserts that the only reason the race has maintained its power as long as it has is because the stronger members of society, despite their voiced belief, do not live up to the Christian code, but are continually compromising with it.

The problem of the origin of Christianity interests Nietzsche, because he sees in it an explanation of the results which it wished to accomplish. Christianity,[Pg 255] says he, can be understood only in relation to the soil out of which it grew. When the Jewish people, subjugated and in a position of slavery, were confronted with the danger of extermination at the hands of a stronger people, they invented a system of conduct which would insure their continued existence. They realised that the adherence to such virtues as retaliation, aggressiveness, initiative, cruelty, arrogance and the like would mean death; the stronger nations would not have countenanced such qualities in a weak and depleted nation. As a result the Jews replaced retaliation with "long suffering," aggressiveness with peacefulness, cruelty with kindness, and arrogance with humility. These negative virtues took the place of positive virtues, and were turned into "beatitudes." By thus "turning the other cheek" and "forgiving one's enemies," instead of resenting persecution and attempting to avenge the wrongs perpetrated against them, they were able to prolong life. This system of conduct, says Nietzsche, was a direct falsification of all natural conditions and a perversion of all healthy instincts. It was the morality of an impoverished and subservient people, and was adopted by the Jews only when they had been stripped of their power.

Nietzsche presents a psychological history of Israel as an example of the process by which natural values were denaturalised. The God of Israel was Jehovah. He was the expression of the nation's consciousness of power, of joy and of hope. Victory and salvation were expected from him: he was the God of justice. The Assyrians and internal anarchy changed the conditions of Israel. Jehovah was no longer able to bring victory to his people, and consequently the nature of this God was changed. In the hands of the priest he became a[Pg 256] weapon, and unhappiness was interpreted as punishment for "sins." Jehovah became a moral dictator, and consequently morality among the Israelites ceased to be an expression of the conditions of life and became an abstract theory opposed to life. Nor did the Jewish priesthood stop at this. It interpreted the whole of history with a view to showing that all sin against Jehovah led to punishment and that all pious worship of Jehovah resulted in reward. A moral order of the universe was thus substituted for a natural one. To bolster up this theory a "revelation" became necessary. Accordingly a "stupendous literary fraud" was perpetrated, and the "holy scriptures" were "discovered" and foisted upon the people. The priests, avid for power, made themselves indispensable by attributing to the will of God all those acts they desired of the people. Repentance, namely: submission to the priests, was inaugurated. Thus Christianity, hostile to all reality and power, gained its footing.

The psychology of Christ, as set forth in "The Antichrist," and the use made of his doctrines by those who directly followed him, form an important part of Nietzsche's argument against Christian morality. Christ's doctrine, according to Nietzsche, was one of immediacy. It was a mode of conduct and not, according to the present Christian conception, a preparation for a future world. Christ was a simple heretic in his rebellion against the existing political order. He represented a reactionary mode of existence—-a system of conduct which said Nay to life, a code of inaction and non-interference. His death on the cross was meant as a supreme example and proof of this doctrine. It remained for his disciples to attach other meanings to it. Loving Christ[Pg 257] as they did, and consequently blinded by that love, they were unable to forgive his execution at the hands of the State. At the same time they were unprepared to follow his example and to give their own lives to the cause of his teachings. A feeling of revenge sprang up in them, and they endeavoured to find an excuse for his death. To what was it attributable? And the answer they found, says Nietzsche, was "dominant Judaism, its ruling class." For the moment they failed to realise that the "Kingdom of God," as preached by Christ, was an earthly thing, something contained within the individual; and after the crucifixion it was necessary for them either to follow Christ's example or to interpret his death, a voluntary one, as a promise of future happiness, that is, to translate his practical doctrine into symbolic terms. They unhesitatingly chose the latter.

In their search for an explanation as to how God could have allowed his "son" to be executed, they fell upon the theory that Christ's death was a sacrifice for their sins, an expiation for their guilt. From that time on, says Nietzsche, "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 then rationalised the conception by introducing into it the doctrine of personal immortality by means of having Christ rise from the dead; and he preached this immortality as a reward for virtue. Thus, asserts Nietzsche, Christ's effort toward a Buddhistic movement of peace, "toward real and not merely promised happiness on earth" was controverted[Pg 258] by his posterity. Nothing of Christ's original doctrine remained, once Paul, the forger, set to work to twist it to his own ends. Paul went further and by changing and falsifying it turned all Jewish history into a prophecy for his own teachings. Thus the whole doctrine of Christ, the true meaning of his death and the realities which he taught, were altered and distorted. In short, Christ's life was used as a means for furthering the religion of Paul, who gave to it the name of Christianity.

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