Was Nietzsche a theist or an atheist?

Thought leader of modern atheism

Not only fundamentalist religious movements are currently thriving on the spiritual humus, more and more "Non Prophet Organizations" are also emerging. Because at the Weltanschauung bazaar an "avowed" atheism is again noticeable. Numerous books critical of religion - by Richard Dawkins' Delusion of God up to Christopher Hitchens' The Lord is not a shepherd - have become global bestsellers in recent years. The sometimes quite combative tone of the "New Atheists" is probably "a reaction to the growing presence of religiously based positions in public discourse," suspects the religious scholar Hans-Gerald Hödl from the University of Vienna.

Anti-life chatter

For example, the US philosopher Sam Harris in his 2005 PEN Award-winning book The end of faith expressing his conviction that "the Koran and the Bible contain an immense accumulation of hostile chatter," he ties in with an illustrious tradition of philosophical religious scolding. Friedrich Nietzsche already had his Zarathustra say: "I swear to you, my brothers, stay true to earth and do not believe those who speak to you of supernatural hopes! It is poisoners, whether they know it or not. Those dying and poisoned themselves, of whom the earth is tired (...). " There is no consideration for "religious feelings", Nietzsche places the cuts with his logical and linguistic dissecting utensils in the middle of the spiritual nerve center. "Compared to the 'New Atheists' of today, he was a lot more radical," Nietzsche researcher Hödl is convinced: "His criticism was based on the assumption that the belief in God has long since become untrustworthy. Nevertheless, even in the atheists, the thousands of years of hostility to life would be believed Living on the values ​​of Christianity. " Nietzsche's consequence: "With language and knowledge criticism he undermines the absolute validity of these values."

Comprehensive criticism of religion

As co-editor of several volumes of the historical-critical complete edition of Friedrich Nietzsche's works, Hödl is a precise expert on his thoughts and life. Funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, he has edited and commented on Nietzsche's early notes in recent years, and he will soon be taking them Happy science (First published in 1882) with its comprehensive criticism of religion.

An important part of the work is the retranscription of the original documents. In view of the transcription errors of previous editions, an important step: For example, an incorrect copy of "Journalists with their dogged urgency" in an older edition turned into "Journalists with their Jewish intrusiveness". A fatal mistake that stylized the dedicated anti-anti-Semite Nietzsche as a Jew hater.

The critical complete edition founded by Mazzino Montinari and Giorgio Colli has created a new text basis for the Nietzsche interpretation. "In doing so, the manuscript inventory was consistently reduced; earlier compilations that distort the meaning, such as 'The Will to Power', have become obsolete," explains Hans-Gerald Hödl. "Austrian scientists have been working on this project for years. The edition can be concluded with the commentary volumes."

Basically, Nietzsche was less concerned with a direct refutation of religion than with the relativization of Christian values. But how should man live without this spiritual and moral corset? "Nietzsche did not work out any new morals for the 'godless' man," explains Hödl. What distinguishes the often misinterpreted "superman", however, is above all his affirmation of the world as it is and his self-acceptance. Significantly, the subtitle is Nietzsche's last work Ecce Homo: "How to become what you are."

Like Buddhism, Nietzsche counts Christianity among the "nihilistic" religions that want to turn human striving away from the world. While Buddhism at least gives "reality the right", in Christianity the body is despised, and even hygiene is rejected as sensuality. "Christian is a certain sense of cruelty towards oneself and others", he writes, "the hatred of those who think differently; the will to persecute. (...) Christian is the hatred of the spirit, of pride, courage, freedom, Libertinage of the spirit; hatred of the senses, of the joys of the senses, of joy in general is Christian ... "

Thinking in new directions

Nietzsche interpreted the effect of these values ​​from an early psychological point of view: "Dissatisfaction with oneself (...) is an overpowering desire to do harm, to let out the inner tension in hostile actions and ideas. Christianity needed barbaric concepts and values ​​to overcome To become a barbarian master. (...) Weakening is the Christian recipe for taming, for 'civilization'. "

Much of what Nietzsche wrote more than a century ago seems self-evident today, other things can still spark heated discussions. "In the second half of the 19th century, however, his considerations were completely new and unheard of," recalls Hödl. "In doing so, he has steered thinking in new directions. We often no longer notice how present he is in the current discourse." (Doris Griesser, DER STANDARD, June 27, 2012)