In this essay I will try to see what are the main pillars of Nietzsche’s thought, responsible for his critique of Christianity, and consequently of its influence in the Western societies. His conception about life, human nature, will and morality is analyzed to the extent to which the size of this essay allows. First of all, I argue that the way Nietzsche understands life it is only a possible form of life, namely the human life, but there is nothing to prevent thinking about more evolved forms of life, which are, in a sense outside the human life, being life nevertheless. As such, God can be life, but a qualitatively superior life, and the intersection of His life with ours can give an all together different modality of thinking. Nietzsche’s philosophy is available only if human life can be considered the only form of life, but we know that there are other forms of life, even in the surrounding nature. Human beings aspire towards a superior kind of life, a spiritual one, and spirituality is a dimension of human consciousness, which was not properly investigated by Nietzsche. We cannot explain everything through physiological processes, even the human consciousness is seen today more than just a function of the brain.
The strange thing about human beings is the power to say no, the power to oppose, to natural processes happening inside. At least, there is a power to control and redirect vital instincts, and that give us the human cultures. Probably all religions have their origin in this power to moderate the life, which is in us. Humans have the power even to say no to life, when other values, such as liberty, compete with the value of life. How many people gave their lives for freedom or other ideals? Of course, there were many, and still are. How is that possible if life is the most important determining factor for humans? This is not only about social conditions, as Nietzsche would probably maintain, this is about the power of the consciousness to choose for itself what life means. Consciousness is, in a way, beyond daily life, and the modern studies about it differ very much from Nietzsche’s psychological conceptions. Because his philosophy is so closely linked with a certain outdated mode to do psychologies I consider that many of his conclusions can be doubted.
I find value in Christianity, and that is because Jesus’ teachings pushes the human minds forwards, towards the grasping of new meanings, towards the harmony of the universe, towards the infinite. Jesus is not happy only to recognize that the human nature is morally flowed, but He offers a way to change radically the human nature, and to replace it with a divine one. It is a free offer and any one has the possibility to accept it or to reject it, but I didn’t find in Nietzsche’s philosophy anything able to persuade someone that Jesus had an unreasonable offer. There is not real morality in the “human jungle,” and the lion tends to devour the deer. Nevertheless, strangely enough, Jesus said that love is a superior value comparing with the fight for existence, and many believe Him. There is something with the human beings, which pull them out from the natural and even social determinations, and that is the response to death, to temporality.
It must be said that Nietzsche will perhaps be remembered most of all for his philosophy of God, and that is the philosophy of the Christian God. Nietzsche distinguishes clearly between the teachings of historical Jesus and the moral teachings of Christianity, between the God of Christianity and the God of Jesus. To the Christian God, man is “God’s monkey,” and “the Christian concept of God…is one of the most corrupt conceptions of God arrived on this earth.” Nietzsche formulated separate assessments upon the man Jesus of Nazareth and the religion engendered by Jesus’ life, namely Christianity. To Nietzsche Jesus was a great man but Christianity is corrupt and the fathers of the church institutionalized the teaching of Jesus in an act of hostility towards the Jews. Nietzsche also believed that Christianity became similar to the very establishment against which Jesus rebelled in Judaism. Jesus pronounced Himself against religion, against any religion, which by its nature, tends to become corrupt, stagnant, static and hierarchical. If there is a God to Nietzsche, it would be above morality and would not deny human nature, such as actually is, but this image is the opposite image to the one presented by the institutionalized churches. Nietzsche sees himself being the one replacing Jesus as the product of successive revelation. Like Jesus, Nietzsche saw himself as a madman who has “come to early,” and who will continue to be misinterpreted.
In order to understand the position of Nietzsche towards the traditional Christian values one must first understand the concept of ‘life,’ such as this is presented by him. Christianity is seen as an attack to the intrinsic values of life, a denial of what is natural and develops by itself, without the involvement of any foreign agency. Life doesn’t need an evaluation from outside it; in fact such an evaluation is impossible, for humans. This impossibility is generated by the fact that all human evaluation is from inside the life, and belongs to a part of the life, and consequently can’t be an objective or impartial evaluation. As Nietzsche felt compelled to say “Judgements, value judgements concerning life, for or against, can in the last resort never be true: they possess value only as symptoms, they come into consideration only as symptoms – in themselves such judgements are stupidities. One must reach out and try to grasp this astonishing finesse, that the value of life cannot be estimated. Not by a living man, because he is a party to the dispute, indeed its object, and not the judge of it; not by a dead one, for another reason. – For a philosopher to see a problem in the value of life thus even constitutes an objection to him, a question-mark as to his wisdom, a piece of unwisdom.” (Twilight of the Idols – The problem of Socrates 2) If life cannot be evaluated, on what can be based the pretensions of Christian tradition, concerning the value of human life? Can this claim be supported by the idea that God is somehow outside life, or at least outside the level of life to which human beings belong? But if God is outside life, what is the life of God? To these questions Nietzsche will probably respond that, as far as we are aware of, there is nothing outside human life. Nevertheless, it is hard to conceive God outside life, outside any form of life, or at a certain level of life from the standpoint of which the human life can’t be considered life at all. In spite of this, in an authentic understanding of Christianity, God is life, He is alive, and He is not dead. It is interesting to notice that life it is the supreme reality both for Christianity, in the form of eternal life, and also in the views of Nietzsche. Nevertheless, for Christianity, it is another kind of life, another quality of life.
