Friedrich Nietzsche: The Antichrist (part 6)

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In this place I can't permit myself to omit a psychology of "belief," of the "believer," for the special benefit of “believers." If there remain any today who do not yet know how indecent it is to be "believing" -- or how much a sign of decadence, of a broken will to live -- then they will know it well enough tomorrow. My voice reaches even the deaf. -- It appears, unless I have been incorrectly informed, that there prevails among Christians a sort of criterion of truth that is called "proof by power." Faith makes blessed: therefore it is true." -- It might be objected right here that blessedness is not demonstrated, it is merely promised: it hangs upon "faith" as a condition -- one shall be blessed if one believes. . . . But what of the thing that the priest promises to the believer, the wholly transcendental "beyond" -- how is that to be demonstrated? -- The "proof by power," thus assumed, is actually no more at bottom than a belief that the effects which faith promises will not fail to appear. In a formula: "I believe that faith makes for blessedness -- therefore, it is true." . . But this is as far as we may go. This "therefore" would be theabsurdum itself as a criterion of truth. -- But let us admit, for the sake of politeness, that blessedness by faith may be demonstrated (--not merely hoped for, and not merely promised by the suspect lips of a priest): even so, could blessedness -- in a technical term, pleasure -- ever be a proof of truth? So little is this true that it is almost a proof against truth when sensations of pleasure influence the answer to the question "What is true?" or, at all events, it is enough to make that "truth" highly suspicious. The proof by "pleasure" is a proof of "pleasure -- nothing more; why in the world should it be assumed that true judgments give more pleasure than false ones, and that, in conformity to some pre-established harmony, they necessarily bring agreeable feelings in their train? -- The experience of all disciplined and profound minds teaches the contrary. Man has had to fight for every atom of the truth, and has had to pay for it almost everything that the heart, that human love, that human trust cling to. Greatness of soul is needed for this business: the service of truth is the hardest of all services. -- What, then, is the meaning of honesty in things intellectual? It means that a man must be severe with his own heart, that he must scorn "beautiful feelings," and that he makes every Yes and No a matter of conscience! -- Faith makes blessed: therefore, it lies. . . .

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The fact that faith, under certain circumstances, may work for blessedness, but that this blessedness produced by an idée fixe by no means makes the idea itself true, and the fact that faith actually moves no mountains, but instead raises them up where there were none before: all this is made sufficiently clear by a walk through a lunatic asylum. Not, of course, to a priest: for his instincts prompt him to the lie that sickness is not sickness and lunatic asylums not lunatic asylums. Christianity finds sickness necessary, just as the Greek spirit had need of a superabundance of health -- the actual ulterior purpose of the whole system of salvation of the church is to make people ill. And the church itself -- doesn't it set up a universal (“catholic”) lunatic asylum as the ultimate ideal? -- The whole earth as a madhouse? -- The sort of religious man that the church wants is a typical decadent; the moment at which a religious crisis dominates a people is always marked by epidemics of nervous disorder; the inner world" of the religious man is so much like the "inner world" of the overstrung and exhausted that it is difficult to distinguish between them; the "highest" states of mind, held up be fore mankind by Christianity as of supreme worth, are actually epileptoid in form -- the church has granted the name of holy only to lunatics or to gigantic frauds in majorem dei honorem. . . . Once I ventured to designate the whole Christian system of training in penance and salvation (now best studied in England) as a method of producing a folie circulaire upon a soil already prepared for it, which is to say, a soil thoroughly unhealthy. Not every one may be a Christian: one is not "converted" to Christianity -- one must first be sick enough for it. . . .We others, who have the courage for health and likewise for contempt, -- we may well despise a religion that teaches misunderstanding of the body! that refuses to rid itself of the superstition about the soul! that makes a "virtue" of insufficient nourishment! that combats health as a sort of enemy, devil, temptation! that persuades itself that it is possible to carry about a "perfect soul" in a cadaver of a body, and that, to this end, had to devise for itself a new concept of "perfection," a pale, sickly, idiotically ecstatic state of existence, so-called "holiness" -- a holiness that is itself merely a series of symptoms of an impoverished, enervated and incurably disordered body! . . . The Christian movement, as a European movement, was from the start no more than a general uprising of all sorts of outcast and refuse elements (-- who now, under cover of Christianity, aspire to power) -- It does not represent the decay of a race; it represents, on the contrary, a conglomeration of decadence products from all directions, crowding together and seeking one another out. It was not, as has been thought, the corruption of antiquity, of noble antiquity, which made Christianity possible; one cannot too sharply challenge the learned imbecility which today maintains that theory. At the time when the sick and rotten Chandala classes in the whole Imperium were Christianized, the contrary type, the nobility, reached its finest and ripest development. The majority became master; democracy, with its Christian instincts, triumphed . . . Christianity was not "national," it was not based on race -- it appealed to all the varieties of men disinherited by life, it had its allies everywhere. Christianity has the rancour of the sick at its very core -- the instinct against the healthy, against health. Everything that is well-constituted, proud, gallant and, above all, beautiful gives offence to its ears and eyes. Again I remind you of Paul's priceless saying: "And God hath chosen the weak things of the world, the foolish things of the world, the base things of the world, and things which are despised": this was the formula; in hoc signo [“under this sign”; a reference to Constantine’s motto in hoc signo vinces (“under this sign you will triumph”), referring to the Christian cross] the decadence triumphed. -- God on the cross -- is man always to miss the frightful inner significance of this symbol? -- Everything that suffers, everything that hangs on the cross, is divine. . . . We all hang on the cross, consequently we are divine. . . . We alone are divine. . . . Christianity was thus a victory: a nobler attitude of mind was destroyed by it -- Christianity remains to this day the greatest misfortune of humanity. --

