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Urchristliches und Antichristliches im Werdegang Friedrich Nietzsches (Early-Christian and Antichristian Elements In Friedrich Nietzsche's Development)

EA 10/01

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Date January 01, 1910
Document Id 20126309_01_S
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Early-Christian and Antichristian Elements In Friedrich Nietzsche's Development

[Arnold, Eberhard and Emmy papers - P.M.S.]

[Draft Translation by Bruderhof Historical Archive]

EA 10/1

Early-Christian And Antichristian Elements

In Friedrich Nietzsche's Development

by Dr. Eberhard Arnold

To my wife

Emmy Monica Else Arnold

née von Hollander


Bruno Becker's Book Shop (Otto Thon)


Table Of Contents


The Problem of Christianity and Nietzsche's Religious Mind

His own testimony

The literature about him

First Chapter

The Role of Religion in Nietzsche's Development

The schoolboy

The student

The professor

Second Chapter

The Unfolding of Nietzsche's Antichristian Religiosity

From the Dawn to Zarathustra

Preliminaries to the main work

Climax and sickness

Third Chapter

The Significance of Nietzsche's Critique of Christianity

According to the Antichrist

Historical and psychological objections

to Jesus

to Paul and the apostles

to the church

Philosophical and ethical charges:

Charge of decadence

Charge of enmity to life


The Problem Of Christianity And Nietzsche's Religious Mind


His Own Testimony

"Have I been understood? Dionysus versus the Crucified One!" With these words Friedrich Nietzsche summarized and concluded his life's work in Ecce Homo. They are the final note of his most dangerous book--the one most typically his own. In words of unexampled boldness he set forth, in eight lengthy paragraphs of the chapter "Why I am Destiny", the inconceivably tremendous importance of his writings and personality. In the following ninth paragraph this self-aggrandizement culminates in the one line, "Have I been understood? Dionysus versus the Crucified One!".

For everyone acquainted with Nietzsche's work his attitude toward Christianity is the most important ingredient for an appraisal of his view of life. His Ecce Homo proves conclusively that Nietzsche himself saw his life simply as a fight against everything Christian. True, he speaks of this tremendous struggle as of an individual battle within a more wide-ranging war against any feelings of revenge and resentment, but immediately afterwards he declares that he wages war only against such adversaries as demand the deployment of all one's strength, skill, and mastery of weapons. He maintains [2] that one cannot make war against opponents one despises, and that he would attack only such causes as are victorious. The ensuing train of thought makes it clear that ultimately the one enemy he considers worth fighting against is Christianity. In Christianity he sees concentrated and most formidably expressed all the powers he must declare war on. He does not hesitate to describe his respect for the enemy as a certain sense of benevolence underlying his every attack. He considers it worth mentioning that as an "unflinching opponent of Christianity" he had nevertheless got along well with all earnest Christians without distinction. The frequently expressed opinion that his hatred derived from his own inner struggles is countered by his assertion (to be refuted in the following) of being completely untroubled by religious difficulties, of knowing of sinful feelings or remorse only by hearsay. He maintains that he had never wasted either time or attention on notions such as God, immortality, and redemption, that his atheism is an instinctive one and that "God" is no more than a gross prohibition: "thou shalt not think". As one reads on about Nietzsche's outrage at Christianity's murdering of Pascal "with most dreadful cruelty", as one hears how he could not help being a revolutionary, while those bigots remained on top, how he regards all who still believe in a "soul", in "sin" and "truth" as the trash of humanity, as sinister and basically incurable brutes, the question is bound to arise where this wrath can possibly stem from if not from an inner struggle.

When Nietzsche then goes on to present his "over" or "superman" as the explicit counterpart to a Christian, when he calls himself [3] the "anti-donkey", the "antichrist--in Greek and not only in Greek", everyone cannot help being extremely keen to find out what made Nietzsche regard such a crass antagonism as the center piece and hallmark of his work and person.

The fact that it was in October and November of 1888 that Nietzsche in Ecce composed this picture of his life and that he was occupied with it right into the days of his illness, makes this self-assessment all the more important. If, as also Raul Richter thinks, previous inhibitions are here obviously being shed, such a symptom can only help us forward with our quest. For in that way we obtain insights into the thinker's heart that would otherwise definitely remain hidden from us. Everyone aware that a clear perception of Nietzsche's own assessment of his life is of great importance has to regard his Ecce Homo as indispensable and irreplaceable. Having constantly asked for "yet another mask", Nietzsche could surely not be without one also in the last clear months of his life. But the shedding of inhibitions has made some of those masks drop off, so that his boldest and most candid book does grant us a real insight into the essence of his being and thinking. We see a comprehensive understanding of his whole work open up before him in a truly magnificent way. It gives him such joy to recognize that he has been marching in the same basic direction from the very beginning, especially that a hostile attitude toward Christianity is apparent in all his works, indeed, that this is their determining characteristic. Everywhere a "sovereign contempt of everything calling itself Christianity, culture, etc." could not help coming to expression. At this point, too, he defines the task of his life, the overall goal of his works as "preparing mankind for a moment of supreme self-contemplation", [4] by which he means nothing else but the "struggle against the 'de-selfing' (i.e. get-rid-of-self) morality, against Christianity", as he had taken it up in The Dawn.

But it is in the dithyrambic final chapter of Ecce that this bitter enmity is summarized most powerfully. "Tremendous things will be connected with my name! I have provoked a decision against everything that had been believed, demanded, and considered holy." "I am no man, I am dynamite!" He alone may regard himself as the "immoralist" and "antichrist", because none but he has denied the whole morality of decadence or, put more bluntly, of Christian morality. He considers himself the first to see far below him "the poisonous breath of Christianity's denigration of the world." He sees himself as "the first decent human being" for having discovered "the lying spirit of millenniums." Always this one thing separates him from the whole rest of mankind, whose "worst uncleanness" consists in its Christian morality, "that most malignant form of the will to lie". By enlightening men about this "disgrace" he becomes their "destiny", a force majeure", a "catastrophe". "Men live before him, men live after him", because he has made "an end". In nothing else but in the annihilation of Christianity does Nietzsche see his unexampled significance for mankind. "Écrasez l"infame!" "Dionysus versus the Crucified One!

The overcoming of Christianity was so much in the foreground of his thinking that he regarded the planned "re-evaluation of all values" as, so to speak, accomplished by that overthrow. As it is bound to "split mankind's [5] history into two periods", a new calendar should logically be introduced at this point.

The Literature About Nietzsche

In spite of the great significance of this basic position of Nietzsche's, a more detailed treatment of it is hardly to be found in all the extensive literature about him. Professor Kaftan and Dr. Rittelmeyer unfortunately had to restrict themselves to an extremely brief summary, while the more circumstantial writings by Dr. Düringer and Dr. Fischer either declare the whole Nietzsche to be a "madman" and "vulgar lout" or deal with the "antichrist" from a Catholic angle. Strangest of all is Carl Martin's attempt to construct a "synthesis between Nietzsche and Christ".

A lot more material concerning our question is offered by some excellent attempts to understand Nietzsche's overall significance. Among these special mention should be made of Joel, Oehler, Lou Salomé, Riehl, Richter, and Simmel. In Frau Dr. Förster-Nietzsche's biography, though, which otherwise offers valuable material, the Christian antithesis is conspicuously pushed aside. Doesn't the language of Ecce Homo make it plain enough that only a clear grasp of Nietzsche's attitude to Christianity can also shed light on his person and his task?

It would be a big mistake, however, if, with this in mind, one were to scrutinize his assertions about Christ and his historical impact without first of all considering the author's subjective experiences and character. The Ecce Homo demonstrates in the strongest possible way that the development of his thinking is indissolubly linked with the unfolding of his personal life. Before giving objective consideration to [6] his statements, we must find the psychological basis on which Nietzsche's espousal of the antichrist as an "assault on two millenniums marked by unnaturalness and by a desecration of men" had to become necessary.

From the most diverse points of view attempts have been made to survey and evaluate Nietzsche's whole inner development. A special sensation was caused by the work of the well-known psychiatrist Möbius, who has turned his attention to the causes and beginnings of Nietzsche's later mental illness. As his view of the matter might make our present assignment appear superfluous, it should be asked right at this point whether a thinker's spiritual development, stretching over decades, can possibly be explained by a diagnosis of progressive paralysis. At the age of 23, Nietzsche was appointed professor and retained his chair at Basel for ten years. He filled ten further years with relentless labor on his great works and had to spend the ten last years of his life until his death on August 25, 1900 in a state of mental derangement. Is it not unthinkable to want to trace early warning signs of a softening of the brain backwards over twenty or even thirty years from his death? Möbius himself tries to head off such a conception, but Nordau, Düringer, and others go so far that e.g. Nordau states dramatically that with Nietzsche, from the first page to the last, one has the impression of a maniac, who "with wild gestures", "insane laughter", and "obscene abuse" pounces on the imagined opponent. If Nordau then presumes to assert that Nietzsche's statements are either platitudes of the meanest kind or [7] screaming madness, if he wedges Nietzsche's major works between two spells in the lunatic asylum, the ascertainments of Möbius do stand out as extremely cautious and objective over against suchlike worthless pronouncements.

Möbius compares Nietzsche's paralysis to a flood, the first waves of which appear about the middle of 1881 and whose waters keep rising until finally in 1888 the dams burst. The fact that he bases his view almost wholly on "the idea of recurrence" and the "Zarathustra notions" can--granted that these are outlandish concepts--only be explained by Möbius's lack of philosophical understanding. Our philosopher's earnest endeavor to make the rather obstreperous idea that everything has to be experienced "again and yet again, times without number" serve his ethic and world view--does it not much rather command admiration? And even though much in Zarathustra seems a poetic tangle and some things strike us as indelicate and unlovely, that grandiose work deserves the reproach of mental illness a lot less than whole legions of sorry literary efforts. Nor can Möbius avoid pointing out that Nietzsche's "intellectual functions in the narrower sense" "for a long time appear remarkably little disturbed", so that according to him even the Antichrist of 1888, "anything but a product of his illness", contains "so much spirit and incisive criticism" "that it would make no sense to speak of paralytic feeble-mindedness". Möbius should in fact have kept to the demarkation he had drawn himself: "that Nietzsche's paralysis was in the main a case of falsified emotions", of a certain loss of delicacy, [8] taste, and caution. But in this area, too, nothing gets cleared up by labeling Nietzsche a "rogue or lunatic" because of his "street-urchin-like abusiveness". In any case Möbius can at most find an explanation for the expression of the thinker's anti-Christianity but not for its essence, for he, too, provides evidence of Nietzsche's "anti-Christian rage" already in Basel and traces it until 1866, while dating the beginning of his illness no earlier than 1881. The question still remains what made Nietzsche turn with such passionate exasperation specifically on Christianity. letting everything else be consumed in that fire.

Here, the ingenious sketch of the thinker's former friend, the present Mrs. Lou Andreas-Salomé, has been the first step toward a real solution, even though she lets the problem of Christianity recede too much behind general religious urges and has repeatedly missed the mark in applying her point of view. By perceiving Nietzsche as a "religious genius" she has been the first to grasp his personality as a whole. According to her, his loss of faith has to be seen as "the point of departure for his whole development". Since that inner break in his boyhood, of which Nietzsche told her quite a bit, "there lived in him an insatiable yearning", which he sought to satisfy along the various paths of his philosophy--but without ever achieving it. During the first period he thinks he might, by immersion in the Dionysiac element and by a cult of genius, find the enjoyment of personal adoration and veneration. In the second, drily positivistic period, he sacrifices himself and everything he had hitherto revered to "the truth as an [9] ideal power and thereby attains to an emotional discharge of a religious nature". In his last, and most grandiose, creative period the old "conflict of needing God and yet having to deny him" takes on its most shaking form. In the creation of the overman (or superman) and in his most personal accomplishment, in Zarathustra as the "over-Nietzsche", Lou Salomé sees the decisive admission that Nietzsche, however hard he struggled, could not get along without a mystical God-ideal. "This is precisely why his last works again give evidence of a passionate fight against religion, against faith in God and the need of redemption: he is drawing so perilously close to these."

This profound attempt at interpretation is indeed apt to make Nietzsche's whole development and struggles all at once intelligible. Side by side with certain corrections, a deeper and more detailed application of this approach is bound to open up ever new areas for such a definition of the religious factor in Nietzsche. In particular, it becomes ever clearer that Nietzsche's attitude to Christianity, for which Lou Salomé does not show sufficient understanding, can only be explained by his being embroiled in a more and more intense struggle with precisely that unique religious power. Not being able to distinguish that specific fight from a general religious struggle, Lou Salomé has not accorded enough recognition to the religious power of the Dionysiac ideal in relation to the Christ that Nietzsche fought against.

The perceptive book by Karl Joel, in which Lou Salomé's thoughts are presented in greater depth, has cast a surprisingly clear light on precisely that Dionysiac ideal and its power.--Dionysus versus the Crucified One! That alone is Nietzsche's inner struggle throughout his development. That ancient figure of a winebibbing god, that archetype of an earth-loving divine mysticism and ecstasy [10] had to be his first and last refuge from the powerful demands of the Crucified One. Joel regards that as the main reason for classifying Nietzsche as a romantic, in spite of his own objection. For the "religion of the romantics is the exuberant urge, a boundless feeling for life." "That is where Nietzsche can officiate as high priest, since he engages in irreligiosity to the point of exuberance." The advocatus diaboli, as Nietzsche was fond of calling himself, was "a religious enthusiast" from beginning to end, who offered sacrifices to god, but to another god--Dionysus!. Joel rightly points out that Nietzsche's shuddering description of the death of God as an "event so gigantic, so unique, so pregnant with millennial consequences, so inconceivably far-reaching", conceals the fact that he actually felt imbued, to the very depth of his being, with the All-Highest, How powerfully must Nietzsche have sensed the "alluring, intoxicating paradox of a god on the cross"! In what a dreadful way--in particular, too, for his own sensibility--has he tried to outstrip it with the somber message "God is dead!" Thus Joel concludes with the question whether we do not have to perceive the antichrist and disciple of Dionysus as a religious orgiast, who in his wild yearning seeks to replace the risen Christ with the dismembered Dionysus and craves union with his god at the very moment of tearing him to pieces.

All this confronts us with the serious problem why a spirit so out-and-out religious had nothing but sharpest and unremitting criticism for Christianity and where we have to look for the roots and reasons for his peculiar way of seeking to quench his longing by self-gratification.

[11] First Chapter


The Schoolboy

Friedrich Nietzsche was born on October 15, 1844, to a family of Lutheran ministers in Röcken near Lützen (Saxony). The character of his parental home has been described as an atmosphere of churchly piety combined with a cultured style of manners. After the father's early death in 1849 the young widow, who retained to the end the typical outlook of a minister's daughter and wife, moved to Naumburg, where the two children received a strict, churchy education from both mother and grandmother. Friedrich's sister, three years younger than he, has much to tell of the boy's piety. In school he was dubbed "the little pastor" for his ability to recite, in a quite touching way, Bible passages and songs from the hymnal and for his precocious, pastoral manner of speaking. A fellow student and comrade of his in the lower grades at the Gymnasium (highschool), Wilhelm P., tells that Friedrich "from childhood on prepared himself for his later profession as a pastor". At the age of twelve he adds to the description of a cosy-poetical Christmas Eve in his diary a few commonplace words on mankind's supreme salvation. A more childlike and attractive impression is left by a little story about a certain [12] meeting about mission, following which the two children donated some toys "for the heathen children". When the deaconess in charge expressed how it moved her that they had evidently sacrificed what they loved best, they thought, deeply ashamed, of the much nicer things they had left at home. When on the way back the little sister asked dejectedly whether God really demanded "the very nicest things", Fritz replied in a muffled voice, "Yes, indeed, Lisbeth!"

We can understand it well when Nietzsche repeatedly stresses that "the Christianity of the parental parsonage had fitted his inner being smoothly and softly, like a healthy skin". Both Lou Salomé and Karl Joel naturally assume that the boy had such a personal relationship to Christianity that it might later have been a case of tearing himself away from a consciously Christian life, but this interpretation is unacceptable. Young Nietzsche much rather offers the not infrequent picture of a child that accepts the religious atmosphere of the environment just as he does its good manners, while yet remaining unsatisfied in his religious conscience. Precisely a comment by little Fritz such as the one above, to the effect that God demands from us our dearest and best, demonstrates his unsatisfied awareness that God's real demand, and true Christianity, are bound to be something completely different from what the shallow religiosity and Christianity around him had to offer. In spite of all those touching stories we do not hear of a single fact, either in him or in his environment, giving evidence of a truly decisive Christianity--the only form that Friedrich Nietzsche would have use for. He may well have loved religion like a mother, in the sense of [13] childlike trustfulness and search for support. But over against all his fine religious essays and pious poems, his own testimony will appear all the more significant, "Not for one hour of my life have I been a Christian!" That is why Overbeck, closely familiar with Nietzsche, cannot, in spite of all misleading appearance, "assume a serious relationship to Christianity in any period of his life."

