Nietzsche’s Hermeneutics: Chaos, Morality and the Future World

Of all the influential philosophers to have graced the 19th century European intellectual landscape, Friedrich Nietzsche rates as one of the most profound and controversial. Nietzsche’s influence towers over the Western philosophical tradition, and his concepts continue to inspire rigorous debate. However counter-cultural his ideas may have been at the time of his writing, the persuasive force of Nietzsche’s polemical style cannot be denied, and the insights he had into the nature of Christianity as both a psychological and social force in the world need to be reckoned with by any serious student of theology.      

Yet Nietzsche’s ideas are also liable to caricature and reductionist interpretation. The tendency to isolate Nietzsche’s thought into easy-to-digest, self-contained categories easily overlooks the threads of commonality that weave their way throughout Nietzsche’s entire corpus. If we were to agree with Hendrik van der Breggen’s assertion that Nietzsche can be defined merely as an ‘anti-God, anti-truth and anti-democratic’ philosopher’, (1) then our understanding of the man and his ideas will be deeply diminished, if not outrightly false. Far from being little more than a cantankerous cynic who was obsessed with doing away with religion, Nietzsche held the miracle and phenomenon of life in extremely high regard. The sense of awe one should have before the gift of life permeates his writing, and as such the concepts of liberty, imagination, joy and beauty are held dear as some of Nietzsche’s most fundamental values. (2) Seen in this light, Nietzsche’s contribution to philosophy can be interpreted in a more holistic and positive way.

This is particularly the case in terms of Nietzsche’s complex relationship to Christianity. Unfortunately, Nietzsche’s work has often been co-opted by those who use him to support their arguments for the undesirability of religion- as if he was little more than an eloquent atheist determined to stamp out religious influence in the West. (3) In this context, Nietzsche is seen as an anti-religious hero who bravely defied the archaic Christianity of his day in order to consider what life would mean in world that was increasingly irreligious. Yet the nuances of Nietzsche’s relationship to religion are far more layered and subtle than what has often been depicted in the public consciousness, and it is the task of this essay to explore this relationship in a way that attempts to draw out the heart of Nietzsche’s opposition to Christianity with reference to his unwavering passion for life in all its abundance and sufferings.  After exploring Nietzsche’s context within the ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ tradition, I will discuss his interpretation of Christianity using the categories of creation, morality and the future (eschatology) as theological concepts that offer a fruitful framework for understanding the religious concerns of his philosophy. I will conclude by suggesting that Nietzsche offers a harsh but necessary critique of the phenomenon of Christianity.  

Nietzsche’s Place Within the Hermeneutics of Suspicion:

According to systematic theologian Alexander S. Jensen, the philosophy of Nietzsche is to be ranked alongside that of Marx and Freud as representing an interpretive methodology that’s come to be known in the 20th century as the hermeneutics of suspicion- a term originally coined by Paul Ricoeur. (4) Jensen discusses the hermeneutics of suspicion as a development unique to this trio of German thinkers, and in a formal sense this is correct. However, the use of suspicion as a premise for interpreting texts has been a feature of hermeneutics throughout the history of Western philosophy, with Aristotle’s On Interpretation offering an early example of a hermeneutical approach that took the important role of suspicion into consideration.  (5)

This particular approach toward the hermeneutic task begins from an entirely different set of assumptions than those of as those of thinkers like Schleiermacher, for whom it was theoretically possible to arrive at the meaning of a text with greater clarity than its original author. This possibility is anathema for those operating through the lens of suspicion, as the written word will always betray drives, influences and biases that operate on an almost unconscious level. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud is perhaps the most pertinent example of one who sees in the human psyche compulsions and urges that drive one to think and act in ways that are as much a result of the subconscious as they are the fully cognizant mind. Hence he can write that ‘the interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.’ (6) The task of interpretation within this framework was less about the text itself and more about determining the psychological forces at play behind it. As I will discuss later, Nietzsche’s treatment of Christianity is primarily concerned with the underlying forces at play within its theology and social manifestations, and therefore considers meaning as lying beyond the text. The use of suspicion as an interpretive tool, therefore, does not assume that the author knows exactly what they are trying to say, and entertains the possibility that the author maybe speaking from the perspective of a ‘distorted ego.’ (7)

For Nietzsche, the main psychological and biological force driving humanity was what he called the ‘will to power.’ According to Jensen, Nietzsche defined this concept simply as the idea that what motivates individuals is the desire to assert their own strength and domination over others. (8) The reality is slightly more complex, however, and Bernard Reginster highlights the three central ways in which the ‘will to power’ concept has been interpreted within the world of Nietzschean scholarship. These include understanding ‘power’ as relating not only as domination over others but as self-control over one’s own actions, the mastery of inner drives and creating the capacity to achieve one’s ends. (9) Each of these interrelated categories deepens our understanding of the notion of the often misrepresented ‘will to power,’ and each are present in Nietzsche’s literature. Therefore, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the ‘will to power’ was the central, driving idea behind Nietzsche’s entire corpus, and it certainly shaped his interpretation of Christianity significantly. Nietzsche saw in Christianity a response to the notion of ‘the will to power’ that sought to contort the experience of powerlessness and weakness so that they somehow became virtues. He referred to this contradictory phenomenon as ‘slave-morality,’ in which the weak become strong and the strong become weak. One might consider Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians as exemplifying this idea: ‘Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.’

