Nietzsche’s “Antichrist” and his antichristianism

Translator’s note: Firstly, forgive me for any mistakes that you may find in the translation, conceptual or others. Secondly, due to the fact that I don’t have access to all the English originals, some quotations are rendered by translating from Greek to English, which itself was translated from English. In effect, they do not match the English original. If you notice such a quotation and you can help me with the English original, please inform me with a comment or an email. Thank you in advance.

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Our philosophical system is usually nothing but the story of our heart.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte

I had a good trip, I was shipwrecked.
Friedrich Nietzsche

 

The German poet, thinker and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is known worldwide for his robust, groundbreaking thinking and original, subversive perception on many issues. His philosophy, with its two main axes-mottos that dominated the 20th century, like Gott ist tot and Thus spoke Zarathustra, that is, the imposition of “the will of the power of super-humans with an ethic beyond good and evil”, is well known. Mankind has reaped the fruits of such slogans, implemented through Nazism, the so-called social-Darwinism and naturally, anarchism-nihilism, since his philosophy was a precursor of these…

Nietzsche said several interesting and perhaps, right things on the topics of art, philosophy, metaphysics. He catalytically criticized conformism and revealed some painful truths, fighting mercilessly against hypocrisy and demolishing the known idols.

However, one should focus his interest on his antichristianism and interpret it. This is because, firstly, it is quite strange how a brilliant mind like Nietzsche got trapped in an antichristianism that eventually evolved into hatred towards the Christian religion. His life, his studies (started like a son of a pastor to become a pastor himself) and his mindset of unlimited freedom to himself and even the worship of antiquity (he admired the Dionysian and Apollonian spirit and the ancient Greeks because they had slaves and pursued power with passion) certainly shed some light on the topic.

Those who study his work, apart from the varied and many retractions and contradictions, which is a characteristic feature of all kinds of philosophers, have pointed out more characteristics of his peculiar thinking· the intense subjectivity of his views, the passionate critique of conventionality, the metaphoric or metonymic way of generating thoughts and irony—a sarcastic mask.

His polemic against everybody and his taunt towards great personalities of history (Socrates, Jesus, Kant) relies more on psychological analyzes and correlations rather than spiritual and historical data…

However, in my opinion, all this is not enough. It seems that here what St. Paul said is true, namely that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ”. And the human mind is blinded mainly from bias, erroneous and incomplete knowledge, arrogance, conceit, selfishness and other factors. Especially from conceit. Nietzsche himself wrote that he wished there is God, because only he could understand him. And in a letter to A. Strindberg (12/07/1888) he wrote: “...I am powerful enough to break the history of humanity into two parts”. “Ich bin kein Mensch in bin dynamit” (I’m not a man, I am dynamite) he wrote somewhere else.

Nietzsche depicts his basic concepts and vehement criticism of Christianity with almost all his work. Mostly, though, with his book The Antichrist. A book written in 1888, a year considered as his last year of fertile production just before Nietzsche collapsed.

If somebody will study carefully this book by the German thinker-philosopher, he will find that much of his criticism of Christianity is consumed in his own subjective thoughts, unproven philosophical presuppositions and obsolete scientific positions. Nietzsche certainly read the Bible before he dip his pen in the ink and fired his arrows of derision, wry irony, sarcasm and cruel negative review of anything Christian. Above all, however, he made sure that he had read books full off negative reviews about the Bible, books like those by Julius Wellhausen, considered the father of the negative criticism of the Old Testament, and David Stauss whose book The life of Jesus, greatly influenced his thinking. He writes: “I […] enjoyed with all the sapient laboriousness of a fastidious philologist the work of the incomparable Strauss”.

It is worthwhile to look at the backbone of his argumentation, because unfortunately, Nietzsche’s ideas, although not scientifically valid, are still upheld and defended today extensively by many opponents of Christianity, although they have a different ideology from him.

