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X "The Antichrist"
"The Antichrist" ("Der Antichrist") was written in September, 1888, work evidently having been begun on it as soon as "The Twilight of the Idols" had been sent to the publisher. Its composition could not have occupied more than a few weeks at most, for the former book was not despatched until September 7, and the present work was completed before October. At this time Nietzsche was working at high pressure. He must have had some presentiment of his impending breakdown for he filled in every available minute with ardent and rapid writing. The fall of 1888 was the most prolific period of his life. No less than four books "The Twilight of the Idols," "The Antichrist," "Nietzsche contra Wagner" and "Ecce Homo"—were completed by him between the late summer and the first of the year; and in addition to this he made many notes for his future volumes and read and corrected a considerable amount of proofs. "The Antichrist," however, though completed in 1888, was not published until the end of 1894, six years after he had laid aside his work forever, and at a time when his mind was too darkened to know or care about the circumstances of its issuance. It appeared in Vol. XIII of Nietzsches Werke which, although published at the close of 1894, bore the date of the following year.

"The Antichrist" which, like "Beyond Good and[Pg 251] Evil," "The Genealogy of Morals" and "The Twilight of the Idols," forms a part of Nietzsche's final philosophic scheme, was intended—to judge from the evidence contained in his notebooks—as the first division of a work to be entitled "The Trans valuation of All Values" ("Die Umwertung Aller Werte"). In fact this title and also "The Will to Power" were considered alternately for his magnum opus which he intended writing after the completion of "The Transvaluation of All Values." He finally decided on the latter title for his great work, although he used the former caption as a subtitle. The complete outline for the volumes which were to be called "The Transvaluation of All Values" and which were to be incorporated in his final general plan, is as follows:

1. "The Antichrist. An Attempted Criticism of Christianity." ("Der Antichrist: Versuch einer Kritik des Christenthums.")

2. "The Free Spirit. A Criticism of Philosophy as a Nihilistic Movement." ("Der freie Geist: Kritik der Philosophie als einer nihilistischen Bewegung")

3. "The Immoralist. A Criticism of the Most Fatal Species of Ignorance, Morality." ("Der Immoralist: Kritik der verh?ngnissvollsten Art von Unwissenheit, der Moral")

4. "Dionysus, the Philosophy of Eternal Recurrence." ("Dionysus, Philosophie der ewigen Wiederkunft")

But Nietzsche did not finish this task, although "The Antichrist" is in the form in which he intended it to be published. Nevertheless, it must be considered merely as a fragment of a much more extensive plan.[Pg 252] Though Nietzsche was far from being the first, he yet was the most effective critic who ever waged war against Christianity. This was due to the fact that he went about his destructive work from an entirely new angle. Before him there had been many competent anti-Christian writers and scientists. Even during his own time there was a large and loud school of atheists at work undermining the foundations of Nazarene morality. With the methods of his predecessors and contemporaries, however, he had nothing in common. He saw that, despite the scientific denial of the miracles of Christianity and the biological opposition to the origin of Christian history, the theologian was always able to reply to the denial of Christian truth with the counter-argument of Christian practicability. Thus, while the reasoning of such men as Darwin, Huxley and Spencer held good so far as the scientific aspects of Christianity went, the results of Christianity were not involved. The church, meeting the onslaughts of the "higher criticism," denied the necessity of a literal belief in the Gospels, and asserted that, while all the anti-Christian critics might be accurate in their purely scientific and logical conclusions, Christianity itself as a workable code was still efficient and deserving of consideration as the most perfect system of conduct the world had ever known. Nietzsche therefore did not go into the field already ploughed by Voltaire, Hume, Huxley, Spencer, Paine and a host of lesser "free thinkers." The preliminary battles in the great warfare against Christianity had already been won, and he saw the futility of proceeding along historical and scientific lines. Consequently he turned his attention to a consideration of the effects of Christian morality upon the race, to an inquiry into the[Pg 253] causes of pity-morality, and to a comparison of moral codes in their relation to the needs of humanity. Whether or not the origins of Christianity conformed to biological laws did not concern him, although he assumed as his hypothesis the conclusions of the scientific investigators. The only way of determining the merits and demerits of the Christian code, he argued, was to ascertain the actual results of its application, and to compare these with the results which had accrued from the application of hardier and healthier codes. To this investigation Nietzsche devotes practically the whole of "The Antichrist," although there are a few analytical passages relating to the early dissemination of Jewish ethics. But with these passages the student need not seriously concern himself. They are speculative and non-essential.