For Nietzsche, the main concept responsible for the understanding of the world is not being but life. Nietzsche’s concept of life plays a key role in his philosophy: it is the standpoint from which he conducts his revaluation of all values. Nietzsche doesn’t accept that all values have equal merit. The values can be affirmative or negative towards life. Nietzsche perspectivism means that he relates all values to various perspectives of life. The values which are life denying are not acceptable for Nietzsche; they are sick values that negate life itself. Life is inherently affirmative, and there are various perspectives in the life itself. Nietzsche doesn’t deny that the values of Christianity are the evaluation of a perspective of life but for him they are a sickness that is directed against the nature of life itself. Christian values are degenerate values; they are not at all values able to enhance life. For Nietzsche, “life as such is will to power.” What is the will to power? An excerpt from Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil” – trans. H.Zimmerman, 36, can be useful, at this point. “The question is ultimately whether we really recognize the will as operating, whether we believe in the causality of the will; if we do so – and fundamentally our belief in this is just our belief in causality itself – we must make the attempt to posit hypothetically the causality of the will as the only causality. <<Will>> can naturally only operate on <<will>> - and not on <<matter>> (not on <<nerves>>, for instance): in short, hypothesis must be hazarded, whether will does not operate on will wherever <<effects>> are recognized – and whether all mechanical action, inasmuch as a power operates therein, is not just the power of will, the effect of will. Granted, finally, that we succeeded in explaining our entire instinctive life as the development and ramification of one fundamental form of will – namely, the Will to Power, as my thesis puts it; granted that all organic functions could be traced back to this Will to Power, and that the solution of the problem of generation and nutrition – it is one problem – could also be found therein: one would thus have acquired the right to define all active force unequivocally as will to power. The world seen from within, the world defined and designated according to its “intelligible character” – it would simply be <<will to power,>> and nothing else.”
It seems to me as being reasonable the affirmation that the will operates on will, and not directly on nerves, because physiologically there are other mechanisms operating on nerves. In the same time, at first glance, the will operating on will seems to be the only motivation for the internal processes happening in the innermost of the living organism. But is it really? Is it not possible to think of other motivations in order to explicate the mechanisms of life, such as, for example, the intelligent design? What is the relation between Nietzsche and evolutionism? This is, in my opinion, an important question because the critique of Christianity can be very well connected to the evolutionary Darwinism, to which Nietzsche was familiar.
For Charles Darwin pervasive change replaced eternal fixity. Going beyond Darwin, Nietzsche’s philosophy considered both the philosophical implications and theological consequences of an evolutionary perspective on life. Nietzsche accepted the main assertions of Darwin’s theory. Humankind had evolved from remote apelike ancestors through a process of change and necessity, implicating random variations and natural selection. If, as Nietzsche accepted, evolution is the correct explanation for organic history, God is no longer necessary to account for either the existence of the universe or the apparition of our species from prehistoric animals. This situation could bring along a collapse of all traditional values, including the Christian ones, because both objective meaning and spiritual purpose seem to vanish from reality. It seems that the new situation required a new type of philosophy, different from the Greek philosophy or the modern philosophy, represented by Kant or Hegel.
Nietzsche offered an interpretation of reality in which all values became permeable, together with species, ideas, and beliefs. Nothing stable, eternal or spiritual is legitimatized by the theory of evolution, except probably the process of evolution itself that is the process of continuing becoming. Nietzsche objected to the classical metaphysics from the ground that all philosophers held a suspicious view in relation to everything which is transient. “They kill, they stuff, when they worship, these conceptual idolaters – they become a mortal danger to everything when they worship. Death, change, age, as well as procreation and growth, are for them objections – refutation even. What is, does not become; what becomes, is not…Now they all believe, even to the point of despair, in that which is. But since they cannot get hold of it, they look for reasons why it is being withheld from them” (“The Twilight of the Idols”, ‘Reason’ in Philosophy, 1). How about the deceiver? It is the senses. The senses deceive us about the real world. Nietzsche sees morality as a denial of all that believes in the senses. Even if Nietzsche reveres Heraclitus, he nevertheless goes much farther, in the sense that he considers that any interpretation of the data of senses by reason is a mystification. “But Heraclitus will always be right in this, that being is an empty fiction. The ‘apparent’ world is the only one: the ‘real’ world has only been lyingly added…” (“The Twilight of the Idols” - ‘Reason’ in Philosophy, 2)
How can anyone expect Nietzsche to accept the Christian values, which are based on the ideas of permanence and immutability? What example of eternal entity do we have in the universe? If God is seen as an entity, a sublime, all powerful, eternal entity, Nietzsche can be convincing, for some persons, in showing that we have no signs of such an entity in our universe. To me personally, Nietzsche is not convincing because I don’t see God as an entity, but as an infinite being. I also think that we can’t successfully extrapolate from the finite dimension of reality to the infinite one, and we can’t extend the laws of the seen or observable universe, to the unseen and unknown parts of the same cosmos. In fact, there is something eternal, and that is reality, existence per se, and we can’t deny that unless we can conceive the origins of reality, in its whole, but this is not the case. Even if everything, in the observable world, is changing, something is not changing, and that is the existence as such. In the background of this continuous becoming there is something which makes possible this entire dynamic, all this change, and this something is existence.
