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Christianity

Christianity's Origin Christianity's Nature Christianity's Destiny



Christianity's Origin


Christianity as antiquity.-- When we hear the ancient bells growling on a Sunday morning we ask ourselves: Is it really possible! This, for a jew, crucified two thousand years ago, who said he was God's son? The proof of such a claim is lacking. Certainly the Christian religion is an antiquity projected into our times from remote prehistory; and the fact that the claim is believed - whereas one is otherwise so strict in examining pretensions - is perhaps the most ancient piece of this heritage. A god who begets children with a mortal woman; a sage who bids men work no more, have no more courts, but look for the signs of the impending end of the world; a justice that accepts the innocent as a vicarious sacrifice; someone who orders his disciples to drink his blood; prayers for miraculous interventions; sins perpetrated against a god, atoned for by a god; fear of a beyond to which death is the portal; the form of the cross as a symbol in a time that no longer knows the function and ignominy of the cross -- how ghoulishly all this touches us, as if from the tomb of a primeval past! Can one believe that such things are still believed?

from Nietzsche's Human, all too Human, s.405, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


Christianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life's nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in "another" or "better" life.

from Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy, p.23, Walter Kaufmann transl.


Change of Cast. -- As soon as a religion comes to dominate it has as its opponents all those who would have been its first disciples.

from Nietzsche's Human, all too Human, s.118, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


Blind pupils. -- As long as a man knows very well the strength and weaknesses of his teaching, his art, his religion, its power is still slight. The pupil and apostle who, blinded by the authority of the master and by the piety he feels toward him, pays no attention to the weaknesses of a teaching, a religion, and soon usually has for that reason more power than the master. The influence of a man has never yet grown great without his blind pupils. To help a perception to achieve victory often means merely to unite it with stupidity so intimately that the weight of the latter also enforces the victory of the former.

from Nietzsche's Human, all too Human, s.122, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


Speaking in a parable.--A Jesus Christ was possible only in a Jewish landscape--I mean one over which the gloomy and sublime thunder cloud of the wrathful Yahweh was brooding continually. Only here was the rare and sudden piercing of the gruesome and perpetual general day-night by a single ray of the sun experienced as if it were a miracle of "love" and the ray of unmerited "grace." Only here could Jesus dream of his rainbow and his ladder to heaven on which God descended to man. Everywhere else good weather and sunshine were considered the rule and everyday occurrences.

from Nietzsche's The Gay Science, s.137, Walter Kaufmann transl


The first Christian. All the world still believes in the authorship of the "Holy Spirit" or is at least still affected by this belief: when one opens the Bible one does so for "edification."... That it also tells the story of one of the most ambitious and obtrusive of souls, of a head as superstitious as it was crafty, the story of the apostle Paul--who knows this , except a few scholars? Without this strange story, however, without the confusions and storms of such a head, such a soul, there would be no Christianity...
That the ship of Christianity threw overboard a good deal of its Jewish ballast, that it went, and was able to go, among the pagans--that was due to this one man, a very tortured, very pitiful, very unpleasant man, unpleasant even to himself. He suffered from a fixed idea--or more precisely, from a fixed, ever-present, never-resting question: what about the Jewish law? and particularly the fulfillment of this law? In his youth he had himself wanted to satisfy it, with a ravenous hunger for this highest distinction which the Jews could conceive - this people who were propelled higher than any other people by the imagination of the ethically sublime, and who alone succeeded in creating a holy god together with the idea of sin as a transgression against this holiness. Paul became the fanatical defender of this god and his law and guardian of his honor; at the same time, in the struggle against the transgressors and doubters, lying in wait for them, he became increasingly harsh and evilly disposed towards them, and inclined towards the most extreme punishments. And now he found that--hot-headed, sensual, melancholy, malignant in his hatred as he was-- he was himself unable to fulfill the law; indeed, and this seemed strangest to him, his extravagant lust to domineer provoked him continually to transgress the law, and he had to yield to this thorn.
Is it really his "carnal nature" that makes him transgress again and again? And not rather, as he himself suspected later, behind it the law itself, which must constantly prove itself unfulfillable and which lures him to transgression with irresistable charm? But at that time he did not yet have this way out. He had much on his conscience - he hints at hostility, murder, magic, idolatry, lewdness, drunkenness, and pleasure in dissolute carousing - and... moments came when he said to himself:"It is all in vain; the torture of the unfulfilled law cannot be overcome."... The law was the cross to which he felt himself nailed: how he hated it! how he searched for some means to annihilate it--not to fulfill it any more himself!
And finally the saving thought struck him,... "It is unreasonable to persecute this Jesus! Here after all is the way out; here is the perfect revenge; here and nowhere else I have and hold the annihilator of the law!"... Until then the ignominious death had seemed to him the chief argument against the Messianic claim of which the new doctrine spoke: but what if it were necessary to get rid of the law?
The tremendous consequences of this idea, of this solution of the riddle, spin before his eyes; at one stroke he becomes the happiest man; the destiny of the Jews--no, of all men--seems to him to be tied to this idea, to this second of its sudden illumination; he has the thought of thoughts, the key of keys, the light of lights; it is around him that all history must revolve henceforth. For he is from now on the teacher of the annihilation of the law...
This is the first Christian, the inventor of Christianity. Until then there were only a few Jewish sectarians.

from Nietzsche's Daybreak, s.68, Walter Kaufmann transl.