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Nietzsche’s main arguments against Christianity can be summarized in the following main points. Through these his trenchant criticism is exercised. These we will follow here, weighting them critically, based on the data (historical-biblical-scientific).

1. According to Nietzsche, Christianity is the religion of the weak and the losers. As a religion of pity, it causes depression, because when we feel pity we lose strength. Christianity prevailed through a miserable flattery of personal vanity. This way it attracted all the losers, the outcasts, the scum and garbage of humanity… “The poisonous doctrine, “equal rights for all,” has been propagated as a Christian principle”. Moreover, “sick reasoning is the only sort that it can use as Christian reasoning; it takes the side of everything that is idiotic; it pronounces a curse upon “intellect,” upon the superbia of the healthy intellect” … Here, it is clear that Nietzsche, confusing the historic Christendom of his time with the teachings of the Gospel and proto-Christianity, expressing a strong and arbitrary subjectivism, reaches the absurd conclusions above. Because, in the pages of the New Testament, there is no clue of an anemic Christianity. Jesus himself, the humble and meek preacher, had s dynamic character and did not hesitate either to confront the priestly-political establishment of his time, or overturn the tables of the money changers. Neither the first followers of Jesus were outcasts and scum of society, as Nietzsche thought. Clearly they were not the rich, the wise and powerful of this world, as Nietzsche would like. Why? The answer is given by the apostle Paul; so that the success of Christianity would seem not the work of men but the work of God’s spirit. “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God”. (1 Cor 1:27-29). A well-informed reader cannot help but wonder: Was Luke the physician, the lawyer Saul and later apostle Paul, Dionysius the Areopagite, Apolos, the most excellent Theophilus, Erastos the steward of Corinth, the proconsul Sergius Paul, Lydia the seller of purple, people from the house of Caesar and so many other famous and anonymous Christians the scum of humanity? All these who embraced the power of love overcoming the love for power, surpassing themselves, were the scum of humanity?

As correctly noted by Heinrich Mann, “Nietzsche does not explain, neither does he mention the miracle by which the victory of weakness did not only manage to survive for two thousand years, but also produced works spiritually stronger than the works of the previous historical periods. Plus, something more: “Since the sick and the weak won, were they really sick and weak?”

Nietzsche’s belief that the doctrine of equal rights, for which mankind is still struggling after 2.000 years, is poison (!) and that the Christian reasoning is sick, makes anybody wonder… It is probably sick, for those who do not understand, for those who do not recognize the importance and value of faith and love in human life.

2. Christianity, according to the German philosopher-critic, is based not in reality but in imaginary causes and concepts (God, soul, ego, spirit, free will), to imaginary effects (sin, salvation, grace, punishment, forgiveness of sins) and imaginary psychology and teleology (kingdom of God, eternal life).

This view of Nietzsche on Christianity, is once more a blend of subjectivity, bias and circular reasoning. That is because Christianity, as accepted by researchers and religious experts, is the only historical religion—if we can call it a religion. It is the only religion that combines harmonically history-doctrine-morality, in contrast to all other religions (ancient and new) that are abstract philosophical (ethical) systems and cannot exist without their founder and without the historical events that produced them. All the pages of the Bible from beginning to end, contain a certain notion; the story of man’s salvation from the divine (Heilsgeschichte), which divine invades dynamically the historic arena and shapes the history, leading it to a “telos” (=purpose). Certainly, in Christianity there are some transcendental, trans-logical, metaphysical concepts. But in which metaphysical system they don’t exist?

It is widely known that even in science there are axiomatic presuppositions, the famous “postulates”, which are being accepted unproven. Faith, trust (not blind credulity), is the base of many things in our rational life. And as an ancient Christian writer rightly pointed out, faith precedes every science and learning. “Faith precedes all things” (Theophilus of Antioch).

