Friedrich Nietzsche’s killer of creativity, his holder of promises
Religion is the most prominent organization that humankind has seen throughout history. With about 29% of people belonging to Christianity and about 24% of people belonging to Islam, just followers of the Abrahamic religions make up about 53% of the world’s population. Not to mention the countless other faiths that make up the world’s population’s beliefs and rituals. It is one of those organizations that hardly seems one at all. Instead, people chose to look at religion as a cultivator of communities. As a gathering, love, learning, and spiritual, physical, emotional, or mental healing. It is often a combination of some, if not most, of these characteristics that make sound religious systems successful and, more importantly, influential.
If one takes a step back, almost anything can be converted into a religion. Even the belief in no higher power is a religion in itself because of the very nature of beliefs. It is fundamentally a religion based on the idea of the non-existent.
It is no secret why religious groups have had such influence over both the ancient and modern world. They create a sense of order and give people something to believe in. It can be a god, values, hope, or merely a promise of something better, a way to eradicate evil and fear. Furthermore, it is no secret why the Catholic Church was so prominent as late as the 19th century, as it was one of the most prominent ruling bodies in the world (and still is). In all senses of the word, it was a political system as well as a religious organization.
The notion that a religious entity gives values and morals to individuals to follow may seem like a common fact for your average Joe. However, Friedrich Nietzsche felt strongly in opposition. Thought that this was almost 100% fundamentally wrong. No, not the fact that humans must have morals, nor the fact that there are institutions that provide such morals, but the simple truth surrounding this. That humans want to follow an institution based on already established principles without evaluating them for themselves. Furthermore, humans want to follow a faceless god’s rules that could be non-existent for all intents and purposes. Thus, Nietzsche was fundamentally opposed to the notion of religion as a driving force behind morals.
Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher, essayist, and cultural critic. His writings on truth, morality, power, consciousness, and cultural theory have greatly influenced Western philosophy and intellectual history.
As a philosopher, it was fundamentally Nietzsche’s job to question what people know about the natural world. What was set in stone was merely a moldable framework for unconventional thinking, and sometimes (for the very unlucky) a surefire way to get killed. Regardless, one of Nietzsche’s most famous quotes stems from questioning one of the most prominent political organizations to ever grace the earth. Religious truth.
It is this questioning that gives rise to one of Nietzsche’s most famous quotes:
“God is dead” — Friedrich Nietzsche
Take a second to process that…
If you are religious, even just by a fraction, this may seem to go against your very being as a person. Indeed, if you believe in a god, this seems to go against all natural thinking orders. However, this nature of questioning goes even deeper than to say that god no longer exists. Nietzsche illustrates the notion that a society’s morals must not come from a god, nor should they come from an organization that hails such a god.
Nietzsche’s outlook on gods
He believed that religion, and basing morals and values off a religious system, inhibited creativity and morality. And although it promoted self-sacrifice, compassion, and community, ultimately, religious organizations, and by extent, god itself, promoted human suffering and the leveling down of humanity as a whole.
Structure or no?
While this may be the case in many circumstances, think having to give up a piece of cake for your little brother because your parents taught you that “sharing was caring.” I believe that religion is not just merely a combination of Nietsche’s worst fears for the future of mankind and its dependence on such a system.
It is true that usually creativity and individuality are overlooked for the sake of community and stability in the religious sphere. But this is the case government systems as well. More often than not, the good of the many is prioritized over the happiness of the one.
This is not to say that government systems are also wrong, but to point out that almost every organization that holds communities of people together is structured the same way. That cannot be a coincidence.
Religion gives most societies structure. Not only that, but it provides a culture and a shared sense of self to a group of people. Morality and values indeed come from religion and beliefs. However, we would be living in a world more reminiscent of wildlife than human civilization without them.
Without religion to give society structures on which to place their laws, beliefs, and judicial systems, there are no ways of keeping order. And thus, the good of the individual is undermined.
Think of it this way… if one were to live in a world without religious rule, there would be nothing telling a person not to steal. After all, in their individuality, they came to this notion that it will make them happier. However, this infringes on another’s happiness and identity, thus inhibiting them from being creative and content. And therefore, the good of the individual is also no longer existent.
