The Antichrist, by Friedrich Nietzsche, is an extensive criticism of Christianity. But Nietzsche makes a very important distinction between the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Christian religion. In this video, we will discuss Nietzsche’s thoughts upon the origin of Christianity and its perversion of Christ’s teachings.
Christianity asserts that salvation is attained through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. But Nietzsche claims that Jesus did not die to save mankind, but rather to show mankind how one ought to live. “He knew that it was only by a way of life that one could feel one’s self ‘divine,’ ‘blessed,’ ‘evangelical,’ a ‘child of God’.” In other words, faith in Christ as Savior does not lead to salvation, but Christ’s way of life does.
Nietzsche praises Jesus for showing mankind the way to rise above base feelings of revenge, hatred, and resentment through forgiveness. But Christ’s disciples did not heed his wisdom. “His disciples were very far from forgiving his death—though to have done so would have accorded with the Gospels in the highest degree. On the contrary, it was precisely the most unevangelical of feelings – revenge – that now possessed them. They could no longer endure the Gospel doctrine, taught by Jesus, of the equal right of all men to be children of God: their revenge took the form of elevating Jesus in an extravagant fashion.” Thus, Jesus became the One Son of God, and his executioners were condemned as killers of God.
The Disciples next turned to the problem of explaining why God would allow Jesus to be crucified. “To which the deranged reason of the little community formulated an answer that was terrifying in its absurdity: God gave his son as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. Sacrifice of the innocent for the sins of the guilty! What appalling paganism!—Jesus himself had done away with the very concept of “guilt,” he denied that there was any gulf fixed between God and man; he lived this unity between God and man, and that was precisely his “glad tidings!”
Finally, Nietzsche turns his attention to Paul. He criticizes Paul for corrupting the true teachings of Christ for his own personal benefit. “The life, the example, the teaching, the death of Christ, the meaning and the law of the whole gospels—nothing was left of all this after that counterfeiter in hatred had reduced it to his uses. What he wanted was power; in Paul the priest once more reached out for power—he had use only for such concepts, teachings and symbols as served the purpose of tyrannizing over the masses and organizing mobs. What was the only part of Christianity that Mohammed borrowed later on? Paul’s invention, his device for establishing priestly tyranny and organizing the mob: the belief in the immortality of the soul.”
Nietzsche despises the belief in the immortality of the soul because it cheapens this life. “The vast lie of personal immortality destroys all reason, all natural instinct—henceforth, everything in the instincts that is beneficial, that fosters life and that safeguards the future is a cause of suspicion. Why labour together, trust one another, or concern one’s self about the common welfare, and try to serve it?…. And yet Christianity has to thank precisely this miserable flattery of personal vanity for its triumph—it was thus that it lured all the botched, the dissatisfied, the fallen upon evil days, the whole refuse and off-scouring of humanity to its side. The “salvation of the soul”—in plain English: “the world revolves around me.”
To conclude, Nietzsche asserts that Christ taught mankind a way of life that would lead them to happiness on earth, not to happiness in a fictional afterlife. The elevation of Christ to the One Son of God, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and the general perversion of Christ’s teachings arose from the Disciples’ desire for revenge against the executioners of Christ, and Paul’s insatiable desire for power. “Christianity is a revolt of all creatures that creep on the ground against everything that is lofty.”