The religiousness pervading young Nietzsche's home seems to have consisted in a certain trust in God and in that quiet devotion and those imaginative moods that before long he could not help regarding as an aberration of reason and fantasy. He must have felt poetically transported back into that atmosphere when he later remarked that "at the age of twelve he had seen God in his glory". But it is obvious that as a child he experienced nothing of that Christianity he would later fight against--of the radical stand taken by Christ and his apostles, by Pascal and similar undivided personalities. As regards the Christianity represented by its founder and his true followers, he respected and feared that like nothing else throughout his life. But his hand, delicate to the point of nervousness, was most reluctant to touch even the quiet devotion, which had been the form of religion in and around his childhood home. With the characteristic sensibility that accompanied all his attacks he remarked to Peter Gast, "Christianity is after all the best specimen of ideal life I have come to know. From childhood on I have pursued it into many corners, and I think I have never been mean to it in my heart." Of course, such an apology should not be seen as a refutation of the avowals by the same Nietzsche to the effect that all the Christianity he had seen in his life had seemed to him [14] "a despicable ambiguity of the word". That Christian in Basel [Vischer] speaks the truth by commenting that it is a reproach for present-day confessors of Christ that a man like Nietzsche did not find his way through to a decisive Christianity.

What we know of even his earlier boyhood, before his highschool time in Schulpforta, demonstrates the falseness of the above-mentioned assertion that he never--not even as a child--paid any attention to religious problems. He himself has told how at the age of thirteen he had discussed the origin of evil "as a first philosophical writing exercise" and had stamped God himself as its father. From his early childhood on it was religious thoughts and problems that occupied the precocious boy, but without ever letting him attain to a truly Christian walk of life.

In the fall of 1858, at the age of fourteen, the boy transferred to Schulpforta, where his faith, in any case pretty weak, was imperceptibly undermined by the historico-critical method of instruction. As Deussen presents it, on the day of confirmation "the boys' holy, world-denying mood" reached such a climax that they would have been "quite ready to depart immediately and be with Christ". But here, too, it was no question at all of a decision of the will for God or Christ. It was again a matter of an enthusiastic mood devoid of content, which "as an artificially grown plant could not possibly endure and very soon faded away as quickly as it had sprung up." At first, the schoolboy at "Pforta" gave essentially the same impression as he had done at home. His earnest manner [15] tended to restrain his comrades from speaking roughly or unfittingly, leading an older fellow pupil to compare the future antichrist to the twelve-year-old Jesus. His essays, papers, and poems abound with clerical-sounding phrases like "Our beloved ones are in God's hand"; "if everything else fails, pray to God the Lord"; "it is always instructive to contemplate the almighty guidance of God". A list he made of his scientific inclinations concludes sonorously: "and above all religion, the foundation of all knowledge". On the same level is his wording of the expression of thanks the school expects from its graduates following the school-leaving exam: he wishes to lay before God as an offering "the warm feeling of the heart" for "this finest hour of life". These few samples prove sufficiently that in Schulpforta, too, it was a matter of vague religious moods and in many cases simply of set phrases he had appropriated.

At the same time, though, we meet in the upper-grade high schooler, as we did in the child, with the dawning recognition that the God of Jesus Christ demands something whole: total dedication and a radical moral conversion. We meet with a perception in his conscience to the effect that sin forms the real barrier between God and us. "Whenever a man vociferates against religion, one may boldly assume that not his reason but his passion has got the better of the faith he was taught. A sinful walk and pure faith are incompatible, unruly neighbors."

In a still deeper and more personal way than in these Ideas from the summer of 1861, Nietzsche's conviction that nothing but sin separates [16] us from Christ finds expression in the following, deeply felt poem from the year 1862:

Thou hast called me,

Lord; I hasten

to wait on thee

by the steps ascending to thy throne.

By love enkindled,

thy gaze, affectionate,


stabs at my heart.

Lord, I am coming!

Lost was I wholly--

drunken, reeling,

sunk to the bottom,

destined for hell and torment.

Thou stoodst afar;

thy gaze, ineffably


would meet my own,

Gladly now I come.

I shrink in horror

from sin's

dismal domain.

No looking back now ever!

I cannot leave thee!

In nights anguished

and gloomy

I gaze on thee,

must cleave to thee.

So gentle art thou, [17]

faithful, tender--

dear image of

a sinners' savior!

Come, still my yearning

to sink my musing

and brooding

into thy love,

and cling to thee.

With so deep an impression of Christ's love and earnestness, the highschool senior came close to a true inner decision. But all his awareness of sin, his deep-going conviction, and fervent longing could not prevent the total break with God and Christ from being decisively prepared already at this time. To give a picture of his theological interests, mention should be made that in 1861 he recommended to his sister Karl Hase's Life of Jesus and his church history, calling him "the most brilliant proponent of ideal rationalism".

But the deepest insights into his inner development are afforded by the founding of a highschoolers' association called "Germania". Here, young Nietzsche had sufficient opportunity to air freely all his problems. Of greatest interest to us are in particular three lectures and essays by him, entitled "Fate and History", "Freedom of Will", and "About Christianity". Here we come face to face with Nietzsche's first proper attack on Christian piety, an attack directed against precisely that "submission to the will of God", the kind of "humility" "that allows itself to be degradingly guided by circumstances" and "at bottom is nothing but [18] despair of one's own strength and an excuse for one's own weakness". It is of decisive importance to show that this reproach, which is now going to remain in the foreground to the very end, can never be aimed at the combative world view of Christ and his apostles but only at that general religiosity, which has never drawn upon those sources and "lets events simply run their appointed course, seeing that God has made all things well". All that young Nietzsche had come to know was that soft, effeminate form of religion, making it easy to understand why we now meet in him with most radical doubts. Already at this point we come across an expressed hope that it may prove to be a general recognition that Christianity is merely based on assumptions destined to remain problematic. At this point he has personally "tried to dispute everything" but has not yet come through to a consistent denial. With moving words he describes his indecisive struggle between the "power of habit, the need for something higher", and the "break with everything existing"--between the nagging doubt if "two thousand years might had been governed by a delusion" and a "sense of his own presumption and temerity".

We get a picture of Nietzsche the fighter, as he stands before us with all those thoughts that would later on captivate him altogether swirling around him more and more: Down with all humility! Two thousand years of men's desecration! There was precious little for him to throw into the other scale of the balance. The "power of habit" was soon broken, the "need for something higher" got sidetracked toward other things. The "break with everything existing" remains a lure and the "sense of his own presumption and temerity" the worst sting for him. That is why a suggested compromise settlement cannot be of long duration: that being saved by faith merely signifies [19] that only the heart--not knowledge--can make you happy, and that God's incarnation means man is to base his happiness on the earth, instead of seeking salvation in infinity. Such interpretations were but a cover and camouflage for the basically negative attitude to Christianity the highschool senior had adopted. The conclusion of his fragment "About Christianity" unfolds most clearly the program of his later struggle: "The illusion of a super-terrestrial world has put men's minds into a false position to the earthly one,"

The evidence is conclusive: Already as a highschool senior Nietzsche in a bitter struggle coerced his unconquerable yearning for something higher to give up ever wanting to satisfy it in God and Christ. The lines he addressed to the "unknown god", giving moving expression to a deep longing, were in more than one sense the highschool graduate's farewell song:

Once more before from here I journey

and turn my gaze to new horizons,

I raise my hands, a lonely wand'rer,

to thee, in whom I seek my refuge,

to whom deep in my heart secluded

I set up altars rev'rently

--in secret hope

that yet again thy voice might call me--

on which engraved tell glowing letters

that here the unknown god is worshipped.

For I am his, though 'mongst the evildoers

I have remained right to this hour.

Yes, his I am--and feel the bonds and nooses

that drag me down and, though I struggle [20]

and try to flee,

will not release me from his service.

Thou unknown god, I want to know thee,

who to its depth my soul hast piercéd

and like a tempest through my life art raging,

thou unapproachable, yet kindred being,

I want to know--more: want to serve thee!

The Student

Basically, the break had been made. However deeply it shook and shattered his inner being, is was now merely a question of coming to an inner gathering and clarity about how to go on.

The first semester, 1864/65, at the university of Bonn, was devoted to theology and philology. A letter written four years later contains an account of how Nietzsche at that time perceived, and went about, his theological studies: "I vigorously delved into the philological side of Gospel critique and of research into New Testament sources, for at that time I was still under the illusion that history and the study of it are able to provide a direct answer to certain religious and philosophical questions." He had indeed been mistaken. Bible criticism could neither heal the tear in his soul nor offer a real solution to his problems. It did help him, however, to become so certain of the abyss already separating him from the content of Christian faith that at the end of the semester he gave up the theological study he had just begun and devoted himself exclusively to classical philology. There were irksome altercations at home when the inner reasons for his turning away from theology had to be disclosed. It is to them that we are indebted for the already mentioned letter of June 1865 from Bonn, [21] in which he once more explained to his sister the reasons for his turning against Christianity. Here, too, Christianity, as he had come to know it, evinces nothing but a general religious content, which would have let the same blessings become available via any other religious personality just as well as through Christ. That is why he counters the experiences of the faithful with the age-old reply, "Certainly, faith alone is a blessing--not the objective truth behind faith." And yet he finds it extremely hard "to walk the new paths often feeling quite disconsolate, with my mind--indeed, my conscience--frequently torn hither and thither." What he longed for was not "more quiet, peace, and happiness but the truth, and be it ever so ugly and repulsive", so that he finally has to challenge the sister, "If you seek peace of mind and happiness, then believe; if you want to be a disciple of truth, then search!"

With this letter we find ourselves at the end of the first chapter in the tremendous struggle that filled the life of this great religious spirit. Though he never was a Christian, he always saw clearly that true faith, demanding the whole man, is the gateway to supreme happiness. Already as a highschool senior and in his very first semester at the university he deliberately sacrificed that happiness and painfully satisfied his inner yearning by an anti-religious renunciation. For the first time he stands before us as an ascetic of the soul, who takes a strange delight in tearing his heart to pieces, and as a mystical self-tormentor. As such he has been reproached with sadism by Nordau and Seillière, classified as a romantic by Joel, and honored as a "religious genius" by Lou Salomé. After all we have seen so far, there is no need to assume that there is already a real enmity against [22] Christianity and its morals. What we have before us now is neither more nor less than this religious spirit's final relinquishment of ever wanting to seek satisfaction in Christian faith.

Through Deussen we obtain some insights of great importance for this period in Nietzsche's life: they show us the significance of the decision he had come to and that it would lead to atheism. One day, for example, we come upon a conversation with a few student friends about prayer. Deussen wants to see it as a mere subjective means of stimulation and gets corrected by Nietzsche because of the shallowness--"typically Feuerbach"--of that perception. Another time, as Deussen expresses his enthusiastic agreement with Strauss' recently published Life of Jesus, Nietzsche again meets him with an objection, "The matter has a serious consequence: by giving up Christ you will also have to give up God." At that time Nietzsche obviously found himself in a struggle with Feuerbach's psychology of religion. Christ was for him the one firm hold by which to secure the possibility of an objective God, independent of human wishes, sentiments, and ideas. That letter from Bonn, expressing that "Christian blessings" could just as well be obtained through Mohammed, means that any faith in an objective content of religious experiences has definitely been given up. These had now become for him mere human testimonies to one's own emotions and perceptions. As Nietzsche later explained in greater detail, it is by ascribing any superior strength and might to the deity instead of to himself that man has humiliated and degraded himself most deeply. [23] But side by side with such strong manifestations of that particular trend of thought, we also gather from very definite utterances of our philosopher that he did give inordinate attention to Strauss and particularly to Feuerbach. Even though it cannot be maintained that Nietzsche's anti-Christian development derived from Feuerbach in as straight a line as was the case with Stirner (with whom he is often compared), still the whole psychological method of Nietzsche's critique of religion, in which he traces all religious experiences back to purely subjective psychological factors, proves that Riehl was very justified in pointing to a conspicuous affinity with Feuerbach's basic ideas.

However, this psychological element in Nietzsche's development was to be pushed right into the background for years to come by several stronger and deeper influences. In the fall of 1865 the eager, young philologist followed his revered teacher Ritschl to Leipzig. The fact that he withdrew as quickly as possible from the loud, superficial bustle of his student fraternity at Bonn may again be seen as a sign that his character was looking for higher things. The strong concentration he achieved during the time in Leipzig led to admirable achievements in his professional work and philosophical thinking.

From now on a strangely harmonious triad fills his soul and lets him soar to sublime heights: Greek culture, Schopenhauer, and Wagner. These three strokes of good fortune (as he has once called them) in his life for a long time had a calming effect on his religious urge; in a way Greek culture held him captive forever.

On the basis of his own experience, Nietzsche once declared, "A serious bent toward antiquity makes us unchristian." [24] He gets so totally immersed in admiration of classical antiquity that he can only see its replacement by the Christian era as the worst kind of decadence. In his bold view the two millenniums of Christian culture become an unpleasant interlude, a pernicious interruption of a natural development. With grief and indignation he exclaims, "Christianity has done us out of the harvest of classical culture!" "All the labor of the ancient world in vain--I find no word to express my revulsion at something so egregious." The aristocratical-minded thinker sees the religious spirit of the Greeks as autonomous, free, and noble, whereas to him Judaeo-Christian piety seems to founder in sin, self-defilement, and a bad conscience. "Christianity is barbaric, asiatic, ignoble." "Greek religiosity, on the other hand, represents a most noble type of humanity." In this distinction his basic perception lies hidden: "Greek culture does not gild or idolize life and its passions." "Christianity merely throws mud at it."

This utterly wrong main reproach is intimately connected with a veneration of the Greek god whom he opposed to the Crucified One. Dionysus Baccheios, whose cult consisted in wild music, swirling circle dances, and orgiastic frenzy, was the central deity of ecstatic mysticism. In Rohde's Psyche we are shown the ultimate goal of this frenzied conduct: the becoming one with the god, ecstasy in the literal sense of assuming his form, so that the enthusiasts in imagination enter into him and in their super-human and inhuman frenzy claim [25] their god's name for themselves, so captivated are they by the delusion of living in someone else's personality. Even though the Thracian Dionysus was in Greece transformed into the gentler god of wine, these phenomena of "being possessed" always remained characteristic of him; later on they even came to be regarded as properly "hellenic". Even though Rohde shows that among the Thracians this ecstatic mysticism led to a marked degrading of earthly life in favor of a free spiritual existence and that among the Greeks it resulted in the doctrine of immortality, for our thinker his Dionysus nevertheless remained the prototype of genuine Greek affirmation of life here on earth. From that point of view he took more and more to interpreting Christianity as the crass opposite to life, as the negation of all its joys and passions.

It would lead us too far to uncover in the same way the other sources that supplied the antichrist with nourishment and invigoration from classical antiquity. Let us mention just a few: to begin with a tendency toward the master morality of later years ("Good is what is aristocratic, bad what is plebeian"), which young Nietzsche found in Theognis of Megara; not for nothing did he twice write a paper on him (1864 and 1866). Many times he may have read in Plato what Meno, Trasymachus, and Kallikles had to say, of whom the first explicitly points to dominance, to the exercise of power as that which is common to all virtues. And like Nietzsche himself, Trasymachus regards a bad deed well executed as the stronger, nobler, mightier one. In Kallikles we find equally strong anticipations of some theories of Nietzsche's; [26] for him, too, all laws derive from the "weak and the many", while in truth the stronger man is entitled to rule the weaker ones and lord it over them, in possessions and everything else. So we meet here with the same view of history and the same demands that in Nietzsche's later writings, with a sharp turn against Christianity, are put forward as something completely new.

In another area Schopenhauer strengthened the young thinker's position, which gradually evolved into fierce belligerence against everything still bringing forth "religious shoots". It is extremely striking to observe to what a small extent Nietzsche ever actually made Schopenhauer's individual thoughts his own and how soon he in fact put forward values completely opposed to them. What came to occupy such a central place in Nietzsche's inner life could only be the gruff personality and the anti-religious starting point of that philosopher. He himself expressed it most clearly, "His atheism is what led me to Schopenhauer."

