The influential German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1990) had his views on religion and Christianity, and was arguably the most abrupt and abrasive atheistic thinkers of his time.
In his book The Gay Science (1882), Nietzsche declared that “God is dead” which, essentially, was his way of saying that belief in the Christian conception of God had become unbelievable (1). In his work The Anti-Christ (1895), he would further write that the worst enemy of human progress is the Christian of whom he referred to as the “domestic animal, the herd animal, the sick animal” (2). Neither did Nietzsche mince his words when it came to Christianity as a religion itself:
“Christianity has taken the side of everything weak, base, failed; it has made an ideal out of whatever contradicts the preservation instincts of a strong life; it has corrupted the reason of even the most spiritual natures by teaching people to see the highest spiritual values as sinful, as deceptive, as temptations. The most pitiful example – the corruption of Pascal, who believed that his reason was corrupted by original sin when the only thing corrupting it was Christianity itself!” (3)
Christianity, its doctrines, and beliefs, Nietzsche clearly believed, rendered the human being weak. According to the journalist Henry Mencken,
“Socialism, Puritanism, Philistinism, Christianity—he saw them all as allotropic forms of democracy, as variations upon the endless struggle of quantity against quality, of the weak and timorous against the strong and enterprising, of the botched against the fit” (9).
Unsurprising it then was that Nietzsche gunned for theology,
“I wage war on this theologian instinct: I have found traces of it everywhere. Anyone with theologian blood in his veins will approach things with a warped and deceitful attitude. This gives rise to a pathos that calls itself faith: turning a blind eye to yourself once and for all, so you do not have to stomach the sight of incurable mendacity.” (4)
Nietzsche’s definition of faith was as being analogous to “turning a blind eye”, a view held by many religious skeptics today. Turning a blind eye to the way reality is is irrational. Little wonder is it that Nietzsche gunned for the Christian’s “corrupt” conception of God,
“The Christian idea of God – God as a god of the sick, God as spider, God as spirit – is one of the most corrupt conceptions of God the world has ever seen;this may even represent a new low in the declining development of the types of god. God having degenerated into a contradiction of life instead of its transfiguration and eternal yes. God as declared aversion to life, to nature, to the will to life. God as the formula for every slander against “the here and now,” for every lie about the “beyond.” God as the deification of nothingness, the canonization of the will to nothingness!” (5)
“And all the while, this pathetic God of Christian monotonotheism instead, acting as if it had any right to exist, like an ultimatum and maximum of god-creating energy, of the human creator sprititus! this hybrid creature of ruin, made from nullity, concept, and contradiction, who sanctions all the instincts of decadence, all the cowardices and exhaustions of the soul!” (6).
Nietzsche declared the need for God’s death in order for humans to find liberation in a new intellectual age. He saw Christianity as an obstacle to this liberation. Christianity was a “pathetic” faith that also supposedly produced pathetic creatures in the form of Christians. Any creature, Nietzsche believed, who would need belief in God, need prayer, and faith was essentially someone corrupted by the virus of Christianity. This person could not contribute to society and the building of a strong people (7).
Nietzsche’s thoughts propelled him to the radical philosophy of nihilism which, many would say, would not constitute a good candidate for any individual hoping to live a happy and meaningful existence. One biographer acknowledges the weight that Nietzsche’s often radical and critical thinking put on his shoulders,
“In the later part of his creative life Nietzsche suffered acutely from loneliness. Like his alter ego, Zarathustra, he found himself alone on a (Swiss) mountain top. But, intellectually at least, he accepted this condition. Since, he reasoned, a radical social critic, a ‘free spirit’ such as himself, sets himself ever more in opposition to the foundational agreements on which social life depends, he reduces the pool of possible comrades, and so of possible friends, to vanishing point” (8).
Nietzsche remains one of the most influential figures in intellectual history, and it is almost impossible to avoid him in the philosophy class. If one is to take value from Nietzsche’s thoughts, especially his views on God and religion, it would seem to suggest that atheism has some severe consequences when it comes to meaning and purpose in life.
