Thursday, January 29, 2015

Notes on Nietzsche's Human, All Too Human Section 3: Religious Life

108. Misfortune can be overcome either by removing its cause or by changing its effect on our feelings. As religions and other palliatives lose influence, men are more inclined to confront reality.

109. We would happily exchange the soothing errors of religion for truths with the same effect, but there are none: "Sorrow is knowledge." With our present knowledge, one cannot engage in Christianity without soiling his intellectual conscience.

110. Opponents of the Enlightenment held sway over Schopenhauer, who should have said "Never, neither indirectly nor directly, neither as a dogma nor as an allegory, has religion yet held any truth." Philosophers often worked within the traditions of religion and so ended up with doctrines similar to religious views. In reality there is no connection whatsoever between religion and real science.

111. In the times of origins of religion, men knew nothing of natural causation and viewed all events as the result of magical influences and arbitrary acts arising from conscious beings. Religious men want to impose a law on nature, and to gain power over belongings of others; they even use physical images of gods or saints to express anger over events. Still, it is also based on more noble ideas such as goodwill and gratitude.

112. At one time the combination of farce with the sublime in ceremony and art was common; now it is disappearing.

113. Today Christianity is an anachronistic tradition; the fact that people who are otherwise strict in testing assertions still believe in the divinity of Jesus is the oldest part of this tradition. "Are we to believe that such things are still believed?"

114. The Greeks saw their gods as ideals of what humans could be, rather than as their masters, thus a greater and lesser nobility. Christianity, in contrast, crushed and shattered man, and while he was thus confused, stunned him with mercy and elicited a cry of rapture.

115. Some men are beautified by religion; others who have no expertise with any weapon, including mouth and pen, find it useful; still others have empty and monotonous lives and are to be forgiven for becoming religious, but they have no right to demand religiosity from those with full lives.

116. If Christianity were right in its tenets, then it would be a sign of stupidity and poor character not to become a priest or apostle, to lose sight of eternal deserts for temporary comfort. Thus the everyday Christian is a pitiful figure.

117. Christianity attempts to make disdain for other individuals impossible because it teaches that all men are utterly despicable and worthless; we are all of one kind.

118. "As soon as a religion comes to prevail, it has as its enemies all those who would have been its first disciples."

119. "Christianity came into existence in order to lighten the heart; but now it has to burden the heart first, in order to be able to lighten it afterward. Consequently it will perish."

120. "An agreeable opinion is accepted as true: this is the proof by pleasure."

121. If one allows any room for religious feeling, it necessarily grows, and eventually all one's judgment and feeling is befogged, overcast with religious shadows.

122. Disciples who have no eye for the weaknesses of their teaching have the greatest power. "Without blind disciples, no man or his work has ever gained great influence."

123. "There is not enough religion in the world even to destroy religions."

124. When we realize that men are not nearly as wicked as our errors of reason have led us to believe, then our mood is greatly improved and we can be content in a halo of harmlessness.

125. Many great artists, such as Homer, are so comfortable with their gods that they must have been irreligious.

126. "One of the greatest effects of men whom we call geniuses and saints is that they exact interpreters who misunderstand them, to the good of mankind."

127. It was observed that an excited state often clears the mind and produces happy ideas, leading to the false conclusion that the madman should be revered as wise and prescient.

128. "Modern science has as its goal the least pain and the longest life possible - that is, a kind of eternal happiness: to be sure, a very modest kind in comparison with the promises of religions."

129. "There is not enough love and kindness in the world to permit us to give any of it away to imaginary beings."

130. The inner world of sublime, tender, intuitive, contrite, and blissful moods that were inspired by religious practices have not been lost even after the religions are no longer believed.

131. Even in scientific philosophy, the religiously tinged sections seem better proved than others, but it is the opposite: our inner wish that what gladdens might be true misleads us into accepting bad reasons.

132. Man's need for redemption can be explained purely psychologically. Selfless actions are esteemed highly but are difficult to sustain, and men compare themselves in this regard not to other men but to an entirely selfless ideal, which creates discontent and even fear of punishment.

133. "The whole concept of 'selfless action,' if examined carefully, evaporates into thin air... How could the ego act without ego?" A man must do much for himself to be in a position to do for others, and doing for others causes immorality in the recipient, who is accepting these actions selfishly. If the idea of God is removed then we mostly remove the pangs of conscience, and seeing that actions are unconditionally necessary removes their final vestiges.

134. On occasion the Christian's self-contempt abates and he feels free and courageous and esteem for himself. But he reads divine goodness into this experience and treats it as proof that God is merciful, rather than as self-love. As he misinterpreted his actions, he now misinterprets his experiences.

135. A false psychology in interpreting motives and experiences is necessary for being a Christian and experiencing the need for redemption. Recognizing this aberration of reason causes one to cease to be a Christian.

136. Asceticism and saintliness are generally viewed as miraculous and remain unexplained, to the delight of those who admire miracles. The nature of these behaviors is complex, and we will examine them by isolating impulses in the souls of these people.

137. Asceticism is the exercise of one's power against oneself, due to lack of other objects or having otherwise failed. This scorn for one's own nature is actually a very high degree of vanity. Man takes a truly voluptuous pleasure in violating himself by exaggerated demands and then deifying this something in his soul that is so tyrannically taxing.

138. Under the influence of extreme tension and excitement, man wants to relieve the emotion and may just as well sacrifice himself as another. Insofar as self-denial is not done strictly with regard for another, it is not moral but merely an opportunity to relieve one's tense heart.

139. The ascetic is trying to make life easy for himself by complete subordination to a law or another's will. This is easier than to renounce one's will only occasionally, just as it is easier to give up a desire entirely than to moderate it.

140. Self-contempt and self-torment are a means to combat the general exhaustion of life force that comes from the dullness and boredom of subordinating one's will.

141. The ascetic or saint sees his life as a continuing battle and himself as the battlefield on which good and evil spirits struggle, with alternating results. He fights everything natural, including sensuality, and to lift this burden requires the supernatural. In the documents of Christianity, the demands have been exaggerated so that man cannot satisfy them; the intention is not that he become more moral, but rather that he feel as sinful as possible.

142. In summary, the disposition of the saint is composed of elements we know quite well. Sometimes he exercises a defiance against himself as a means of exercising power; sometimes he wants to stop tormenting feelings, and he sets a trap for his emotions to create humiliation. He attacks his self-deification with self-contempt.

143. The saint did not know himself any more than others understood him. Because no one understood the saint, he signified the miraculous and supported belief in the divine.

144 This portrait of the saint can be contradicted by certain exceptions, including Jesus who was attractive even though deluded, and also does not cover the Indian holy men.

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