Nietzsche's criticism of the effects of Christian virtues, however, did not begin in "The Antichrist," although this book is the final flowering of those anti-Christian ideas which cropped up continually throughout his entire work. This religious antipathy was present even in his early academic essays, and in "Human, All-Too-Human" we find him well launched upon his campaign. No book of his, with the exception of his unfinished pamphlet, "The Eternal Recurrence," is free from this criticism. But one will find all his earlier conclusions and arguments drawn together in a compact and complete whole in the present volume.

Nietzsche's accusation against Christianity, reduced to a few words, is that it works against the higher development of the individual; that, being a religion of weakness, it fails to meet the requirements of the modern man; in short, that it is dangerous. This conclusion is[Pg 254] founded on the principle of biological monism. Nietzsche assumes Darwin's law of the struggle for existence, and argues that the Christian virtues oppose not only this law but the law of natural selection as well. By this opposition the race has been weakened, for self-sacrifice, the basis of Christian morality, detracts from the power of the individual and consequently lessens his chances for existence. Furthermore, the Christian ideal in itself is opposed to progress and all that progress entails, such as science and research. Knowledge of any kind tends to make man more independent, and thereby reduces his need for theological supervision. As a result of the passing over of power from the strong to the weak, in accordance with the morality of Christianity, the strength of the race as a whole is depleted. Furthermore, such a procedure is in direct opposition to the laws of nature, and so long as man lives in a natural environment the only way to insure progress is to conform to the conditions of that environment. Nietzsche therefore makes a plea for the adoption of other than Christian standards—standards compatible with the laws of existence. He points out that already the race has been almost irremediably weakened by its adherence to anti-natural doctrines, that each day of Christian activity is another step in the complete degeneration of man. And he asserts that the only reason the race has maintained its power as long as it has is because the stronger members of society, despite their voiced belief, do not live up to the Christian code, but are continually compromising with it.

The problem of the origin of Christianity interests Nietzsche, because he sees in it an explanation of the results which it wished to accomplish. Christianity,[Pg 255] says he, can be understood only in relation to the soil out of which it grew. When the Jewish people, subjugated and in a position of slavery, were confronted with the danger of extermination at the hands of a stronger people, they invented a system of conduct which would insure their continued existence. They realised that the adherence to such virtues as retaliation, aggressiveness, initiative, cruelty, arrogance and the like would mean death; the stronger nations would not have countenanced such qualities in a weak and depleted nation. As a result the Jews replaced retaliation with "long suffering," aggressiveness with peacefulness, cruelty with kindness, and arrogance with humility. These negative virtues took the place of positive virtues, and were turned into "beatitudes." By thus "turning the other cheek" and "forgiving one's enemies," instead of resenting persecution and attempting to avenge the wrongs perpetrated against them, they were able to prolong life. This system of conduct, says Nietzsche, was a direct falsification of all natural conditions and a perversion of all healthy instincts. It was the morality of an impoverished and subservient people, and was adopted by the Jews only when they had been stripped of their power.

Nietzsche presents a psychological history of Israel as an example of the process by which natural values were denaturalised. The God of Israel was Jehovah. He was the expression of the nation's consciousness of power, of joy and of hope. Victory and salvation were expected from him: he was the God of justice. The Assyrians and internal anarchy changed the conditions of Israel. Jehovah was no longer able to bring victory to his people, and consequently the nature of this God was changed. In the hands of the priest he became a[Pg 256] weapon, and unhappiness was interpreted as punishment for "sins." Jehovah became a moral dictator, and consequently morality among the Israelites ceased to be an expression of the conditions of life and became an abstract theory opposed to life. Nor did the Jewish priesthood stop at this. It interpreted the whole of history with a view to showing that all sin against Jehovah led to punishment and that all pious worship of Jehovah resulted in reward. A moral order of the universe was thus substituted for a natural one. To bolster up this theory a "revelation" became necessary. Accordingly a "stupendous literary fraud" was perpetrated, and the "holy scriptures" were "discovered" and foisted upon the people. The priests, avid for power, made themselves indispensable by attributing to the will of God all those acts they desired of the people. Repentance, namely: submission to the priests, was inaugurated. Thus Christianity, hostile to all reality and power, gained its footing.

