When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

In the posts Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood and Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models, I have only begun to chronicle my deconversion story in detail.

But since it was 12 years ago today that it happened, I will jump ahead in the story a bit and share with you the text from Nietzsche’s Antichrist (as found in Walter Kaufmann’s The Portable Nietzsche) which I reread at about this time on a Saturday night 12 years ago in Grove City, Pennsylvania. After reading it over twice, I knew it was all over. I could not be a Christian any longer. I was flipping through the book rereading texts when I just came to the page. It was my “pick it up and read” moment.

50.

At this point I do not let myself off without a psychology of “faith,” of “believers—precisely for the benefit of “believers,” as is fitting. If today there is no lack of people who do not know in what way it is indecent to “bleieve”—or a sign of decadence, of broken will to life—tomorrow they will already know it. My voice reaches even the hard of hearing.

Unless I have heard it wrong it seems that among Christians there is a kind of criterion of truth that is called the “proof of strength.” “Faith makes blessed: hence it is true.” Here one might object first that it is precisely the making blessed which is not proved but merely promised: blessedness tied to the condition of “faith”—one shall become blessed because one believes. But whether what the priest promises the believer in fact occurs in a “beyond” which is not subject to any test—how is that proved? The alleged “proof of strength” is

thus at bottom merely another faith, namely, that the effect one expects from faith will not fail to appear. In a formula: “I believe that faith makes blessed; consequently it is true.” But with this we are already at the end. This “consequently” would be absurdity itself as the criterion of truth.

But let us suppose, with some leniency, that it was proved that faith makes blessed (not merely desired, not merely promised by the somewhat suspicious mouth of a priest): would blessedness—or, more technically speaking, pleasure-ever be a proof of truth? This is so far from the case that it almost furnishes a counterproof; in any event, the greatest suspicion of a “truth” should arise when feelings of pleasure enter the discussion of the question “What is true?” The proof of “pleasure” is a proof of “pleasure”—nothing else: how in all the world could it be established that true judgments should give greater delight than false ones and, according to a pre-established harmony, should necessarily be followed by agreeable feelings?

The experience of all severe, of all profoundly inclined, spirits teaches the opposite. At every step one has to wrestle for truth; one has had to surrender for it almost everything, to which the heart, to which our love, our trust in life, cling otherwise. That requires greatness of soul: the service of truth is the hardest service. What does it mean, after all, to have integrity in matters of the spirit? That one is severe against one’s heart, that one despises “beautiful sentiments,” that one makes of every Yes and No a matter of conscience. Faith makes blessed: consequently it lies.

And my life changed.

Your Thoughts?

Read posts in my ongoing “deconversion series” in order to learn more about my experience as a Christian, how I deconverted, what it was like for me when I deconverted, and where my life and my thoughts went after I deconverted.

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

Before I Deconverted: My Grandfather’s Contempt

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

As I Deconverted: I Spent A Summer As A Christian Camp Counselor Fighting Back Doubts

How I Deconverted: I Ultimately Failed to Find Reality In Abstractions

A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith”)

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

After I Deconverted:

After I Deconverted: I Was A Radical Skeptic, Irrationalist, And Nihilist—But Felt Liberated

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

After My Deconversion: My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Liberating Indignant Rage

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

Before I Deconverted: My Grandfather’s Contempt

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

As I Deconverted: I Spent A Summer As A Christian Camp Counselor Fighting Back Doubts

How I Deconverted: I Ultimately Failed to Find Reality In Abstractions

A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith”)

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

After I Deconverted:

After I Deconverted: I Was A Radical Skeptic, Irrationalist, And Nihilist—But Felt Liberated

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

After My Deconversion: My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Liberating Indignant Rage

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    If you’re selling an imaginary product you’ve got to convince the suckers customers that there’s some benefit to getting something they can’t see, feel, hear, or otherwise partake of any empirical evidence of its existence. In the case of Christianity, as with many religions, the selling point is “if you believe in this, then it’s harp lessons after you die, but if you don’t believe then don’t bother to pack your winter coat in your coffin.”

    As a corollary to this, believing is held up as a positive good and since something good is necessarily true, then belief in The Big Guy In The Sky must be true. Nietzsche shows this is contradictory. It’s also begging the question, but that’s not dealt with in this quotation.

  • Bruce Gorton

    It reminds me of an argument I got into at one point – which ended with the Christian I was arguing with saying his faith wasn’t strong enough to convert me.