Moreover, the “kingdom of God” is not a fantastic teleology, as the German philosopher thinks, but a living reality, since it is not a good internal condition of the heart (within us), as interpreted elsewhere by Nietzsche, but the church of faithful disciples and students that Jesus himself gathered and leads, that will be completed eschatologically (cf. Luke 11:20, Matt. 12:28).

3. Nietzsche characterizes the Christian conception of God as “the most widespread and the most subterranean form of falsehood to be found on earth”! Why? Because “God [is not] “divine,” but… pitiable, …absurd, ... injurious; …a crime against life…”

Many times, Nietzsche poisoned by his own ideas on nihilism, superman, the prevalence of violence and brute force, succeds in being critical, ironic and poignant, without bothering to explain and analyze his positions. He presents his view concisely, arbitrarily and subjectively, so that somebody finds no reason to seriously try to comprehend them. Thomas Mann was right when he said that “whoever takes seriously Nietzsche, whoever believes him, is at a loss...” And Nietzsche does this, as a philosopher that he was, while violating the first basic principle in scientific thinking: Sapiens nihil affirmat quod non probet (a wise man states as true nothing he does not prove). So, he depicts the Christian God, the originator of life, as an enemy of life... reversing and distorting things... proving himself “wise” in his folly.

4. To the question, “how do you explain the phenomenon of historical Christianity”, Nietzsche provides a response tailored according to the philosophy and concepts of the Bible rationalistic critics of his time. Christianity is understood only in the soil that it grew as a product of the Jewish people, people “of the lowest orders...”

To this, we will be content to simply observe that if Christianity is the product of the Jewish people (and not a divine foundation of its unique founder), then how can the fact that the Jewish people rejected Jesus as the Messiah be explained, how can the fact that though himself a Jew, Jesus came into conflict with the Jews, prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the priesthood and the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world, can be explained?[1]

Moreover, how can the fact that the Jews, apart from the Talmud, regard the Old Testament as a holy book, although in its pages there are prophecies against them, which predict their fate in case of disobedience, so as to be considered by Nietzsche as the most peculiar people in history, having continued to exist despite their dispersion for 2.000 years?

Instead of the Jewish people being considered the source of Christianity, because of their different religion, their own sacred books and their different course, they should be considered the best proof of the divine origin of Christianity—as aptly observed by the French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal.[2] Because Christianity is the only religion that proves its claims, based not on its own sacred books, but on the religion and the holy books of another, hostile nation—the Jewish nation!

Please note however, that while Nietzsche sees Christianity as a product of the Jewish people, in another part of his book (p. 43) contradicting himself, he writes that “what the Gospels abolished was the Judaism in the concepts of “sin,” “forgiveness of sin,” “faith,” “salvation through faith”, while these concepts are eminently Christian, of course...

5. With such beliefs, it is not surprising that Nietzsche did not have a special appreciation for the sacred writings of Christianity, the Bible. “The Book in Itself, is perhaps the greatest audacity and sin against the Spirit”, he writes somewhere else.[3] On the 22nd reflection in his On the Genealogy of Morals, he writes: “I don’t like the “New Testament” —you will already have guessed as much. […] I have the courage of my own bad taste”.

According to our philosopher, the Bible is a fabricated product of the Jewish priesthood… The gospels are also fabricated. They do not tell the truth, they “lead us to a strange and sickly world, and “one had better put on gloves before reading the New Testament”. I have searched the New Testament in vain for a single sympathetic touch; nothing is there that is free, kindly, open-hearted or upright... Only evil instincts are there... In the whole New Testament, there appears but a solitary figure worthy of honour. Pilate, the Roman viceroy”! Now, what should we admire first in these words of Nietzsche? The volitional ignorance? The perversion of things? The bottomless hatred of Christianity? The bad instincts that obviously he has and by which his judges the others? If he had read the Bible impartially and not with the distorting lenses of his personal empathy and rationalitic (?) misinterpretation, he would see that most of the Bible was not written by the Jewish priesthood, but by devout believers of various professions (chiefs, kings, fishermen, shepherds, a doctor, a tax collector, etc.) and mainly prophets, who very often directed their preaching against the Jewish priests condemning their unlawful conduct (Isaiah, Joel, Micah, Ezekiel). If the Bible was the fabricated product of the priesthood, we may well ask him, why did the priests allow verses that uncover their works and call them “silent dogs” and “fickle, treacherous men”, to exist?[4]