What is the being of that existence, what remains unchanged, when everything changes? That is an all other question. Nevertheless, even if everything in the universe changes, the process of change itself is eternal. What can be this eternity when equated with the Christian God is a question to which possible answers are not prohibited by Nietzsche’s philosophy. We shouldn’t confound Christian ontology with Christian morality, because a different response can be attributed to each of them. If one accepts that God exist this doesn’t mean, in the same time, that the human response to this affirmation is the correct one. Why not? That is because the intervention of the religious institutions can be seen sometimes as a deformation, distorting the meaning of the reality of God. I agree with Nietzsche that the Christianity, in its institutionalized form, shouldn’t be equated with the teachings of Jesus, but, on the other side, from my part, that is not a full rejection of the Christian morality. That is because repeating the Jesus’ teachings, reaffirming them, even if not by practicing them, the Christian tradition opens the way towards an assimilation of these teachings, which are moral, in their essence, in the sense that they refer to the common area of morality. On the other side, a bad practice, from the promoters of any moral teaching can compromise the value of it. I take morality to be: concern with the distinction between good and evil or right and wrong; right or good conduct. Jesus taught what He considered to be good, and what to be wrong, in the human conduct.
A few more quotations from Nietzsche can be useful in order to understand his views on the mechanisms of reality, and which explains why his conception about reality is incompatible with the values of Christianity. “Psychologists should bethink themselves before putting down the instinct of self-preservation as the cardinal instinct of an organic being. A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength - life itself is will to power; self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results thereof. In short, here, as everywhere else, let us beware of superfluous teleological principles! - one of which is the instinct of self-preservation (we owe it to Spinoza's inconsistency). It is thus, in effect, that method ordains, which must be essentially economy of principles.” (From Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, trans. H. Zimmerman, 13)
Another useful quotation is taken also from “Beyond Good and Evil.”To refrain mutually from injury, from violence, from exploitation, and put one's will on a par with that of others: this may result in a certain rough sense in good conduct among individuals when the necessary conditions are given (namely, the actual similarity of the individuals in amount of force and degree of worth, and their co-relation within one organization). As soon, however, as one wished to take this principle more generally, and if possible even as the fundamental principle of society, it would immediately disclose what it really is-- namely, a Will to the denial of life, a principle of dissolution and decay. Here one must think profoundly to the very basis and resist all sentimental weakness: life itself is essentially appropriation, injury, conquest of the strange and weak, suppression, severity, obtrusion of peculiar forms, incorporation, and at the least, putting it mildest, exploitation;--but why should one for ever use precisely these words on which for ages a disparaging purpose has been stamped? Even the organization within which, as was previously supposed, the individuals treat each other as equal--it takes place in every healthy aristocracy-- must itself, if it be a living and not a dying organization, do all that towards other bodies, which the individuals within it refrain from doing to each other it will have to be the incarnated Will to Power, it will endeavour to grow, to gain ground, attract to itself and acquire ascendancy--not owing to any morality or immorality, but because it lives, and because life simply is will to power. On no point, however, is the ordinary consciousness of Europeans more unwilling to be corrected than on this matter, people now rave everywhere, even under the guise of science, about coming conditions of society in which "the exploiting character" is to be absent--that sounds to my ears as if they promised to invent a mode of life which should refrain from all organic functions. <<Exploitation>> does not belong to a depraved, or imperfect and primitive society it belongs to the nature of the living being as a primary organic function, it is a consequence of the intrinsic Will to Power, which is precisely the Will to Life--Granting that as a theory this is a novelty--as a reality it is the fundamental fact of all history let us be so far honest towards ourselves!” (From Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, trans. H. Zimmerman, 259) What is than the characteristics of life? In Nietzsche’s characterisation of life two themes continually appear. Nietzsche claims: “life as such is will to power” (Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 13) What then is will to power? Nietzsche writes: “That imperious something which is popularly called “the spirit,” wishes to be master internally and externally, and to feel itself master”. (Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 230) “– in short, growth; or more properly the feeling of growth, the feel of increased power – is its object.” In describing life as will to power Nietzsche considers it to be a constant process of growth and incorporation.
