To be honest with you, living where I do in this country, I thought that Obama was supposed to be the Anti-Christ, or at least that’s what bumper-stickers tell me. I suppose it’s a fair mistake to make given the fact that misunderstood Philosophical masterpieces by German Philosophers tend to get filed on the shortlist of required reading in East Texas schools, and Nietzsche himself tends to be blacklisted more than Maya Angelou in this particular territory but only because he doesn’t include enough pictures of Margot Robbie.
I’ll stop trying to be being clever now and actually get to it
It was lovely to receive your letter and I so apologize for not having written for some time. Ending Graduate School has left me in an odd “limbo” where I have no idea what is next, what to do, or even what to think or read sometimes. I’ve jumped into philosophy for the most part, specifically existentialism, and while some would immediately say “huh boy” and prepare for the black turtleneck ensembles and Poetry slams with bongos about meaninglessness about existence, I’ve discovered a real purpose and drive in the philosophy. Life begins to make a little more sense as an existentialist because once you’re able to not worry about god and the afterlife, the choices you make really matter more because they’re all you’ve got. That’s part of what lead me to Nietzsche.
Before I get into it though I’m glad to hear about you and Charlie. Moving in together is a big step, and it can be rocky, but trust me once the two of you have your rhythms down it’s actually quite lovely having somebody waiting for you at home. It just gets frustrating when you’ve had a long day at work, and you come home from heavy traffic and you’re tired and frustrated at Barry from work, and when you drop your shit your partner walks up and says “we need groceries.” Apart from that, just remember that it’s fun and worth it over the long term. Also remember to occasionally buy her flowers or her favorite candy for no reason. It makes her feel loved, and you’ll find that it actually makes you feel like you’ve actually done something really nice.
Now as to Nietzsche what first needs to be resolved is the fact that his book The AntiChrist is not about atheism, and in fact Nietzsche was not an atheist himself. Many half-assed theologians and priests like to damn the man for his largely misunderstood comment in The Gay Science that “God is Dead.” By labeling him an atheist though it’s important to recognize that these particular theologians and priests are not only half-assed in their methodology, they’re also bad readers. Nietzsche doesn’t end the sentence on “dead,” he says “God is dead, and Man has killed him” and this has implications for the reader because it questions what many people, at least people in the United States, are raised to believe. When Nietzsche wrote this line more contemporary scientific methods and innovations were coming into being, and the notion of Modernity was becoming something relevant and important. In this atmosphere the Abrahamic god was becoming an anachronism to Nietzsche, yet still Christianity was adapting to it, or really fighting through it, and in this struggle the man found something to detest.
At first glance B——, and by that I mean simply looking at the title, many would assume that The AntiChrist is a book about God and Satan. In fact, the book is about the institution of Christianity and the modern man, particularly its effect upon him.
After arguing that mankind has not “progressed” in his new age he points to Christianity and says:
Christianity has sided with all that is weak and base, with all failures; it has made an ideal of whatever contradicts in spirit by teaching men to consider the supreme values of the spirit as something sinful, as something that leads into error as temptations. (571-2).
It may look B—– that I have in fact only confirmed the bias of many steadfast Christians who detest or distrust Friedrich Nietzsche because he is a godless contemptible atheist, but a closer inspection of this thesis and the rest of the book yields a different fact. It’s impossible to say that The AntiChrist doesn’t criticize Christianity, but it’s important to note that Nietzsche is not criticizing god. Nietzsche is often listed among the Existentialists, even though the man and his work was more of a precursor to that philosophical movement, and one of the largest misunderstandings of the general public is what Existentialism actually is. For the last two weeks I’ve been trying to finish an essay about another essay by the French hyper-intellectual Jean-Paul Sartre (that dude who wrote No Exit that weird play you had to read in High School about the three people in hell, and one of them was a lesbian or something). The essay is literally titled Existentialism, and in it Sartre lays out the ideas of the movement.
Explaining what is the goal of existentialism he says:
Thus, Existentialism’s first move is to make every man aware of what he is and to make the full responsibility of his existence rest on him. And when we say that a man is responsible for himself, we do not only mean that he is responsible for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men. (346).
The latter part of that quote goes into one of Sartre’s idea which is referred to as “being for others” but that’s for another essay. Sartre, like Camus and Dostoyevsky, and Nietzsche, places all of man’s life into his own hands, and that B—- is largely why Nietzsche’s criticism of Christianity is seen as atheistic or satanic. People are missing the fact that he’s attacking the human institution and not the divine.
He demonstrates this clearly in one later passages when he discusses priests:
The priest devalues, desecrates nature: this is the price of his existence. Disobedience of God, that is, of the priest, of “the Law,” is not called “sin”; the means for “reconciliation with God” are, as is meet, means that merely guarantee still more through submission to the priest: the priest alone “redeems.”
