Some time ago a friend of mine, who teaches college economics, called me in a semi-panic. "Tell me what you know about Nietzsche," he asked. It turns out he had jokingly told a philosophy professor he would cover one of his classes, and, the next thing he knew, he was scheduled to be a substitute teaching Nietzsche. About the only thing he knew about Nietzsche, he told me, was that he had a ferocious mustache and a genuis-high forehead.
"Tell the students," I suggested, "that when Nietzsche said, 'God is dead,' he meant the educated classes of his time had lost their religious faith. He believed that with no one to forgive them, their guilt would cause them to hate themselves, and ultimately, hate others. He claimed that because of this loss of faith the 20th century would have what he called 'wars such as have never happened on earth.'"
Nietzsche never meant there had been a heart attack somewhere up in the clouds. He concluded educated people had lost their faith because of 250 years of a science that had aggressively attacked religion, apparently believing the eradication of it would be a benefit for humanity. Nietzsche, even though an atheist himself, thought otherwise.
It turned out he was right, when he wrote his prophecy in 1882 in his book, The Gay Science. Although I've never considered him a philosopher in the traditional sense of the word, since he never wrote about universals or epistemology or any of the other topics philosophers usually cover. But he was a heck of a prophet. One who, when he was right, was terrifyingly right. He cannot be dismissed, even today.
He believed that when the people of his time lost their old religious faith, they would replace it with the new modern faith in rationalism and science -- with atheism, philosophical materialism and evolutionary theory. Science would become the new god, he suggested -- the new idol to be worshipped.
He also warned that when people gave up religion, which is international, they would instead become barbaric nationalists (as if there's any other kind), worshipping the idols of nation and "race."
He could see it coming, but like nearly every prophet in history, could do nothing about it. Rarely do more than a few listen. Usually, they end up as little more than a voice crying in the wilderness.
The Nazis and Communists were so influenced by the ills that Nietzsche diagnosed that historians estimate they murdered a figure beyond imagining -- 177 million people in the 20th century. But why?
Nietzsche claimed it was because of guilt. Guilt, he believed, was instilled in people before the age of reason. For all their vaunted belief in reason and science, there was still that guilt -- and no one to forgive them anymore. And that guilt led to self-hate and the hatred of others.
Yet, I wonder if Nietzsche was completely accurate in his observations. It seems to me the problem has been, more than anything else, the lack of guilt. What guilt did the Nazis and Communists ever feel about their genocide?
I believe the ancient Greeks and the Hebrews had a more accurate analysis. It's not guilt, as Nietzsche thought. It's something that has nothing to do with guilt, except the lack of it -- what the Greeks called Hubris, and the Bible, "pride."
During Nietzsche's time, when the educated ceased to believe, the only thing left for them in their nihilism was one of the greatest horrors ever: the worship of Man. Man will always worship something, even if it's, like Narcissus, himself.
This worship of Man as God is one of the main tenets of Leftism. And not surprisingly, the horrors of the 20th century were Leftist horrors. Nazism, Communism, Socialism, Fascism and Neo-conservativism -- all Leftist.
That witch's brew of Leftism is what led to the catastrophes of the 20th century -- the loss of religious faith (indeed the hatred of religion), the worship of man, race and nation as God (and the concomitant lack of guilt over what they do to others), and a gross misunderstanding and misapplication of science.
Naive science may say man is an animal, but every time man believes it, he has to turn himself into a god in order to deal with it. Otherwise, he will hate and despise himself -- and others. Yet when he sees himself as a god, he will hate and despise not himself, but others.
Blaise Pascal understood those points: "It is dangerous to prove to man too plainly how nearly he on a level with the brutes without showing him his greatness; it is also dangerous to show his greatness too clearly apart from his vileness. It is still more dangerous to leave him in ignorance of both. But it is of great advantage to show him both."
It is because of the conflating of nationalism with race that those outside of the nation become less then human, even non-human. That, along with the materialistic assumption that Man is little more than an animal who had meaninglessly evolved, led Nietzsche to write: "If the doctrines . . . of the lack of any cardinal distinction between man and animal . . . are hurled into the people for another generation . . . then nobody should be surprised when . . . brotherhoods with the aim of the robbery and exploitation of the non-brothers. . . will appear in the arena of the future."
In reality, humans are imperfect, but they are not merely animals. In religious terms, they are "fallen." But when man is seen as God, he has to be perfect. And the belief in that perfection of one's own self, or race, or nation is pure grandiosity. And "grandiosity" is just a modern term for Hubris and the overweening pride condemned in the Bible.
One of the reasons for the condemnation of grandiosity is that when one believes he is perfect, then there can be no guilt over what he does to others. If there are problems, they have to be someone else's fault. All problems -- all evil -- are projected onto another person, or race, or nation, or religion. The term for this is "scapegoating," which the psychiatrist M. Scott Peck correctly identified as "the genesis of human evil."
The scapegoater says, "I'm not the one with the problem. You are. And once I kill you, there will no problems in the world." I know it sounds like a simplistic explanation, but I do not believe it is. The Nazis said, "Once we get rid of those pesky Jews and Christians, our problems will be gone." The Communists echoed them with, "Once we get rid of these exploiting capitalists, our problems will be gone."
What will supposedly be left after the "evil" are eradicated? A perfect world. Yet, it never has worked, and never will. How can perfection come about through murder and destruction? Yet humanity never seems to learn this lesson -- it goes straight down the memory hole with every new generation.
Too bad Nietzsche is not around today. I wonder what he would make of the 21st century? I think he would see there are enough cracks in the false materialist and naturalist foundations of science to realize that it's no longer the Frankenstein's monster that it used to be. That's a good thing about science; it's self-correcting, even if it takes decades. Sometimes even centuries.
I think he would see something that might surprise even him: a century of religious warfare. One caused by the perversion of religion through Hubris.
Different religions, and moral codes, always agree there are three things needed for any society to be successful: don't murder, don't steal, and keep your word. When religion ceases to support those three things, it ceases to be true religion, and instead becomes perverted. That is one of the problems today.
Just as bad, and maybe even worse, is when religion becomes allied with the idol of the State. Then we get the grandiose "God and Country" (which is really "God and State"). The Nazis had their own term: "Gott mit uns." The Russian Communists: "Holy Mother Russia."
Since all States are based on the Political Means (stealing and murdering), all are, in religious terms, Satanic. This leads to the bizarre spectacle of those supporting "God and Country" (again, "God and State"), not realizing they're really saying "God and Satan."
This confusion is cleared up by the Commandment that reads, "You shall not use God's name for vain causes." It's the one that's almost always mistranslated as, "Don't take God's name in vain." It's got nothing to do with cussing.
Bush thought God has chosen him, and not only that, talked to him. That lead to him starting World War III, with the accompanying murder, destruction and theft, I would bet that if anyone talked to him, it was
the other guy.
Our enemies say the same thing: they have God on their side, and we are "the Great Satan." If I was the Devil, I'd be chuckling to myself, "I've got these fools unable to tell the difference between me and God!"
The problem is what I believe to be the basis of all crime: Hubris. God has chosen me. I am right and you are wrong. I am good and you are evil. We are going to kill you, or invade and "change" you. But Hubris, as the Greeks and the Bible both pointed out, is always followed by Nemesis. "Pride goes before destruction," goes the actual saying, "and a haughty spirit before a fall."
Those observations not only apply to individuals, but countries. It's why all empires have fallen. Even if they're convinced they won't.
Even if Nietzsche isn't around today, there are still enough prophets to see what is going to happen. Even if they don't have ferocious mustaches or towering foreheads.