Life is inherently evaluative. Nietzsche asks “Is living not valuating, preferring, being unjust, being limited, wanting to be different?” and claims that “and without evaluating the kernel of existence would be hollow.” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra Part I, Aphorism 15) There is not one will to power but wills to power. Nietzsche maintains: “Willing - seems to me to be above all something complicated, something that is a unity only in name - …” (Before Good and Evil, Aphorism 19) Each will to power affirms its evaluation, its interpretation, against others in its very living; overcoming other wills to power by incorporating them in the service of its own evaluation. Plurality allows for such affirmation.
Sick life requires a life negating evaluation, which suppresses the character of life as a multiplicity of self affirming wills to power. Christianity offers such an evaluation. Serving itself up as the only truth, it operates to suppress the multiple character of life, and it explicitly devalues this world and this life; condemning them as inferior in comparison to an unobtainable other world and afterlife. “From this it follows that even that anti-nature of a morality which conceives God as the contrary concept to and condemnation of life is only a value judgment on the part of life – of what life? of what kind of life? – But I have already given the answer: of declining, debilitated, weary, condemned life.” (The Twilight of the Idols, 5, 5) Morality is seen just an expressions of the symptoms. (The Twilight of the Idols, 7, 1) Even if the judgments we make on life can never be true they must be read as directing to what sort of state a person is in, and whether that state accepts life. There are affirming and negating states. Christianity places the source of the value of life in the absolute, in the beyond and not in life itself. God is seen as standing outside life and judging it, an absolute that attempts to move beyond life. Nietzsche doesn’t accept this move beyond life, and he prefers to move beyond good and evil. Value judgments on life can ultimately be never true, either for or against it. Affirming life doesn’t mean judging life to be good. It means letting life gain perspectives and act out freely its evaluative power. Affirmation means accepting the evaluating character of life, and negation means denying the value creating character of life. Nietzsche doesn’t deem affirmation as good and negation as bad because neither of them is to be understood as judgments on life but instead as the acceptance or denial of the evaluating force of life.
Before going any further, another observation is worth making. “The spiritualization of sensuality is called love: it is a great triumph over Christianity.” This is a very strange observation to make, since love is the supreme value of Christianity. The farther spiritualization of sensuality, and even its negation, is called ‘agape,’ or spiritual love. Is the negation of sensuality a destruction of it, a contestation of life, or rather it is a superior development, it is a spiritualized life? In that Nietzsche is not clear. I think that what he said is more like an affirmation of another kind of life, a spiritual one. This process of spiritualization is very important for the understanding of Christian values. What is the spiritual love? It is the core of the Christian values. Nietzsche admits, maybe without realizing, that love, which is so important in Christianity, is a spiritualization of the rough material interconnections. In this way Nietzsche recognizes that the most important value of Christianity is an authentic value. He probably had in mind ‘Eros,’ or ‘Philos,’ and not necessary Agape. In the same time, Agape is the supreme spiritualization of sensuality, but not only. It is also a principle of life, of the harmony, and a certain order in the universe. In the Christian view, Agape is not only the fundament of the existence as such, is also God, and is the supreme sense of existence, for every being, who looks in a conscious manner, for a meaning.
Nietzsche is not a critic of all ‘morality’. Employing the same German word, ‘Moralitat,’ for both, what he criticizes and what he accepts, Nietzsche speaks about a “higher morality,” governing the lives of “higher men.” On the other side, Nietzsche doesn’t attack only Christian morality, but also Kantian, or European, and utilitarian morality. What can be understood by ‘morality,’ as the object of Nietzsche critique? Walter Kaufman noticed that what Nietzsche opposed in Christian morality is: “an antagonism against excellence, a predisposition in favor of mediocrity or even downright baseness, a leveling tendency, the conviction that sex is sinful, [and] a devaluation of both body and intellect in favor of the soul.” Other Christian values, which are criticized by Nietzsche, are: it’s endorsement of pity, selflessness, equality, and the extirpation of the instincts, its development out of resentment.