Psychologically considered, “sins” become indispensable in any society organized by priests: they are the real handles of power. The priest lives on sins, it is essential for him that people “sin.” Supreme principle: “God forgives those who repent”—in plain language” those who submit to the priest. (597-8).
I do wonder B—–, whether philosophers were fun to hang out with at parties sometimes, but right now my aim is philosophy and not the bottle (that’s for when I finish this letter). It’s easy B—-, to mistake Nietzsche’s criticism of priests in this passage as attacks upon the individual members of Christianity. After all, the priest does serve as either the conduit or else a spiritual guide to the divine, and by attacking the priests as spiritual leeches he implicates individual Christians as falling for the deception. I can’t in good conscience say though that this is Nietzsche suggesting that mankind doesn’t possess intelligence, but looking to Sartre’s point in Existentialism, there seems to be a more important idea here.
Nietzsche is noting that the modern man, the creature who has founded industry, nations, and scientific advancement it not fashioning a god that should give him strength or inspire new innovation. Rather the god that exists is either an antique of the infancy of the species that is holding mankind back, or else it is duplicitous lie fashioned by corrupt individuals who derive some kind of pleasure over having power over others. This isn’t an unfounded idea because in my youth I struggled with the concept of sin, and I know this being rather personal B—-, but my sin was masturbation.
As I wrote in recent essay I eventually discovered pornography when I was a young teenager, and while my parents had taught me about honestly and freely about sex ever since I was a kid, I have no real explanation for the religious struggle I experienced at first watching this. Like many young men I became fascinated/horrified by “lesbian porn” (which really isn’t an honest presentation of lesbianism since most of the women in those videos are perfectly willing to sleep with men too). The thought that two women, and by implication two men, could be attracted to each other sexually was something that my mind, and my environment at school, taught me was a sin, yet despite this it was a core sexual fantasy that I engaged in. Masturbation should have been something fun and enjoyable, but instead I compartmentalized it as a sin because the visiting priests, football coaches, and teachers would say it was, and so not knowing any better I cursed myself as I indulged in fantasies and self-abuse. I eventually got over this, though when the girls in my imagination eventually started becoming men too that started me on a long arduous path that I’ve explored in other essays, but I wanted to use this example B—– because it demonstrates a facet of Nietzsche’s argument.
It was through Priests (Baptist priests though, the Episcopal Priests never damned masturbation or homosexuality, and in fact they were some of the few who argued there was nothing wrong with it) that I saw masturbation as a sin, and this corruption of “thought crime” was implanted because the priests wanted to make sure nothing got between me and god. If a young boy is masturbating rather than praying or reading the Bible then he will begin to see no relevance of Christianity, and if he eventually drops his religion then there is no control. This was the attitude that I eventually began to observe in priests, and why I tend to distrust their supposed motivations. They always came with smiles B—–, and soft voices, and careful guarded warnings, but beneath that was always a power move.
That is contemporary Christianity, but even so in Nietzsche’s time this is still relevant for the “Modern Man” who was a cog in the wheel of machinery had only a finite amount of free time. A worker worked, and that remaining time was when he was afforded some freedom. Realistically the man would most often spend his wages on beer which would lead to temperance movements later on, but that space of time afforded man either some leisure or contemplation. As such the Church sought to dominate that time, however rather than recreate a god that would fit with contemporary innovation and progress, the Church held dogmatically to the old god as Nietzsche explains:
The Christian conception of God—God as god of the sick, God as a spider, God as a spirit—is one of the most corrupt conceptions of the divine ever attained on earth. It may even represent the low-water mark in the descending development of divine types. God degenerated into the contradiction of life, instead of being its transfiguration and eternal Yes! God as the declaration of war against life, against nature, against the will to live! God—the formula for every slander against “this world,” for every lie about the “beyond”! God—the deification of nothingness, the will to nothingness pronounced holy! (585-6).
This is another one of those quotes B—– that, while I’ve marked it in my copy of The AntiChrist with several stars, will probably only confirm a Christian’s bias against Nietzsche. It’s no longer acceptable to challenge faith because people don’t like to be challenged. They don’t like to grow. It may be my religious background, but I was always taught that the only way to grow faith, or lack-thereof, is to have your position challenged so that you can re-assess what it is that you actually believe.
Looking at this presentation of god I feel validated for Nietzsche perfectly explains what has always been my criticism of the divine that exists in mass Christianity. The god that exists is not a god that is to be understood and reconciled, it just is. Therefore, the Christian has only to accept god and then enter a state of eternal bliss.
To this, I respond bullshit.
