THE ANTICHRIST--Freidrich Nietzsche
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Friedrich Nietzsche


Much of the work of German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 1900) is antireligious, since Nietzsche saw in many religions (particu­larly the Christian religion) a negation of his life-affirming will to power, which sought to actualize the potentialities of the mind and body. Among Nietzsche's most significant works are Thus Spake Zara­thustra (1883-92). Beyond Good and Evil (1886), and On the Genealogy of Morals (1887). The Antichrist (written 1888; pub­lished 1895) is, with The Twilight of the Idols (written 1888; pub­lished 1889), his most unrestrained attack on religion. In the extracts printed below (in the 1920 translation by H. L. Mencken), Nietzsche, in his typically exuberant style, focuses on the myth of Adam and Eves expulsion from Eden for eating from the tree of knowledge to excoriate Christianity for its hostility to science and the advancement of learning.


H.L. Menken, is the reporter in Sinclar Lewis' "Elmor Gantry."  In life, an interesting combination of literary artist, intellectual, skeptic, and decadent boozer. 


I chose to stick Nietzsche, not with the site of famous thinkers on religion, but with the literary figures, for though he has been labled a philosopher, the lack of organized, logical arguments dictates this location.  



The thing that sets us apart is not that we are unable to find God, either in history, or in nature, or behind nature--but that we regard what has been honoured as God, not as divine, but as pitiable, as absurd, as injurious; not as a mere error, but as a crime against life....  We deny that God is God. If any one were to show us this Christian God, wed be still less inclined to believe in him.In a formula: deus, qualem Paulus creavit, dei negatio.1 Such a religion as Christianity, which does not touch reality at a single point and which goes to pieces the moment reality asserts its rights at any point, must be inevitably the deadly enemy of the wisdom of this world, which is to say, of sci­enceand it will give the name of good to whatever means serve to poison, calumniate and cry down all intellectual discipline, all lucidity and strictness in matters of intellectual conscience, and all noble cool­ness and freedom of the mind. Faith, as an imperative, vetoes sci­encein praxi, lying at any price. . . . Paul well knew that lying--that faithwas necessary; later on the church borrowed the fact from Paul. The God that Paul invented for himself, a God who reduced to absurdity the wisdom of this world (especially the two great enemies of superstition, philology and medicine), is in truth only an indication of Pauls resolute determination to accomplish that very thing himself: to give ones own will the name of God, thora2that is essentially Jewish. Paul wants to dispose of the wisdom of this world: his enemies are the good philologians and physicians of the Alexandrine schoolon them he makes his war. As a matter of fact no man can be a philologian or a physician without being also Antichrist. That is to say, as a philologian a man sees behind the holy books, and as a physician he sees behind the physiological degeneration of the typical Christian. The physician says incurable; the philologian says fraud.



Has any one ever clearly understood the celebrated story at the beginning of the Bible--of God's mortasl terror of science? ....  No one, in fact, has understood it.  This priest-book par excellence opens, as is fitting with the great inner difficulty of the priest:  he faces only one grat danger; ergo, "God" faces only one great danger --







The old God, wholly spirit, wholly the high-priest, wholly perfect, is promenading his garden: he is bored and trying to kill time. Against boredom even gods struggle in vain.3  

What does he do? He creates man--man is entertaining. . .. But then he notices that man is also bored. Gods pity for the only form of distress that invades all paradises knows no bounds; so he forthwith creates other animals. Gods first mistake: to man these other animals were not entertaininghe sought dominion over them; he did not want to be an animal himself.So God created woman. In the act he brought boredom to an endand also many other things! Woman was the second mistake of God. Woman, at bottom, is a serpent, Hevaevery priest knows that; from woman comes every evil in the worldevery priest knows that, too. Ergo, she is also to blame for science. . . It was through woman that man learned to taste of the tree of knowledge.What happened? The old God was seized by mortal terror. Man himself had been his greatest blunder; he had created a rival to himself; science makes men godlike it is all up with priests and gods when man becomes scientificMoral:  science is the forbidden per se; it alone is forbidden. Science is the first of sins, the germ of all sins, the original sin. This is all there is of morality.Thou shalt not know:the rest follows from that.Gods mortal terror, however, did not hinder him from being shrewd. How is one to protect ones self against science? For a long while this was the capital problem. Answer: Out of paradise with man! Happiness, leisure, foster thoughtand all thoughts are bad thoughts!Man must not think.And so the priest invents distress, death, the mortal dangers of childbirth, all sorts of misery, old age, decrepitude, above all, sickness nothing but devices for making war on science! The troubles of man dont allow him to think....

 Neverthelesshow terrible!, the edifice of knowledge begins to tower aloft, invading heaven, shadowing the godswhat is to be done?The old God invents war; he separates the peoples; he makes men destroy one another (the priests have always had need of war. War--among other things, a great disturber of science!--Incredible! Knowledge, deliverance from the priests, prospers in spite of war.So the old God comes to his final resolution: Man has become scientificthere is no help for it: he must be drowned! .