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Christianity also stands in opposition to all intellectual well-being, -- sick reasoning is the only sort that it can use as Christian reasoning; it takes the side of everything that is idiotic; it pronounces a curse upon "intellect," upon the superbia of the healthy intellect. Since sickness is inherent in Christianity, it follows that the typically Christian state of "faith" must be a form of sickness too, and that all straight, straightforward and scientific paths to knowledge must be banned by the church as forbidden ways. Doubt is thus a sin from the start. . . . The complete lack of psychological cleanliness in the priest -- revealed by a glance at him -- is a phenomenon resulting from decadence, -- one may observe in hysterical women and in rachitic children how regularly the falsification of instincts, delight in lying for the mere sake of lying, and incapacity for looking straight and walking straight are symptoms of decadence. "Faith" means the will to avoid knowing what is true. The pietist, the priest of either sex, is a fraud because he is sick: his instinct demands that the truth shall never be allowed its rights on any point. "Whatever makes for illness is good; whatever issues from abundance, from super-abundance, from power, is evil": so argues the believer. The impulse to lie -- it is by this that I recognize every foreordained theologian. -- Another characteristic of the theologian is his unfitness for philology. What I here mean by philology is, in a general sense, the art of reading with profit -- the capacity for absorbing facts without interpreting them falsely, and without losing caution, patience and subtlety in the effort to understand them. Philology as ephexis [indecision] in interpretation: whether one be dealing with books, with newspaper reports, with the most fateful events or with weather statistics -- not to mention the "salvation of the soul." . . . The way in which a theologian, whether in Berlin or in Rome, is ready to explain, say, a "passage of Scripture," or an experience, or a victory by the national army, by turning upon it the high illumination of the Psalms of David, is always so reckless that it is enough to make a philologian run up a wall. But what shall he do when pietists and other such cows from Suabia use the "finger of God" to convert their miserably commonplace and huggermugger existence into a miracle of "grace," a "providence" and an "experience of salvation"? The most modest exercise of the intellect, not to say ofdecency, should certainly be enough to convince these interpreters of the perfect childishness and unworthiness of such a misuse of the divine digital dexterity. However small our piety, if we ever encountered a god who always cured us of a cold in the head at just the right time, or got us into our carriage at the very instant heavy rain began to fall, he would seem so absurd a god that he'd have to be abolished even if he existed. God as a domestic servant, as a letter carrier, as an almanac -- man -- at bottom, he is' a mere name for the stupidest sort of chance. . . . "Divine Providence," which every third man in "educated Germany" still believes in, is so strong an argument against God that it would be impossible to think of a stronger. And in any case it is an argument against Germans! . . .

