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Whither is god, essay.
1Nietzsche’s Lack of Morality
Friedrich Nietzsche once said “When we hear the ancient bells growling on a Sunday morning we ask ourselves: Is it really possible! This, for a Jew, crucified two thousand years ago, who said he was God's son?”(CMV of Human All Too Human) His skepticisms of Christianity and its God are more than that, they are social and psychological observations meant to question the faith at its’ very foundation. Where did he find his disdain for Theism? Certainly as a child he was quite impressionable and there is no doubt his contemporaries played a role in the development of his beliefs, these factors and others led Nietzsche to crusade against Christianity, that which he opposed at its’ most basic principles. The faith of now almost one third of the worlds’ population is at its’ core a societal construct, one that like any other, comes with morals and values which it expects its’ followers to hold as true which is why Nietzsche takes such a strong stance against it.
Born on October 15th, 1844, the birthday of King Wilhelm, whom he was named after, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche would turn out to be one of the forefathers of Existentialism. At the age of 14 he left for a boarding school where he became familiar with the music of Richard Wagner, a man who would later play an important role in Nietzsche’s life. Through leading a literature club at school “Fritz”, as he was known, became engrossed in the Romantics but also with a book entitled Life of Jesus Critically Examined. This book gives the reader a view of Jesus that was unlike most at the time, it took him off his pedestal and examined him as a human. It was this book that scholars often identify as the first cause towards Nietzsche’s rampant Atheism. Another factor that may have churned his hatred for Theism would be the overwhelming amount of Christianity forced upon him in his earliest years. Nietzsche’s father and both grandfathers were Lutheran pastors. In the same way that many children who grow up in smoking house holds don’t ever smoke, Nietzsche may have simply unconsciously “learned” to despise Christianity from the overbearing role it played in his life as a child.
First of all, Nietzsche seems to have a concern with moral/ethical origins. That is, he is questioning the foundation on which society and its thinkers have based their conclusions on. He says, " formed this problem... 'Under what conditions did man construct the value judgments good and evil?' And what is their intrinsic worth? Have they thus far benefited or retarded mankind?" (III, Preface) and "we need a critique of all moral values; the intrinsic worth of these values must, first of all, be called in question. To this end we need to know the conditions from which those values have sprung and how they have developed and changed." (VI, Preface) The latter part of the second quote hints at the approach Nietzsche will take -- a largely psychological one.
Nietzsche wants to first distinguish two moral bases: the master and the slave foundations, respectively, by analogy, the nobility and the clergy. Nietzsche's psychological approach here appeals to the underlying emotional motives behind the moral actions of these two classes. On the one hand, the nobility feels an inherent entitlement to moral superiority, while on the other the clergy is motivated by guilt and pity. And though Nietzsche says that the latter morality is essentially escapist, he also remarks that, "In all fairness it should be added, however, that only on this soil, the precarious soil of priestly existence, has man been able to develop into an interesting creature; that only here has the human mind grown both profound and evil; and it is in these two respects, after all, that man has proved his superiority over the rest of creation" (VI, First Essay). So Nietzsche gives with one hand and takes with the other here: though he embraces the virtues of the noble/power morality and condemns the clergy/weak morality, he also claims that the very virtue (power) he holds highest is reflected in the morality he denounces. Nevertheless, we still see Nietzsche's staunch stance on these two moralities when he says, "All truly noble morality grows out of triumphant self-affirmation. Slave ethics, on the other hand, begins by saying no to an 'outside,' an 'other,' a non-self, and that no is its creative act," and later on, "[Slave morality's] happiness is purely passive and takes the form of drugged tranquility, stretching and yawning, peace, 'Sabbath,' emotional slackness. Whereas the noble lives before his own conscience with confidence and frankness... the rancorous person is neither truthful nor ingenuous nor honest and forthright with himself" (X, First Essay). Nietzsche outlines his chief complaint thus far when he says, "the noble-minded... spontaneously creates the notion of good, and later derives from it the conception of bad" (XI, First Essay), whereas the "slave" morality is based on negative-response.
On the subject of man’s shortcoming Nietzsche says, "The sad truth is that we remain necessarily strangers to ourselves, we don't understand our own substance, we must mistake ourselves; the axiom, 'Each man is farthest from himself,' will hold for us to all eternity. Of ourselves we are not 'knowers'...." (I, Preface) This statement encapsulates his belief that it is only right to reject the spoon-fed a priori morality that society and its constructs hand us, and to find within ourselves our own sense of morality. However the vast majority of men would refute his beliefs, and take unto themselves the societal constructs which dictate morality in the very way that is contradictory to Nietzsche’s truths. The chief societal construct which Nietzsche opposes is the Church, and its’ God figure through which he believes the “masters” spew their moral law to the slaves, furthering their “bad” morality.