Truly, which is the strange and sickly world of the New Testament? The world of humility, love, altruism, sacrifice, mercy... The world of intellectual freedom, of liberation of men and women, of preaching against racial discrimination and racism.[5] It is known that throughout the classical literature the noun love exists around 10 times. On the contrary, in Deuteronomy it exists 20 times and in the New Testament 250 times! But, of course, for Nietzsche, the preaching of love is akin to slave morality, deliberately ignoring that sincere love is powerful... because it is weak. And that where there is genuine love there is no need for power, authority, because the love itself is the superpower that Nietzsche adored.

Moreover, Nietzsche’s belief that the New Testament is so dirty that “one had better put on gloves before reading” it, is quite puzzling too. Perhaps here applies what apostle Paul wrote for those who detest the truth: “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled” …[6] Nietzsche, as an aristocrat philosopher, distances himself from the “odour of the lowly souls” which he finds in the New Testament, but instead of arguments he uses his “artistic disposition” —as he himself claimed.

6. It is interesting to note that Nietzsche did not deny the historicity of Jesus, as did other compatriot philosophers of his and especially Strauss whom he admired. However, while he seems to speak with some sympathy for him, calling him “great” and “symbolist” who “died as he lived and taught”, he cannot understand and justify the attitude of Jesus on the cross at all; why he responds with love to hatred and evil. The fact that he hardly gets angry, he does not defend himself, he does not hold their actions against them, but says “Father forgive them...” ; For Nietzsche that is weakness... Moreover, Jesus was under a delusion since he thought he was sinless...

One would not expect from Nietzsche, the preacher of the superman, an admirer of power and violence, to comprehend the humble “Son of Man” who came to save those who were lost and to give his life as a ransom for many. How could such a mind understand the “lamb of God”, his greatness and the incomparable power lying within non-retaliation and the act of forgiveness? Who is really stronger? He who responds to violence with violence, or he who although had the power to eliminate Pilate, Herod, the Romans depicted the ultimate example of tolerance, self-humiliation and forgiveness?

7. According to Nietzsche, the Gospels are fabricated, and Jesus’ disciples attributed to him words and teachings that he never preached, neither could he have done so... Of course, once more, he doesn’t even bother to document his claim historically, through the manuscripts or in any scientific way whatsoever. Since there is philosophy—the “abstract reflections” —who needs scientific research? Nietzsche cannot accept Jesus uttering judgment against Chorazin and Bethsaida, against unrepentant sinners, etc. and therefore rejects these words as fabricated.

Obviously, Nietzsche thought of Jesus as a weak little man, a “sweet Jesus”, as the the romantic writers of the 18th century imagined him, and not as a robust preacher of the gospel. Nietzsche did not understand that Jesus was a preacher of love, but at the same time the preacher of the judgment, of the righteousness of God. This last aspect, the judgment, “to give each his due”, as the Romans used to say, and “according to his deeds” bothers him a lot. And thus he considers it as an invention of the Evangelists. And especially of the morality of apostle Paul. “One may read the gospels as books of moral seduction”, he writes…