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-- It is so little true that martyrs offer any support to the truth of a cause that I am inclined to deny that any martyr has ever had anything to do with the truth at all. In the very tone in which a martyr flings what he fancies to be true at the head of the world there appears so low a grade of intellectual honesty and such insensibility to the problem of "truth," that it is never necessary to refute him. Truth is not something that one man has and another man has not: at best, only peasants, or peasant apostles like Luther, can think of truth in any such way. One may rest assured that the greater the degree of a man's intellectual conscience the greater will be his modesty, his discretion on this point. To know in five cases, and to refuse, with delicacy, to know anything further . . . "Truth," as the word is understood by every prophet, every sectarian, every free-thinker, every Socialist and every churchman, is simply a complete proof that not even a beginning has been made in the intellectual discipline and self-control that are necessary to the unearthing of even the smallest truth. -- The deaths of the martyrs, it may be said in passing, have been misfortunes of history: they have seduced . . . The conclusion that all idiots, women and plebeians come to, that there must be something in a cause for which any one goes to his death (or which, as under primitive Christianity, sets off epidemics of death-seeking) -- this conclusion has been an unspeakable drag upon the testing of facts, upon the whole spirit of inquiry and investigation. The martyrs have damaged the truth. . . . Even to this day the crude fact of persecution is enough to give an honourable name to the most empty sort of sectarianism. -- But why? Is the worth of a cause altered by the fact that some one had laid down his life for it? -- An error that becomes honourable is simply an error that has acquired one seductive charm the more: do you suppose, my dear theologians, that we shall give you the chance to be martyred for your lies? -- One best disposes of a cause by respectfully putting it on ice -- that is also the best way to dispose of theologians. . . . This was precisely the world-historical stupidity of all the persecutors: that they gave the appearance of honour to the cause they opposed -- that they made it a present of the fascination of martyrdom. . . .Women are still on their knees before an error because they have been told that some one died on the cross for it. Is the cross, then, an argument? -- But about all these things there is one, and one only, who has said what has been needed for thousands of years -- Zarathustra.

“They made signs in blood along the way that they went, and their folly taught them that the truth is proved by blood.

But blood is the worst of all testimonies to the truth; blood poisoneth even the purest teaching and turneth it into madness and hatred in the heart.

And when one goeth through fire for his teaching -- what doth that prove? Verily, it is more when one's teaching cometh out of one's own burning!”

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Do not let yourself be deceived: great intellects are sceptical. Zarathustra is a sceptic. The strength, the freedom which proceed from intellectual power, from a superabundance of intellectual power, manifest themselves as scepticism. Men of fixed convictions do not count when it comes to determining what is fundamental in values and lack of values. Men of convictions are prisoners. They do not see far enough, they do not see what is below them: whereas a man who would talk to any purpose about value and non-value must be able to see five hundred convictions beneath him -- and behind him. . . . A mind that aspires to great things, and that wills the means thereto, is necessarily sceptical. Freedom from any sort of conviction belongs to strength, and to an independent point of view. . . That grand passion which is at once the foundation and the power of a sceptic's existence, and is both more enlightened and more despotic than he is himself, drafts the whole of his intellect into its service; it makes him unscrupulous; it gives him courage to employ unholy means; under certain circumstances it does not begrudge him even convictions. Conviction as a means: one may achieve a good deal by means of a conviction. A grand passion makes use of and uses up convictions; it does not yield to them -- it knows itself to be sovereign. -- On the contrary, the need of faith, of some thing unconditioned by Yes or No, of Carlylism, if I may be allowed the word, is a need of weakness. The man of faith, the "believer" of any sort, is necessarily a dependent man -- such a man cannot posit himself as a goal, nor can he find goals within himself. The "believer" does not belong to himself; he can only be a means to an end; he must be used up; he needs some one to use him up. His instinct gives the highest honours to an ethic of self-effacement; he is prompted to embrace it by everything: his prudence, his experience, his vanity. Every sort of faith is in itself an evidence of self-effacement, of self-estrangement. . . When one reflects how necessary it is to the great majority that there be regulations to restrain them from without and hold them fast, and to what extent control, or, in a higher sense, slavery, is the one and only condition which makes for the well-being of the weak-willed man, and especially woman, then one at once understands conviction and "faith." To the man with convictions they are his backbone. To avoid seeing many things, to be impartial about nothing, to be a party man through and through, to estimate all values strictly and infallibly -- these are conditions necessary to the existence of such a man. But by the same token they are antagonists of the truthful man -- of the truth. . . . The believer is not free to answer the question, "true" or "not true," according to the dictates of his own conscience: integrity on this point would work his instant downfall. The pathological limitations of his vision turn the man of convictions into a fanatic -- Savonarola, Luther, Rousseau, Robespierre, Saint-Simon -- these types stand in opposition to the strong, emancipated spirit. But the grandiose attitudes of these sick intellects, these intellectual epileptics, are of influence upon the great masses -- fanatics are picturesque, and mankind prefers observing poses to listening to reasons. . . .