This relationship has been most deeply elucidated by Georg Simmel. He sees in the great pessimist nothing less than the absolute philosophic expression of the deep yearning for an ultimate purpose of life, which mankind has come to miss so keenly after it eliminated Christianity. This was the point of departure for Friedrich Nietzsche. Just as Christianity held out to an era of utmost distress a most deeply satisfying redemption and purpose, so will now Nietzsche bestow a new meaningful goal on a mankind doubly impoverished. [27] There was only one value Schopenhauer was able to deduce from the poverty and misery of a world without God: the non-life. Nietzsche is grounded in the same tremendous need for redemption as his pessimistic teacher, but in a bold about-turn he seeks to satisfy it by the very affirmation of life.

But only scenes as shaking as that with the "man deranged" can give us an impression of how profoundly he, too, felt the utter emptiness of a dechristianized, purposeless view of the world. "Where has God gone?" he cried out. "We have killed him. We are all his murderers. -- But how did we manage to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe out the whole horizon? What were we doing by detaching this earth from its sun? -- Are we not continually falling--plunging backwards, sideways, forwards, every which way? -- What until now was mightiest and holiest in the world has bled to death under our knives--who can wipe this blood off us?" -- Let those who can grasp what has been destroyed look out if they have anything left at all." How much Nietzsche was personally aware of this irreplaceable loss is best shown by these yearning words in "Excelsior": "Nevermore will you be able to pray, never again worship, nevermore rest in boundless trust--there is no longer any sense in whatever happens and no love in what will happen to you--oh man of renunciation, are you ready to renounce all that?" There is only one way in which such a fearsome loss of what is highest can be compensated for: by idolizing man and worshipping life. "It may be that just that renunciation will also give us strength--maybe from the point [28] where he ceases to flow out into a god, man will rise higher and higher." "Is not the deed's greatness too great for us? To appear worthy of it, do we not have to become gods ourselves?" Once again it was his religious passion that both led him to Schopenhauer and made him turn away from him.

Similarly, whatever elements of Schopenhauer's rich philosophy stayed with Nietzsche throughout his life were exclusively of a purely religious or antichristian kind. It is astounding to discover that in this thinker, whom Nietzsche studied more carefully than anybody else, almost everything the "antichrist" was to proclaim later has already been prepared. The notion that the Christian era constitutes a most horrible decline of classical antiquity is already there with Schopenhauer. From him also stems the all-determining perception of Christianity as a religion of pity and of an outspoken denial of the world, of propagation, and even quite generally of the will to live-- as the religion of asceticism par excellence. Both thinkers brand the pale dechristianization represented by protestantism as a complete falling away from Christianity, and both protest with equal sharpness against priestly exploitation and the least hint of a belief in God. The only reason Nietzsche's radical antichristianity could grow in this soil was that he later on perceived in it a most dangerous remnant of Christian morality. Schopenhauer actually means it in the sense of an acknowledgment when he defines pity, conciliatoriness, resignation, and denial of self-will as the essence of Christian morality, or when he has the New Testament regard the whole world as diabolical; [29] in Nietzsche's hand, however, such utterances were destined to become terrible weapons of his hatred, as he regarded them as manifestations of a bitter enmity against all life energy.

It was evidently by Schopenhauer, too, that Nietzsche's attention was directed to Pascal, who became of quite decisive and definitive importance for our philosopher as "the one and only logical Christian". All this shows sufficiently that his critique of Christianity may in all essential points be traced back to the influence of Schopenhauer.

At the hand of his third lucky star, Richard Wagner, Nietzsche's view of the world, derived as it was from classical Greece and Schopenhauer, was then really galvanized into action from the very start. In Wagner, Nietzsche's world view at first came upon an ideal and means of uplift that, having completely grown in a religious soil, for quite a time could take the place of religion in Nietzsche's attention. Later, however, when Wagner began to make concessions to Christianity, the world view Nietzsche had embraced forced on him the hardest and most painful break of his entire life. The student Nietzsche's discovery of Schopenhauer at a second-hand bookshop in Leipzig had been as unexpected as his introduction to Wagner at the home of mutual friends. The exceptional depth and intimacy of their friendship in Tribschen (when Nietzsche was already living in Basel) is expressed most poignantly in the lines where the lonely man owns his never-to-heal pain that he is "now condemned to disdain and despise even more deeply, to be more completely alone than ever before. For apart from Richard Wagner I had no one."

The extent to which Nietzsche's religious, antichristian urge craved satisfaction also in this friendship is best shown by the [30] writings he at that time dedicated to the master: Richard Wagner in Bayreuth and The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music. "The whole book in fact acknowledges only one artistic conception, one meaning behind all happenings--a god, if you like, but surely none but a wholly uninhibited and immoral artist-god." "They are sounds from that future world, which is truly in need of art and may also expect true satisfaction from it." In this curiously religious mood Nietzsche felt so safe from Christianity and also regarded Wagner as so totally outside its sphere of influence that he was able to describe with satisfaction how Wagner "had tracked Christianity and its corruption by hypocrisy and halfheartedness" through the ages till "at the end of his investigations he was hopping mad with rage and disgust."

Now it is easy to understand why, even though with a bleeding heart, Nietzsche had to take the step of dissociation. The simultaneous publication of Human, All-Too-Human, and Parsifal in 1878 completed the break. "Incredible--Wagner has turned pious." "I grasped what it had become high time to do." "Woe that you, too, have sunk down at the cross! You too, you too have been overcome!" From now on Nietzsche sees but one thing in Wagner: "He flatters every nihilistic instinct, everything Christian, every religious expression of decadence." Least of all could be regard him as a true Christian. "If Wagner was a Christian, then Liszt was a Father of the Church." "The need for redemption--quintessence of all Christian needs--has nothing to do with such clowns." "I am full of admiration, [31] by the way, that the Christians going to Bayreuth are so modest in their expectations.--There are concepts that have no place in Bayreuth.--I repeat: the Christians of today are too easily satisfied for me." Thus his time close to Wagner left Nietzsche with but one thing: fiercest bitterness toward anything still smacking of Christianity and sharpest condemnation of any concessions made to Christianity, without a total commitment.

This has, of course, taken us way beyond Nietzsche's stay in Leipzig. But this was the time when that powerful triple constellation had risen on him that was to light his way so decisively. This experience totally eclipses all other events of the time in Leipzig, like for example the composure of that little fragment "Thoughts About Christianity", which sharply condemns the "arrogance with which the Christian priesthood intrudes into state and family relationships" and scornfully seeks to expose the "belief in revelation" and "Scripture's testimony to itself".

As he takes leave of Leipzig, Nietzsche stands before us as a radical thinker, "who via the consequences of his skepsis wants to discover the negation of negations". We accompany him on his way to an inordinately early professorship--this young philologist who, side by side with considerable achievements in his special field, has had the inner strength to appropriate the rudiments of a fecund view of the world. In all of this we behold a spirit of rare religiosity but thoroughly contemptuous of the beliefs around him prepare for his loftiest flight.

The Professor

In April 1869 Nietzsche, then twenty-four years old, traveled to Basel to take over the chair for classical philology he had been offered. His first years there [32] remained in the tracks we have described: enthusiasm for Greek culture, for the philosophy of Schopenhauer, and above all for Richard Wagner, who resided in nearby Tribschen. As late as 1888 Nietzsche would write about that happy time of close interaction with "the master and the mistress": "As regards the bulk of my relationships with men, I am ready to let them go cheap, but when it comes to the Tribschen days, I would not let those go for any price whatever."

The war years 1870-71 rudely interrupted the life at Basel; Nietzsche, who had volunteered to serve as a medical orderly returned with his health badly shattered. And yet, it was during those years (fall of 1869 - fall of 1871) that The Birth of Tragedy was completed. About this writing, in which Nietzsche would always see the germ of his later philosophy, he has left us a number of comments that cast surprising lights on his religious development. On one occasion he describes it as "a translation of music into the metaphysical", as an "act of veneration and gratitude". "At bottom, all religious people have up to now done the same with their experiences."

But more than anything else he emphasizes again and again "the discovery of the Dionysiac", which this book had presented him with it being "the one and only thing in history reflecting his own inner experience". "What the name of Dionysus actively expresses, and subjectively empathizes with, is the coming into being, the bringing into existence, as the furious lust of the creative man, who at the same time knows also the wrath of the wrecker". With equal candor he defines the motive behind this discovery as "a craving for the tragic myth, for religion, meaning pessimistic religion". When [33] he wrote the Ecce Homo, Nietzsche already believed himself in a position to define the one great antithesis: the Dionysiac as the highest formula of affirmation versus the degenerate instinct that turns against earthly things: Christianity. Already at that time, he says, he had recognized Christianity's "negation of all aesthetic values" and for that reason had observed a "deep, hostile silence". " The purely aesthetic interpretation and justification of the world, as set forth in this book, has no greater opponent than the Christian doctrine." "With this problematic book my instinct provided itself with a fundamental counter-doctrine and counter-valuation of life, a purely artistic and antichristian one." "A deep antipathy to Christianity--why? It gets the blame for the degeneration of the German character."

In the Birth of Tragedy itself only two allusions point in this direction. The first consists in contrasting the primeval crime of Greek mythology as an active sin, to be metamorphosed into a promethean virtue and justification of guilt, with the biblical fall of man as a despicable feminine weakness springing from curiosity, mendacity, and lust. The second allusion consists in an assertion that our pale and weary religions, which as religions of scholars bear within themselves the germ of decline and death, are completely unable to withstand the storms to be expected.

In the other writings of the same period (until 1873), too, we find, if we disregard a few atheist remarks, but one short section, which might prove the correctness of Nietzsche's own later self-assessment. After remarking in the Greek State (1871) [34] that "serious-minded philosophies and religions" have degraded the value of existence, and after defining Christianity as a religion of pitying love, Nietzsche goes on to declare that powerful religions have over long periods petrified a certain degree of culture and with an inexorable sickle have cut off everything that would keep on growing and thriving. This appraisal of Christianity's historical effect, which corresponds exactly to Nietzsche's later views, is accompanied by the threat that the cry for freedom and justice is going to break down an all-too-high bulwark of religious pretensions.

There is, however, a different way in which we can demonstrate more thoroughly that at the period under consideration Nietzsche was in fact preparing his later antichristianity. For a second time we come across the important role friendship played in his life. He himself referred more than once to the deep connection between his high regard for friendship and his powerful drive toward sublime ideals. "Unless he still has his god, a man of inward depth needs friends." "Until now that has been the only way we could, beyond our individual spheres, go on living with what is best in us," In Basel it was, more than anybody else, Franz Overbeck, professor of theology, who forged an ever firmer bond of friendship with Nietzsche as a fellow member of his household. He it was that supplied the fighter arming himself for war with Christianity with the sharpest of weapons. Nietzsche's whole previous history should, of course, make it very clear that Bernouilli is totally wrong in pointing to Overbeck as the first reason why "Nietzsche was henceforth no longer indifferent toward Christianity." But without doubt [35] Overbeck's contentions that primitive Christianity represented an asceticism extremely hostile to culture and that the church and theology that had accommodated itself to the world represented a most radical falling away from Christianity were bound to immensely intensify Nietzsche's belligerent stance. The fact that Nietzsche published his first Untimely Consideration bound together with Overbeck's Christian Element in Our Present-day Theology sufficiently proves that relationship. Nietzsche even wrote a dedication into that double volume expressly stating his full agreement with Overbeck's thoughts about the totally unchristian character of both positive and liberal theology. Most remarkably, Nietzsche thereby also underwrote Overbeck's peculiar respect for pietism and asceticism.

Nietzsche's writings from that period show very clearly that unique theologian's (Overbeck's) contribution toward the fact that the problem of Christianity was turning into a prominent one in the world at large and that the attempt to solve it took on ever more definite contours. Already in his Untimely Considerations (1873-1876), of which we also have to consider the incomplete fifth one ("We philologists" 1874/75), Nietzsche's genteel silence has come to an end and given way to most devastating judgments. Christianity is presented as downright "poison", as a "most horrendous crime", which has "inflicted inordinate uncleanness, mendacity, and foolishness" on men. He sees it as "made up for the common herd and for rogues", as representing, over against classical antiquity, a "coarsening of the crassest kind". In Christianity "dull intellect" is said to have "gained victory over the aristocratic genius among the [36] nations". That is why "being a philhellene means being an enemy of brute power and of dull intellect".

Thus Christianity is again presented as the very power standing against culture and against life, a power "hostile to all endeavors to sow and plant afresh, to strike out boldly, to desire freely". It wants to extirpate any kind of education and culture, any spiritual upsurge as it burns up "paintings and manuscripts in the flames of its sacrificial fires". Instead of life, memento mori is said to be its watchword, so that "of all the hours of a man's life the last is to be seen as the most important one". Equally falsely, the real nature of Christianity is again distorted by misinterpreting its love, and it is evaluated as essentially a system of morality .

With all the passages just quoted obviously referring to later or contemporary Christianity, the latter is regarded as doomed and done for within itself, as the "scientific approach" and the "power of history" are said to be tantamount to "annihilation". Overbeck's influence has served to intensify Nietzsche's earlier impulse: "Christianity in alliance with the state is sick, hypocritical, and mendacious to the core and has degenerated into the opposite of its original ideal". Compared to the unwavering consistency of the purest Christians, which would have impeded rather than promoted worldly success, today's "Christianity", in spite of its worldwide extension, gives a "somewhat ghostly impression". The insight that "the waters of religion are receding, leaving behind only swamps and ponds", leads on to the victorious certainty that "life" will condemn and shake off such a past and that "this most horrible part of history is bound to be someday finished and done with". [37]

Once again, however, this antichristian struggle and blunt avowal of atheism is going hand in hand with a personal testimony to his deep religiosity. "My religion consists in work for the creation of genius." Religion is "love reaching out beyond ourselves". "Your true being is to be found immeasurably high above you." In this period one notices again the regular interdependence between an increase in Nietzsche's peculiar religious sensibilities and an intensification of his all-out war on Christianity. Too little attention has been given to the fact that already at this time we meet with a bold announcement of an antichristian campaign: " Others may, for the time being, see nothing but covered bowls, which might possibly be empty--until with great surprise they discover that the bowls are actually brimful of attacks, demands, urges, and passions, all lying there crammed together, and these could not possibly remain in there cooped up like this for any length of time."

The time was now approaching when Nietzsche's venerative instinct was to tear itself away from its previous ideals in order to draw his urges and passions together within himself, thus immeasurably increasing their thrust. The mystery of Nietzsche's inner development is revealed most clearly by the psychological analysis, which pushed aside everything else and was to dominate his next writing, the Human, All-too Human".

However much he "had believed until now that he had weaned himself away from religion--a delight in the magic of religious emotions and moods had remained, above all in music." He had himself "made his entry into culture as a religiously moved child, with [38] suchlike religious emotions stirring powerfully within" him. As a student he had "gone over to somewhat weakened emotive forms", in the sense that he had "indeed passed beyond God, immortality, and suchlike things but all the more had fallen victim to the charms of a metaphysical philosophy". What he now sees clearly above all is that his religiousness has lived on as an "artistically transfiguring mood". That is why from now on he wants to give up all art "in order to pass on to a truly liberating philosophical science"--the bitter decision to "tear himself away from the sanctuary where he had learned to love and to adore". Being aware that his spirit constantly seeks to procure "a substitute, something to fill the void that the cutting loose from religion has left behind", he now wants to dare the most radical step of "weakening and rooting out" not just the expressions but "the needs that religion had been satisfying".

But the more he struggled, the less he succeeded in choking his religious spirit. Having recognized that "art lifts her head wherever religions give way", he now wanted to seek in sober science an area where he would be completely out of the reach of religion. Again, however, he had to experience: "Scientific man represents a further development of artistic man. Just as the artist has preserved the emotional intensification and uplift of religion, so after the disappearance of art the intense and many-facetted joy in life it has planted is still bound to demand satisfaction." The renewed tearing apart only serves to increase the fire's heat and glow. "Having grown into a mighty river, the superabundance of religious feelings pours itself forth [39] into ever new fields, even into that of science."

At this point Nietzsche appears to have thrown in the sponge. As music used to glorify Christian thought. so it is now to transfigure that of science, so that "loftiness, a deep and warm light, and the bliss of supreme logic may all be felt as one". Under this new religion, mankind is to feel "more uplifted and comforted than under Christianity" and be just as ready for sacrifices as it was in the former religious periods. Thus it had availed Nietzsche nothing to "invoke the spirit of science to cool down the fireflood of faith." "The sigh for the lost beloved", as he called his yearning for religion and metaphysics, would break forth again and again. He is unable to save himself, must keep on playing "the perilous game". "Whoever lets religious feelings back in at all, cannot help letting them grow". "An emotion cannot keep still, so one ought to beware."

