Attack on Christian Theism
|"If the Christian dogmas of
a revengeful God, universal sinfulness, election by divine grace and the
danger of eternal damnation were true, it would be a sign of
weak-mindedness and lack of character not to become a priest,
apostle or hermit and, in fear and trembling, to work solely on one's own
salvation; it would be senseless to lose sight of ones eternal advantage
for the sake of temporal comfort. If we may assume that these things are
at any rate believed true, then the everyday Christian cuts a
miserable figure; he is a man who really cannot count to three, and who
precisely on account of his spiritual imbecility does not deserve to be
punished so harshly as Christianity promises to punish him."
--Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human
"Really unreflective people are now
inwardly without Christianity, and the more moderate and reflective people
of the intellectual middle class now possess only an adapted, that is to
say marvelously simplified Christianity. A god who in his love
arranges everything in a manner that in the end will be best for us; a god
who gives to us and takes from us our virtue and our happiness, so that as
a whole all is meet and fit and there is no reason for us to take life
sadly, let alone exclaim against it; in short, resignation and modest
demands elevated to godhead - that is the best and most vital thing that
still remains of Christianity. But one should notice that Christianity has
thus crossed over into a gentle moralism: it is not so much 'God,
freedom and immortality' that have remained, as benevolence and decency of
disposition, and the belief that in the whole universe too benevolence and
decency of disposition prevail: it is the euthanasia of
--Nietzsche, Daybreak 92
The two quotes above by Nietzsche suggest
certain kinds of failed Christianity: one that lives a life utterly out of
line with its beliefs; the other a Christianity bereft of its defining
features. Keeping in mind Alisdair MacIntyre's
critique of the failed practice of a modernity without a true telos
guiding its actions, how might part of Nietzsche's attack on Christian
theism result from a practice guilty of bad faith, of even ethical and
- Do pity, consideration, virtue, gift-giving, and
renunciation inevitably lead to disrespect of life and the weakening
of human beings? Can they be misused to those ends?
- Does Nietzsche truly understand the Christian
tradition? What has he overlooked?
- Would the kind of Christianity that Nietzsche
decries above be incoherent and guilty of bad faith?
- How does the Christian worldview view human
beings differently from Nietzsche? Do they share anything?
- What would Nietzsche put in its place?
- How does Nietzsche's critique show us that
Christian practices cannot be divorced form Christian beliefs?
||"Are you a slave?
If so, you cannot be a friend.
Are you a tyrant? If
so, you cannot have friends. In woman, a slave and a tyrant have all too
long been concealed. For that reason, woman is not yet capable of
friendship: she knows only love. In a woman's love is injustice and
blindness towards all that she does not love. And in the enlightened love
of a woman, too, there is still the unexpected attack and lightning and
night, along with the light. Woman
is not yet capable of friendship: women are still cats and birds. Or, at
best, cows. Woman is not yet capable of friendship. But tell me, you men,
which of you is yet capable of friendship?"
Louise von Salome, a former philosophy and theology
student, as well as an intellectual revolutionary was loved by both Paul
Ree, Jewish philosopher and devotee of the new psychology, and by
Nietzsche. The three lived together for a time, with Salome rejecting
Nietzsche's marriage proposals twice. She found Ree the more interesting
of the two and reduced the older Nietzsche to helpless melancholy and
frustration. This famous picture features Salome holding a whip with both
Ree and Nietzsche held by ropes. An ironic photograph taken in a moment of
self-aware bemusement by the trio.
What does it reveal about the limits of Nietzsche's
own "life-affirming" alternative?