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Friedrich Nietzsche's Atheism

Friedrich Nietzsche's Atheism
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  • 0:01 Nietzsche
  • 1:08 Atheists & Christians
  • 1:39 Nietzsche's Atheism
  • 2:16 Superman
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson explores the works of Nietzsche. It defines his concept of a superman. It also highlights his views of the Christian God and his four guidelines for attaining freedom.

Nietzsche

Quoting the philosopher Nietzsche can start a bit of a fire. To prove my point, just walk into a Catholic Church and read these words:

'I condemn Christianity; I bring against the Christian Church the most terrible charge any prosecutor has ever uttered. To me it is the extremest thinkable form of corruption; it has had the will to the ultimate corruption conceivably possible. The Christian Church has left nothing untouched by its depravity; it has made of every value a disvalue, of every truth a lie, of every kind of integrity a vileness of the soul.'

Like I said, Nietzsche can make you swallow your gum. Keeping this in mind, today's lesson on his particular brand of atheism will be an interesting one. First, let's take a look at the man. Actually the son of a German priest, Friedrich Nietzsche is arguably the world's most famous atheist. Ironically, Nietzsche despised this term and what it meant.

Atheists & Christians

To him, common atheists share the same fallacies as Christians. They both follow rules, and they both put their faith in something. Christians put their faith in their religion. Atheists put their faith in the non-existence of God. Either way, they both impose rules of what should and shouldn't be believed. Since Nietzsche espoused existentialism, the idea that men are free from artificially imposed rules, he thought both the atheists and the Christians were fools.

Nietzsche's Atheism

With this in mind, why do so many people brand Nietzsche an atheist? The answer - because he fervently railed against the Christian God. In fact, if you asked Nietzsche if God exists, I bet he might have answered, 'I don't care!' However, if you asked him about the Christian God, who imposed rules like don't envy or hate, he'd give you a mouthful. For instance, in several of his works, including Thus Spoke Zarathustra and The Will to Power, Nietzsche postulated that Christianity, its God, and its rules are irrelevant.

Superman

Rather than being a slave to religious nonsense, Nietzsche came up with his own guidelines for life. He believed so strongly in them, he said they were the only way to become an Übermensch, or a 'Superman' in the English tongue!

Keeping this rather fantastic name in mind, let's get to a paraphrase of Nietzsche's guidelines.

1. Own up to envy.

Yes, you heard that right. Nietzsche wants you to embrace your envy. To him, the Christian idea that envy is evil is nothing more than a chain keeping you from your full potential. Calling Christians 'herds,' he asserts they're simply too bungling to get what they want, so they label envy as a bad thing. On the contrary, Nietzsche believed envy sparks a fire that pushes us to attain and achieve.

2. - And this one is really blatant - don't be a Christian.

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