Creativity borne of religion:
Not only does religion and thus god, promote order, but it also encourages creativity. Think of all the great philosophers that came to be because they questioned what was already surrounding them. The philosophers that challenged what was established as norms because of religion. Without a god, there are no norms, and thus, there is nothing to question because nothing is set in stone. Everything is questioned.
- Is god really dead? Where are the philosophies that come out of questioning the teachings that come out from religion?
Struggle and Compassion
In addition, Nietzsche’s version of a world where “god is dead” is a world focused more on the individual and their interests than compassion. Without compassion, one cannot succeed. A certain level of understanding (or faked compassion) is needed to relate to others. In the most primal sense, it is required to carry on generations. Everything hinges on other people. Thus, the absence of compassion means a lack of empathy towards you as a person from others.
This leads to a world of struggle and suffering, which Nietzsche explains to be necessary for human growth and development. Although a certain level of growth is essential in every human, at some point, I believe the level of suffering in a person may exceed the level at which one grows. Which, in turn, leads all effects of growth to be null and void.
This is not to say that Nietzsche specifically wanted people to follow his philosophies. This is only the world he lived by.
Instead, Nietzsche wanted to promote learning and the re-evaluation of personal morals and values to better accommodate the individual’s own sense of morality. Rather than just conforming to what society tells you, Nietzsche encouraged individuals to look inwards.
This meant that everyone had their own philosophy that worked for them, and that no one mold fit a single person. Everyone had to find and challenge their perspectives and encourage them to think for themselves.
Nietzsche’s ideas on religion, gods, and morality are reflected in another one of his most well known quotes: “Will to power.”
Will to power: the value of promises
The animal kingdom and the human world are two very different sections of the world we share. While a world without religion and order is comparable to the domain of wildlife that stretches beyond cities and municipalities’ infrastructure, Nietzsche outlines another line that is drawn between the two worlds.
Nietzsche states that the difference between man and animals is man’s ability to make promises. And this ability is one that not only resides but is prominent in all men.
It overcomes the power of forgetfulness — allows us to put a gate around past experiences and live in the moment.
In fact, all human life and culture are based on promises that we expect organizations that rule over countries and communities to keep. In this way, religions create and maintain order — the making of promises and the periodic breaking of these such certainties.
According to Nietzsche, promises have two main characteristics:
- The ability to recognize future and time
The ability to recognize future and time is essentially summarised into the ability to move on from the past. It is the ability to see one’s past choices and make decisions that best affect a person based on past experiences and on chances and promises that one is willing to make.
Memory is summed up as the memory of past promises and the memories of making these past promises. It is essentially the ability to look back and evaluate and keep one’s promises even when things go south.
While both parameters deal with time and states of time in which a person can find themself, these characteristics of promises are:
The will to make promises
As such, promises are a description of someone’s character… a combination of their will and power. It is as much a measure of creativity as it is a measure of will and power in a human.
Thus, the creative man possesses both will and power and can exercise both in a balanced way that doesn’t inhibit his character. It is the ability to see one’s promises and act on them (as many believe god does).
But will and power do not come as already balanced objects. It is because every human is different that the balance of will and power in every human is different. There are 3 types of ratios for will and power:
- People with little will and a lot of power
- People with a lot of will and little power
- People with a balanced (for them) amount of both will and power
People with little will and a lot of power are often weak-willed and lack the authority to complete their promises or decide which path they must take. They are very indecisive and do not make decisions at all. People with more power than will are what Nietzsche calls to have weak characters and weak values because they cannot make promises.
In the end, Nietzsche values the balanced man that evaluated his own decisions. Both “god is dead” and “will to power” center around the individual who can stand behind their morals, having contemplated them and evaluated them for themselves. The individual who has stood behind their promises and thus stands behind their values.
In this such way, Nietzsche illustrates the values that one must hold in their life. Even though I may disagree with his notion of a dead god, his conclusion on the re-evaluation of the principles presented through gods is values that must be participated in if one is to make a difference in their personal sphere.
these are all my interpretations of Friedrich Nietzsche’s “God is dead” and “will to power,” nothing should be taken as absolute truth. (:
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