    At the time I thought this was the weirdest concept – why would his faith have anything to do with my lack of belief?

    People who take certainty as evidence always leave me feeling a bit puzzled. How sure you are of something should be derived from the evidence for it, it shouldn’t be evidence in and of itself.

  • Irreverend Bastard

    And here I thought that The Lord of the Rings was heavy reading. I’m not even sure if Nietzsche is arguing for or against.

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM

      I’m not trying to be rude but it’s obvious to me you’ve never been in grad school. Incidentally I was reading and understanding Tolkien when I was in 8th grade. I was noticing flaws, inconsistencies, and sloppy writing in Tolkien when I was in 10th grade.

      Nietzsche is arguing against faith being necessarily true, which is an idea pushed by those whose major (or only) reason for believing in something is they have faith in it.

    • Erasmus

      Tis, I don’t think your conclusion that IB has never been in grad school follows from him being confused by Nietzsche. Personally my reading and analysis of text deveolped along similar lines to yours.

      I know people, one person in particular, who finds reading anything outside of papers difficult. He gets confused by Pratchet. He is a very very competent scientist, an excellent genetecist and has a deep understanding of his areas of expertise. He has a PhD. He wouldn’t understand a damn word of Nietzsche.

      Just thought I’d provide a counter example to show your logic is flawed. I have no idea if your conclusion is correct or not.

  • dochopper

    I Mentally walked away from the GOD Concept when I realized that only “MY SINS” could be exposed dissected analyzed and brought to light and I would be set apart from the other CHURCH PEOPLE .

    While the Popular CROWED would be forgiven their sins and welcomed more into the fold for the same thing.

    If that’s is the way Gods Children acted I needed to find ANOTHER FAMILY.

    I walked out the church doors at sixteen and never went back.I feel I am better as a person for it .

  • Michael

    Christianity is a “marriage”. Once one begins to lose faith in the relationship, it begins to disintigrate. Pseudointellectual philosophical musings are nothing more than another type of “religion”, which is the human’s search for God, rather than allowing God to find the individual. The only “work” required of us by Christ, is to believe in the One Who sent Him.

  • DavidM

    Hmmm… “Unless I have heard it wrong” indeed. Nietzsche seems just so staggeringly unconvincing here. Whose argument – that of which ‘believers’ – does he take himself to be criticizing here?? Very strange, I find, that this could persuade any intelligent truth-seeker.

  • Charlie Illingsworth

    My main understanding of what Nietzsche is saying here is that the goodness of something does not necessitate it as true. Nietzsche describes the pursuit of truth with terms such as ‘wrestle’, ‘struggle’ which implies that the pursuit of truth is not necessarily a happy journey. Faith and its ‘blessed’ benefits may lack in struggle or suffering and so is consequently a ‘happy’ belief system but this happiness is the only substance which backs faith as a competent, successful belief system; without happiness faith is nothing.

  • Megan M

    I agree with Nietzsche that any Christian who has faith merely because of the “good feeling” it promises to bring, a psychological sense of blessedness, is really fooling him or her self. However, I am a Christian, and I know that this is not the reason all Christians have faith. In fact, faith often causes discomfort and pain when it leads us to recognize our own sinfulness and asks us to sacrifice ourselves to serve others. Nietzsche’s right that the comforting kind of faith is just an empty, self-fulfilling prophecy. Unfortunately, it’s a brand of pseudo-faith that the modern day church is very good at peddling, driven by the demands of a consumeristic culture who finds the discomfort of real faith too unpalatable to be marketable. It is true in a sense, though, that faith is a leap. It’s impossible to be sure that having faith is the right thing before one has faith. That’s the essence of it. Once one decides to submit to the life of faith, one can grow in understanding of what faith is and arrive at a certain confidence in its object. This might sound suspiciously like the self-fulfilling prophecy that I denounced earlier. Yet it is different, because in this case, one doesn’t enter into the life of faith in order to find happiness or to be fulfilled. That’s contrary to the requirements of real faith. The happiness may be a byproduct, but if you enter into faith SO THAT you’ll find happiness, either you won’t find happiness or your so-called “faith” isn’t faith at all. Deciding to “fake it ’til you make it” with faith isn’t a decision one makes because one desires comfort, because faith requires discomfort. However, often after an individual does start a journey of faith seeking understanding, they do find some measure of happiness. But if that’s what they came in for, they didn’t actually come in.

    • Pofarmer

      So, what do you make of the many instances of people who by all accounts had faith, like Dan here, that then cease to believe?


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