The god that Nietzsche is criticizing is this perfect being but as Lex Luthor explained in Superman Vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice:
Lex Luthor: See, what we call God depends upon our tribe, Clark Joe, ’cause God is tribal; God takes sides! No man in the sky intervened when I was a boy to deliver me from daddy’s fist and abominations. I figured out way back if God is all-powerful, He cannot be all good. And if He is all good, then He cannot be all-powerful. And neither can you be.
For the record B—– I hated the movie in theatres, but loved the extended cut. Definitely see it. And for the record I am counting the days down until I can see Suicide Squad. Before you say anything it’s because the movie looks awesome and not just Margot Robbie is playing…playing…playing…
Ahem. Where was I? Uh…Harley Quinn wasn’t it?
Oh no, sorry Nietzsche Nietzsche. Sorry.
Anyway B—–, the point I’m trying to demonstrate is that the god Nietzsche is criticizing really hasn’t altered all that much and that in itself is damning. Religion is part of human culture, and while it tries to conform or adapt to contemporary settings, the real problem with this is that it’s nature shows more and more with each passing decade. The printing of “Teen Study Bibles” that exorcise lengthy and disturbing passages for the sake of winning over youth reveals this. The seducing of Lot by his daughters was never brought up in Sunday school because the god who was lax on incest was the same god who inspired the Psalms. Nietzsche is trying to argue that the god that exists does not challenge human beings to consider the real morality of his being, or the complexities of his universe. Rather than realizing that if god is all powerful he’s responsible for rape, murder, and torture, many choose to simply embrace an all loving god and drop the subject there.
For Nietzsche, and myself B——, this is a problem because it is painfully solipsistic, and while I could continue B—–, providing example after example, I just want to add one more quote before I end. Nietzsche remarks:
At this point I do not suppress a sigh. There are days when I am afflicted with a feeling blacker than the blackest melancholy—contempt of man. And to leave no doubt concerning what I despise, whom I despise: it is the man of today, the man with whom I am fatefully contemporaneous. […] I go through the madhouse world of whole millennia, whether it be called “Christianity,” “Christian faith,” or “Christian church”—I am careful not to hold mankind responsible for its mental orders. But my feeling changes, breaks down, as soon as I enter modern times, our time. Our time knows better. (610-11).
I’ve said a lot here B—-, and I worry some of it was incoherent, but ultimately my concern was not to explain out an atheistic concept, but rather to defend Nietzsche from the title I so happily embrace. Many point to Nietzsche, and his rather bushy moustache, as a champion of godlessness, but those fools who try and hurl such mud only wind up looking like fools themselves.
In life Nietzsche felt there was nothing so contemptible as a man who lives without passions, and looking at the Church, not god, he saw an institution that drained and sapped passion from a grand source of ideas. Whether or not there is a god is one of the most important aspects of our reality, but simply believing in god does not make life simple, and Nietzsche’s The AntiChrist is a fight against those who would drain god of his unique philosophical position. Christianity becomes a vice rather than a source of inspiration because for many it is either a social club, a crutch from which to avoid discomfort, or else the source of a disturbing masochism rooted in the thought-crime of “sin” and Nietzsche is criticizing that.
His aim is to attack the church because man has entered into a new world, and rather than allow his notion of the divine to change he has become a slave to history and outdated philosophy. The question becomes B—–, shall Christianity adapt to the new stage of human evolution and society, or will it desperately cling to the idea that the source of all life and being honestly gives a flippin fuck about whether or not somebody masturbates to a Jenna Jameson video.
I’ll leave you to figure that out.
And seriously, buy your girl some flowers, she’ll appreciate it. Just make sure you get her favorite type or else that will get awkward, and she won’t want to hurt your feelings and so she’ll lie and then you’ll keep buying those and then ten years in she’ll confess she hates that type of flower and your feelings will get hurt and then…well you get it. Start with Roses and work your way from there.
Sincerely, yours in the best of confidence and support,
Joshua “Jammer” Smith
All my quotes from Existentialism were taken from The Modern Library edition of Basic Writings of Existentialism. All quotes from The AntiChrist were cited from the Penguin edition of The Portable Nietzsche, edited and translated by Walter Kaufmann.
For the record I did nothing but listen to Allison Kraus on Pandora while writing this letter B—-, which I find hysterical since most of her songs are either spiritual in nature, or else outright hymns and Christian folk-songs. This B—–, is what is sometimes referred to as Cognitive Dissonance, but I’ll accept that because every now and then the O, Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack will come on and you know I love me some Soggy Bottom Boys.
One last note, as for your question about your girlfriend’s folder on her computer full of photos of Margot Robbie, I really don’t have anything for you except the sentiment: can you really blame her? I mean I…I…I…what was I saying?