Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher known for his radical critics of the classical philosophical thought and religion. Nietzsche rejected social laws, morals and religion. Nietzsche’s views on religions and morals get the best realization in his later works. In Beyond Good and Evil he explores the ethical mechanisms, which regulate people behavior and their origins. He did not believe that nature was morally neutral. He distinguished two types of morality: herd morality and master morality. Herd morality he attributed to Christianity. Nietzsche criticized both – this type of morality and religion, based on the consciousness of slaves. He correlated the appearance of the terms good and bad to the terms of Roman Empire when everything connected with warriors and cruelty.
Such moral system gave week and suppressed a kind of compensation in their miserable situation and gave them mechanisms to control strong and successful members of the society. Nietzsche states that generations of people live directed by the ethical judgments created by the generation of slaves. He believes that using such moral principles we only distance ourselves from true liberation and fortify the continuousness of the slaves. The type of morality described above reflects “herd morality”, which dominates in the society for centuries.
Another type of morality, which is contrasted to herd morality, is called master morality. According to Nietzsche this morality is realistic and reflects the real destination of all human creatures. Master morality asserts the power of successful and strong individuals, who have the right to rule the world. Nietzsche denied the morality of the nature, calling it morally neutral. “There are no moral phenomena; there are only moral interpretations.
Thus, master morality speaks of “good” and “bad” rather than “Good and Evil” (Nietzsche, 87). He saw master morality as the way to overcome limitations, created by the moral judgments of slave morality. Master morality for Nietzsche becomes the way to realize the potential to will-to-power. Denying religions values, Nietzsche did not recognize rich literary prophesy of world religious. He did not see any value in religious texts and sermons.
The Sermon of the Mount is an essence of all Christian teaching. It contains instructions of Jesus Christ to his Disciples. These instructions teach people compassion and patience. Speaking about afterlife, Jesus underlines that all needy will get everything they deserve after death. In his sermon, Jesus underlines the importance of seeking for the righteousness, he states: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Principles of non-violence and obedience to the will of God are close to the ideas expressed by the majority of world religions. Jesus Christ stresses on the unconditional universal love, which he defined as a main moral principle.
The Ten Commandments given to Moses on the Mount of Sinai contain the very principle ideas of Christian teaching. According to the Bible God gave these Ten Commandments to Moses in order to pass his will to all people. These Commandments became universal guidelines for all religious people. They express norms of moral behavior for all people. If we study them in greater detail we will see that these Commandments are universal and can be applied for all people regardless of their race and religion. For many centuries the Ten Commandments have been the foundation for moral system of Western Civilization. It is difficult to doubt such universal truths, as:
Honour thy father and mother
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal (Exodus 20:2-17).
It is had to imagine a person, who would disagree these Commandments. The Ten Commandments are designed in order to regulate not only relations between God and humans. They also contain guidelines for person to person interactions and social behavior.
Night Journey or Al-Isra wa Al-Miraj of 24th Rajab 619 CE is a story from Qur’an, which describes the journey of the Prophet Mohammed to Jerusalem and his meeting with God. This story describes Prophet’s journey through seven heavens and his conversation with God. On his way Mohammed meets a lot of characters from religious texts. After his conversation with God he gets the message that it is necessary to pray God five times a day.
Often people, who read this story understand it literary and see it only as a message about the necessity to pray. In reality the message of this story is much deeper as it speaks about such important themes as faith in God, individual responsibility, right faith, avoiding evil and sacredness of life. This passage from Qur’an raises the questions of human freedom and responsibility. Mohammad passes not only the message about the necessity to pray God. He also speaks that each person should be responsible for his actions.
Nietzsche’s critique of religion has an aesthetic nature. He also denies morals. For Nietzsche religion is only an ugly form, weak people use as compensation for their weakness. The cult of weak and miserable was established for centuries and it included the denial of everything beautiful, healthy, strong and powerful, including human body. Nietzsche states that “Christianity, which despised the body, has been the greatest misfortune of humanity so far” (Nietzsche, 119). For him religion along with morality serves only for the justification for weak and powerless, who have no other means to express their right for living. Calling for revolt and setting up the morality of master Nietzsche deprives week of their right to live and realize themselves.
“God is dead” is a phrase from his writing which reflects his radical attitude to religion and ethics. Nietzsche stated that religion, philosophy and what is most important – humanity – were killed by the traditional values of society. The way of life and social organization have lead to the destruction and depreciation of moral values and basic human qualities. As he states: “Morality, as it has so far been under stood, it has in the end been formulated once more by Schopenhauer, as “negation of the will to life” is the very instinct of decadence, which makes an imperative of itself. It says: “Perish!” It is a condemnation pronounced by the condemned” (Nietzsche, 154).
Nietzsche wanted to create a generation on new human beings – supermen or Overman – free from the false morality. “Our moral judgments and evaluations…are only images and fantasies based on a physiological process unknown to us” – he states to prove the relativity of the moral norms and principles. Nietzsche believed that the society’s traditional way of thinking and morals were life-denying and destructive. Traditional morals gave a rice to “slave morality” which suppresses all impulses to creatively and free will of the humans and makes them to adopt a “herd mentality”. It makes people believe that thing which is good for the majority is good for everyone. That is the reason people put themselves into the strict limitations and boundaries of the predefined good and evil.
“Slave morality encourages conformity; national, racial, gender, and religious bigotry; and unthinking patriotism” (Soccio, 114). The world was defined by Nietzsche to be dead. He put all the burden of responsibility for this on the traditional Christian morals accepted by the vast majority of the western world. According to Nietzsche, traditional moral values, such as self-sacrifices, humanity, love, compassion have killed everything natural. The only way out Nietzsche saw in crossing the line, getting out of the moral limitations and restrictions of good and evil and following only “the will to power”. That would place the humans on the other, higher plane of existence.
Nietzsche is an influential philosopher, famous for his critics of Christian morality. His critics of all religious doctrines is a brave attempt to overcome religious dogmatism and domination. Despite his teachings contain a lot of innovative ideas and strong arguments I think that rejecting Christian morals and religious moral in general he rejects not only bad things, but also rich prophesy created through the centuries. Nietzsche regards religion as a source of suppression of human will. He counts on conscious individuals, who are directed by inner moral, which regulates all their thoughts and actions. Unfortunately, modern society consists of different people, who are not always driven by higher moral standards. In this case religion, social norms and regulations become those defensive mechanisms, which help to avoid bad consequences. Rejecting their norms and regulations can bring harm to the society and human race in general.
Nietzsche, Friedrich On the Genealogy of Morals. trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale, in On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo. New York: Random House, 1967.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Beyond Good and Evil. trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, 1966.
Nietzsche, Friedrich, Thus Spake Zarathustra, tr. Thomas Common, London: George Allen and Unwin, 1999.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a philosophy of the future, tr. R.J. Hollingdale, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1973.
Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ: or How to Philosophize with a Hammer, Penguin Classics, 1990.
Soccio, Douglas J. Archetypes of Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy,
Belmont, CA : Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2004.
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