What do Christians think of Nietzsche? (4 of 6)
|February 20, 2015||Posted by Joseph Keysor under Blog|
Concerning Nietzsche’s negative comments about Jews (many more examples of which could have been given), Nietzsche’s defenders find it easy to respond by saying that he made positive comments as well. That is true of course, but if we consider his seemingly positive comments we find that they are not really so positive after all. For example, we read the following in Beyond Good and Evil: “That the Jews could, if they wanted – or if they were compelled, as the anti-Semites seem to want – even now predominate, indeed quite literally rule over Europe, is certain; that they are not planning and working towards that is equally certain” .
This book was published in 1886. Now does anyone want to seriously maintain that Jewish Talmud scholars, bookbinders, rabbis and candlestick makers were at that time capable of “quite literally ruling over Europe” if they chose to do so? This shows that Nietzsche had a very strange way of looking at the Jews. If the Jews were so powerful, why could they not prevent the Kishinev pogrom, or secure an acquittal for Dreyfuss at his first trial? If no one else will say it, I will – this is complete nonsense.
Nietzsche says on the same page that “The Jews, however, are beyond all doubt the strongest, toughest and purest race at present living in Europe; they know how to prevail even under the worst conditions.” This sounds like unmistakable praise – except that Hitler said pretty much the same thing in Mein Kampf. In Hitler’s words:
“Hardly in any people of the world is the instinct of self-preservation more strongly developed than in the so-called ‘chosen people.’ The fact of the existence of this race alone may be looked upon as the best proof of this. Where is the people that in the past two thousand years has been exposed to so small changes of the inner disposition, of character, etc., as the Jewish people? Which people finally has experienced greater changes than this one and yet has always come forth the same from the most colossal catastrophes of mankind? What an infinitely persistent will for life, for preserving the race do these facts disclose! . . . the Jewish people’s instinct of self-preservation is not smaller, but rather greater, than that of other nations” 
The strange survival of the Jews where other peoples either disappeared or were altered beyond recognition has often been commented upon. If you do not want to attribute it to the will of God and his faithfulness to the convenant with Abraham, how else can you explain it? Nietzsche, Hitler, Wagner and many others ascribed it to their racial toughness. Also interesting here is Nietzsche’s emphasis on racial purity. He mentions racial issues a number of times in The Genealogy of Morals as well – “race decay” and “degeneration” (II. 20), improving the powers of endurance in a race (I. 17, Nietzsche’s note), “a means to the purification of the race” and “claimed as a privilege by the stronger races” (both in II. 13). Questions of racial strength and purity were not central to Nietzsche’s thought, but he did have in interest in them and mentioned them numbers of times. This aspect of Nietzsche’s worldview has been strangely neglected – perhaps because it is too embarrassing.
Also interesting is the certainty, the “beyond all doubt.” And where did Nietzsche come by this certain information that was beyond all doubt? He doesn’t say. How does he know that the Jews were so strong that they could control Europe if they really wanted to? As in so many other cases, he confidently presents his somewhat confused intuitions and feelings as facts. And, for someone who changed his views on Wagner completely, and went from high praise to bitter reviling, it is not big a shift from “are not trying to” to “are trying to” – a shift that is indicated in The Antichrist, if not spelled out in detail.
Also in Beyond Good and Evil, on the page directly following that quoted above, Nietzsche writes of “breeding a new ruling caste for Europe” . Apart from the interesting question of why Nietzsche’s admirers do not seem to have any problem with this, or why they are unable to even see it when they read, we note that he suggests the breeding of Jews and Germans to achieve this goal. After all, Germans are “bred into the hereditary art of commanding and obeying,” whereas Jews have “the genius of money and patience.” Maybe if we breed these people we can bring about a higher race of man. This reveals Nietzsche’s complete ignorance of the reasons for which people ordinarily want to marry and bring children into the world. If it does show some high regard for the Jews in a strange way, it is a regard that has no concern for them as individuals, as human beings, and would in the end lead to the final disappearance of Judaism.
Finally on the subject of Nietzsche’s positive comments about Jews, he praised the Old Testament as being far superior to the New. People who use this to neutralize Nietzsche’s anti-Jewish remarks seem to be forgetting that he was an atheist, and did not believe in the Old Testament at all. In fact, its basic ideas were anathema to him. The idea that there was a God and we needed to obey his laws was something for which Nietzsche had a most unusual hatred. So how could he praise the Old Testament then? To understand this we need to look back to Feuerbach.
Ludwig Feuerbach rejected traditional Christianity and Judaism as false, as merely human inventions, but he did not see them as being worthless on that account. He considered them to be projections of human consciousness, but important projections that revealed significant truths about our needs for love, meaning, justice, and so on. Similarly, Nietzsche saw the Old Testament as only a projection of human consciousness but, insofar as it allowed for wars, battles, and conquests, it was the projection of a healthy consciousness, “the expression of its [Israel’s] consciousness of power” (The Antichrist, sect. 25). So, he could praise it in this respect as being far superior to the New Testament, even as he loathed its fundamental assertion of a higher spiritual reality to which we are subject.
Finally, before moving on to another topic, it is often said that Nietzsche broke with Wagner because of antisemitism, but that is not the case. If we look at Nietzsche Contra Wagner, we see that he mentions Wagner’s antisemitism in passing. What really bothers him, and what he writes about at great length, is Wagner’s surrender to Christianity, his supposed collapse before the cross, in writing Parsifal. Actually,Parsifal has more to do with Arthurian legend and Schopenhauerian philosophy than with any teachings of Christ, but religious themes such as chastity and what not were enough to make Nietzsche angry.
Nietzsche wrote, “I despise everyone who does not experience Parsifal as an attempted assassination of basic ethics” . So, if you listened to Parsifal and did not see it as an attempted assassination of basic ethics, Nietzsche despises you, you blind fools. And just what are these “basic ethics”? Where did these come from? I thought Nietzsche was the apostle of complete freedom, but now he is talking about “basic ethics.”
 Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (London: Penguin Books, 2003), p. 182 (“Peoples and Fatherlands” 251, italics Nietzsche’s).
 Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, (Boston, MS: Houghton Mifflin, 1939), pp. 412, 414 (vol. I. chapt. 11 “Nation and Race”)https://archive.org/stream/meinkampf035176mbp/meinkampf035176mbp_djvu.txt(translator not named).
 Beyond Good and Evil, p. 183.
 Bryan Magee, Wagner and Philosophy (London: Penguin Books, 2001), p. 320 (quoting Nietzsche Contra Wagner).