Nietzche and Christianity

Brian James hillbily at SPAMintergate.ca
Mon Feb 12 19:20:21 MST 2001


People get into confusion with Nietzsche when they take him literally,
or as a historicist, and by not placing his various declarations into
context with his overall project.

When Nietzsche declares that God is dead he is not simply saying that
there is no God, but that God as the basis of Western civilization's
morality and "will to truth" has lost its validity. The point that
follows his famous declaration--"God is dead, but we still have to
vanquish his shadow" (The Gay Science #108)--is often missed.

Nietzsche's main concern was with the creeping nihilism and decadence of
bourgeois civilization--the break down of social hierarchy and with it
the high spirited ideals that he believed it spawns, and their
replacement with democracy, egalitarianism, bourgeois comfort, or
(gasp!) socialism; in other words "herd" values. All of this, Nietzsche
believes, comes out of the remnants of a shattered metaphysics that was
ushered into the world by Plato, extended by Christian theology, and
which now takes the form of rationalism, faith in science,
utilitarianism, socialism, etc. The shadows of God.

But for Nietzsche, "the world is will to power and nothing besides":

"My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all
space and to extend its force (its will to power) and to thrust back all
that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar
efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement
("union") with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus
they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on..." (The
Will to Power, #636). Ahh, Wolf Larson's primordial yeast bucket.

The highest and most fabricated expression of will to power is "will to
truth," whereby man projects his will to power onto the whole world (the
world of multiple perspectives, contingent wills to power, etc) and
calls it truth.

The Christian Priest is particularly insidious because his denial of the
world (asceticism) elevates weakness and world weariness to the most
sublime level, and earns the envy and respect of the truly powerful. By
Nietzsche's ontology of will to power, this is a morality that puts
slaves, that is, weaklings (Nietzsche, being a thorough going elitists,
associated social ranking with vitality and merit) in the highest
position of authority.

But it is not enough to get rid of God. Will to truth has a way of
giving birth to other formations, i.e. the shadows of God (and hence the
"genealogical" approach to understanding value systems, as opposed to
genuine historicism, which Foucault appropriated from him).

Reason itself is the enemy that must be destroyed. He writes in The Will
to Power: "Conclusion: the faith in the categories of reason is the
cause of nihilism. We have measured the world according to categories
that refer to a purely fictitious world" (#12-B).

Nietzsche's famous call for a "revaluation of all values" is aimed at an
overturning of all the false assertions of truth that have been imposed
on the world and, as they've fallen into disrepute, have led to its devaluation.

If we follow Nietzsche we become faced with two options: a craven
egalitarian nihilism (the new slave morality of scientific socialism, or
of liberal bourgeois philistinism); or a heroic, aestheticist nihilism
based on the honest pursuits of myriad wills to power (Ayn Rand
anyone?). Nietzsche's ideological deconstruction of all hitherto values
is compelling, but carried to its full intent is aimed at creating the
opposite of the kind of society that Marxists and socialists envision
(but really just winds up in the cul de sac of academic postmodernism).

Please forgive my hackneyed efforts at imposing my own will to power on
Nietzsche, but there is a method to his madness (a program for elitists.
A critique for building bridges to the superman.)

Some good books that clarify the main themes of Nietzsche's thought are:
Ideology of the Aesthetic, by Terry Eagleton.
Marx, Nietzsche and Modernity, by Nancy Sue Love
Nietzsche: Life as Literature, by Alexander Nehemas

An excellent Marxist critique of Nietzsche is at:
(In two parts)
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/oct2000/niet-o20.shtml
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/oct2000/niet-o21.shtml

Slaves of all countries unite!

Brian James


John Henry wrote:

>A couple of thoughts on the Nietzche thread:

>1) Nietzche was an atheist yet his most famous quote is "God is dead".
For
God to be dead, wouldn't S/He have had to be alive some point? If so,
and
Nietzsche believes in His (or Her) death, would that not be incompatible
with atheism?

>I suppose that one could define atheism as meaning that there is
*currently* no God but my understanding of atheism has always been a
total
denial of God's existence.

>2) The quote that started the thread was something about Christianity
being
a fine religion for slaves. While I suppose one could argue that this is
true, the fact is that the vast majority of Christians, historically and
today have not been slaves. Christianity has true believers across all
class lines.

>3) Christianity, as a religion, did very little to stop slavery. At
least
until the 19th century when English Christians (specifically Quakers)
embarked on a crusade which took slavery from being a rather
unremarkable
commonplace in most of the world to being generally viewed as vile and
virtually ending it worldwide. Their story is really pretty remarkable
in
eradicating something that had been culturally ingrained in virtually
all
societies since time immemorial

>3) Christianity is not the only religion which turned a blind eye to
slavery. Judaism supported it (see the Old Testament). Islamic traders
invented the African slave trade 500 before the first European came to
Africa and probably exported 30 million African slaves to the east over
the
1000 years ending in 1900. (Another 30 million never lived long enough
to
be exported) This is in addition to the 9mm or so exported to South
America
and 1mm to North America.

>Buhdism, Confucianism, etc. Virtually all religions have either turned
a
blind eye or affirmatively approved of slavery in the past.

>This is certainly not an attempt to justify slavery or religion's
attitude
to it. Freedom must always be our ultimate political goal and slavery is
freedom's antithesis. I simply wanted to shed a little light here.





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