One of the giants in philosophy, Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical texts gives us the author’s views regarding Judeo-Christian values. For the most part, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals gives a detailed account of the shortcomings in the tradition of Jews of Christians by focusing on the idea that the people who have strongly followed the religions created the sense of unhappiness. It can be said that Nietzsche presents his view that Judeo-Christian values have eroded the chances of the people who ascribe to these religions to arrive at genuine happiness. Judeo-Christian values, as Nietzsche would tell us, have also impeded the normal and inherent will power of individuals who are considered to be essentially strong or who are capable of using their will (Stevens, p. 560).
Known for being a philosopher and an atheist who disliked Christians and believed in nothing, it is no surprise that Nietzsche attacks the current domination of the tradition of Jews and Christians in the world. Nonetheless, he provides several positive aspects that he would want to observe and experience in the world in his work Genealogy of Morals.
In essence, though, Nietzsche provides the fundamental problems which he sees in the Judeo-Christian tradition, especially with reference to two aspects. First is the reactivity rather than the creativity of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Second is the tradition’s celebration of human suffering in many ways rather than the exaltation and performance of activities which are full of joy. It can be noted that the Judeo-Christian tradition gives great bearing to the suffering of Christ and, thus, the believers of the tradition are compelled to inculcate the sufferings of Christ into their lives. It leads to a life which is all the more saddened by the thought of having the messiah nailed down the cross for the sins of humanity.
The general observation of Nietzsche is that these twofold aspects translate into actions which significantly “attack” rather than “create”. This perception prompted Nietzsche to believe that the Judeo-Christian tradition simply resides on the negative side of things instead of dwelling on the positive sides of life, one of which is creative activity which bolsters the affirmation of the human life. Indeed, when individuals are bent on focusing on the negative aspects of life rather than on the positive sides, it can be said that these individuals are not far-off from attaining a life that is also filled with negativity and is devoid of positivity. Creative activity, Nietzsche tells us, should be the main focus of humanity instead of the destruction of the life of happiness. This destruction, apparently, is caused by the traditions espoused by Jews and Christians (Dienstag, p. 925).
The destruction of happiness in the life of humanity is further emphasized in Nietzsche’s discussion on the enslavement of the believers in the values in the Judeo-Christian tradition. This he does by retracing the origins of the values in the tradition. He found out that the cultures of the Jews and the Christians were enslaved at the time when the values inherent in these cultures were being identified. Human condition was eventually determined by the philosophies as having slavery as one of its many parts. That is because the individuals who developed that human condition were no less than slaves, which is also ironic precisely because these ‘slaves’ celebrated their status instead of releasing themselves from this bondage created. With their captivity celebrated like a festive concern, the people who subsumed themselves into this enslavement began to believe that , as Nietzsche points out, a good person is one who does not resort to outrage. The good person is also the person who does not harm others or anybody for that matter inasmuch as that good person does not attack and ‘requite’. The good person only leaves vengeance to God and God alone.
The God in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Nietzsche points out, keeps himself hidden just like the enslaved individuals in the tradition. That being said, Nietzsche argues that, since God remains hidden, the enslaved individuals have resorted to avoiding performing activities which will prompt them to stand out apart from the rest of the enslaved community and from the ‘hidden’ God. By doing so, or by avoiding standing out from the rest, the people bound by the Judeo-Christian tradition have declined to a state where they do not engage themselves into any form of constructive activities. The effect is that the enslaved individuals are not able to reach a point where they can be able to promote and improve their cultures.
As Nietzsche would reiterate, instead of cultivating their cultures and doing activities that will benefit them, people have celebrated their state of suffering and patronized it as something worthy of being emulated and admired. These forms of emulation and admiration only propagated and strengthened the enslavement of the individuals.
In the long run, or as time went by, the state of enslavement has continued through generations. A “slave morality” eventually came into mind and that the people have only resorted to focusing merely on the status quo instead of pushing themselves towards the progress of life.
As a result, the ‘slaves’ in the Judeo-Christian tradition have propagated the value of celebrating suffering and the negative side of life which, as a major consequence, negatively afflicted the rest of the world in the sense that it reached the point where no progress has been made among the rest of humanity. According to Nietzsche, morality should espouse or promote the celebration of life in the sense that free, lively and joyful activities ought to be the main functions and purposes of morality instead of the negation of these things.