All his "bewaring" was for nothing. One thing alone he did block to the very end--conversion to Christ, so powerful a menace for him. He regarded "levity or melancholy of whatever degree (!) as better than a romantic turnabout and desertion, a drawing near to Christianity in any form." True, he has to concede, "We are wavering." "However, we must not let it make us fearful and ready to give up again what we have just achieved. Besides, we cannot go back to the former things; we have burned our boats. There is only one thing left to us: to be courageous, whatever comes of it." "One cannot become a leader and educator of mankind without pain." So [40] the resistance has to harden still more, the hostility become ever more bitter. As a result, in Schopenhauer of a sudden "the logical grimace of a Christianity stood on its head" is being detected: "God as the sinner and man as his redeemer--death throes of a despairing heart yearning for salvation." Thus at long last Nietzsche's critique of Christianity has to emerge from hiding and come out openly and with utmost sharpness. "If anyone takes up a position other than adversarial to Christianity, we turn our backs on him; he brings us impure air and bad weather."

To begin with, as in a preliminary skirmish, the old attacks are renewed. The ascetic self-torment of the "back-world [a playful variation on 'backwoods'] folk" and "obscurantists", who "denigrate the image of the world" and "darken the perception of existence" is trotted out anew and paraded together with their "vileness, servility, and contemptibility". in contrast to the noble self-assurance of Greek religion. The assertion of mankind's decline and cultural corruption through the fault of Christianity is repeated over and over again. A most precise deployment of atheistic enmity toward religion already prepares the ground for the full-scale attack to come. "Never yet has any religion contained a truth, neither directly nor indirectly, neither as dogma nor as parable."

But the actual full-blown offensive starts out with the question, "whence comes the ill-starred importance, which has for so long been accorded to those things". The attempt to demonstrate the religions' devoidness of truth ought to be finally given up, it being but "a belated religious impulse". Instead, the history of religious [41] notions should be uncovered and their emotions psychologically dissected. Along this new path--at bottom exactly the same as Feuerbach's--Nietzsche hopes to attain to "indifference toward Faith and any presumed knowledge in those areas". In his opinion this "chemical analysis of religious notions" is going to prove that "most glorious colors are derived from mean or even despicable materials". Whereas Hoffmann, a student of Bader's, had seen "a top-level decision concerning the problem of atheism" being prepared already in Nietzsche's first Untimely Consideration (on David Strauß), Nietzsche himself rather thought that by unmasking, as he was only now setting out to do (i.e. in Human, All-too- Human), man's religious instincts he would wipe out religion and Christianity for every thinking person.

It can scarcely be assumed that it was Dr. Rée, with whom Nietzsche was intimately connected at that time and also joined in studying the New Testament (1876-1877), who suggested using this psychological method, even though his writings give evidence of closely parallel trains of thought. Most likely it was the other way round, and Rée has in fact referred to Nietzsche as the father of his own main work. Besides, we have been able to provide evidence of the same psychological approach at the very beginning of Nietzsche's inner development.

Of course, by now the means employed have become more complex, the applications more specialized. Psychic breakdowns and intoxication are now put forward as actual elements of the felt need for redemption and of the experience of salvation, and morbid traits occasionally encountered in conjunction with these experiences are presented as necessary and essential elements thereof. Already at this point mean egoism in the form of reward-seeking, deception, and hypocrisy, [42] vanity and the will to power are being presented as the basic motives of all religious life. The treatment of the historical origin of religion and faith, the characterization of Christ and his apostles--all this in principle bears witness to the same psychological dissection as the later writings.

But as always in Nietzsche's life, so here, too, the apparent overcoming of religiousness goes hand in hand with a new outburst of his religious needs. They were at first meant to find satisfaction in cold science, yet there is a hint even now of that last means by which Nietzsche tried to find his "god". With respect to the time in question, he has himself related that "an incomprehensible urge like a command" had been guiding him. "As the most desirable state of things I considered that of "a free, fearless hovering over men, customs, laws, and the traditional assessment of things". He felt urged to become free from everything--free and bold and in charge--he felt driven to become God.

Just as in the last section of Nietzsche's spiritual life this highest reaching out of his religious urge combined tragically with a complete collapse, so, too, the first inkling he had of that mystical goal coincided with a particular low in his health. During the winter of 1877/1878 ill health so strongly affected his head and his eyes that only the protest of his friends kept him from relinquishing his professorship. However, early in 1879 his state of health deteriorated so badly that the worst had to be feared, and in the request to be relieved of his duties, which he had now handed in, he expressed a fear of "not being able much longer to withstand the extremely [43] painful headache attacks lasting from two to six days".

Until well into the year 1881 none of the different changes of domicile brought a healing. Only when in June of that year Nietzsche had found "his" Engadine and let careful self-treatment take the place of medical treatment, he could consider himself cured to the extent that until 1888 such bouts of headache robbed him of no more than 5-14 days per year. This time span was destined to bring the unfolding of his religious mind to a conclusion and to let his antichristian bias swell to utmost bitterness, though adding nothing really new to what has already been related.

[44] Second Chapter


From the Dawn to Zarathustra

Only the constant solitude and mental concentration Nietzsche was granted after he had laid down his professorship allowed his autonomous philosophy and his writing style to flourish and his antichristian bias to develop fully.

While The Wayfarer had already highlighted some aspects, in The Dawn we find ourselves face to face with Nietzsche's "definitive opus"; it is the first to display the full splendor of the new epoch. The immoralist and antichristian has now found appropriate avenues for his triumphant progress. In March of 1881 The Dawn was completed, and already in January of the following year he had lying before him the manuscript of its "Continuation", which had grown into a new book, The Joyous Science, the gaya scientia--a presentation of the unity linking together singer, knight, and free spirit.

The memorable year 1881 was in every respect a high point in our thinker's development. It was then that [45] he conceived the idea of the eternal recurrence, which made his last creative epoch soar to sublime heights. After eagerly immersing himself in physical problems, he felt this idea coming upon him "like a revelation": "The world with its array of powers knows of no decrease, no standing still." Having been on the move for eternities, it must have passed through every feasible configuration. For there can be no possible end or conclusion. Hence, our own moment, too--the present arrangement of powers with all its conditions and consequences--it has occurred before and is bound to recur--times without number in a never-ending cycle.

Once again, it is the religious motive that had produced this remarkable thought. In one of his notes of that year, Nietzsche jotted down: "Religious belief is decreasing, and man is learning to comprehend himself as ephemeral. Let us imprint on our life the image of eternity! This thought contains more than all religions, which have despised this life as transient and taught men to look for another life." In this eternal recurrence Nietzsche finds the most potent satisfaction of his fundamental desire, the "supreme formula for an affirmation of this life", "the most wonderful substitute for a belief in immortality". In the grip of his enthusiasm he introduces the fourth book of the Joyous Science with these resonant words: "With thy flaming spear thou breakest all the ice around my soul, send'st it rushing t'ward the ocean that contains its highest goal". And at the end of the book this thought, which has so powerful a hold on him, meets with this [46] heroic response: "Thou art a god: nothing more godlike did I ever hear."

It was the powerful impression of this revelation that made Zarathustra appear on the scene--Zarathustra the godlike, Zarathustra, in whom Nietzsche turned godlike himself. In him he formed his very own overman, his higher ego, the god within himself. Bitter disappointments with friends and relatives brought him to the paradoxical explanation of this most daring religious creation: "Always one times one will in the end make two."

From now on he could live "in the grand style". Now he had found the "unutterably important goal, without which he could not have kept afloat above the dark waters." "Now that religion had died, origination could once more luxuriate in the divine." An "atheist religion", a "new ideal' had to be created. What counted was "an eternity he loved, with a love sprung from joy". "A new man" was what counted. The whole former veneration of God may well have served as a "practice and prelude" for this "religion of the freest, serenest, and loftiest souls", so that individual men now can "enjoy all the self-sufficiency of a god and his whole power of self-redemption". Thus In his own person Nietzsche more and more openly actualized what he had reproached the old mystics with: "In truth you only seem to sacrifice yourselves; in reality you turn into gods in your thoughts and enjoy yourselves as such." There is no philosopher whose character Nietzsche could have fathomed more accurately than his own by declaring: "Their more refined ambition makes them so liable to regard [47] their souls as exceptional. Above all they want to be 'artistic natures', with a genius in their head and a demon in their body and consequently endowed with special privileges for this world or the world beyond, in particular with the divine privilege of being incomprehensible. What they in fact want is religion."

All the more did he feel in a position to triumph: "God is dead. It is up to us to still conquer his shadow." "There is no god"; he was no more than "a parable, an artifice of poets". "The victory of scientific atheism is an all-European event." Every other opinion is "indecent, dishonest, lying; it represents feminism and weakness." But the candor with which he let the new religion take shape in his inner being proves sufficiently that what he attacks and combats is always just this one thing: Christianity, whose "euthanasia" he would love to detect everywhere. His "sense of taste decides against it"; that is sufficient for him. But others must be taught to see it the same way. That is why the historico-psychological method must keep on pointing to the dirty sources until Christianity will simply have become impossible. Nietzsche is set on "making a clean sweep" by asserting that "errors and lies", in the face of "overwhelming, unexplained impressions", constitute the origin of religion and that Christianity has been "calculated for the common herd" and is a "product of their hatred'.

In the writings of this period--the Dawn and the Joyous Science--Christian and moral renewal of life through rebirth is again portrayed as morbid and connected with epilepsy; the deep earnestness of ascetic mysticism is represented as mental derangement and faith as weakness of [48] will. Once more, "infatuation with power" is brought up as a fundamental Christian motive, for the sake of which all manner of "dishonesty and literary forgery", of "lying and self-deception" are said to have sprung up. While occasional cases of subjective veracity are acknowledged, the existence of an intellectual conscience, of a sense of cleanliness is totally denied. What makes our author's wrath flare up most fiercely is his impression that these phenomena add up to a life fading and perishing, a life that in its hostility to existence has painted the world ugly and evil and has even saddled the reproductive instinct with a bad conscience. In particular the belief in immortality is seen as a proper obstacle to life; "Christian pity" is said to imply holding all joys suspect. Over against such heavy charges, what does it mean if "a great balm for the overweary" is conceded to be present in Christianity! And even though Pascal and Madame de Guyon are rated as perfect opposites of the wrongs cited, there do surface already at this period those preposterous misinterpretations of the person of Christ and of the Apostle Paul, according to which it was self-doubt that made Jesus hold out such high rewards to faith and that he ended up on the cross disillusioned about the chimera of his life.

Paul is reproached with having an evil eye for everything filthy and disfiguring. He is portrayed not only as "ambitious to the point of unbounded power-seeking" but as downright "cunning and malicious, sensual and mean". The ascription of such traits reveals so strong an urge to [49] censure Christianity in the sharpest and most pointed way that it becomes clear: a task such as Nietzsche had set himself could give way only before something absolutely unheard of and overpowering. Meanwhile his mightiest religious creation called powerfully for a poetical expression: Zarathustra, the godlike super-Nietzsche as prophet of the eternal recurrence and of the overman.

In August of 1881 the concept of the recurrence took hold of his inner being and wakened to life the Zarathustra slumbering there. But it was only in the winter of 1882/1883 that the first part of that mighty literary work "broke in" on him in such a surprising way and with all the traits of a religious inspiration that the "least residue of superstition" would have sufficed to make him see himself as a "medium of superior powers". He himself calls it a "revelation"--"something that jolted and shattered him to the depths became visible and audible with unutterable sureness and delicacy". It was a "rapture", a "tremendous tension", a "being completely beside myself, yet most distinctly conscious of numberless fine shivers drizzling and trickling all over me right down to the tips of my toes". "It all happens completely involuntarily and yet with a sense of freedom, of unrestrictedness, of power, of godlikeness coming over you like a storm."

Under the impact of such overpowering mystical experiences, the resemblance of which to well-known accounts of states of possession and of spiritualist mediation could not be more conspicuous, each of the first three parts of Zarathustra was composed within three days. It is amazing how completely the book's whole spirit and tone reflects the way it came into being, [50] so that the Zarathustra has often been referred to "as a new Bible".

The fact that in this work the antichrist constantly speaks to us like a prophet of the Old or New Testament is as much due to that strange inspiration as to Nietzsche's shrewd calculation. The so-called "Bible German" is exploited in the most varied ways, special preference being given to allusions to Jesus-words, for example his Beatitudes. In the fourth part this is combined with a downright malicious parody of biblical scenes, in particular the Lord's Supper.

What has brought forth this mighty literary work is once again that "ever so deep-seated" hunger for faith, for enthusiasm, for release from the incessant rule of reason"--a need Nietzsche has pointed to as the strongest influence at just that time. Its basic mood is made clear above all by the teaching about the "overman" (or "superman"), who becomes here more prominent than ever before. In mankind's striving to transcend itself Zarathustra sees a true substitute for God. Again and again he proclaims: "Dead are all the gods! Now we want the overman to live!" "The goal of the earth is the overman." "There was a time when at the sight of distant seas men would say 'God', but now I teach you to say 'overman'. Can you create a god? Then do not speak to me of gods. But what you can create is the overman! However, to bare my heart to you completely, friends: If there were gods, how could I bear not being one myself? So there are no gods. That is the conclusion I have drawn, but now the conclusion is drawing me."

[51] This conscious self-deification led in turn to a more intense antichristian atheism. "It is a shame to pray." "That craven devil within you wants to persuade you: there is a god." "Away with such a god! Rather have no god; rather forge one's own fate; rather be god oneself!" Zarathustra proudly exclaims, "Who is more godless than I?" "Where can I find the likes of me?" From the "retired pope" he receives the right answer, "O Zarathustra, you are more devout than you imagine. Some god within you converted you to your godlessness." Zarathustra keeps throwing out hints regarding the shape this god of Nietzsche's is to take. "I would only believe in a god that knows how to dance. I now look down on myself from above; a god is dancing through me." But the deepest insight of all comes to us from that "ugliest of men", who had become God's murderer, because he could not bear "having God look right through me the whole time". "Man cannot bear to let such a witness live."

Alongside this truth should be set that shattering scene with the sorcerer, whose prayer is so strangely reminiscent of the highschool senior Nietzsche's verses that it cannot but mirror his own deepest experience: "Beset by all torments, I lie prostrate before thee, cruelest of huntsmen, thou unknown god! Hit me again, stab me still deeper! Pierce, break this heart! Do speak at last! Thou, lying in wait for me, what doest thou want of me? Thou unknown being, shrouded by lightnings, speak! What doest thou want, unknown--God? Haha! Me? Thou wantest me, me--wholly? Come back with all thy torments! Come, o come back to the last one of all the lonely! Toward thee flow all the streams of my tears. And my heart's last flame, it flares up for thee! O come [52] back, my unknown God, my torment--my ultimate bliss!"

"The shadow" has good reason to warn Zarathustra, "Beware lest in the end a narrow faith take hold of you, a hard, stern delusion!" If amidst the super-godlikeness of his work on Zarathustra, in March 1883, Nietzsche could write that he "considered his existence an out-and-out failure", if he even felt tempted to "take a rest in the world view of the past", he thereby lets it be known that his farthest remoteness from religion was bound to coincide with a most perilous closeness to its focal point. What a climax his own ecstasy must have reached to make him exclaim, "I love him that disciplines his god, because he loves his god." What a flash of self-recognition when we hear, "O Zarathustra, you have flung yourself up high, but every hurled stone is bound to--fall."

But he is not willing to fall. No, what he wants is to hit out and destroy. More scornfully than ever he turns against everything smacking of piety. He thinks it is by laughter that he can kill most effectively. But a sound so unnatural and convulsive cannot but call forth pity. So blasphemous a parody as that of the "donkey festival" and possibly even worse that dirty rhyme on "the year of salvation one" can only strike one as repulsive. That various freer spirits experience a conversion only serves to arouse in Nietzsche a flaming hatred instead of a rational refutation of his opponents. Once again he alleges that the doctrine of equality is grounded in a desire for vengeance and that this goes hand in hand with maligning the world and burning heretics. For him the church remains the "most deceitful form of a state". Again and again he points [53] to Christianity's supposed enmity toward the earth and contempt of the body; pity and self-annihilation are presented as basic Christian traits. What is of least significance also in Zarathustra are the comments about Christ himself. At one time he appears as a melancholy young man, who met with the death he had sought too early to be able to recant, another time as the great immoderate one who made the common herd bristle up.