8. Finally, according to the German philosopher, the cause of all evil in the primitive Christianity is apostle Paul. He describes him—the humblest apostle of the nations, the celebrator of love, the sacrificial preacher of the gospel of Christ, who brought on himself chains for Christ and His love—full of empathy and in the most gross, insulting way. He calls him counterfeiter, crazy, scary imposter, bearer of bad tidings (sic!) that he was motivated by hatred, the greatest of all apostles of revenge… What a perversion, what a fall of an alleged great philosopher… Whichever letter of apostle Paul we choose, we read words of love, humility, affection, comfort, support, hope… I randomly open the letters and read: “Brothers,if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness”. And elsewhere: Put on then, […] compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” And elsewhere: “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf…” And again: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you”.[7]

“All Paul's epistles are a hymn, a prayer to God”, writes the great scholar of his work, the compatriot of Nietzsche, I. Holzner. It seems that Nietzsche did not read these verses, or he didn’t “see” them while reading them… What bothers him is obvious; he writes that the God that Paul created is the denial of God. What bothers him is the moral righteousness that the apostle preaches, just like Jesus, and that the God of love is at the same time the God of judgment, who will “inflict vengeance on those who do not know God” [8] because He is “God of faithfulness and without iniquity; just and upright”.[9]

9. Finally, Nietzsche turns all out against Christianity. He considers it the vampire of the Roman Empire… which stole the harvest of the ancient culture. It has bad purposes; the denial of life, the contempt for the body. “No man can be a philologian or a physician without being also Antichrist”, he writes. Christianity, with faith as a commandment, “must be inevitably the deadly enemy of the ‘wisdom of this world,’ which is to say, of science”. And he concludes: “With this I come to a conclusion and pronounce my judgment. I condemn Christianity; […] It is, to me, the greatest of all imaginable corruptions; […] The Christian church has left nothing untouched by its depravity”.

Once again, Nietzsche distorts the facts historically and theologically, confusing deliberately the works of corrupt Christians, the priesthood, and the history of Christendom he knew, with the pure and beautiful teachings of Jesus and proto-Christianity. All one needs to do is a little research to the primitive sources[10] to see that not only Christianity did not drink the blood of the Roman Empire as a vampire, but the Roman Empire declared the cruel persecutions against the Christians from AD 64 with the insane Nero to Diocletian in AD 311, and shed the blood of hundreds of innocent martyrs in the Colosseum and elsewhere, burning them as torches to illuminate Rome…

Of course, the fact that the so-called post-Constantinian church later got mixed with political power, adopted pagan elements and thoughts of ancient Greek philosophy is a “common secret”... However, Jesus and the proto-Christian church had nothing to do with this. After all, Jesus himself and the apostle Paul prophesied that this would happen and warned true Christians to protect themselves from the perils they would face.[11] In other words, what happened is what Berdiayev pointed out: “Christianity was betrayed three times by men. It the beginning they deformed it, then they abandoned it and in the end they blamed it for the evil that they themselves created”.

Christianity, which received and assimilated Greek neoplatonic beliefs and even beliefs from the Gnostics of the 2nd century AD and especially later, denied the value and joy of earthly life and despised the body, assuming sex even within marriage as sin... This counterfeit Christianity that acted according to its own will through its Popes and other earthly representatives during the Middle Ages, fought against the freedom of thought and science.[12]

True Christianity has nothing to fear from true science, though of course, totally disagrees with arbitrary, subjective and unproven philosophies—like Schopenhauer’s and Nietzsche’s—which according to apostle Paul is “empty deceit”.[13]

Nietzsche’s final judgment on the corruption of the Church leaves no room for doubt as to what he primarily means when he refers to Christianity, although the arrows of his criticism are directed indiscriminately towards the God of the Bible and its teachings... and towards Jesus... Mostly towards Jesus, who has been “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense” for centuries, onto which many rational heads have stumbled...