However, the slaves in the Judeo-Christian tradition refuse to believe in the philosophy of celebrating vigorous activities and instead cling hard to the belief that the only thing worthy of emulation and admiration are the things that inherently belong to the Judeo-Christian tradition. That being said, Nietzsche then argues that the slaves believed in a morality that does not subscribe to what is external to it, to what is different with the tradition, and to what is not entirely the tradition in the way the people came to understand it.
The result of these things is that the fundamental actions of the slaves in the Judeo-Christian tradition reject what is outside of their tradition or ‘world’. These individuals eventually turn out to be reactive to the negative impulses inasmuch as they have become discordant with anything that is creative. These individuals put into destruction the things that are placed before them, things which can liberate them from their bondage, things such as vigorous, free and joyful activities. Instead, these individuals come to celebrate their enslavement. In the end, slave morality came to be known as one which espouses the concept of ‘good’ as that which propagates the suffering of the people in the Judeo-Christian tradition which, according to Nietzsche, does not hold any merit for being a cause for celebration.
Nevertheless, he argues that the conditions of suffering and the reactionary attitude of the enslaved individuals instead of a constructive attitude are not inherent in human nature. Rather, these conditions have been caused by the very tradition of Jews and Christians in the sense that the tradition has created a ‘debtor-creditor’ relationship among its believers. That is, the feeling of guilt becomes apparent when those who benefit from anything given by everyone are not able to return the favor when those who gave are already deceased. In essence, a debtor cannot owe anything to a dead creditor, thus creating the feeling of guilt to the debtor for not being able to return the favor which is considered to be a form of suffering. Hence, Nietzsche is bent on arguing that the condition of suffering is not inherent in human nature but is inherent in the tradition.
The concept of ‘guilt’ in Nietzsche becomes clear by considering the idea that it is a debt owed and that the punishment for that form of guilt is a mere repayment for that debt. Thus, Nietzsche believes that the enslavement of man in the Judeo-Christian tradition has significantly increased his propensity to remain reactive instead of being constructive. Guilt manifests itself as something which demands for a form of a payment, thus prompting man encapsulated in this guilt to endure suffering and remain under the helm of the tradition. Bad conscience then becomes the tendency of the afflicted to view themselves as sinners and allow themselves to be engulfed by the feeling of suffering, of negativities in life. Nietzsche advances the notion that guilt is consequently an artificial concept brought about by the values in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Meanwhile, in his book Ecce Homo, Nietzsche all the more pronounces the idea that man ought to overcome himself. In many sense, he espouses the belief that the greatest hindrance to man is man himself and no other precisely because it is man who controls himself and is one who is able to take full grasp of his will power and transcend the limits imposed on him by the Judeo-Christian tradition. Although it I quite evident in the book’s titles that Nietzsche is establishing himself as a person personifying himself as a person overcoming his own. That is also the same reason why he believes that to be a man able to admit the sufferings and struggles is to be more than man and that, indeed, that stage is to be more than the Christ.
The titles in Ecce Homo evidently suggests that Nietzsche, during the final stages of his life bridled with insanity, is propagating himself as more than a mere preacher but a preacher who practices what he preaches. That is, Nietzsche is inclined more than ever to prove in his writings that he has become a genius from having been able to overcome himself.
Nietzsche also espouses the idea that man should return to his animal instincts, those instincts being the spontaneous and smooth response which is evident among animals. By animal instincts, we are led to presume that it corresponds to, say, the desire for the pleasure of inflicting cruelty. This instinct is believed to be suppressed by the ‘state’ as specifically proscribed by the rules of the state. In here, one is reminded of Nietzsche’s understanding that guilt and suffering has been an artificial result in the Judeo-Christian tradition for man not being able to return the favor to his deceased creditors. Thus, in a state where the desire for the pleasure of cruelty is suppressed by the rules and where guilt and suffering are affected on the individuals, self-torture becomes a need in order to compensate for the unreturned favor although that form of animal instinct man sees as a guilty action before the eyes of God.
In the end, man finds himself as a being that is guilty beyond redemption for being at the mercy of the impossibility of returning the favor to the deceased creditors. Nietzsche interprets this reaction of man as an ‘insanity of the will’, one which is a monumental sickness of humanity. Then and there Nietzsche prescribes the solution to that sickness by suggesting that guilt should no longer be associated with the animal instincts but with humanity’s nihilistic desire for otherworldliness.
Dienstag, Joshua Foa. “Nietzsche’s Dionysian Pessimism.” The American Political Science Review 95.4 (2001): 923-37.
Stevens, Jacqueline. “On the Morals of Genealogy.” Political Theory 31.4 (2003): 558-88.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo. Ed. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, Inc., 1989.