Module 7: Kant & Nietzche
Nietzsche: The Anti-Christ
An Attempt at a Criticism of Christianity
Nietzsche (translated by H.L Mencken)
Let us look one another in the face. We are Hyperboreans — we know well enough how much out of the way we live. ‘Neither by land nor sea shalt thou find the road to the Hyperboreans’: Pindar already knew that of us. Beyond the North, beyond the ice, beyond death — our life, our happiness…. We have discovered happiness, we know the road, we have found the exit out of whole millennia of labyrinth. Whoe else has found it? — Modern man perhaps? — ‘I know not which way to turn; I am everything that knows not which way to turn’ — sighs modern man…. It was from this modernity that we were ill — from lazy peace, from cowardly compromise, from the whole virtuous uncleanliness of modern Yes and No. This tolerance and largeur of heart which ‘forgives’ everything because it ‘Understands’ everything is sirocco to us. Better to live among ice than among modern virtues and other south winds! … We were brave enough, we spared neither ourselves nor others: but for long we did not know where to apply our courage. We became gloomy, we were called fatalists. Our fatality — was the plenitude, the tension, the blocking-up of our forces. We thirsted for lightning and action, of all things we kept ourselves furthest from the happiness of the weaklings, from ‘resignation’…. There was a thunderstorm in our air, the nature which we are grew dark — for we had no road. Formula of our happiness: a Yes, a No, a straight line, a goal…
What is good? — All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man. What is bad? — All that proceeds from weakness. What is happiness? — The feeling that powerincreases — that a resistance is overcome.
Not contentment, but more power, not peace at all, but war; not virtue, but proficiency (virtue in the Renaissance style, virth, virtue free of moralic acid.) The weak and ill-constituted shall perish: first principle of our philanthropy. And one shall help them to do so. What is more harmful than any vice? — Active sympathy for the ill-constituted and weak — Christianity ….
The problem I raise here is not what ought to succeed mankind in the sequence of species (– the human being is a conclusion –): but what type of human being one ought to breed, ought to will, as more valuable, more worthy of life, more certain of the future.
This more valuable type has existed often enough already: but as a lucky accident, as an exception, never as willed. He has rather been the most feared, he has hitherto been virtually the thing to be feared — and out of fear the reverse type has been willed, bred, achieved: the domestic animal, the herd animal, the sick animal man — the Christian…
Mankind does not represent a development of the better or the stronger or the higher in the way that is believed today. ‘Progress’ is merely a modern idea, that is to say a false idea. The European of today is of far less value than the European of the Renaissance; onward development is not by any means, by an necessity the same thing as elevation, advance, strengthening.
In another sense there are cases of individual success constantly appearing in the most various parts of the earth and from the most various cultures in which a higher type does manifest itself: something which in relation to collective mankind is sort of a superman. Such chance occurences of great success have always been possible and perhaps always will be possible. And even entire races, tribes, nations can under certain circumstances represent such a lucky hit.
One should not embellish or dress up Christianity: it has waged a war to the death against this higher type of man, it has excommunicated all the fundamental instincts of this type, it has distilled evil, the Evil One, out of these instincts — the strong human being as the type of reprehensibility, as the ‘outcast’. Christianity has taken the side of everything weak, base, ill-constituted, it has made an ideal out of opposition to the preservative instincts of strong life; it has depraved the reason even of the intellectually strongest natures by teaching men to feel supreme values of intellectually as sinful, as misleading, as temptations. The most deplorable example: the depraving of Pascal, who believed his reason had been depraved by original sin while it had only been depraved by his Christianity! —
It is painful, a dreadful spectacle which has opened up before me: I have drawn back the curtain on the depravity of man. In my mouth this word is protected against at any rate on suspicion: that it contains a moral accusation of man. It is used — and I wish to emphasize this fact again — without any moral significance: and this is so far true that the depravity I speak of is most apparent to me precisely in those quarters where there has been most aspiration, hitherto, toward ‘virtue’ and ‘godliness.’ As you probably surmise, I understand rottenness in the sense of decadence-values. I call an animal, a species, an individual corrupt, when it loses its insticts, when it chooses, when it prefers, what is injurious to it. A history of the ‘higher feelings,’ the ‘ideals of humanity’–and it is possible that I will have to write it — would almost explain why man is so degenerate. Life itself appears to me as a mere instinct for growth, for survival, for the accumulation of forces, for power: whenever the will to power fails, there is disaster. My contention is that all the highest values of humanity have been emptied of this will — that the values of decadence, of nihilism, now prevail under the holiest names.