Nietzsche does not go so far as to deny any intrinsic value to social institutions, but as he observed the more modern institutions sprouting up through Europe he recognized the grave danger in religious based governments given enough power, touching on these problems, and expounding upon other he says, “Granting that political supremacy always gives rise to notions of spiritual supremacy, it at first creates no difficulties (though difficulties might arise later) if the ruling caste and elects to characterize itself by a term which reminds us of its priestly function... At the same time, given the peculiar nature of a priestly aristocracy, it becomes clear why the value[s] [of pure and impure] would early turn inward and become dangerously exacerbated; and in fact the tension between such opposites has opened abysses between man and man, over which not even an Achilles of free thought would leap without a shudder." (VI, First Essay) The fact that not all men exist with the same capacity for free thought coupled with the immense power of certain social institutions he believes leads men down the path to what he considers a bad morality as he expresses in the last clause of the above quote.
Thus in the First Essay, we see Nietzsche creating a platform on which to discuss the (existential) value in and importance of introspection to establish precepts of what is moral rather than relying on a priori doctrines of morality that we've been handed by the societal constructs for which he has so much disdain. Although Nietzsche seems to more heavily address moral foundations based on "X is wrong," though it wouldn't be an irrational assumption to say that he would allow us to accept "X is good" and moral decision based on that, either (unless one came to the latter conclusion by virtue of our own thought/power, of course).
What does this mean with respect to our social institutions? As we saw before, Nietzsche holds the weakness and poisonous quality of social institutions in high regard even though they worry him. At face value this might seem like a prime opportunity to take issue with Nietzsche's reworking of morality. However, he makes it clear that his concern lies primarily at the existential level. Thus, it is not the institutions that Nietzsche wants to do away with, but rather our inclination to form our own morality around the comprehensive doctrine of the institutions (which he views as negative and imposing).
Never once does Nietzsche assert that all men are equal, in fact quite the opposite takes place, for Nietzsche the recent triumphs of Democracy and “equality” are the worst possible scenario. By differentiating between slaves and masters, nobility and clergy, he sets the stage for a natural aristocracy which if given the choice, he would obviously choose to lead humanity forward, into the temporary infinity, inside of the universe’s finite space, eventually causing recurrence. In Democracy when the weak majority is given free rule indoctrination often causes the masters to be singled out as selfish, those not willing to fight for the cause, thus putting at risk who Nietzsche considers to be the best human specimen.
[i] A good review of Nietzsche’s views of religion is found in An Invitation to Philosophy by Capaldi, Kelly, and Navia:
.”.. up to now, religion has served the weak-minded masses as a kind of crutch supporting wasted lives, as a consolation for being lost, confused and exploited (indeed, Nietzsche believes that Christianity has even encouraged weakness, foolishness, and poverty). Moreover, religion has tempted men to reject those values appropriate to this life in favor of those of the next — has made men, in effect, long for death. It has robbed men of their courage and has taught them to despise this world. Thus ... religion reveals itself in Nietzsche as a denial of the best part of us, as a threat to life, to joy, and to the life-serving spirit. ... He opposes to religion a humanistic vision of a race of supermen who, by remaining true to the earth, perfect the resources of spirit that ages of evolutionary development have stored up in mankind. In each of us, says Nietzsche, is a god waiting to be born: something new, unique, and creative can be brought forth from us — if only we risk everything during the brief moment we are on earth, if only we have the courage to say that not God’s purposes, but my own joy, however brief, justifies existence itself.” (209)
What implications does this lay for the Madman’s quote "God is dead?"(CXXVI of The Gay Science) Nietzsche's comment works on two levels, the most important of which is on the personal or existential level, and the only one that will be expounded upon: God is dead because the concept of God does nothing for humanity anymore. Our morality having been already established by human history and a plethora of social institutions makes God a non-issue; given a slave morality, we will experience all the negative consequences of that morality whether or not God exists, effectively making looking within ourselves the only recourse. Only through a period of introspection and complete evaluation of one’s self can we achieve what he refers to as lightheartedness. He says "For lightheartedness, or to use my own phrase, a 'gay science' is the reward of a long, courageous, painstaking, inward seriousness, which to be sure is not within every man's compass" again touching upon the belief that not all men are capable of completely free thought for their consciences have been tainted and imposed upon by the doctrines of social institutions. Though this is not to say that Nietzsche despised Jesus of Nazareth as one could irrationally assume is so. For Nietzsche Jesus represented a hero, the idyllic embodiment of all that he thought was true. Jesus not only shed the shackles of the weak moral values that were fructified in his culture, his new moral values were that of a master, those with the innate will to power.
By tracing the origins of ethics and morals, Nietzsche asserts that God is a societal construct, that of the Church and through the Church slave morality has flourished and prospers now with uninhibited power. To overcome this nearly insurmountable obstacle of a social morality Nietzsche proposes simple but rigorous self-introspection. Through his existential view, he condemns the weak to whom the Church preaches its doctrines, and leads us to find morality within ourselves. There is no need for the concept of God in his view of the world for he has derived the death of God from man’s unconscious decision to rid them selves of God through his (man’s) acceptance of a slave morality. The triumph of the master morality would inevitably lead to the creation of Nietzsche’s “superman”, his belief that there is a God in all of us. Nietzsche’s moral aims are pointed at the liberation of the “blonde beasts” and “ubermensch” (overmen) from the confines of the norms and slave moralities dictated in society.