For a certain morality, to be intelligible, three different presuppositions must be meeting. Human agents must possess a free will, capable of autonomous choices. The motives of their actions can be clearly connected to the human self. All human must be similar, in respect to their personalities, if one code is to be considered appropriate for all. All normative morals have to be capable to demonstrate the three presuppositions if they want to hold agents responsible for their actions, to evaluate the motives for which agents act, and consider that ‘morality’ has universal applicability. If the three presuppositions are false that affects the availability of any moral judgments. If agents lack “free will” they cannot be held responsible for their actions. If the motives are not distinguishable the acts cannot be related to the motives. If agents are different in relevant respect one morality cannot have universal application. For Nietzsche natural facts about a person are “causally primary” in fixing the trajectory of that person’s life. Nevertheless, Nietzsche’s fatalism involves only Causal Essentialism meaning that he holds that there are essential natural facts about persons which circumscribes the trajectories of life that any person has. Nietzsche theory of agency contains also a persistent attack on Autonomy Condition, of human beings, which is the guarantee of the free will. Only if a person has a free will, he, or she, can be held responsible for he or hers acts. In Beyond Good and Evil 15, Nietzsche maintains that “the concept of a “causa sui” is something fundamentally absurd.”
In Beyond God and Evil 21 Nietzsche also wrights: “The causa sui is the best self-contradiction that has been conceived so far, it is a sort of rape and perversion of logic; but the extravagant pride of man has managed to entangle itself profoundly and frightfully with just this nonsense. The desire for “freedom of the will” in the superlative metaphysical sense … the desire to bear the entire and ultimate responsibility for one’s actions oneself, and to absolve God, the world, ancestors chance and society involves nothing less than to be precisely this causa sui and … to pull oneself up into existence by the hair, out of the swamps of nothingness.” Consciousness is not directly the cause of human persons’ actions. Consciousness can be a part of the chain leading to action, but in its turn is a consequence of type-facts about the person. For Nietzsche the ‘will’ is conceptually prior to the concepts of ‘consciousness’ and ego. In the Twilight of the Idols he says: “The inner World” is full of phantoms …: the will is one of them. The will no longer moves anything, hence does not explain anything either – it merely accompanies events it can also be absent. The so-called motive: another error. Merely a surface phenomenon of consciousness – something alongside the deed that is more likely to cover up the antecedents of the deeds then to represent them … What follows from this? There are no mental causes at all.”
Personally, I am not convinced by Nietzsche’s arguments about the importance of the determination of human decisions by the naturalistic or social factors. Christianity can’t be criticized from the point of view that it asks for responsibility from the part of human beings, and also I reject the diminishing of responsibility for natural reasons, unless we speak of special circumstances, such illnesses. We have, inherited in us, the data of our nature but any time that we have a choice we are required to make a moral choice. Moral choices are made to preserve life and not to destroy it. It is true that sometimes it is about preserving others lives, and not necessarily ours, but this jump from us to others is in fact the meaning of morality. Life it is not necessarily selfish but considerate with all. I say this only to give a sense to my critique of Nietzsche, life sacrifices individuals from the sake of the preservation of the human specie, and we can see that death is a form of rejuvenescence of the specie, and all that really belongs to individuals is the acceptance of this phenomenon, and this acceptance is called love.
Faith can play a decisive function in the process of decision making, and many lives are changed by the involvement of it. A true Christian, a practicing one, ought to chouse between his, or hers natural determinations, and another type of determinations, which are spiritual, in their nature. Nietzsche didn’t take into consideration faith which is the alternative to the natural determinism, and probably the condition of the existence of a free will. In order to have a fair choice humans need something out of their natural determinism, and social conditions, a real option, which is the opposite of what Nietzsche considers will to be, namely an artifact of the facts about us. In his “Doctrine of Types” Nietzsche maintains that each person has a fixed psycho-physical constitution, which defines him or her as a particular type of person. Type facts are either physiological facts, or facts about the person’s unconscious drives, or affects. Type facts are the explanation for all other facts about a person, even his, or hers believes. To me, Christianity offers the only viable alternative to the view that each person has certain characteristics that causally determine that person’s ‘will.’ Christianity offers the change of human nature, a new birth, this time a spiritual one. A true Christian is a person who is born again, from the Spirit of God, than the natural mechanisms, explained by Nietzsche, and others, does not function any more. Through Nietzsche’s views, and within their limits, probably this type of argumentation could seem to be ridiculous, but that is because, he didn’t really confronted the authentic mechanisms proposed by Christ, but only the distorted, interpretations given to Christ’s teachings by the religious institutions, namely the institutionalized churches.
Is the Christian morality a slave morality? How can one know the answer to this question? First of all, what is the slave morality, in Nietzsche views? “The beginning of the slave’s revolt in morality occurs when ressentiment itself turns creative and gives birth to value: the ressentiment of those beings who, being denied the proper response of action, compensate for it only with imaginary revenge. Central to Nietzsche thinking is the psychology of reaction, or ‘reactive’ psychology, and ressentiment is an instant of that condition. This kind of attitude can be generated by powerlessness in the face of a certain unpleasant state of affair. In the case of the slaves, ressentiment was expressing itself through a particular kind of evaluation, and not by any kind of action. The stimulus was external and not found inside the persons as a certainty, as a configuration of a belief. Slave’s revolt in morals is the creation of new values, values that devalue the masters that challenge the master’s valuations: this kind of valuation is a projection of the powerful reactive emotions. In the same time, through ressentiment “the human soul became deep.” This kind of powerlessness brings the priests, first of all, to become intellectuals, very thoughtful, and able to plot revenge, cook up new evaluations, produce calculations, and schemes. In other words, without ressentiment the history of mankind will look like a stupid think. Is it a good think for the human thought to come deep rather than just expanding, so to say in extension? I think it is a good thing because the meanings of life, to me, are in the depth of inner human aspirations, not only in external conquest. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is inside us. Nevertheless, for Nietzsche ressentiment will transform the natural order of the good and evil, and the ‘good’ man of the master morality becomes the ‘evil’ man of the slave morality.