Zarathustra indeed opens up deep insights into Nietzsche's religious self-exaltation, and any contact with the old belief in God is resolutely and scornfully rejected; however, the arguments he brings up against Christianity are only the old, familiar ones; they are neither expanded nor buttressed in any significant way,

Writings Leading up to the Main Work

The intervals between work on the various parts of Zarathustra were used for other writings designed to expand and intensify the attacks contained in the Dawn and the Joyous Science. After Zarathustra the "free spirit" must once again have its fling, from now on endowed with a most audacious poetic verve. We are now face to face with Nietzsche's grand scheme to work out, theoretically and scientifically, a comprehensive world view, to be presented in a way both brilliant and orderly. In Beyond Good and Evil and the Genealogy of Morals we have the first specimens of that standard of perfection that all of Nietzsche's previous endeavors [54] were meant to lead up to. As regards the style, a striving to combine highest perfection of diction with scientific sobriety is most conspicuous. But equally manifest is the objective attempt to methodically bring together all the previous main ideas. According to the plan of March 17, 1887, the Beyond and the Genealogy represent, as it were, the most important excerpts from the first two books of the main work--books to be devoted to a critique of man's whole previous way of thinking and living. They were to be surpassed only by the Twilight of the Idols and the Antichrist. But the more prominent the censure of Christianity becomes in these books, the greater one's surprise at meeting in them, too, merely with a reiteration and elaboration of the earlier attacks.

In both the Beyond and the Genealogy the nobility of the Greeks' grateful acceptance of existence is contrasted anew with the Nietzsche-Christian's plebeian fear and self-desecration. We are treated again to a Christianity full of hatred against everything earthly, everything beautiful and strong, a Christianity that deteriorates the race and destroys the zest of life. For Nietzsche, Christian faith denotes from the very outset "sacrifice, enslavement, and self-mutilation". In the eyes of Christianity, weakness is said to mean merit, impotence goodness, and cowardice patience. In Nietzsche's opinion the only religion still being preached today is pity. And for him, pity continues to be the epitome of feebleness and unmanliness. In the same way he can see the ascetic ideal with its poverty, lowliness, and chastity merely as a goal of nothingness, as a protective or curative instinct of degenerate life.

[55] For Nietzsche, man's often vaunted improvement is nothing but enfeeblement and emasculation. "Christianity has given Eros poison to drink. It didn't make him die, but it degenerated him and turned him into vice." In that way ascetic Christianity is said to have had a "fatal impact on Europe's history of mental hygiene". Even though love to men for the sake of God is acknowledged as a holy, venerable thought, even though religion is accorded a high value as a means of education and discipline, all this is insignificant set against the "iniquitous account" of its "uncanny hazardousness".

Even more audaciously than in Human, All-Too-Human the psychological side of religion and Christianity is here harshly accused of being horribly harmful. "With every 'no' one says to oneself, to nature and naturalness one spits out as a 'yes'--to God, the Beyond, etc. It is nothing but a will to torment oneself, it is a terrible illness, a madhouse." "This vivisection of the conscience, this 'cruelty to animals' that men have inflicted on themselves for millennia" must now at long last be uncovered and overcome. Accordingly redemption is portrayed as a "hypnotic sense of nothingness". Christianity is accused of numbing the sick person's depression instead of tackling the illness itself; hence the Christian sense of guilt and redemption is represented as merely "a means of letting one's emotions run riot, of generating terror and raptures". Man has been craving for pain and yet more pain. In this way, according to Nietzsche, man has been more and more weakened and rendered sick, as allegedly proved by epileptic fits during revivals [56] and as every conversion is said to morbidly include lust and cruelty.

What is specially stressed also In these writings is the notion of resentment, the residual vindictiveness of the lower classes, to which vengefulness Christianity is said to owe its origin. According to Nietzsche, in Christianity the slave, the oriental, the Jew has taken terrible revenge on Rome. By this supposed vindictiveness Nietzsche also wants to explain the cruelty evident in Christian threats and demands, and in fact the whole system of Christian ethics, which is said to have classified the wretched as good and the noble and refined as bad. In this way he thinks he can uncover vengefulness, hatred, and cruelty as the basic motives of Christianity, instead of love. On these purely imaginary notions he bases the right to speak with contempt of the New Testament with its "puny sectarianism and conventicular atmosphere" while at the same time giving highest recognition to the "grand style" of the trains of thought found in the Old Testament.

In a somewhat timid attack on Christ himself he ventures to view him as an enthusiast and martyr of unrequited love and considers an "immortal Peter" to be "an unbearable thought", but real disdain he actually reserves for the shallow Christianity of our own days. "I have full respect for the ascetic ideal provided it is sincere. But I dislike the whitewashed tombs." With appreciation and satisfaction he quotes, "It is the church we loathe, not its poison. The church apart, we, too, are fond of poison." With special contempt he lashes out [57] at the pia fraus ("pious fraud") of the churches and points to the utter irrelevance of protestantism at large, which, being totally "offside and outside", with the best will in the world could not possibly understand Christianity.

Hence he believes in the total victory of unconditional atheism, even though he sees the revivals in England and the Salvation Army as menacing powers. God, whom he considers refuted both as a judge and bestower of rewards and as a father, speaks in too unclear and muffled a voice for his liking. He does sense the mighty growth of the religious instinct, but its theistic satisfaction should be met with deepest mistrust. Christianity, he says, ought finally to perish also as a system of morals after dying of its own veracity as a dogma.

But he is extremely conscious of the fact that the Christian ideal has never yet met with a worthy counterpart, with the result that man has been left bereft of meaning and atheists and skeptics have again and again been compelled to pay homage to the old ideal. He himself is so overwhelmed by the impact of really pristine Christianity that he cannot help calling out, "This Jesus of Nazareth, was he not seduction in its most uncanny and irresistible shape?" "Could one possibly imagine something with an enticing, intoxicating, numbing, corrupting power equal to that symbol of the holy cross, to that horrendous paradox of a god on the cross, of an unthinkable, ultimate, extreme cruelty and self-crucifixion of God for the salvation of men?"

[58] But Nietzsche is unwilling to bow down. Rather than doing that, his religious spirit wants to try and outdo Christ. On the "huge ladder of religious cruelties" he wants to climb to the very top. "Time was when man sacrificed to his god first other men, then his own nature and naturalness. But highest of all would be to sacrifice God himself." "To sacrifice God to nothingness!" That is the watchword. And yet in fact not to nothingness! For Nietzsche thinks he has found the missing counter-ideal: the ideal of a man affirming the world, a man that says "da capo" to everything that happens, the ideal of the overman and of unending recurrence. Yet he himself adds the question, "And that would not be a circulus vitiosus deus?" At bottom no one but he himself is to be "the redeeming man of great love and contempt, the creative spirit, who restores to earth her goal and to man his hope, this conqueror of God and of nothingness". For "one alone is entitled to all this: Zarathustra the godless one". We know who this Zarathustra is: Nietzsche, who in his self-exaltation already at this point feels in a position to call himself "the last disciple and initiate of the god Dionysus".

He explicitly regards the "will to power", untrammeled by moralism, as the basis of all existence and action; it approaches its culmination in Nietzsche's own person. In the face of this unbounded will, which affirms evil more than good, his own lips form the question, "Now, putting it informally, does that not mean: 'God has been refuted, but not the devil'?" He himself refers to his "candor" as "his god or his devilry". This curiously religious foolhardiness comes to the fore in an even blunter and crasser way in his last works, in which [59] he finally has to apostrophize himself, "O Zarathustra, thou that knowest thyself! Thou self-executioner!"

The new (1906) edition of the Will to Power on the whole represents no more than a large collection of unpublished aphorisms from the years 1885-1888. Nevertheless, it does contain a great number of pieces that Nietzsche had earmarked for his great work of that title (The Will to Power), for which, as he states himself, the Twilight of the Idols, the Antichrist, and the Ecce Homo were to form, respectively, an excerpt, a principal part, and the preface.

In these writings of his last years Nietzsche becomes more and more outspoken and bold. As he now openly declares, he "wants to have the audacity of being one of the creative ones that bring art and religion right down into things." "To enable him to bear life without God and morality", he has to "invent a counterpart". "The ego wants to give birth to its god and wants to see all men lying at his feet". This god is to be nothing else but "the epitome of power", "conceived as being set free from morality and as having all of life's contradictions crowded within oneself". God as "the greatest immoralist in all his doings", as will to power without goodness and wisdom is to Nietzsche as great a balm as the fact that the Christian, the moral God is said to have become untenable. Being afraid neither of the ridiculous nor the absurd, he feels strong enough to play the devil's advocate, the advocatus diaboli. He believes in the superiority of what is immoral and thus becomes a "rescuer of the devil's honor". He [60] unequivocally avows his "religious, i.e. god-forming instinct", which, he says, has "opened up to him the divine" in the most varied ways. He is ready to believe in the Olympus, but not in the Crucified One.

The fact that he again and again declares that his will is to "heighten the creative man's turbulence" and that he agrees when Plato's Theages avers, "What each of us would like best is to be God"--all this shows the extent to which Nietzsche has conceived his whole world view, so to speak, "as God and after his own image". "Faith in ourselves is the mightiest whiplash and strongest wing." If Christianity's first epoch had made full use of that, "men would have become gods. At that time people were still able to believe." He now wants to "reach out beyond the person, beyond everyday life, society, and reality" in order to "achieve a kind of deification of the body and to surpass everything Christian by something over- or more-than-Christian". What he strives for is a "religious affirmation of life" with all its passions. It is "will to power" instead of bending down before God. "What would there be to create if there were gods?" The watchword is again and again: "Dionysus versus the Crucified One!", the mightiest elaboration of which in the Ecce Homo we have become acquainted with at the beginning. Even though Nietzsche denies being the originator of a religion, he does not eschew calling himself "god" and "Dionysus" and a "destroyer par excellence". "Dionysus--it is well known--is also the god of darkness." "Zarathustra does not hide the fact that the good would call his overman 'devil'".

Inevitably, a furious hatred of [61] Christianity is bound to go hand in hand with such a desperately satanic religiosity, all the more since Christianity had in no way lost its overwhelming power for Nietzsche. Quite apart from his--actually insignificant-- acknowledgments of Christianity's conscientiousness or of its soothing and pedagogic influence on the unruly mob, he cannot keep from testifying that Christ on the cross remains the sublimest of symbols, however much he would rather loathe and detest it. Even in the Ecce Homo "Christians and saints" are seen as "having so disastrous an effect because they are fascinating." "Christianity should never be forgiven for having ruined men like Pascal. One should never cease to fight against just this trait of Christianity that it is bent on breaking down precisely the strongest and noblest souls." According to him, this setting up of an ideal had been the most gruesome seduction man had ever been exposed to, for it threatens the undoing of those exceptional and fortunate cases of a stronger human being, in whom man's inherent will to achieve power and growth takes a step forward. This super-sensitivity for the power of true Christianity--a power Nietzsche himself felt threatened by--drove him to such desperate, frantic efforts of resistance that the writings of his last years are just about inundated by Christian and anitchristian reflections. In spite of that he did not manage to add anything really new to the thoughts already referred to, if one disregards some historical comments of disappointingly little value.

With unending repetition Christianity is portrayed as engaged in war against [62] life and everything natural. The main guilt for this is assigned to its morality, said to be grounded in pity, whereas its statements of belief are considered irrelevant. As regards passions and sensuality, it is said to have met them with nothing but hatred and contempt instead of ennobling them. According to Nietzsche, Christianity has taught men to loathe and desecrate all that is strong and beautiful, while preserving everything weak and sick and actually worsening its condition. With particular acerbity he accuses Christianity of having despised and crippled the body. God and the supposedly true world beyond are presented as having been made up merely for the purpose of negation, as an antithesis to life.

In that fashion men are said to have been mutilated, this taking the form of an ignoble self-degradation and morbid enfeeblement; all cultural values and intellectual work are alleged to have been negated and abrogated. To sum up, Christianity represents nothing but sickness, weakness, [63] and meanness. It becomes a monstrous product of, and contributor to, a dying, decadent life, of which its eudemonism of eternal salvation serves as a prominent sign. Once again Christianity is set before us as an insurrection of hate-filled, low creatures, who have banded together for a treacherous assault on everything strong and commanding. Hence, Christians are portrayed as actors of a most untruthful kind, who with subtle self-deception and presumptuous calumny seek to increase their power. For this purpose they are alleged to have reinterpreted and exploited as religious experiences the most natural physiological sensations. However, against their own will, they are said to have merely promoted Christianity's self-abrogation, which has been going on for a long time already, due to the deceitful mixing-in of countless nonchristian and antichristian elements. [64] As a dogma the Christian religion is again declared discomfited by its own veracity, and its consequent demise as a system of morality is being proclaimed. Now the struggle must be carried on against innumerable spurious after-effects, said to surface in an impossible moralism, a vacuous protestantism, but also in philosophy and art and, last not least, in socialism.

As we follow Nietzsche's whole development, it becomes clear that his attitude to Christianity has its roots in the very beginnings of his thinking and that the main ideas can be traced right back to his first philosophic writings.

The Climax and the Illness

The Antichrist, which forms the basis for the last chapter of this thesis, will similarly turn out to be a summary and exacerbation of thoughts we have already dealt with. The assertion of Nietzsche's sister that in a more tranquil state of mind he would have expressed himself differently, could at most apply to various words of abuse, which, however, turn up also in earlier writings. Similarly, it has been shown that certain references to the benefits of Christianity the sister has laid stress on are always very much hedged about and coupled with acerbic criticism.

Nietzsche's sharp rejection and condemnation of Christianity persisted unchanged from quite early on, but along with it his religious spirit could never deny itself and kept breaking out in ever new ways. Mrs. Förster quite accurately calls him one of the most religious personalities and sees her own [65] feeling expressed in Raoul Richter's enthusiastic comment that in Nietzsche, the denier of God, we have to see a religious type par excellence, possibly the religious type of our time. He showed us the possibility of a religion without cult, without church, without Christianity, without a Beyond, without God. He set before us, and lived out, a religion that affirms life here on earth.

Nietzsche's sister is also right in saying that the churchly religiosity around him was the reason that from his adolescence on he became more and more alienated from Christianity. But she is mistaken about her brother and about Christianity in thinking that it no longer gives grounds for such emphatic warfare against it.

Why did Nietzsche feel such respect and affection for the few that took their Christianity in earnest? Does not his attitude to Pascal demonstrate beyond doubt how powerfully and menacingly he felt confronted by a truly decisive Christianity? Mrs. Förster says herself, "He loved Pascal as one of like mind; he felt his demise as that of a beloved friend--indeed, as a threat to himself." Speaking quite in the sense of the Ecce Homo, Sera perceives in Nietzsche's struggle against Christianity a melancholy yearning, a secret sympathy, even a certain wavering in his resolution, "as though Nietzsche, engaged in killing something extremely precious, was turning the weapon against himself". Even Rohde expressed a misgiving that "with all his overmannish presumptuousness Nietzsche might yet end up prostrating himself before the Cross." [66] Nietzsche himself has declared it probable that at the end of the cycle faith might be waiting, so that it is not surprising for Ziegler, Gallwitz, and Bonus to represent the conviction that the antichrist was already on the way to Christ. It could at any rate never be explained from where Nietzsche derived his harsh evaluation of the "lukewarm present Christianity", if one does not want to trace it back to a truly gigantic struggle with real, genuine Christianity. His frequently mentioned urge to apologize to his friends for his "constant inner wrestling with Christanity" confirms that assumption.

But while his spirit remained alive within him, he did not relinquish the intense struggle. On the contrary, waged from the position of Nietzsche's closed world view, which for ever wants to affirm life with all its passions, sins, and pains as "will to power", this struggle became more and more embittered and the opponent appeared to grow more and more dangerous.

How Nietzsche's dying spirit was engaged to its very last breaths in that strenuous struggle is evidenced by this telegram and short note dated January 2, 1889: "Onward with Ecce!" With respect to this last of his writings, he had shortly ago written to Brandes: "The book is called Ecce Homo and is an absolutely ruthless attempt on the life of the Crucified One. It ends with such thunder and lightning against all that is Christian or Christian-infected that it takes your breath away." Right in the midst of this raging spiritual battle [67] Nietzsche met his fearsome fate. As if voicing some foreboding, he wrote on December 16 to Peter Gast, "I don't see any reason for unduly hastening the tragic catastrophe of my life, which begins with Ecce." On December 18 the first sheet of Ecce was marked "ready for printing"; a fortnight later Nietzsche was to be engulfed by mental derangement.

