A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

For Nietzsche, Christianity Kept People Down...

... and according to Giles Fraser, he would have loathed the high priests of the new atheism as well.
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Nietzsche's case against Christianity was that it kept people down; that it smothered them with morality and self-loathing. His ideal human is one who is free to express himself (yes, he's sexist), like a great artist or a Viking warrior. Morality is for the little people. It's the way the weak manipulate the strong. The people Nietzsche most admired and aspired to be like were those who were able to reinvent themselves through some tremendous act of will.
 
I have never seen anything to admire in Nietzsche's view of morality or immorality. He was badly interpreted by the Nazis. But his ethics, if one can call them that, are founded on the admiration of power as the ultimate form of abundant creativity. His hatred of Christianity comes mostly from his hatred of renunciation and the promotion of selflessness. Jesus was a genius for having the imaginative power to reinvent Judaism but a dangerous idiot for basing this reinvention on the idea that there is virtue to be had in weakness. The weak, Nietzsche insists, are nasty and cruel. They take out their frustration on those who have the power of genuine self-expression.

It may seem perverse but it was Nietzsche who was partly responsible for my own conversion to Christianity. As a philosophy student in the 1980s, I had served my time with the analytic tradition and its logic-chopping ways. Like many students, I was expecting something more from philosophy than an ability to break down "the cat sat on the mat" into its semantic parts or wading through dreary and unconvincing proofs about the existence of God. I wanted the excitement of big ideas. Marx did it for a while. But my own public school version of revolutionary communism was inevitably a brittle thing, despite its evangelical fervour.
 
As radical socialism collapsed around my ears, Nietzsche invaded my consciousness with a whole range of new and exciting questions. I took the anti-God line entirely for granted. As a good communist, atheism had always been my unexamined default position. And because Nietzsche was so passionate an atheist, I had my defences down to his unusually intense religiosity and elliptical desire for salvation. Which, I suppose, is how the question of God crept under my intellectual radar.
 
Nietzsche hated Christianity with all the intensity of someone who had once been caught up in its workings, but he would have equally loathed the high priests of new atheism and their overwhelming sense of intellectual superiority. "How much boundlessly stupid naivety is there in the scholar's belief in his superiority, in the simple, unsuspecting certainty with which his instincts treat the religious man as inferior and a lower type which he himself has evolved above and beyond", he wrote. Nietzsche's big idea goes much deeper than a belief that there is no God. His extraordinary project was to design a form of redemption for a world beyond belief. And to this extent he remained profoundly pious until his dying day.
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You can read the entire post, "Nietzsche's passionate atheism was the making of me," here.
 

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