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-- One step further in the psychology of conviction, of "faith." It is now a good while since I first proposed for consideration the question whether convictions are not even more dangerous enemies to truth than lies. (Human, All-Too-Human, I, aphorism 483.) This time I desire to put the question definitely: is there any actual difference between a lie and a conviction? -- All the world believes that there is; but what is not believed by all the world! -- Every conviction has its history, its primitive forms, its stage of tentativeness and error: it becomes a conviction only after having been, for a long time, not one, and then, for an even longer time, hardly one. What if falsehood be also one of these embryonic forms of conviction? -- Sometimes all that is needed is a change in persons: what was a lie in the father becomes a conviction in the son. -- I call it lying to refuse to see what one sees, or to refuse to see it as it is: whether the lie be uttered before witnesses or not before witnesses is of no consequence. The most common sort of lie is that by which a man deceives himself: the deception of others is a relatively rare offence. -- Now, this will not to see what one sees, this will not to see it as it is, is almost the first requisite for all who belong to a party of whatever sort: the party man becomes inevitably a liar. For example, the German historians are convinced that Rome was synonymous with despotism and that the Germanic peoples brought the spirit of liberty into the world: what is the difference between this conviction and a lie? Is it to be wondered at that all partisans, including the German historians, instinctively roll the fine phrases of morality upon their tongues -- that morality almost owes its very survival to the fact that the party man of every sort has need of it every moment? -- "This is our conviction: we publish it to the whole world; we live and die for it -- let us respect all who have convictions!" -- I have actually heard such sentiments from the mouths of anti-Semites. On the contrary, gentlemen! An anti-Semite surely does not become more respectable because he lies on principle. . . The priests, who have more finesse in such matters, and who well understand the objection that lies against the notion of a conviction, which is to say, of a falsehood that becomes a matter of principle because it serves a purpose, have borrowed from the Jews the shrewd device of sneaking in the concepts, "God," "the will of God" and "the revelation of God" at this place. Kant, too, with his categorical imperative, was on the same road: this was his practical reason. There are questions regarding the truth or untruth of which it is not for man to decide; all the capital questions, all the capital problems of valuation, are beyond human reason. . . . To know the limits of reason -- that alone is genuine. philosophy. . . . Why did God make a revelation to man? Would God have done anything superfluous? Man could not find out for himself what was good and what was evil, so God taught him His will. Moral: the priest does not lie -- the question, "true" or "untrue," has nothing to do with such things as the priest discusses; it is impossible to lie about these things. In order to lie here it would be necessary to know what is true. But this is more than man can know; therefore, the priest is simply the mouth-piece of God. -- Such a priestly syllogism is by no means merely Jewish and Christian; the right to lie and the shrewd dodge of "revelation" belong to the general priestly type -- to the priest of the decadence as well as to the priest of pagan times (-- Pagans are all those who say yes to life, and to whom "God" is a word signifying acquiescence in all things) -- The "law," the "will of God," the "holy book," and "inspiration" -- all these things are merely words for the conditions under which the priest comes to power and with which he maintains his power, -- these concepts are to be found at the bottom of all priestly organizations, and of all priestly or priestly-philosophical schemes of governments. The "holy lie" -- common alike to Confucius, to the Code of Manu, to Muhammad and to the Christian church -- is not even wanting in Plato. "Truth is here": this means, no matter where it is heard, the priest is lying. . . .

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In the last analysis it comes to this: what is the end of lying? The fact that, in Christianity, "holy" ends are not visible is my objection to the means it employs. Only bad ends appear: the poisoning, the calumniation, the denial of life, the despising of the body, the degradation and self-contamination of man by the concept of sin -- therefore, its means are also bad. -- I have a contrary feeling when I read the Code of Manu, an incomparably more intellectual and superior work, which it would be a sin against the spirit to so much as name in the same breath with the Bible. It is easy to see why: there is a genuine philosophy behind it, in it, not merely an evil-smelling mess of Jewish rabbinism and superstition, -- it gives even the most fastidious psychologist something to sink his teeth into. And, not to forget what is most important, it differs fundamentally from every kind of Bible: by means of it the nobles, the philosophers and the warriors, keep the whip-hand over the majority; it is full of noble valuations, it shows a feeling of perfection, an acceptance of life, and triumphant feeling toward self and life -- the sun shines upon the whole book. -- All the things on which Christianity vents its fathomless vulgarity -- for example, procreation, women and marriage -- are here handled earnestly, with reverence and with love and confidence. How can any one really put into the hands of children and ladies a book which contains such vile things as this: "to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband; . . . it is better to marry than to burn"? And is it possible to be a Christian so long as the origin of man is Christianized, which is to say, befouled, by the doctrine of the immaculata conceptio? . . . I know of no book in which so many delicate and kindly things are said of women as in the Code of Manu; these old grey-beards and saints have a way of being gallant to women that it would be impossible, perhaps, to surpass. "The mouth of a woman," it says in one place, "the breasts of a maiden, the prayer of a child and the smoke of sacrifice are always pure." In another place: "there is nothing purer than the light of the sun, the shadow cast by a cow, air, water, fire and the breath of a maiden." Finally, in still another place -- perhaps this is also a holy lie -- : "all the orifices of the body above the navel are pure, and all below are impure. Only in the maiden is the whole body pure."

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