The psychology of Christ, as set forth in "The Antichrist," and the use made of his doctrines by those who directly followed him, form an important part of Nietzsche's argument against Christian morality. Christ's doctrine, according to Nietzsche, was one of immediacy. It was a mode of conduct and not, according to the present Christian conception, a preparation for a future world. Christ was a simple heretic in his rebellion against the existing political order. He represented a reactionary mode of existence—-a system of conduct which said Nay to life, a code of inaction and non-interference. His death on the cross was meant as a supreme example and proof of this doctrine. It remained for his disciples to attach other meanings to it. Loving Christ[Pg 257] as they did, and consequently blinded by that love, they were unable to forgive his execution at the hands of the State. At the same time they were unprepared to follow his example and to give their own lives to the cause of his teachings. A feeling of revenge sprang up in them, and they endeavoured to find an excuse for his death. To what was it attributable? And the answer they found, says Nietzsche, was "dominant Judaism, its ruling class." For the moment they failed to realise that the "Kingdom of God," as preached by Christ, was an earthly thing, something contained within the individual; and after the crucifixion it was necessary for them either to follow Christ's example or to interpret his death, a voluntary one, as a promise of future happiness, that is, to translate his practical doctrine into symbolic terms. They unhesitatingly chose the latter.

In their search for an explanation as to how God could have allowed his "son" to be executed, they fell upon the theory that Christ's death was a sacrifice for their sins, an expiation for their guilt. From that time on, says Nietzsche, "there was gradually imported into the type of the Saviour the doctrine of the Last Judgment, and of the 'second coming,' the doctrine of sacrificial death, and the doctrine of Resurrection, by means of which the whole concept 'blessedness,' the entire and only reality of the gospel, is conjured away—in favour of a state after death." St. Paul then rationalised the conception by introducing into it the doctrine of personal immortality by means of having Christ rise from the dead; and he preached this immortality as a reward for virtue. Thus, asserts Nietzsche, Christ's effort toward a Buddhistic movement of peace, "toward real and not merely promised happiness on earth" was controverted[Pg 258] by his posterity. Nothing of Christ's original doctrine remained, once Paul, the forger, set to work to twist it to his own ends. Paul went further and by changing and falsifying it turned all Jewish history into a prophecy for his own teachings. Thus the whole doctrine of Christ, the true meaning of his death and the realities which he taught, were altered and distorted. In short, Christ's life was used as a means for furthering the religion of Paul, who gave to it the name of Christianity.

A most important part of "The Antichrist" is that passage wherein Nietzsche defines his order of castes. Every healthy society, says he, falls naturally into three separate and distinct types. These classes condition one another and "gravitate differently in the psychological sense." Each type has its own work, its own duties, its own emotions, its own compensations and mastership. The first class, comprising the rulers, is distinguished by its intellectual superiority. It devolves upon this class "to represent happiness, beauty and goodness on earth." The members of this superior class are in the minority, but they are nevertheless the creators of values. "Their delight is self-mastery: with them asceticism becomes a second nature, a need, an instinct. They regard a difficult task as their privilege; to play with burdens which crush their fellows is to them a recreation." They are at once the most honourable, cheerful and gracious of all men. The second class is composed of those who relieve the first class of their duties and execute the will of the rulers. They are the guardians of the law, the merchants and professional men, the warriors and the judges. In brief, they are the executors of the race.[Pg 259] The third class is made up of the workers, the lowest order of man—those destined for menial and disagreeable tasks. "The fact," says Nietzsche, "that one is publicly useful, a wheel, a function, presupposes a certain natural destiny: it is not society, but the only kind of happiness of which the great majority are capable, that makes them intelligent machines. For the mediocre it is a joy to be mediocre; in them mastery in one thing, a specialty, is a natural instinct." The conception of these classes contains the nucleus of Nietzsche's doctrine. It embodies his whole idea of a natural aristocracy as opposed to the spurious European aristocracy of the present day, wherein the rulers are in reality merely members of the second class.