What was the ressentiment which generated the Christian morality? Was Jesus, first of all, a Person motivated by ressentiment, unable to react forcefully against the Roman oppressors, or against the Jewish priests, and for this reason He created a totally other moral order? Was Jesus the embodiment of the powerlessness of the Jews in front of their Roman conquerors? Neither of these two options looks like having any consistency at all. Jesus never aspired to fight against Romans, because He considered them potentially His followers, at least after His death. In fact, many of them became His disciples, in the centuries to follow. Jesus had a much higher enemy than man, any man, or social organization. Jesus enemy was death, and He conquered death by His own death, on the cross. He didn’t embody the ressentiment of the poor, against the rich, even if He was poor financially, and even if He said that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor. Jesus also said that it is hard for a rich man to enter in the Kingdom of Heaven, and gave the impression that He sided with the poor, but He didn’t exclude the rich from His Kingdom. In fact He was not against wealth and He said that whoever quits wealth for His name he, or she will get one hundred times more wealth, on the earth together with eternal life. Jesus was not against reach people but He asked the reach man, inquiring what to do in order to inherit eternal life, to sell all his wealth, and to give the money to the poor. Jesus stood for social justice, but was not a social thinker. Jesus also offered another world for the persons who seems to loose this one. In the same time, the core of His morality it is not the renunciation of this world, or of wealth, or a normal family life, but the awareness that humans live for a higher purpose and not only for the satisfaction of their worldly necessities. There is more, in the human being, than we are used to see, and to understand. Jesus told us that there is a divine element in us, in each of us, but we need to connect with God, in order to realize that. Not that the earthly life is without any value, but there is more value in another quality of life, which He named it, eternal life.
Jesus didn’t preach the instauration of a communist order on earth, in which the rich persons were condemned to disappear, together with their moral values, but He thought that real life is when someone becomes free of his or hers instinctual natural determinations. Freed from passions, freed from the facts of his human nature, and freed from material wealth, a human being able to shape his or hers destiny, according to higher hopes and aspirations. The spiritualization of human nature can be a much undeveloped concept, at the moment, but it is more like a conquest of oneself than a quiet social revolution, and the reversal of established moral values. ‘Slave’ and ‘master’ are two names for the inner determinations of the human beings. Are our natural instincts which drive our project of life, or is our rationality, informed by the love for the neighbor? This love is a kind of self negation, an affirmation through negation. When one loves someone else, one negates himself, or herself, than life goes forward not only through affirmation, but also through negation of itself.
In order to be able to appreciate the impact of Christianity on Western societies one should be able to answer the following question: What would be the outlook of our societies without Christianity, and what would be their values? To this question there is not easy answer. First of all, there is not human society without religion. To compare religions among themselves, from the point of view of their impact on society is a daunting task. Nevertheless, one can look at a certain society, where Christianity was not an issue, and see where its fundaments lay. For example, what kinds of relations between the members of Japanese society were, in the past, or are at the moment. Japanese Shintoist religion was opened to the cult of the emperor, a human god in the place of a divine One. Was that for better or for worst, if comparing with the Western societies? In fact, in any society, under the Christian influence, or not, only the human nature was displayed, in reality, and not at all God. The Christian moral values were more like a subject of declamations and religious propaganda than a constant motivation for political action in society. The Inquisition or other religious institutions displayed the opposite of Christian values, more hatred than love, more destruction and sufferings than charity. The Christian values, criticized by Nietzsche, had never, at a large scale, an important practical influence on the morality of Western societies, except by the fact that they were used as a cover up, by the religious institutions for many of their worldly projects. Jesus didn’t promise His teachings to be a solution for social problems, and His Kingdom was not from this world. Jesus also said that He will not appear to the world, but only to His followers.