The persecutor of God. -- Paul thought up the idea and Calvin rethought it, that for innumerable people damnation has been decreed from eternity, and that this beautiful world plan was instituted to reveal the glory of God: heaven and hell and humanity are thus supposed to exist - to satisfy the vanity of God! What cruel and insatiable vanity must have flared in the soul of the man who thought this up first, or second. Paul has remained Saul after all - the persecutor of God.

from Nietzsche's The Wanderer and his Shadow, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


Christianity's Nature


The everyday Christian. -- 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.

from Nietzsche's Human, all too Human, s.116, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


What a crude intellect is good for.-- The Christian church is an encyclopaedia of prehistoric cults and conceptions of the most diverse origin, and that is why it is so capable of proselytizing: it always could, and it can still go wherever it pleases and it always found, and always finds something similar to itself to which it can adapt itself and gradually impose upon it a Christian meaning. It is not what is Christian in it, but the universal heathen character of its usages, which has favored the spread of this world-religion; its ideas, rooted in both the Jewish and the Hellenic worlds, have from the first known how to raise themselves above national and racial niceties and exclusiveness as though these were merely prejudices. One may admire this power of causing the most various elements to coalesce, but one must not forget the contemptible quality that adheres to this power: the astonishing crudeness and self-satisfiedness of the church's intellect during the time it was in process of formation, which permitted it to accept any food and to digest opposites like pebbles.

from Nietzsche's Daybreak,s. 70, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


The despairing.-- Christianity possesses the hunters instinct for all those who can by one means or another be brought to despair - of which only a portion of mankind is capable. It is constantly on their track, it lies in wait for them. Pascal attempted the experiment of seeing whether, with the aid of the most incisive knowledge, everyone could not be brought to despair: the experiment miscarried, to his twofold despair.

from Nietzsche's Daybreak,s. 64, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


The compassionate Christian.-- The reverse side of Christian compassion for the suffering of one's neighbor is a profound suspicion of all the joy of one's neighbor, of his joy in all that he wants to do and can.

from Nietzsche's Daybreak,s. 80, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


Doubt as sin.-- Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared even doubt to be sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature- is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful. What is wanted are blindness and intoxication and an eternal song over the waves in which reason has drowned.

from Nietzsche's Daybreak,s. 89, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


Other fears, other securities.-- Christianity had brought into life a quite novel and limitless perilousness, and therewith quite novel securities, pleasures, recreations and evaluations of all things. Our century denies this perilousness, and does so with a good conscience: and yet it continues to drag along with it the old habits of Christian security, Christian enjoyment, recreation, evaluation! It even drags them into its noblest arts and philosophies! How worn out and feeble, how insipid and awkward, how arbitrarily fanatical and, above all, how insecure all this must appear, now that the fearful antithesis to it, the omnipresent fear of the Christian for his eternal salvation, has been lost.

from Nietzsche's Daybreak,s. 57, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


What distinguishes us [scientists] from the pious and the believers is not the quality but the quantity of belief and piety; we are contented with less. But if the former should challenge us: then be contented and appear to be contented! - then we might easily reply: 'We are, indeed, not among the least contented. You, however, if your belief makes you blessed then appear to be blessed! Your faces have always been more injurious to your belief than our objections have! If these glad tidings of your Bible were written on your faces, you would not need to insist so obstinately on the authority of that book... As things are, however, all your apologies for Christianity have their roots in your lack of Christianity; with your defence plea you inscribe your own bill of indictment.

from Nietzsche's Assorted Opinions and Maxims,s. 98, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


Christianity's Destiny


Historical refutation as the definitive refutation.-- In former times, one sought to prove that there is no God - today one indicates how the belief that there is a God arose and how this belief acquired its weight and importance: a counter-proof that there is no God thereby becomes superfluous.- When in former times one had refuted the 'proofs of the existence of God' put forward, there always remained the doubt whether better proofs might not be adduced than those just refuted: in those days atheists did not know how to make a clean sweep.

from Nietzsche's Daybreak,s. 95, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


But in the end one also has to understand that the needs that religion has satisfied and philosophy is now supposed to satisfy are not immutable; they can be weakened and exterminated. Consider, for example, that Christian distress of mind that comes from sighing over ones inner depravity and care for ones salvation - all concepts originating in nothing but errors of reason and deserving, not satisfaction, but obliteration.

from Nietzsche's Human, all too Human, s.27, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


Destiny of Christianity. -- Christianity came into existence in order to lighten the heart; but now it has first to burden the heart so as afterwards to be able to lighten it. Consequently it shall perish.

from Nietzsche's Human, all too Human, s.119, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


At the deathbed of Christianity.-- 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 Christianity.

from Nietzsche's Daybreak,s. 92, R.J. Hollingdale transl.


After Buddha was dead, his shadow was still shown for centuries in a cave - a tremendous, gruesome shadow. God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. -And we- we still have to vanquish his shadow, too.

from Nietzsche's The Gay Science, s.108, Walter Kaufmann transl.


Bill Curry