At the end of December 1888, Nietzsche collapsed on the street in Turin. He was taken to his home, where for two days he just lay on a couch, scarcely moving. The total ruin of this great spirit was evidenced by excessively loud speaking and playing, by the loss of any conception of money, and by rolling about, smirking, on the floor. He would still cover a number of sheets with big, angular letters, telling of his imagining himself to be God, to be Dionysus dismembered by his friends and, newly risen, walking along the bank of the River Po. He does not want to be so egocentric as to bypass the creation of the world because of the professorship in Basel. In his ravings at the piano he utters equally gruesome things about himself as the dead god's successor. He announces his forthcoming arrival as the "crucified one" to King Humbert and to some dignitary of the church. During these days he signs himself in turn as "Dionysus", "Dionysus Zagreus", or as "the crucified". He has carried the struggle between these two religious powers right into his derangement. Signing himself as "crucified" at any rate implies the crushing awareness of having been overcome. In so sick a person one should, of course, not look for clarity as to whether he wanted to give general expression, in line with his philosophy, to his mental and physical breakdown, [68] or whether he wanted to signal his prostration before Christ. His short note of January 4 to Brandes, who had been the first to alert people to Nietzsche's greatness, allows of both conclusions: "Having discovered me made it easy for you to find me. Now the problem is how to lose me. The crucified one."

It is at any rate worth noting that he told his mother that in Turin, where he had been living since 1888, he had studied the whole Bible and had made hundreds of notes. It should also be mentioned that during his illness he often asked to have a certain psalm or Bible chapter read to him. As time went on, his illness took on a more and more quiet character. After being taken to Basel by Overbeck and then by his mother to Jena, already the following year his behavior had become so quiet and harmless that he could be released from the hospital and entrusted to his mother's care. After the death of the mother, who in Naumburg, whenever possible, took a daily walk with her sick son, in 1897 his sister took the beloved brother with her to Weimar and looked after him there until his death on August 25, 1900.

As regards the earlier history of his brain disease, all that can be said here is that it apparently dates back to the time of the Franco-Prussian war. It was then that sleeplessness and headaches began to plague him. At the beginning of 1873 the illness had so worsened that certain "migraine attacks combined with stomach trouble" returned every two or three weeks. After feeling better for a brief period, in December/January 1875/76, as a result of overwork and the excitement about Wagner, he began to suffer from terrible headaches and vomiting of phlegm. Strangely enough, the same symptoms would regularly reoccur on the same date through five winters [69] but unexpectedly failed to materialize in the years 1881/82 and 1887/88. A diagnosis that does not take this striking fact into account will not do justice to the last and worst reoccurrence of the illness in December/January 1888/89. Already in 1875 Nietzsche spoke of his illness as a brain disease. So if his writings are to be considered products of an unsound mind, already The Birth of Tragedy would have to be included!

In 1888, it was not so much the tremendous work load but rather continuous agitation about animosities of all kinds that brought about the final breakdown. As early as in March of that year he wrote, "I have had to swallow too many bad things year in, year out. Nothing is sick, apart from the poor, dear soul!" The sister's opinion that the illness was due to the potent drugs he had to take is buttressed by the sick man's desperate cry, "I take oodles of sleeping pills to numb the pain, and I still can't sleep. Today I am going to take enough pills to turn my head."

Nietzsche, the great affirmer of life, the fighter against everything sick and decadent--he was himself beset by illness: "I am a decadent just as much as Wagner; the only difference being that I became aware of it and struggled against it." "For along with my being a decadent, I am also the antithesis to one." "I have fashioned my philosophy out of my striving for health and for life."

From this viewpoint alone can one really understand Nietzsche. By his constant ill health, his terrible loneliness, and by frequent emotional stress he felt [70] strongly dependent on God and drawn to Christ. But he wanted to stick it out without God and Christianity! He did not, as Pascal did, want to see his sickness as an education leading to God. Rather than that, he wanted to become healthy and strong, he wanted to be and represent something; he wanted to create by his own resources the greatest and highest imaginable; he wanted to form gods--and be god himself. Instead of bending him down, all his disappointments and all his suffering only served to whip him on to an ever higher striving, up into the boundless and infinite.

Who can remain insensitive to the shaking tragedy that his phase of extremist self-aggrandizement, that the day of the supposed liquidation of Christianity, signifying a new beginning for mankind and for time--that the very moment of feeling himself god could not but end in his ruin and derangement!

[71] Third Chapter:


I condemn Christianity, I bring against the Christian church the most dreadful charge any accuser has ever voiced. The church is for me the worst of all imaginable corruptions; it has aimed at the ultimate corruption possible. It has left nothing untouched by its rot; of each value it has made a non-value, of each truth a lie; it has converted every probity into perfidy. -- The Beyond as intended negation of all reality, the cross as identification mark of the deepest underground conspiracy there has ever been--against health, beauty, excellence, bravery, spirit, inward goodness, against life itself . . . I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great deep-down perversion, the one great instinct of vengefulness, for which no means is sufficiently poisonous, clandestine, underground, and petty--I call it the one immortal blot on mankind . . ."

With these words Friedrich Nietzsche summed up the quintessence of the Antichrist, his "revaluation of all values", [72] in a last and most awesome aphorism. He thought that with this terrible assault he had dealt Christianity the last and mortal blow. "And time has been reckoned from that dies nefastus, the beginning day of this disaster, from Christianity's first day! Why not rather from its last day--from today?-- Revaluation of all values!"

With this claim, unheard of and unexampled in all of history, the Antichrist concludes and thereby leaves mankind with the task of examining carefully the grounds for and against this outrageous presumption.

Nietzsche's weightiest charges against Christianity are so completely in the purely philosophic-ethical sphere that the questions concerning the historical personality of Jesus of Nazareth and the impact he had on history, as well as the problems merely touching on God's existence are at bottom quite inconsequential for him. "That we cannot discover any god either in history, or in nature, or behind nature is not what divides us, but rather the fact that what was revered as god has struck us not as "divine" but as pitiable, as absurd, as harmful, not just as an error but as a crime against life . . . We deny God as God . . . If this God of the Christians could be proved to us, we would know even less how to believe in him."

In order to deal unhindered with the great immoralist's purely ethical misgivings as the chief task set for the present examination, we have first to consider his less significant historico-psychological objections.


The Historical and Psychological Objections

As soon as Nietzsche came to see the concept of the Christian God as fundamentally immoral, he necessarily had to uncover among the believers the roots of the moral harm consequent on their value judgment and try to explain the Christian religion as springing from impure motives and sick instincts. The glowing zeal with which he pursued his end appears to have blinded him to his own deep-seated bias and to his entanglement in very obvious contradictions.

On the one hand he searches for the sharpest possible terms in which to accuse Christianity of "perfidy of soul", of "lying" and "forgery", on the other he specially acknowledges the Christians' personal truthfulness. He strongly emphasizes that precisely that genuine Christian veracity had forced the self-abrogation of the dogmas previously held. In acknowledging that he goes so far that he unhesitatingly describes the Christians' scrupulous way of taking the problems seriously as the best preparatory school for science. Such an assessment should have made it impossible for him to accept at face value those mean historical lies and falsifications from the very time when Christianity was at its most truthful and decisive; yet only by these lies does he know how to explain the coming into being of the early Christian writings. His frequent reading of the New Testament should have made him aware how sternly the men in a position to concoct such "pious lies" [74] would have consigned themselves to hell, had they done so (see for example Rev. 21:27). For "outside are all who love and practice falsehood" (Rev. 22:15). Nowhere does the demand for pure sincerity and straightforwardness find a clearer and stronger expression than in the early Christian writings (1 Cor. 5:8; Heb. 10:22). Nowhere in the history of religion has the pia fraus been more sharply rejected than in the saying that no lie is of the truth (1 John 2:21).

Instead of speaking of lying and deceit in the face of such irrefutable testimonies, Nietzsche should have left it at his simple admission that there were few books he had such difficulties in reading as the Gospels.

Objections to Jesus

It is true that in his own way Nietzsche attempted to preserve a high regard for the person of Jesus and to shift the heaviest reproaches on to his apostles. But this required that with an inordinate degree of philological license he abstracted from the historical Jesus a personality that had scarcely anything in common with the original. It is true that he later abandoned his earlier propositions, according to which Jesus, finding his love unrequited, sought death too early and ended on the cross disillusioned about his life. Instead, Jesus has become "the most interesting of all decadents", a "fascinating and touching mixture of the sublime, the morbid, and the childlike", "so to speak a case of regression to infantile spiritualism, incapable alike of either anger, reproof, or self-defence". He posits in Jesus "a morbid susceptibility to irritation and suffering" perceived as supersensitive nervousness or even [75] epileptoid neurosis, and from this attempts to deduce a hatred for everything real and natural, an abrogation of all distances and antitheses, and an utterly feeble modesty, which relinquishes all claim to any kind of significance.

This approach, which twists the image of Jesus into its very opposite, not only reproaches the early Christians in a most absurd way with cultivating a deceitful "perfidy of soul – this kind of arbitrary "disabusal" leaves Jesus himself a totally incomprehensible problem.

True, Nietzsche considers himself, with his "liberated spirits", to be the first in a position to understand Jesus' "passionate rectitude", "which wages war on the holy lie more fiercely than on any other". But then he should have realized above anything else that such a man could not possibly entrust his work to men who, in Nietzsche's view, then immeasurably exceeded and outdid every preceding pious lie.

Strangely enough, the very traits of character that Nietzsche insists on passing off as fictitious have been most emphatically affirmed as historical by such radical critics as Wrede and Bousset. One conclusion any sober historian is bound to come to is that Christ knew himself sharply opposed to all halfhearted and flabby attitudes in religion and morality, to every kind of fraudulent or power-seeking handling of religious matters. Nietzsche says quite rightly that Jesus rejected the priest-instinct and the church-system, that he incited the pariahs and sinners to oppose the prevailing morality and religion. In [76] The Will to Power he states this insight in the words, "The church is precisely what Jesus preached against and taught his disciples to combat." Therefore his disciples were right in portraying him as the "deadly enemy of priests and theologians". Nietzsche himself thus confirms that Jesus was bound to be acutely aware of being engaged in a struggle with this most powerful of all the forces of Judaism. His life of outspoken opposition to priests and liberals, to the most pious as well as the most permissive was one single vigorous and determined campaign against them all, a war to the death--to death on the cross.

With Jesus surely even more than with the author of Ecce Homo it was "no respecting of persons when he attacked". Love for all was the fundamental trait of his character, so much so that he could not deny this love for one moment even to those who had him crucified. But this was not the feeble love that is prompted by fear of pain nor the last avenue of life open to a hypersensitive soul. Jesus demonstrated an unparalleled readiness and courage to suffer and die, an unparalleled power to resist all others and to endure the pain inflicted by them. Jesus possessed in the highest degree that love of which Nietzsche rightly says that a man must be firmly grounded in himself to be able to dispense it. It was love as a sharing of inexhaustible wealth, love springing from an abundance of strength. Neither with Christ nor with his true followers did this saving love have anything to do with some instinct for exciting the curiosity of Parisian ladies; [77] rather, it was love expressed in saving action, in manly and effective help, the love practiced in a weaker form by every high-minded physician, the love that a strong-minded educator endeavors to actualize on the basis of clear principles. It never made Jesus overlook what set him apart from other men (Matt. 11:27; John 14:6). Far from removing that distance, the unrelenting truthfulness of his love rather served to greatly widen it. Arising as it did from inner strength and truth, this love could often only express itself in sharp anger at evil and baseness (Mark 11:15-19). With unerring certainty and candor it lashed out at the awful evils Jesus saw around him (Matt. 23:13-35). No one has ever equaled him in the way he identified sin as the terrible root of all decadence and as the power distancing God from man (Matt. 5:20; 6:24; John 8:34).

Equally certain, however, was that his joyful message consisted in the factual abolition and elimination of sin (John 8:36). This very point was the apex of his tremendous claim that only in his person is it possible to overcome the fearful power of sin and to bridge the terrifying gulf (John 14:6; Matt. 11:27). True, the faith he proclaimed and demanded for this overcoming did not consist in either dogma or emotion. Rather, what he brought and demanded was action involving man's entire being, a person-to-person relationship (Matt. 7:24-27; 11:28; 16:24). Just as he had totally spent himself for the sake of each individual, so he now expected each individual to make a radical and unequivocal decision for him and him alone (Matt. 6:24; Luke 9:60-62). Just as he had [78] to act, and was able to – by instinct, Nietzsche says – so everyone who loses himself in him receives the glorious new ability to live as he did, and if need be, to die as he did. In the eyes of the pious of those days, this "holy anarchist" could not but end as a criminal "on account of his guilt", and the truth and vitality of his assertions has been demonstrated by the fact that at all times the few who have really put them into practice have been persecuted with the same fanatical hatred.

Jesus was so far from abolishing that distance that a key element of his thought was actually the necessity of stirring into fiercest conflict a tremendous antithesis: the irreparable fissure between the few who were ready to live entirely for God and in unbroken relationship to Jesus, and the mass of half-hearted, steeped in religiosity and godlessness (Matt. 7:13-14). Those whom Jesus alone recognizes as Christians have never been allowed to make use of powder and shot, lawsuits and litigations in fighting this struggle (Luke 9:54-55; Matt. 5: 25, 38-42; 26:51-52). And yet, like no one else Christ was entitled to declare that he had not come to bring peace but a sword (Matt. 10:34-37). By condemning with devastating sharpness the immeasurable and unfathomable hypocrisy of the pious (Matt. 23:13-35; Luke 11:39-52; 20:45-47) and by holding out damnation even to the most deeply spiritual among his followers if their deeds did not agree with his words (Matt. 7: 21-23), he truly created antitheses and chasms [79] liable to fan the hatred of the condemned into the white heat of fanaticism.

Far from pronouncing all men to be children of God, he rather summoned everyone without distinction to come out of the dominion of the devil and be converted to God (John 8:44; Acts 26:18). The Sermon on the Mount and the Gospel of John should by themselves sufficiently prove to every thinking person that Jesus Christ's war against the religious-minded was as fierce as Nietzsche's religiosity was antichristian. Equally much as the religion of the "dear, kindly God", in which everyone is God's child, is Nietzsche's religious self exaltation diametrically opposed to Jesus' teaching that only those few can come to the Father who have turned wholly and consistently to his son.

Whoever has Christ's courage to testify in word and deed to this radical view of things, in the face of all religiousness and godlessness, has thus taken up a sword that cuts deeper than bone and marrow (Hebr. 4:12); he has thrown down a gauntlet that will henceforth leave him no rest from any quarter (Matt. 10: 34-37); he has gone on a campaign he can carry through only if he is ready to follow his leader right to the end.

Jesus was able to take on his conscience such a profound and shattering upheaval of all things only because he was imbued with a conviction and a claim that have to be termed boundless. Jesus' inconceivable self-awareness (Matt. 24:35; 26:63-64), beside which the [80] hyper-inflated presumptions of Nietzsche fade away like childish dreams, can only be explained on the assumption that Jesus was completely sure of the unique religious and historical role that, according to the testimony of his disciples, he in fact claimed for himself. Only the inward certainty of being prophet and Messiah enabled him to call so sharply to account the religion of precisely the most highly regarded among the pious. Only by knowing himself son of God and judge of the world could he accept with such calm assurance the death sentence consequent on his witnessing to that self-awareness (Matt. 26:63-64). Only seeing his own person as men's one possibility of salvation enabled and obliged him to speak those sharp words that Nietzsche, viewing them from his erroneous premise, declares fictitious (Mark 6:11; 9:42,47; Matt. 6:15). Only by really believing that his influence would determine the course of the world could he make with such unerring assurance the easily tested promise that the material needs of his followers would be supplied (Matt. 6:33). Only by definitely reckoning with his personal return was he able to instill in his disciples such confident expectancy and assurance of victory (John 16:19,20,22,23);.

The whole inner attitude of Jesus, which at one stroke solves all the problems of his personality, can only be understood if we grasp with all its implications its most natural factor, a factor emphasized also by Nietzsche: Jesus was wholly grounded in the Jewish history of revelation. What he rejected was not this history but rather its adulteration by priestly power-seeking on the part of both the Jewish [81] orthodoxy and the theological liberalism of the time (Matt. 5:17-48l Mark 12:18-27). Instead of trying to understand the clearly delineated figure of Jesus within the historical framework in which he grew up and died, Nietzsche, like many others, attempted to fathom who he was and what he stood for from the perspective of his own religious and philosophical development. The mighty claim of Jesus becomes visible with due precision only in the context of the Old Testament writings--the only soil from which it could have arisen. Unless we grasp the peculiar relationship of this unique personality to the Old Testament on the one hand (Matt. 5: 17-48; Mark 12:18-27) and to the inner circle of the disciples (Luke 10:16) on the other, we can never and in no way do justice to it.

