April 17, 2008

Insensible religion

Nietzsche had a lot to say about Christianity in the "The Antichrist" - he wasn't very complimentary. Of course, Nietzsche had a lot to say about a lot of things and, reading him, it's sometimes difficult to pick out cogent thought from madness and malignity.

Nevertheless, something that Nietzsche wrote illustrates what I was talking about yesterday when I said it's not possible to talk sensibly with a believer about what they mean by God. It also goes some way towards explaining what I meant about religious faith being "a peculiarly rigorous form of wishful thinking".

So, without further ado, Nietzsche on Christianity*:-
Under Christianity neither morality nor religion has any point of contact with actuality.

It offers purely imaginary causes ("God" "soul," "ego," "spirit," "free will"--or even "unfree"), and purely imaginary effects ("sin" "salvation" "grace," "punishment," "forgiveness of sins"). Intercourse between imaginary beings ("God," "spirits," "souls"); an imaginary natural history (anthropocentric; a total denial of the concept of natural causes); an imaginary psychology (misunderstandings of self, misinterpretations of agreeable or disagreeable general feelings--for example, of the states of the nervus sympathicus with the help of the sign-language of religio-ethical balderdash--, "repentance," "pangs of conscience," "temptation by the devil," "the presence of God"); an imaginary teleology (the "kingdom of God," "the last judgment," "eternal life").

This purely fictitious world, greatly to its disadvantage, is to be differentiated from the world of dreams; the later at least reflects reality, whereas the former falsifies it, cheapens it and denies it.
[*From HL Mencken's translation of Nietzsche's "The Antichrist"]