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Nietzsche boasted that he belonged to the “aeronauts of the spirit”. That is, he boasted for his free, anti-conformistic, anarchistic thought, because he reached a point where he had no God, no faith, no ancestral beliefs, no friends. Just like his hero Zarathustra, who sang: “Solitude, solitude my motherland”. He became known as the “killer of God”, bringing sharp criticism against the corrupt Christianity of his time. He overturned the strongholds of morality, thus opening the floodgates, because along with the bad he rejected the good. Despite his boasting about honesty and the pursuit of truth, his criticism went astray and got focused elsewhere, on the Bible and on proto-Christianity, starting with incorrect and incomplete knowledge of the facts. He finally reached a point where he substituted the love of God and the free and unaffected by nature will of God, with the love of fate, the eternal recycling, in which he believed just like the ancient Stoics, Heraclitus and Buddha.

Proclaiming the eternity of the world, he wanted to overturn the historical development, the dominant tradition of Judeo-Christianity. Already in 1862 he wrote: “God, immortality, the authority of the Bible, the divine inspiration, will always remain problems. I tried to deny everything. Oh! It is easy to destroy, but it is difficult to build”. What Nietzsche used to say, namely that “we seek only those opinions that match with our character”, obviously applies to him.

Thus, in the last years of his life madness came upon him because he tried to live a consistently atheistic life (Jacques Maritain). But, it is also known that he suffered from a pathological megalomania, which at the beginning led him to great conceptions, especially poetical, but in the end, it manifested as an element of his illness, when in the last of his letters he signed as The Crucified or Dionysus (Chr. Malevitsis).

Nietzsche could not tolerate Socrates and mainly Jesus, maybe because they antedated him. He hated what he should love because, obviously, hate was an inverted kind of love, a kind of hidden admiration. He built his own “sanctuaries”—according to his own words—demolishing the old ones; those of Socrates and especially of Christianity and Jesus, making ​​relentless use of the hammer of his philosophy...

However, another writer remarked that the whole philosophy of Nietzsche-and particularly his will for power, is mirrored in the course of his illness which existed from his early years. The general paralysis, from which he died, is an insidious disease which can exist in a latent state in humans for many years without apparent symptoms... can create an excessive stimulation... a frenzy tenseness… Usually, those who suffer from it end up to bombast or insults... We may wonder whether Nietzsche’s illness explains much of his philosophy.[14] And recently, the biographer Joachim Kohler, referring to the insanity of the last 10 years of Nietzsche’s life (he sent letters to the Kaiser, to give him instruction for the world) argues that his works and his life are best explained by his masochistic homosexuality...

Perhaps nothing else reflects better his internal conflict, his agony, his vertiginous emptiness, after the rejection of everything and the expression of his nihilism,[15] than his poem entitled To the unknown God. A poem that reveals his inner wobble and the fact that he was unable to avoid what he fought… The search for God! Here is the last part of the revealing poem:

I want to know you, unknown one,
You who have reached deep within my soul,
Wandering through my life like a storm,
You incomprehensible one, akin to me!
I want to know you, even serve you.

The tragic denier of the divine, the prophet of the dead God, wanted to know the God that he willingly ignored and serve Him. That says it all…

 


[1] Luke 19:43–44, 21:22–24.

[2] Pensées, 620, 641, 737, 750, 761.

[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.

[4] Is. 56:10, 11; Zep. 3:4; Jer. 8:10.

[5] Gal. 3:28, Col. 3:11.

[6] Tit. 1:15.

[7] Gal. 6:1; Col. 3:12; Rom. 15:30; Eph. 4:32.

[8] 2 Thes. 1:7-9.

[9] Deut. 32:4.

[10] Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny, Eusebius.

[11] Acts 20:29–30; 1 Τim. 4:1-3.

[12] Galileo, Giordano Bruno, Jan Hus.

[13] Col. 2:8.

[14] Ε. Brehier, The History of Philosophy.

[15] Nietzsche himself defines nihilism thus: "The contrast between the world we respect and the world we live in is increasingly rising. We are left with either eliminating our pride or eliminating ourselves. This is nihilism… So what nihilism means is that the higher values ​​drop” (The European nihilism, Greek ed., 1962, pp. 17 and 19).