As a political or social doctrine Christianity doesn’t have much viability, and its morality it is not applicable in society, and was never applied. Let’s take an example. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said that if one slaps us on the right cheek, we should turn also the other cheek, and that is a non reaction, a non resistance to the evil. Instead to make the world better such an attitude could compromise its very existence. If the evil is not resisted, it will spread uncontrollable, and the society as such would not be possible. The human creative liberty, the normal, peaceful social relationships would also not be possible because a handful of aggressive persons will share between themselves the control of every society, and the wars and the fights will be incessant. This type of social climate could stop any human creation, could divide society to very little gangs, and finally can put in peril the existence of any kind of organized social life. All societies, in the Western world, and somewhere else, used active force in order to deal with social behavior, considered to be evil. In order for the human race to survive, and to advance, certain political and social values were formulated and more centralized organized powers, ending with the states, were created. The existence of Western societies, in its actual shape, is not due to the Christian values, even less to the principle of non resistance to evil, preached by Christ, but to their reverse, namely the resistance, the fight, and finally the partial annihilation of evil forces. The Christian value of the non resistance to evil means in the social practice a promotion of the evil actions, and an encouragement of the evil agents to extend their power, by the lack of the existence of any restraints. It is, as it were, not applicable, and not valid as a moral value, in society. Christ didn’t want to change the society but the human nature. His teachings were not presented as a new morality, but in fact they were anti-morality, from the point of view of the social environment. Jesus’ teaching of the non resistance to evil is applicable in a community only if every agent is disposed to practice this rule, but that would be possible only when the Kingdom of God will be fully installed on earth.
Why were the teachings of Christ anti-moral? This is because even if He preached love of God, and of the neighbor, this love cannot be presented as a rule, as an obligation. Love is not a norm, and cannot take the form of a moral norm it is something that goes, in a positive manner, against any fixed rules, or regulations, against any legislation, or moral codes, which organize in a normative manner the society. None can love God, or another person, by means of obligation, and this type of spiritual love is given by God to the one who is available to receive it. This unconditional love can’t be seen as a norm sanctioning the relationships in society, but it is the attribute of the few, of the elect. Their attitude prepares them for the future Kingdom of God, and not for this life, where human competition is the norm, and means to make this competition peaceful are to be considered the real morality. Because it is utopist and it is not focused on this world, but on a future world, the Christian moral values, at first glance, can be seen as anti-values from the point of view of our natural environment. They can be seen as disruptive for the social order, on the present earth. The only thing is that these values were not preached by Jesus for the world, or for a kind of religious society. The Jewish society, which was very religious, was not led by justice, and Jesus knew that a theocracy is not the answer for the problems of the world. Jesus preached the annihilation of the Jewish theocratic society, and the destruction of the Jewish Temple. There is no evidence that Jesus wanted to replace the Jewish religious order with another religious order, namely the Christian order, which inherently will display the same non accomplishments.
Nevertheless, Jesus’ moral teachings didn’t have any major impact on the Western societies, because they were never applied on a large scale. The moral values of Christianity were not presented by Jesus as a solution for the problems of this world, but only as a preparation for another world. The institutional churches made the mistake to try to transform, this world, into a religious world, with religious values, a Kingdom of God on earth, but this was not the aim of Jesus, who preached that the Kingdom of God is inside us, and that a more complete Kingdom of God, will come on earth at the end of time, and not now. This attempt of the institutional churches was a failure, and Nietzsche sanctioned it as such
From my point of view, Nietzsche is completely right in making a clear difference between the teachings of Jesus, available for the elect, and, on the other side, the religious institutions, which transformed these teachings in an ideology, useful for the purpose of submitting the peoples to them. Following a common interest with the states the religious institutions gave to Jesus’ teachings a totally other signification, and meaning, one which was made to adapt His teachings to the conditions of this world. The believers were asked to summit to the teachings of the Church, which was considered to be the mediator between Christians and God. The question is: Were the demands of the Church identical with Jesus’ teachings, in scope, and in moral meaning? Studying this aspect for a while, I think that it is right to conclude that Jesus tried to assure a new order, not moral in the usual sense of this term, but moral in the sense that it is a reversal of any kind of natural morality, and of the human nature, so far as the human nature has an intrinsic drive to a certain morality.
Jesus’ teachings are much more revolutionary than Nietzsche’s because the latest speaks from the interiority of the nature, of the human nature, but Jesus Christ spoke from the standpoint of another type of “Superman.” Jesus’ Superman is unlike the product of human imagination, which is based on the human nature. Nietzsche wrote: “– I formulate a principle. All naturalism in morality, that is all healthy morality, is dominated by an instinct of life… Anti-natural morality, that is virtually every morality that has hitherto been thought, reverenced and preached, turns on the contrary precisely against the instincts of life – it is a now secret, now loud and impudent condemnation of these instincts.” Jesus didn’t construct an anti-natural morality, opposed to the intuitions emerging from the human nature, in its present form, as Nietzsche said, but He rejected the human nature all together, and advanced the need of the change “in nature” of the human beings. Jesus noticed the impossibility of any viable morality rooted in the human nature, so he went much further than Nietzsche, who praised the human instincts, and natural intuitions but was not able the open any real gate for a viable moral human life. Christian morality is not an anti-natural morality because it is not directed against any possible human nature; it is an expression of a regenerated human nature.