It amounts to a total negation of Jesus' true character to suppose that he whose words were never to pass away (Matt. 24:35), who would rather see heaven and earth dissolve than let the least fraction of his words or of the law and the prophets be lost (Matt. 5:18) -that this most deeply spiritual proponent of the letter would have demanded as a "precondition" that "no word should be taken literally". What made his demands and demarcations so peculiarly exacting was the fact that he required unconditional subjection to every one of these words and refused any follower who would not comply (Matt. 7: 21-23). The sole content of his followers' action and conduct – and Nietzsche, too, emphasized this as the key point of Christian life – was that through total dedication to his person in terms of what he said and did, through unconditional trust in his [82] promises, they were to live in the obedience of faith (John 11:40; Rom. 1:5, 15:18, 16:26; 2 Cor 10:5). In this sense the true life indeed had to begin here and now (John 20:31; 1 John 5:12), though in the power of the certain expectation of another and equally real life (John 5:29), of which we shall yet have to speak.

Jesus indeed placed the greatest value on man's inner being (Matt. 15:19), but never without clear reference to man's existence as a whole, including its physical aspect, and to the totality of the "real" world around us. Just as all his words were to denote exactly what every Jew was bound to understand by "God", "kingdom", "son of God", and "'return", so, too, as we shall see, everything in nature, space, and time was for him solidest reality. Precisely his conception of marriage, so misunderstood by Nietzsche, according to which, a married couple being one flesh (Matt. 5:31,32; 19:26), adultery in fact is tantamount to divorce, shows most deeply his sense of reality. In the same way his words about obligations to the government (Matt. 5:26; 22:17; 21), or about the beauty and majesty of nature (Matt. 6:28), as well as his constant rendering of help to the sick and hungry, show how wrong Nietzsche was to deny him any sense of reality.

Since the strongest proof of Jesus' affirmation of reality--his earthly-material hope for the future--will be set against Nietzsche's chief accusation later on, the only quality left to mention here is the kingly dignity and healthy assurance with which he faced every malicious jibe, every cruel blow, and the certainty of death itself. [83] This makes it impossible to explain his unheard-of self-assurance as a nervous defect or naivete. The confident courage with which Jesus--without any trace of agitation, as Nietzsche himself remarked--"did not ward off the final crisis but actually precipitated it"; the joyful affirmation of life with which he kept holding out the prospect of his bodily return (Matt. 20:64); his simple and natural way of living and speaking – all this should suffice to convince anyone for good that we do not have before us a weakly decadent or a "case of spiritualized infantilism" but the "son of man", the quintessential "super" or "over-man"--man as he is meant to be, endowed with manly strength and unblemished purity.

The most remarkable thing is that by pointing out what he regards as the essential characteristics of healthy humanity and of the "overman", the "antichrist" in fact acknowledges Jesus to be such an overman. He speaks of him as "probity become instinct and passion". He depicts him as the antagonist of degenerative instinct, who waged war on "personal vainglory", on "the holy lie", and on the "church hierarchy", as the "holy anarchist", "plotting the downfall of priests and theologians". And, finally, we hear from the "antichrist's" own lips this most trenchant truth about the only overman known to history: "Jesus set up a real life, a life in the truth, over against the ordinary life". This is in fact how he stands before us: the [84] redemptive man of great love and conquering power, the creative spirit, this "midday bell-stroke" calling for the great decision, who sets the human will free again, who gives back hope to man and to the earth her goal: Jesus.

Objections to Paul and the Apostles

This overman who was able to look equally through Pharisees and Sadducees, through "saints" and sinners, right into their most secret recesses, could choose for his disciples only those men best and most purely able to transmit his truths to mankind. Persons thus selected by the greatest of men would never have tolerated among them a Paul such as Nietzsche wants to portray him for us, who, full of vengeful instincts, untruthful and domineering, is out to found a new priesthood. That recognition should help us to assess the significance of the incontestable documents, in which the original apostles explicitly confirm Paul in his calling and appoint him for mission work among the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7,9). It has been pointed out repeatedly that without true factual material and without the united witness of the original churches Paul's statements about the death and resurrection of Jesus would not have been possible. The immediate protest of the original apostles, among whom especially James and John have given proof of their strictness in this respect, would have meant the end of Paul as a Christian propagandist. A closer examination of his words makes immediately clear that, just [85] like the original apostles, he knew he bore within himself the whole Christ with all his words and deeds and proclaimed him. In addition to the above-mentioned agreement with the original apostles, this fact is mainly substantiated by his quoting from the Lord's words (1 Thess. 4:15; 1 Cor. 14:37), especially the report about the Lord's supper (1 Cor. 11:23), the authentic eye-witness account of the risen Lord (1 Cor. 15:4-8), and finally the repeated reference to him as a human example (Phil. 2:5; Gal. 3:1). Nietzsche's total loss of a calm historical perspective to the extent of regarding the apostles as "moral cretins" and Paul as a "hate-driven counterfeiter" cannot dispose of these facts.

The suspicions and slanders he hurled at Paul all prove unfounded when examined point by point. No psychology, however sly, can purloin from Paul his hymn to love (1 Cor. 13). His entire testimony, manifesting everywhere a devoted effort to save and gladden at least some of both Jews and Gentiles (1 Cor. 9:20-21: Rom 9), could not be more genuine. As we see Paul determinedly spreading his message everywhere with manly courage, while at the same time soberly plying his trade, it is equally hard to explain how such a man full of vigor can possibly be represented as a nervously ill weakling. By constantly risking his head as he calmly faces prefects and priests, officers and fanatics, he himself sufficiently refutes Nietzsche's attempts to portray [86] Christians as timid hypocrites, hiding in corners. How far Paul was removed from excited agitation or a fantastic urge for martyrdom is shown by his appeal to the emperor (Acts 25:11) and by his taking a stand on his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:25-27).

Nietzsche's claim that Paul and the Christian movement represent nothing but a cunning Jewish revolt against Rome, born of resentment, is indeed preposterous; nevertheless one cannot agree when it is cited by Möbius as proof that his brain disease had already taken its effect. Nietzsche never conjectured that there was a deliberate Jewish plan, in which the crucifixion of Jesus represented a kind of land mine planted against Rome, in the expectation that the Christians' subversive activities would then fully undermine the Roman state. But he did believe that there was among the decadents a non-deliberate instinct, an unconscious urge to surreptitiously suck the mighty dry.

What remains to be demonstrated then is that Christianity has never been a "Jewish conspiracy" to "spread sickness and falsehood". In actual fact, original Christianity pursued the very opposite purpose; it offered the one real possibility of sustaining and invigorating everything strong and healthy in men's being and to save and renew what is feeble and dying. It is far from true that the Christian congregations were composed of society's rejects. True, they did offer rescue and support to even the most down-and-out folk so as to help them become renewed, strong-willed persons (1 Cor. 6:10-11). But just as the original apostles belonged to the soundest and most vigorous elements among the population, just as Paul was an acknowledged, highly educated genius, so the Christian congregations did quite [87] generally have strong and noble elements among them (Rom. 16). Believing as they did in an aristocracy consisting in perfect newness of life, offering equal strength to all, they were as far from harboring vengeful feelings toward the strong and noble (1 Tim. 2:2: 1 Peter 2:17) as they were from regarding outward refinement as a reason for higher rank in the life of the church (James 2:1-7).

Continuing research does tend to justify Nietzsche's assertion that Christianity's history has produced an ever crasser misunderstanding of its original character, but his contention that already the apostles called and confirmed by Jesus himself completely reversed his teaching has proved totally unfounded. While somebody like John was still around, who had the greeting of peace refused to any bearer of alien elements (2 John 10-11) and who threatened anybody appending anything at all to the words of Christ and his apostles with inward exclusion from the Master's promises (2 John 9; Rev. 22:18-19), alien powers could not gain the ascendancy in the life of the church community.

Objections to the Church

However, Nietzsche was totally right in asserting that the church is constructed of the very opposite of the Gospel, as "an abominable mishmash of Greek philosophy and Judaism, of asceticism, hierarchical rank, etc."'. "Each time Christianity spread out into still broader and cruder masses, it became yet more imperative to vulgarize and barbarize it." [88]

Nietzsche rightly recognized that four foreign elements have come to dominate Christianity as a general religion: Judaism, Platonism, asceticism, and the mystery cults. In primitive Christianity there was an orderly church life, with members having equal rights and able to unfold freely all their gifts and powers (1 Cor. 10-14). But already in the old Catholic period (up to A.D. 180) a well established priesthood and a moralizing legalism came into being, which was bound to radically negate and cancel the life-giving impact of Jesus. While the writings of primitive Christianity had kept completely clear of Greek philosophy, Origenes (185 254) totally dissolved Christian thoughts in Platonic conceptions, and even before that, Justin (d. 165) and his apologists had identified Christianity with philosophy.

In the apostolic churches baptism and the Lord's Supper were simple avowals of an active faith in the death of Jesus and the unity of his Church (Rom 6:1-4; 1 Cor. 10:17; 11:26). But before long, under the influence of pagan cults like the Mithraic and other mysteries, there developed a magical and sacramental church service with a ceremonial piety, which inevitably pushed conversion and the practice of a Christian life more and more into the background. These cults were also the source of a negative asceticism and other- worldliness, completely alien to early Christianity with its concrete hope for the earth (Matt. 5:5) and its commitment to the body (Rom 13:14).

Thus it has come about that "Christianity consists in moods and ceremonies" but in real life "acts just like everybody else", so that through "this despicable mendacity" we have earned "the contempt of Arabs, [89] Hindus, and Chinese". True, the Reformation strove to free men from these preponderant non-Christian powers within the church in almost all the points mentioned and to return to apostolic Christianity. But it obviously did not get beyond feeble beginnings and brought forth nothing more than a kind of reformed Catholicism: it never fought through to a real liberation and return to original Christianity. Down to this day Judaism prevails in all the churches by way of moralism and priesthood. Down to this day original Christian thought remains perverted into its opposite through the Platonism of theology. The sacraments, administered by priests and parsons, with their mood of incense and organ music continue to triumph over the necessity of a real Christian life and over the clear perception of a church of Christ set completely apart. And perhaps worst of all, even among earnest Christians of today, instead of a joyful, virile mastery of the world, asceticism and self-castigation are regarded as the Christian ideal. "'Christianity' should not be confused with that one root from among its several roots. The other roots have proved far stronger."

It is not just that Protestantism represents the "hemiplegia [partial paralysis] of Christianity", an "impure and tedious form of decadence". Much more significant is Nietzsche's insight that true Christianity can tolerate no alliance with politics and governmental tactics, that it can in no way be the general religion of a people. Instead of working toward this hypocritical fantacism, the first and true witnesses of Christ centered their attention solely on the salvation and radical reconstitution of individuals; [90] only after having undergone such a rebirth could they find a place in the church community. Any sort of fellowship with the worldly masses, particularly in religious matters, was completely out of the question (2 Tim. 3:2-5; 2 Cor. 6:14-18). Only the sudden corruption of the early churches, against which already Paul and John had to fight, made possible the about-turn into the later church-system, this deceitful negation of original Christianity.

But this fact in no way brought about the self-annulment of Christianity; on the contrary, it represented the historical confirmation of what Christ and the apostles had foretold (Matt. 7:15-23; 24:24; Jude). The great reactions throughout history, which, for all their frequent one sidedness and error, have again and again drawn from the one spring of Christian truth, demonstrate right down into modern times that the elemental power of real Christianity, in spite of all the distortion and enmity it has been exposed to, has never been extinguished.

Nietzsche's prophesying the impending demise of this unique phenomenon of history will not impede the victorious course of actual and true Christianity, which, it is true, will always be restricted to a few, according to the words of its founder (Matt. 7:13-14).

The Philosophical and Ethical Charges

Nietzsche knew very well what he was up against; hence in what he called an "honest duel" of "equal forces" he summoned all his powers to lay low the opponent whose tremendous strength he recognized.

He believed himself in possession of weapons no man before him had ever wielded: the revaluation of all values. The essence of his attack, his [91] decisive reproach, is contained in two words: decadence and negation of life – these he sees as the basic elements of the entire Christian movement: a disease that has progressed to the point of hating life.

The Charge of Decadence

That is why Nietzsche lays such stress on the assertion (already refuted in the foregoing) that the early Christian congregations had represented an "aggregate of rejected and cast-off elements of all kinds". If he had had an eye for the amazing abundance and variety of spiritual gifts that every apostolic epistle assumes and demands (1 Cor. 12), if he had reflected on the high spiritual level necessary for the understanding of these writings – unfortunately so rare in our times – he could never have spoken of a party of "the lower classes and of failures". True, in the eyes of the world there were not many noble, not many wise who dared to belong to the Church (1 Cor. 1:20 ff). In the face of the severe persecution of the Christians, it required an eminent maturity of determination and strength of character to dare to make the decisive declaration of loyalty to Christ, particularly when in an exposed social position. The relative scarcity of such persons--though they actually did amount to quite a number all told--was to Paul a proof that in most instances worldly wisdom and power are in the eyes of God – that is, in truth – foolishness and weakness. Or, to put it in Nietzsche's terms, they have become downright decadence.

This fundamental insight accounts for the fact that genuine Christianity seeks out everywhere, from among [92] the wealthiest and the poorest, the most gifted and the dumbest, the strongest and healthiest as well as the feeblest and sickest, only those individuals that have the real will, and hence, through Christ, the possibility of being reconstituted into strong and victorious personalities. The Christian "doctrine of equality", which demands the same right for all, consists solely in this deep insight into the inmost nature of man's will.

The Christian is much too deeply aware of his wealth (1 Cor. 1:5; Phil. 4:12), with its dominion over life and death, to nurture the least feeling of envy or revenge toward privileged persons of any kind. The Christian movement knew of no reason why it should have represented a "vengeful revolt of the plebeians against the patricians". It had no grounds for siding with the weak and disadvantaged. It had so few points of contact with anarchism and revolutionary social democracy that it never even raised the least objection to slavery of an ideal, patriarchal character (see letter to Philemon). On the contrary, the early-Christian writings always vigorously insisted on showing due respect and discharging legitimate obligations to the authorities (Rom. 13:1). They fully acknowledge the prerogative of worldly jurisdiction, even as regards capital punishment (Rom. 13:1-7). But they do want to keep the Christian element from getting mixed with those things; they want to prevent any intermingling of Christian activities with political factors.

Thus true Christianity could never have the intention, or harbor any instinctive tendency, of undermining [93] cultural elements of either a secular or religious character. It wields its spiritual sword for the one purpose of rescuing the few integral persons it can find from the whole worldly-religious, pagan-Christian mishmash and to transform them into all round dependable, upright characters, The actualization of its principles is tied to ideals so lofty and at the same time involving such incisive practical consequences that any alien and half-hearted elements have to be excluded from the close togetherness of those reborn in Christ (1 Cor. 5:9-13).

One can only understand a Christian--his whole attitude to life and his outreaching activity--if one recognizes Christianity as constituting a mighty and highly exclusive aristocracy on a most democratic basis. In reality it represents the exact opposite of the decadent image Nietzsche has drawn of it. In no way can a Christian be described as "the sick animal 'man'", as "incurable physiological degeneracy"; on the contrary, true Christianity's amazing power to completely renew a man and make him whole furnishes an irrefutable "proof of strength".

Natural life with its physiological factors forms of course the indispensable basis for every change in man's life. But Christianity's salient claim is precisely that these bodily elements are taken possession of by Christ and in his person become fused into healthy, vigorous newness of life. There is not the least hint in New-Testament Christianity of any psychological break-down and intoxication methods. It never practiced a "morbid [94] inquisition of the conscience" through incessant "criticism of one's own sin". Rather, it demanded and promised an awareness of being "dead to sin" through a close relationship to Christ (Rom. 6:11), leading to a life in which sin is negated and disregarded. The "feeling of pleasure", too, which, as a "sensation of redemption", Nietzsche considered a potent expression of Christianity, has in genuine Christian circles never been made the goal of religious activities. Even where in fact, due to a firm grounding in Christ, a man is granted quiet and lasting happiness, he considers this a mere unsought side effect. Least of all can he be said to serve Christ motivated by a thirst for reward or a eudemonism of salvation: on the contrary, he would, like Paul, be so imbued with his living Lord and his plan of salvation that for his Lord's sake he would also be ready for any condemnation (Rom. 9:3).

It is from this position that one can recognize the character of "Christian love", which Nietzsche wants to base on the lowest instincts, to the effect that "for the gratification of the women's ardor a beautiful saint, and to please the men the figure of Mary has been placed right in front". This psychology may indeed apply to masses of pious Catholics and to many a mystic, old and modern, but it has nothing whatever to do with primitive Christianity. What ruled in its ranks was the conception of love proclaimed and lived out by the Crucified One--a love presupposing not effeminate softness but steely manliness. Just as Jesus applied the knife to the wound with calm clarity, so, too, the love and faith of his [95] true adherents has never taken the form of erotic feelings or morbid agitation but that of the vigorous life of a strong personality expressing itself in morally unwavering deeds. True, Christ has been loved by all members of his church, loved with their whole being. However, the picture they have before their inner eye is not a "beautiful saint" or "sweet little Jesus" but Christ the king, ruler of the world and coming lord, whom they expect with manly reverence and vassal loyalty. Borne by this strong awareness of their mighty lord and head, their love has proved itself by total obedience to his words, by courageously sticking out their necks and putting their existence at risk.