The charge is constantly brought against Nietzsche by the ecclesiastic dialecticians that his criticism of Christianity is fraught with the very nihilism against which he so eloquently argues. There is perhaps a slight basis for such a contention if we confine ourselves strictly to those of his utterances against the Jewish morality which appear in his previous books. But in "The Antichrist" this does not hold true even in the slightest manner. Nietzsche is constantly supplanting modes of action for every Christian virtue he denies. He is as constructive as he is destructive. "The Antichrist" contains, not only a complete denial of all Christian morality, but a statement of a new and consistent system of ethics based on the research of all his works.


What is good? All that enhances the feeling of power, the Will to Power, and power itself in man.[Pg 260] What is bad?—All that proceeds from weakness. What is happiness?—The feeling that power is increasing,- that resistance has been overcome.

Not contentment, but more power; not peace at any price, but war; not virtue, but efficiency (virtue in the Renaissance sense, virtu, free from all moralic acid). The weak and botched shall perish: first principle of our humanity. And they ought even to be helped to perish.

What is more harmful than any vice?—Practical sympathy with all the botched and the weak—Christianity. 128

We must not deck out and adorn Christianity: it has waged a deadly war upon this higher type of man, it has set a ban upon all the fundamental instincts of this type, and has distilled evil and the devil himself out of these instincts:—the strong man as the typical pariah, the villain. Christianity has sided with everything weak, low, and botched; it has made an ideal out of antagonism against all the self-preservative instincts of strong life: it has corrupted even the reason of the strongest intellects, by teaching that the highest values of intellectuality are sinful, misleading and full of temptations. 130

I call an animal, a species, an individual corrupt, when it loses its instincts, when it selects and prefers that which is detrimental to it. 131

Life itself, to my mind, is nothing more nor less than the instinct of growth, of permanence, of accumulating forces, of power: where the will to power is lacking, degeneration sets in. 131

Pity is opposed to the tonic passions which enhance the energy of the feeling of life: its action is depressing. A man loses power when he pities. By means of pity the[Pg 261] drain on strength which suffering itself already introduces into the world is multiplied a thousandfold. 131

On the whole, pity thwarts the law of development which is the law of selection. It preserves that which is ripe for death, it fights in favour of the disinherited and the condemned of life. 131-132

This depressing and infectious instinct thwarts those instincts which aim at the preservation and enhancement of the value of life: by multiplying misery quite as much as by preserving all that is miserable, it is the principal agent in promoting decadence. 132

That which a theologian considers true, must of necessity be false: this furnishes almost the criterion of truth. It is his most profound self-preservative instinct which forbids reality ever to attain to honour in any way, or even to raise its voice. Whithersoever the influence of the theologian extends, valuations are topsy-turvy, and the concepts "true" and "false" have necessarily changed places: that which is most deleterious to life, is here called "true," that which enhances it, elevates it, says Yea to it, justifies it and renders it triumphant, is called "false." 135

What is there that destroys a man more speedily than to work, think, feel, as an automaton of "duty," without internal promptings, without a profound personal predilection, without joy? This is the recipe par excellence of decadence and even of idiocy. 137

In Christianity, neither morality nor religion comes in touch at all with reality. Nothing but imaginary causes (God, the soul, the ego, spirit, free will—or even non-free will); nothing but imaginary effects (sin, salvation, grace, punishment, forgiveness of sins). Imaginary beings are supposed to have intercourse (God, spirits,[Pg 262] souls); imaginary Natural History (anthropocentric: total lack of the notion, "natural causes"); an imaginary psychology (nothing but misunderstandings of self, interpretations of pleasant or unpleasant general feelings; for instance of the states of the nervus sympathicus, with the help of the sign language of a religio-moral idiosyncrasy,—repentance, pangs of conscience, the temptation of the devil, the presence of God); an imaginary teleology (the Kingdom of God, the Last Judgment, Everlasting Life). 141-142

A proud people requires a God, unto whom it can sacrifice things.... Religion, when restricted to these principles, is a form of gratitude. A man is grateful for his own existence; for this he must have a God.—Such a God must be able to profit and to injure him, he must be able to act the friend and the foe. He must be esteemed for his good as well as for his evil qualities. 143

When a people is on the road to ruin; when it feels its belief in a future, its hope of freedom vanishing for ever; when it becomes conscious of submission as the most useful quality, and of the virtues of the submissive as self-preservative measures, then its God must also modify himself. He then be............
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