I have been understood. At the opening of the Bible there is the whole psychology of the priest.The priest knows of only one great danger:  that is science--the sound comprehension of cause and effect. But sci­ence flourishes, on the whole, only under favourable conditionsa man must have time, he must have an overflowing intellect, in order to know.... Therefore, man must be made unhappy,this been, in all ages, the logic of the priest--it is easy to see just what, by this logic, was the first thing to come into the world:sin. The concept of guilt arid punishment, the whole moral order of the world, was set up against science against the deliverance of man from priests. ... Man must not look outward; he must look inward. He must not look at things shrewdly and cautiously, to learn about them; he must not look at all; he must suffer.. . . And he must suffer so much that he is always in need of the priest.Away with physicians! What is needed is a Saviour. The concept of guilt and punishment, including the doctrines of grace, of salvation, of forgiveness--lies through and through, and absolutely without psychological realitywere devised to destroy mans sense of causality: they are an attack upon the concept of cause and effect!And not an attack with the fist, with the knife, with honesty in hate and love! On the contrary, one inspired by the most cowardly, the most crafty the most ignoble of instincts! An attack of priests! An attack of parasites! The vampirism of pale, subterranean leeches1 When the natural consequences of an act are no longer natural, but are regarded as produced by the ghostly creations of superstitionby God, by spirits, by soulsand reckoned as merely moral consequences, as rewards, as punishments, as hints, as lessons, then the whole ground­work of knowledge is destroyed--then the greatest of crimes against humanity has been perpetrated.--I repeat that sin, mans self-desecration par excellence, was invented in order to make science, culture, and every elevation and ennobling of man impossible; the priest rules through the invention of sin.


 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 believingor how much a sign of decadence, of a broken will to livethen 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 because 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 absurdum 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 suspicious lips of a priest): even so, could 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 integrity 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 Yea and Nay a matter of conscience!--Faith makes blessed: therefore, it lies.


The fact that faith, under certain circumstances, may work for blessed­ness, but that this blessedness produced by an idee 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 healththe actual ulterior purpose of the whole system of salvation of the church is to make people ill. And the church itself doesnt it set up a Catholic lunatic asylum as the ultimate ideal?The whole earth as a madhouse?The sort of religious man that the church uants 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 before 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. . . .4   Once I ventured to designate the whole Christian system of training5 in penance and salvation (now best studied in England) as a method of producing a folie circula ire6 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 Chris­tianityone 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 holinessa 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 Chandala7 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 Pauls 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:8 this was the formula; in hoc signo [in this sign we conquer] the decadence triumphed God on the crossis 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 itChristianity remains to this day the greatest misfortune of humanity.


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 superbia9 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 priestrevealed by a glance at himis 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 lieit 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 profitthe capacity for absorbing facts without interpreting them falsely, and without losing caution, patience and subtlety in the effort to understand them. Philology as ephexis1O in interpretation: whether one be dealing with books, with newspaper reports, with the most fateful events or with weather statisticsnot 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 daring that it is enough to make a philologian run up a wall. But what shall he do when pietists and other such cows from Suabia11 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 of decency, 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 hed have to be abolished even if he existed. God as a domestic ser­vant, as a letter carrier, as an almanac-manat 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! ...



With this I come to a conclusion and pronounce my judgment. I con­demn Christianity; I bring against the Christian church the most terrible of all the accusations that an accuser has ever had in his mouth. It is, to me, the greatest of all imaginable corruptions; it seeks to work the ultimate corruption, the worst possible corruption. The Christian church has left nothing untouched by its depravity; it has turned every value into worthlessness, and every truth into a lie, and every integrity into baseness of soul. Let any one dare to speak to me of its humanitarian blessings! Its deepest necessities range it against any effort to abolish distress; it lives by distress; it creates distress to make itself immortal For example, the worm of sin: it was the church that first enriched mankind with this misery!-- The equality of souls before Godthis fraud, this pretext for the rancunel2 of all the base-minded this explo­sive concept, ending in revolution, the modern idea, and the notion of overthrowing the whole social orderthis is Christian dynamite.... The humanitarian blessings of Christianity forsooth To breed out of humanitas a self-contradiction, an art of self-pollution, a will to lie at any price, an aversion and contempt for all good and honest instincts! All this, to me, is the humanitarianism of Christianity!Parasitism as the only practice of the church; with its anemic and holy ideals, sucking all the blood, all the love, all the hope out of life; the beyond as the will to deny all reality; the cross as the distinguishing mark of the most subterranean conspiracy ever heard of,against health, beauty, well-being, intellect, kindness of soul against life itself...


This eternal accusation against Christianity I shall write upon all walls, wherever walls are to be foundI have letters that even the blind will be able to see. . . .  I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means are venomous enough, or secret, subterranean and small enough, I call it the one immortal blemish upon the human race....


And mankind reckons time from the dies nefastusl13  when this fatality befell--from the first day of Christianity!Why not rather from its last?From today?--The transvaluation of all values!





                 1.  [A God such as Paul created is the negation of God.]

2.            [Or Torah, primarily a reference to the Pentateuch but more generally the Written and Oral Law embodied in it.]

3.      A paraphrase of Schillers Against stupidity even gods struggle in vain. Menckens note]

4.      [For the greater honor of God.]

            5.            The word training is in English in the text. [Menckens note]

6.            [Alternating or cyclic madness; extreme mood swings from euphoria to depression.]

7.            [The Chandala are the lowest (untouchable) caste of Hindu society; here the term is used figuratively.]

8.            1 Corinthians i, 27, 28. [Menckens note]

9.            [Pride.]

10.  That is to say, scepticism. Among the Greeks scepticism was also occa­sionally called ephecticism. [Menckens note]

11.  A reference to the University of Tubingen and its famous school of Bib­lical criticism. The leader of this school was F. C. Baur, and one of the men greatly influenced by it was Nietzsches pet abomination, David F Strauss, him­self a Suabian. [Menckens note]

12.  [Spite.]

13.   [Cursed day.]



From Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist, trans. H. L. Mencken (New York: Knopf, 1920), pp.

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