1. Nietzsche, F. 1882. The Gay Science: With a Prelude in German Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs.
2. Friedrich Nietzsche quoted in The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols and Other Writings, ed. Aaron Ridley and Judith Norman (2005). p. 4-5.
3. Ibid. p. 5.
4. ibid. p. 5.
5. ibid. p. 15-16.
6. ibid. p. 17.
7. ibid. p. 16.
8. Young, J. 2010. Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography
9. Henry Mencken quoted in The Essential Friedrich Nietzsche Collection (2013).
Using Nietzsche’s experiences to declare that “Atheism has consequences makes no more sense than using the “good folks at Westboro Baptist” for making generalizations about Christianity. Nietzsche is by no means representative of all atheists.
Of course he is not representative of all atheists, but he shows the logical outcome of atheism as a worldview.
To be more clear, he is not representative of all atheists, he is representative of Atheism.
Nietzsche was a drama queen, some captivating quotable thoughts, like, “We are all greater artists than we realize,” which helps explain how people can keep all sorts of beliefs afloat via an internal artistry of imaginative excuses and cognitive self-deception. But the same might be said of Nietzsche’s own imaginings that his particular philosophical musings were “da boss.” I write about Nietzsche being overly dramatic concerning his alleged re-valuation of all values in a piece I titled, Nietzsche the Drama Queen, and Christianity’s Failure to Add Much That Was New to the World: https://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2014/11/nietzsche-drama-queen-and-christianitys.html
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You skimmed over The Antichrist very quickly, and did not mention Nietzsche’s idea that Christianity was inherently Jewish in nature and origin, and that it was an invention of the weak to ensnare the strong in a false morality.
Everything can be re-evaluated and to Do that well ultimately needs the intervention of the Holy Spirit
“God as the deification of nothingness, the canonization of the will to nothingness!”
Man he nailed Zohar Judaism and probably did not even know it but still correctly deciphered it from Christianity [and Christians] since the source of both is the same… Jews. Distinction being a requirement to existence and distinction being evil thus all of material existence is in fact “evil” so their “One True God” is no distinction.. ie nothingness.
go read this [note that the most powerful Jews believe in this it does not matter if it is true or not .. it’s not as if a powerful very organized very headstrong people cannot enact their will.
Also, calling him a “German” philosopher? He was Prussian. Germany hadn’t actually united yet until toward the end of his life… maybe a course is world history would also benefit you.
And here he is today- burning in hell. How such an intelligent man missed the mark by so much is interesting but proves the Devil is crafty. You only have to believe in one thing to gain eternal life. Never forget that.
Strange, seeing as you have so many credentials after your name, abbreviated and all, you’d think that this article would have been both written and researched/presented in a manner above that of a 15-year-old’s English class assignment. It’s almost as if they’re faked degrees and certifications.
You have got to be kidding!
One point you state about Nietzche was that he regarded people as weak. This point all but resonates with Christian assessment that people need guidance.
Why? Because Christianity “renders” people “weak.”
It’s not false, too.
“… This gives rise to a pathos that calls itself faith: turning a blind eye to yourself once and for all, so you do not have to stomach the sight of incurable mendacity.”
Can you think your way out of totalism, do you have an option to set aside being stuffed with more and more information, than you can handle? No; that is not an ‘appealing’ option.
It doesn’t matter what Nietzche (nor even Marx) wrote, inasmuch as there were other wroters of certain ability, if not prowess, at the time.
The idea were, can you wrap your head around it? And watching Nietzche’s own mendacity in his quoted words, the answer was supposed to be “no.” He wants people to think. He probably wants to debate an intellectual equal. He had probably not one; no one could put him in his place as an intellectual equal. How bad do you want to do it? You know who has all the answers, and people who write or talk oft generate more questions than answers …
Now you would both be out of business. And what fun would that be … ?
So as far as I can see things, it was most valuable to let Nietzche drive on without “defeat.” He was a symptom of problems of his time that a deficit of ability could not address to save trouble of NAZI expansionism a bit too subsequent.
Rational thought/ability can hope to avoid more conflicts than it may cause. Your profile shows Nietzche as challenger, solicitor, and tripwire. What was really trying to do to friends, Germans, and countrymen … ?