Christianity is called the religion of pity. Pity stands in opposition to all the tonic passions that augment the energy of feeling of aliveness: it is a depressant. A man loses power when he pities. Through pity that drain upon strength which suffering works is multiplied a thousandfold. Suffering is made contagious by pity; under certain circumstances, it may lead to a total sacrifice of life and living energy — a loss out of all proportion with the magnitude of the cause (–the case of the death of the Nazerene). This is the first view of it; there is, however, a still more important one. If one measures the effects of pity by the gravity of the reactions it sets up, its character as a menace to life appears in a much clearer light. Pity thwarts the whole law of evolution, which is the law of natural selection. It preserves what is ripe for destruction; it fights on the side of those disinherited and condemned by life; by maintaining life in so many of the botched of all kinds, it gives life itself a gloomy and dubious aspect. Mankind has ventured to call pity a virtue (–in every superior moral system it appears as a weakness–); going still further, it has been called the virtue, the source and foundation of all other virtues–but let us always bear in mind that this was from the standpoint of a philosophy that was nihilistic, and upon whose shield the denial of life was inscribed. Schopenhauer was right in this: that by means of pity life is denied, and made worthy of denial–pity is the technic of nihilism. Let me repeat: this depressing and contagious instinct stands against all those instincts which work for the preservation and enhancement of life: in the role of protector of the miserable, it is a prime agent in the promotion of decadence–pity persuades to extinction….Of course, one doesn’t say “extinction”: one says “the other world,” or “God,” or “the true life,” or Nirvana, salvation, blessedness…. This innocent rhetoric, from the realm of religious-ethical balderdash, appears a good deal less innocent when one reflects upon the tendency that it conceals beneath sublime words: the tendency to destroy life. Schopenhauer was hostile to life: that is why pity appeared to him as a virtue. . . . Aristotle, as every one knows, saw in pity a sickly and dangerous state of mind, the remedy for which was an occasional purgative: he regarded tragedy as that purgative. The instinct of life should prompt us to seek some means of puncturing any such pathological and dangerous accumulation of pity as that appearing in Schopenhauer’s case (and also, alack, in that of our whole literary decadence, from St. Petersburg to Paris, from Tolstoi to Wagner), that it may burst and be discharged. . . Nothing is more unhealthy, amid all our unhealthy modernism, than Christian pity. To be the doctors here, to be unmerciful here, to wield the knife here–all this is our business, all this is our sort of humanity, by this sign we are philosophers, we Hyperboreans !–
—With this I come to a conclusion and pronounce my judgment. I condemn Christianity; I bring against the Christian church the most terrible of all the accusations that an accuser has ever had in his mouth. It is, to me, the greatest of all imaginable corruptions; it seeks to work the ultimate corruption, the worst possible corruption. The Christian church has left nothing untouched by its depravity; it has turned every value into worthlessness, and every truth into a lie, and every integrity into baseness of soul. Let any one dare to speak to me of its “humanitarian” blessings! Its deepest necessities range it against any effort to abolish distress; it lives by distress; it creates distress to make itself immortal…. For example, the worm of sin: it was the church that first enriched mankind with this misery!—The “equality of souls before God”—this fraud, this pretext for the rancunes of all the base-minded—this explosive concept, ending in revolution, the modern idea, and the notion of overthrowing the whole social order —this is Christian dynamite…. The “humanitarian” blessings of Christianity forsooth! To breed out of humanitas a self-contradiction, an art of self-pollution, a will to lie at any price, an aversion and contempt for all good and honest instincts! All this, to me, is the “humanitarianism” of Christianity!—Parasitism as the only practice of the church; with its anæmic and “holy” ideals, sucking all the blood, all the love, all the hope out of life; the beyond as the will to deny all reality; the cross as the distinguishing mark of the most subterranean conspiracy ever heard of,—against health, beauty, well-being, intellect, kindness of soul—against life itself….
This eternal accusation against Christianity I shall write upon all walls, wherever walls are to be found—I have letters that even the blind will be able to see…. I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means are venomous enough, or secret, subterranean and small enough,—I call it the one immortal blemish upon the human race….
And mankind reckons time from the dies nefastus when this fatality befell—from the first day of Christianity!—Why not rather from its last?—From today?—The transvaluation of all values!…
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. The Antichrist. Trans. H.L Mencken. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1918.