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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Nietzsche: God's death exaggerated

Nietzsche (circa 1875)

If God were truly dead, then Nietzsche would have been the world’s most prolific obituary writer.  Fortunately, however, reports of God’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Somehow, the very masses that Nietzsche tended to denigrate got the wrong impression about his religious views (imagine that).  It’s not that Nietzsche didn’t believe in anything beyond this material world.  In fact, he was said to have been a great fan of Emerson’s
transcendental writings.  It’s just that Nietzsche didn’t believe in the version of God that many mainstream folks did.

According to G. J. Mattey’s lecture notes on Nietzsche's Critique of Religion – society, which owes its very existence to the ancestors – tends to then turn those ancestors into gods.  He claimed, “The Christian God is the most powerful of all, and the debt owed that God is the greatest.”  This debt is so great that it can only be discharged by God’s will or by priestly intercession.  Thus, believers in this God must follow the self-denying priestly virtues of poverty, chastity and obedience in order to save their everlasting souls.  According to this theory, the ascetic priest then “generalizes self-denial to a repudiation of the natural world as a whole.”  Along with this, comes a “general disgust with life, which holds nothing but pain and suffering.”

This pain and suffering is attributed to people’s sins.  Nietzsche therefore has the priest tell his follower in the
Third Essay of On the Genealogy of Morals:  “Quite so, my sheep! someone must be to blame for it: but you yourself are this someone, you alone are to blame for it – you alone are to blame for yourself!”  This leads to inwardly-turned resentment - and “the herd is rendered harmless.”

Such was Nietzsche’s “take” on Christianity, which he especially distinguished from the actual teachings of Jesus.  He believed that Christianity was “a movement led by sick men whose aim was to infect everyone else” - as well as a movement that had quenched all that was joyous about the more earth-based traditions it had vanquished.


Copyright October 15, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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