Similarly, their love to their fellow men shows no trace at all of the features Nietzsche wants to ascribe to it. In the New Testament we do not find a single word of the "pity morality" Nietzsche considered particularly enfeebling. Certainly, a Christian feels the same compassion for an imbecile cripple as for a brash and cocky person in perfect health. For him nobody is excluded from the renewing work of grace so that he will offer his help equally to both. With inexhaustible riches at his disposal, he has enough strength left over for showing active love to all, so that the possibility of rescuing every single individual places this grandest of aristocracies on a most democratic footing. Seeing in Christianity a religion of pity or an acknowledgment of the so-called "good person" amounts to confusing the general "religion of the dear, kindly God", as presented by today's Christianity, with its one root: the original Christianity of Jesus and his apostles. Each of his [96] true followers would, like Nietzsche, have to see the effeminate pity shown by a "good person" as a vice (Matt. 5:29-30; 8:22).

For an independent, whole Christian may never "conserve misery' and waste his badly needed strength on unworthy persons, who give no evidence of a will to become new men through Christ. As he sees things, it is the devil (2 Cor. 4:4) he would be supporting if he were to promote ruin and corruption by giving financial assistance to, say, an inwardly unapproachable drunkard or a self-righteous pious person. But where some such decadent is earnestly determined to change, the Christian will be only too happy for such an opportunity to demonstrate his Christ's tried and tested power to renew and reconstitute in every respect, down to every nook and corner of their personality, even the most depraved characters.

Deeply aware as he is of that antithesis, the Christian cannot feel disappointed by any inward or outward suffering his fellow men may inflict on him. Rather, he sees all this as a downright privilege (Matt. 5: 11-12; Luke 6:23; James 1:2; Rom. 8:18; 1 Peter 4:12), which he again and again affirms with joyful gratitude, and from every struggle he emerges strengthened. Nothing can make him fear and tremble, least of all the mighty dark powers he can recognize behind his human foes, for he knows they are beaten and conquered for good (Rom 8:31-39).

Thus it has been demonstrated that in more than one sense original Christianity constitutes a most perfect aristocracy. Its strength of character with its morally vigorous energy showed itself most clearly in the way it proved more than equal to all hostility and danger (Rom. 8:31-39). A most active and lively spirituality (1 Cor. 14:20; Phil 1:9) went hand in hand with a strong emphasis on bodily health (1 Cor. 6:15, 19-20; Phil. 1:20). The early Christians' life was marked by a sharp separation from unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14-18) and by a being raised up [97] from the level of decadence and degeneracy to a life with God through his son--all this to be crowned by the complete redemption of the body (Rom 8:23; Phil. 3:21) and by receiving dominion over this earth (Matt. 5:5; 2 Tim. 2:12).

Pure and genuine Christianity is so far removed from expressing or promoting decadence, from being a party of the common herd and of feebleness, that it deserves but one designation: It is the matchless aristocracy of strength.

The Charge of Enmity to Life

At this point Nietzsche's overall attack may already be taken as refuted. If, going still further, he presumes to assert that Christianity calls true whatever is most harmful to life and condemns as false everything that upgrades, increases, affirms, and justifies life, it has to be said that the reverse is true: Christianity represents a consistent condemnation of all death-dealing powers and a most joyful affirmation of life and of material reality.

Much more decisively than Nietzsche has it declared war on all deathly powers in nature and mankind; much more deeply than he ever did has it avowed its conviction that men are decadent and increasingly corrupt in every way, also in a purely physiological sense (Rom. 3:10-18; 5:12). As the deepest cause of this alarming situation it uncovers the most serious of all facts, from which Nietzsche tried vainly to shut himself off: mankind's abysmal alienation from God. In spite of his constant fierce attacks on the conscientiousness with which Christianity faces the problem of sin, Nietzsche grudgingly acknowledges [98] its attitude to be a genuinely truthful one. The Christian recognition that everything dirty and impure is sin and guilt is indeed the decisive mark of a real sense of the truth. Did not Friedrich Nietzsche, whose pursuit of "God or devilry" labeled itself "honesty", go down to defeat also in this struggle because he could not bring himself to be so truthful as to admit his sin and weakness? In vain did he make a show of strength by denouncing remorse and qualms of conscience as pitiable weakness and, in conjunction with that, by branding the Christians' "conceited humility" as utterly disgraceful.

He did see quite clearly that the "true church" has once and for all taken its stand on the one side, while the remainder, the world, is ranged on the other (1 John 5:19). But the reason for that is not the vain conceit that "the world turns around me" but the deeply founded conviction of having been lifted out of decadence and sin by the recognition and possession of the truth (John 8:31-36). Strangely enough, the same Nietzsche, who in Zarathustra and in Ecce Homo appears as a prophet of the truth and has merely his own "genius" as a guarantee of his hypotheses and revelations, treats conviction as identical with lying and declares truth and belief in truth to be opposite worlds. The inimitable certainty and consistent conclusiveness with which the biblical authors speak of the highest and deepest matters and take their stand on God's revelation ought to have compelled Nietzsche to pay more objective attention to that claim. The certainty of this truth, which Nietzsche, ignoring its [99] true spirit and in contradiction to his usual assessment, pronounces a "lie at all costs" and a "veto against science", provides a Christian with the clearest and deepest solution to even the most pressing problems.

One important example demonstrates most clearly how the later so-called Christian religion has again and again muddled and reversed the above-mentioned solution of all problems given in genuine, original Christianity. It was not, as Nietzsche maintains, part of early Christian faith that everything that happens is sent by divine providence and ultimately turns out for the best. On the contrary, original Christian faith represents the conviction that two opposing principles are locked in combat for a certain time in the sphere of the earth. It explains the death-dealing powers on earth as evidence of the destructive frenzy of Satan, whom it sees as the prince that has fallen away from God. It detects Satan's activity on the earth ruled by him in all the vile and lying forces that pervert and choke life, that threaten to drag everything into the mud and destroy it (Matt. 12:24-26; John 8:44; 12:31). What primitive Christianity regards as of the devil (1 John 3:8-10) is alone death and its perfidious powers of destruction, whereas it strives in every way to affirm and exalt life.

All the qualities and traits that Christianity condemns and excludes bear on their forehead the mark of death. Are not the cowardly and faithless (Rev. 21:8), the drunkards, fornicators and homosexuals (1 Cor. 6:9), swindlers and sorcerers (Rev. 21:8; 22:15) precisely those castaways and derelicts of society that Nietzsche wants to combat as poisons to life? What Christianity rejects is rottenness of character, whether in the form of licentiousness and debauchery (Rom. 13-14) or in that of half-heartedness and weakness (Matt. 6:22-24; Rev. 3:15-17). [100] These are the factors that make for the destruction of life. Christianity is the most consistent condemnation of all death-dealing powers.

This fact casts a clear light on Nietzsche's greatest and most fundamental error, which is to see Christianity as a moral religion, a system of morality. Obviously, true Christianity offers its members a practical way of living and acting. However, in spite of the maxims for living the great Immoralist set up himself, he overlooks the fact that it makes a decisive difference whether man's actions are determined by a moral law or by a living power. Christ demands a better righteousness than the moral system of the Pharisees was able to offer (Matt. 5:20). He is the end of the law (Rom. 10:4) because a clear, determined relationship to him contains also the energy for a right, strong will and action (Matt. 7:21-27; John 5:40). As soon as grace comes to reign, sin ceases to rule (Rom. 6:14), and grace consists in man's bearing within himself, as his very own possession and real living power, the one personality able to save: Jesus.

"Only totally whole personalities can love." "Ah, my friends, put your whole self into what you do; that is where I see the worth of your virtue". "A man must be firmly seated, must stand bravely on both legs, or he cannot love at all". In words like these our antichrist identifies himself with the Christian ideal of the free, strong, and whole personality. This is how the attitude to life Jesus demands, the strength and maxim he offers should be understood. Before there can be any thought of a generalized love of our neighbor, or any talk of a whole hearted love of God, there must be a rebirth of character (John 3:3-7; Rom. 5:4-5); man's self must be gathered up into [101] a total, undivided, unbroken relationship to Jesus. "Whoever does not hate father and mother is not worthy of me" (Luke 14:26). "Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead" (Matt. 8:22). Jesus is so far from seeing a "value in itself" in the "un-selfing morality" and "depersonalization" of a general love of one's neighbor, that he actually summons the individual to leave behind all that feebly fizzling general love to men and develop the strength of his own personality. A man that dedicates himself and everything he has to Jesus, who accepts Jesus and everything he is and says, has gained that relationship to him that means rebirth.

Nietzsche himself once saw correctly that altruism is not Christian by origin. What comes first in Christian life is the egotism of complete concentration on oneself in order to have one's own personality saved and reconstituted by Jesus. But once a man stands firmly on both feet, once he has become whole, then he can and must love. Instead of getting rid of one's self ("unselfing"), the unfolding growth of new life, expressed in free, vigorous activity, becomes the goal of life. Far from pity, impotence, diffident lowliness, and cowardice being the motivating forces behind this love, there is an awareness of unheard-of strength and sure adequacy (Rom. 8:31-39), which seeks, by way of a strong, courageous outreach (often tending to appear downright brutal) to offer to as many as possible the same glory. Such a life, far from sounding a "feminist note", from impoverishing and devaluating things, rejects and overcomes everything hostile to life, all that would paralyse and poison it; it welcomes and elevates all that is truly vigorous, healthy, and viable. [102] What primitive Christianity affirms is a life healthy and strong in itself, which effectively reaches out to men and asserts dominion over nature. Primitive Christianity was never monastic or hostile to nature. Jesus did not even oppose the drinking of wine (Matt. 11:19), as Nietzsche did. He was no vegetarian or ascetic, nor did he despise the body or the earth. He not only demonstrated in his own person his love to nature and all its gifts but even promised his followers that they would inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). Primitive Christianity was so completely free of asceticism and monasticism that Jesus was called a glutton and wine bibber (Matt. 11:19). And Paul declared, "All things belong to you"- through the fact and in the sense that you belong to Christ (1 Cor. 3:22-23). However penetratingly the Christian sees through the ceaseless fraud and bankruptcy of the world's civilizations, everything he can, without defiling himself, use to the glory of his Lord is his.

Marriage is another aspect of life that loses none of its natural dignity through anything either Jesus or Paul have said. On the contrary, just as the words of Jesus emphasize its inviolable sanctity and profound significance, Paul uses the sublimest possible comparisons to exalt the relationship between husband and wife, bride and bridegroom (Eph. 5:22-23). It is only as a charisma for the purpose of a special service that he mentions celibacy (1 Cor. 7); only where the spiritual life is being gagged and the personality destroyed does also Jesus make utmost severity a duty. It was his exalted conception of this area of life that made him utter the profoundly meaningful warning, in the Sermon on the Mount, that even a single [103] glance can desecrate and dishonor (Matt. 5:28). The misinterpretation, not only by Nietzsche, of that further awesome statement about the radical removal of one's hand and eye (Matt. 5:29-30) is due to a superficial treatment of Jesus' words, which fails to consider that he chose the eye and the hand--organs whose material obliteration no situation can possibly require.

What Christ had in mind and what primitive Christianity experienced is the harmonious dominion of the spirit over the body and its desires. At that time that unhappy distortion of healthy humanity could not have been imagined, which sought to twist this most profound and ideal affirmation of the body into its mortification and annihilation. The words of Paul alone, who commits his friends to the care of the body (Rom. 13:14), who counsels his Timothy to take wine (1 Tim. 5:23), and calls the body a temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16-17) ought to exclude for ever such a misunderstanding.

It is even less comprehensible how anyone could think that the unclear and generalized other-worldliness of the Christian world has the least bit to do with the realism of the Scriptures. Since Nietzsche so correctly recognized Platonism as a primary factor in the churchly distortion of Christianity, it is surprising that for all his intensive study of the Scriptures, he never saw how decisively and exclusively they speak of the salvation and restoration – not only of human souls – but of the whole earth. What the God of the Old and New Testaments stands for is not the negation of the world and the earth but in the mightiest and deepest sense their affirmation, redemption, and revitalization.

The Christianity of the New Testament never chose memento mori as its motto, nor did it despise [104] the body and regard the last hour of human life as the most important one; on the contrary, it affirmed the life of the body with a consistency so surprising that in he place of death it looked forward to the transformation of the body into a state of uninterrupted viability (1 Cor 15:35-45). Even if, in opposition to the written records of primitive Christianity, there is a tendency to assign the living God, his extra-terrestrial creatures, and the dead to a "Beyond", the purpose of this Beyond would not be to sully this world but rather to cleanse the whole material cosmos and specially the earth and to free it of all death-dealing powers, of every poison, torment, and vileness. Such a Beyond would mean nothing else but the liberation, renewal, and invigoration of the material world, presently contaminated by poison and corruption.

By opposing from early on the "carnal" doctrines of an earthly kingdom of Christ (see Clement and Ignatius around 120 A.D.; Gaius, 180; Dionysios about 250; Origenes, who died 254) and especially through Augustine's assertion that the church itself is this Kingdom, this City of God (De civitate dei), the church more or less consciously, and brusquely, declared itself in opposition to the expectation of the future that had marked the whole of primitive Christianity and particularly the Book of Revelation.

Not Dionysus, but primitive Christianity is "the religious affirmation of life – of the whole of it, not of a life halved and disowned". Primitive Christianity indeed expected "a kind of deification of the body" and made its watchword, "Our will is so set on this earthly realm", "that the earth may one day belong to the overman". Primitive Christianity "contains more than all the religions that have despised this life as ephemeral and taught men to look toward another life." "Our task is to breed a [105] master race, the future masters of the earth, a tremendous new aristocracy, a higher type of man . . . so as to get a grip on the fortunes of the earth."

The way to these mighty earthly objectives is clearly marked in the words of Jesus and the apostles: the body of the man reborn, which even now must be guarded and cared for as "a temple of the Holy Spirit", shall be transformed into a body of inviolable vitality by Jesus at his physical return (1 Thess. 4:14-18). With the aid of these masters of the earth, Jesus himself, as a political king, will subject every part of the earth to his rule (Phil. 2:9-11; Eph. 1:20-21; Rev. 20:4-6; 22:5). And the ultimate fate of our planet will not be its destruction, but its rebirth as a new earth free of the powers of death and darkness (2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1).

So it is Jesus who offers "the supreme formula of life affirmation". Not Nietzsche with his dismal night, his unending recurrence but Jesus with the lightning and sun of his personal return will have the mightiest impact on this life. As yet it is only "the heavens" with all the grandeur of their star worlds that are "the throne of God" (Ps. 11:4; 33:14; Is. 66:1). Jesus it is who extends this "kingdom of God" to the earth; he makes the "kingdom of heaven" an earthly one (Matt. 4:17; 5:5).

Thus for the one and only historical actualization that deserves to be called unrestrictedly "Christian", all of Nietzsche's reproaches have proved invalid to the point that in fact their very opposite can be demonstrated. Original Christianity actually represents the healthiest affirmation of life and material reality, the most consistent condemnation of all death-dealing powers. Far more than its Dionysiac opposite it represents "a formula, born of fulness, of abundance, for the highest affirmation of existence". [106]

What it represents, therefore, is the very opposite of "saying an unconditional 'yes' to suffering, to guilt, to everything questionable and alien"; it promises, instead of a never-ending dismal recurrence of the present muddle of contrapositions, of pain and death, the overwhelmingly glorious return of a luminous new creation without pain and death, without sin and guilt.

If, in opposition to this, Nietzsche in religious ecstasy dared to shout his approving "da capo" at carnal life with all its sufferings, lusts, and abominations, at cruelty and war, at an utterly immoral striving for power, he offers the most egregious example both of a religion without Jesus and of its unmasking. Like no one else, Friedrich Nietzsche can prove to every sincere person that the religion of a "dear, kindly God standing behind all progress" as well as the deep, mystical piety, whose premise and goal is its own experience and sameness with God, is the religion of Satan, the god of this world. It is Nietzsche's gigantic merit to have torn the Christian insignia off that general religion, which serves the god of this world, and to have smashed the sugarsweet Jesus pictures of its temples as "utter deceit".

At least once the cover has been lifted and the great struggle of all history exposed to every eye. Wake up, you religious atheists and you pious liberals, you people of the orthodox churches and of conventicles and assemblies! Where do you stand? Who are you fighting for? There is but one great conflict, and there are but two camps:

Dionysus versus the Crucified One!

Christ versus the devil!