Jesus spoke also about life, but another kind of life, an eternal life, which is the real life, not only because it is eternal, and happier, but because is the same life as God has, which is a superior kind of life. It is not a life based on natural human instincts, but on God’s instincts, so to say, on God’s nature. How can a human being get God’s nature, and He’s instincts? This is only possible by a new birth, a birth from the Sprit, and not only from the flesh. Jesus said that what is born from flesh is flesh, and what is born from Spirit is spirit. A person born from the Sprit is no longer driven by his, or hers, natural instincts, or natural life, but by his, or hers, new nature. This is the teaching of Jesus, and not other, and this is not absurd for persons who believe that they experienced such a new birth. This is also not against life, but is different from the life, as Nietzsche understood it. How this new life functions, and where is the place of the will to power in this new system Nietzsche didn’t bother at all, and I personally suppose that he didn’t have any idea about that. I maintain that because I didn’t find any Nietzsche’s references to that. What I find disturbing though is the fact that the notion of will is very much used in this equation with a meaning similar to the human will but God is not a human being, but an infinite reality. The religious institutions presents God more like a human being, than like an infinite reality and the image they create about God looks more like the result of human imagination than the reasonable openness towards another dimension of reality. In the same time, the identification of God, in the Jewish and Christian traditions is through the will of God, but what kind of will is this will? Is it the will of a Person? What kind of Person can be that, who has a personhood, but also an infinite dimension? Infinity doesn’t have any center; it needs a leap of faith to believe in a God, who is a Person, but in the same time is infinite, or the way in which the institutional Churches present God it is not at all what Jesus meant by God.
Nietzsche made the same mistake as, from a Christian perspective, the Jews made. The latest expected a Messiah, a sort a Superman capable to defeat their enemy, and Nietzsche expected also a new man, strong and warrior able to push the limits of the usual human being able to defeat all human weaknesses. In fact, both Jews and Nietzsche didn’t realize that the real enemies of human kind, to be addressed, are hatred, the destructive relationships between human beings, death and temporality. Jesus addressed that with His moral teachings. Jesus’ moral teachings are not from this world, and for this world, but Nietzsche’s ideas about morality don’t make the world better. The focus on peace, made by Jesus, is much more valuable than to stir up wars, by preaching the supreme value of war as a form of free manifestation of the instincts of life. Nietzsche is probably right in saying that war is a form of manifestation of human vitality, courage, and power, but it is exactly what the human race doesn’t need, if it wants to avoid destruction, and annihilation. Would a nuclear war be the supreme form of life and actualization of human natural potential? If the answer is positive, in the background, Nietzsche philosophy can be seen as a theology of self-destruction, a way of surprising life on its most vulnerable but acute situation, in which there is a certain “beauty of the evil,” as a poet said. Probably life can be very vibrant, when confronted with its destruction, but I really don’t see there the supreme value, or force of manifestation of it. If Christian morality is just a symptom of life, the same is also the Nietzsche’s philosophy, and its approach to life. I see in this philosophy a symptom of self destruction of life, which is characteristic for life when all moral meanings are rejected.
Jesus’ man is a new man, a spiritual man, who is not driven by the complicate dynamic of the evolution of matter, by the forces which propel material reality, to its continuous evolution, and destruction. Jesus man is an enlighten man, an illuminated man, who sees beyond the materiality of the world, who sees another world, a construction which is not natural, but supernatural. It is a place which, I agree with Nietzsche, can’t be conceived from the data offered by nature, a heaven realized, by a Force, whom we name God, and for the acceptance of which one needs faith. The mechanisms and rules of this construction are largely unknown by humans, but St. Paul said that he saw a place, which is far beyond humans can imagine. God shows us things through revelation and Nietzsche is not convincing when he considers that everything can be explained by the rules of material evolution. Nietzsche refuses revelation and when one refuses direct discoveries, coming from God, there is not enough rational support for accepting God.
|Brian Leiter||Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Nietzsche on morality, edited by Tim Crane and Jonathan Wolff, University College London|
|Friedrich Nietzsche||Twilight of the Idols and The Anti – Christ, translated By R.J. Hollingdale, Introduction by Michael Tanner, Penguin Books|
|Friedrich Nietzsche||Beyond Good and Evil Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, translated by Helen Zimmern, Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York|
|Friedrich Nietzsche||Thus Spoke Zarathustra, translated with an Introduction and Notes by Graham Parkes, Oxford University Press|
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 Friederich Nietzsche ...Beyond Good and Evil ... 21, cited also in Routledge ... page 89
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 Fiederich Nietzsche On the Geanology of Morals I: 10, also cited in Routledge....page 202
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 Friedrich Nietzsche…The Twilight of the Idols…page 55