Sunday, March 08, 2009

Nietzsche and Christianity



In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche claimed that Christianity accomplished two things. First, it gave solace and dignity to the poor. They might have to spend their lives cleaning toilets, but they do so knowing they are sons of God just like the boss. Second, and more importantly for the author, Christianity neutered the men at the top of society. Nietzsche's antipathy for the faith seems to stem from this.

But the question is, how manly did he need European men to be? Looking across the centuries when Christianity dominated the continent, do those guys seem womanly to you?

Christianity is useful precisely because it can restrain the alpha males. If Nietzsche is right that the world is divided into two types--master and slave--then all the rest of us benefit if we can convince the masters to go easy on us.

I used GSS data to see if religion makes low-status people happier. Limiting to sample to whites with jobs no higher than working-class, the graph above shows that more frequent church attendance is associated with greater happiness (N = 3,585).

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a little off topic, but what Nietzsche did dislike about Christianity was not that it gave solace to the poor by making them believe their souls had a dimension transcending their miserable, mundane lives; basically Buddhism had a similar mission to that of Christianity, but as he makes it clear on The Antichrist, Nietzsche didn't dislike Buddhism nearly as much as he did Christianity -- and this is the reason: Christianity enobled misery itself, and thus gave the intellectual and social underclass a reason to believe their social and character inferiority actually made them virtuous as compared to the lords they resented and were incapable to act against.

Conservative WASPs, Christianity-hating feminists, extreme sexual liberationists, all of them can deny their common ancestry as they wish; spin like a spinning top, but nobody can coherently argue that that aspect of Christianity hasn't evolved into, or at least hasn't spawned, socialism, feminism, and other similar modern ideologies that explicitly equate underclass with victims of unjust social oppression, and mainstream society with source of almost involuntary evil.

So it's kinda surprising to read a defense of that aspect of Christianity on a blog that constantly and explicitly mocks precisely that aforementioned equation -- but, I guess, only as long as it's presented as apologies from the Left explaining away African-American and Hispanic shortcomings as consequences of white oppression.

Anonymous said...

"Second, and more importantly for the author, Christianity neutered the men at the top of society. Nietzsche's antipathy for the faith seems to stem from this."



no...........Christianity neuters the men at the bottom of society, who would be much much less governable without it. It tells you "just be happy with you little job and be a good citizen and you will get to heaven" and keeps the troops in line. Without it, the competition to the top would be savage beyond belief and the methods used to achieve success would know few boundaries.



Keep in mind that old Fred went bonkers.

Lover of Wisdom said...

If that is Nietzche's interpretation of Christianity, then he was setting himself up for a classic strawman critique.

Ron Guhname said...

"Conservative WASPs, Christianity-hating feminists, extreme sexual liberationists, all of them can deny their common ancestry as they wish; spin like a spinning top, but nobody can coherently argue that that aspect of Christianity hasn't evolved into, or at least hasn't spawned, socialism, feminism, and other similar modern ideologies that explicitly equate underclass with victims of unjust social oppression, and mainstream society with source of almost involuntary evil."

I like Chesterton's view on this: Christianity is the balancing of all of these tendencies. In isolation, they become monsters.

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