Despite its clear influence on the hermeneutical tradition, the hermeneutics of suspicion is not free from internal contradictions. One of the problematic areas within this approach to interpretation is that it is invariably outwardly focused, and thereby has a tendency to overlook the underlying assumptions and drives within its own interpretative framework. In other words, the hermeneutics of suspicion never appears to be suspicious of its own viewpoint. This means that an interpreters exploration of meaning can easily overlook the limitations imposed by their own subconscious drives. So, despite his categorization within this particular hermeneutic methodology, it is clear to see that for Nietzsche there are core convictions and assumptions within his philosophy that he appears to accept a priori. Once these inner convictions are identified and critiqued it becomes easier to explore the heart of Nietzsche’s interpretation of Christianity, and to propose some alternate ways of addressing his particular grievances.     

Christianity and the Suppression of Creation:

For Nietzsche, the cosmic order is a balancing act between the forces of order and chaos. Indeed, this is the theme of his first work of philosophy The Birth of Tragedy, which posits the dichotomy between the ancient Greek gods Dionysus and Apollo as the source of this conflict. In Greek antiquity, Dionysus represented all that was indulgent, chaotic and instinctual about humankind. As the God of wine, theater and religious ecstasy, Dionysus represents those elements within each of us that long for pleasure, emotional fulfillment and creative expression. Left unrestrained, however, the Dionysian instinct can result in disorder, anarchy and endless consumption. (10) Because of the potential for such disaster, the Dionysian instinct needed to be tempered by a more moderate and structured impulse, which found its expression in the god of Apollo. Apollo’s attributes included being the god of truth, knowledge and healing- each of which present a marked counterpoint to those of Dionysus. Although opposing forces by nature, the two instincts can be considered related in their dual function of spurring humanity on to ever greater feats of artistic and intellectual achievement. Although either impulse may temporarily achieve greater influence, ultimately each has an inner balance and self-limiting element that will remain faithful to the natural ebb and flow of life, preventing things moving too far in either direction. The truly beautiful aspect of the conflict finds its ultimate expression in the form of Greek tragedy, which Nietzsche viewed as the highest form of art ever created.

Nietzsche reflects at length on the symbolic role of both Dionysus and Apollo in the formation of a human consciousness. What is ultimately important for Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy is to illustrate that despite how we might feel as individuals toward the realities of suffering and evil, it is precisely the presence of these things that spur us on to higher achievements. Without in anyway downplaying the suffering caused by violence and injustice, Nietzsche maintains that the truly evolved human is one who is able to embrace and celebrate these elements without seeking to avoid and limit their influence. As a way of coping with what can be considered an ultimately nihilistic existence, Nietzsche maintains that the creative life of the artist is the ultimate expression of humanity’s affirmation of the fullness of life. He writes of ‘the artists buoyancy and creative joy as a luminous cloud shape reflected upon the dark surface of a lake of sorrow.’ (11) For such an artist, the presence of suffering is as much a source of inspiration as the beauty of nature or the physical human form, and the ability to transform pain and chaos into beautiful art is as close to transcendence as humanity is likely to get. In the music of German composer Richard Wagner, for example, the younger Nietzsche (prior to his break with Wagnerism) saw an artistic genius whose symphonies embodied the ideal of life-affirmation in a way that was exemplary of the philosophy outlined in The Birth of Tragedy.  Music itself was for Nietzsche the primary medium through which Germany was going to give birth to a new awareness of myth and legend based on the drama of the Dionysian/ Apollonian synthesis.           

Given Nietzsche’s understanding of life as being an unfolding drama between chaos and order (with each being necessary and beautiful in its own right), it is perhaps inevitable that he viewed monotheism as the embodiment of an offensive ideal that was utterly anti-life, and whose presence in the world marked the beginnings of an instinct that attempted to repress the natural forces of creation and the primeval urges of humanity. As a result, the psychological health of the individual was damaged through the designation of our natural instincts and desires as being somehow corrupt and contrary to the will of God. The effect was a life spent at constant war with oneself. The sexual drive, desire for revenge and the longing for power are each examples of core features of our humanity that, for Nietzsche, should be embraced rather than repressed. Yet the extent to which monotheism impacted individuals is a lesser concern given the inability of Israel to coexist peacefully with its polytheistic neighbors. In these conflicts the the most tragic feature of monotheism is realized: its tendency toward conquest and expansion. This is understood by Nietzsche as representing the repression of universal progress. (12) Armed with the definitive revelation of Divine truth, monotheism expressed itself through the wholesale slaughter of Canaanites and the violent seizure of foreign territory (Deut. 7:1-2; 20:16-18). (13) Somewhat ironically, Nietzsche fails to see that the story of Israel’s experience of conflict and peace with surrounding territories might reflect his ideals of chaos and order as outlined in The Birth of Tragedy. In any case, its the teachings of Jesus Christ in the first century that represented the ultimate perversion of life, and its toward this that Nietzsche reserves most of his polemical venom.

Earlier in The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche had clearly surmised his position on Christianity as a phenomena in the world, remarking that it ‘spelled life loathing itself, and that loathing was simply disguised, tricked out, with notions of an “other” or “better” life.’ (14) Nietzsche had arrived at this conclusion largely through his observations relating to so-called Christian morality. It is to this topic that I now turn.    

Christian Morality through Nietzsche’s Eyes:

The idea of a single deity whose existence and proclamation was the source of ultimate truth (monotheism) naturally lent itself to the development of a morality that sought to reflect the exclusionary nature of the first commandment. The idea of a covenant relationship between God and the Israelite’s is the most significant theological theme in the Old Testament, and it is within the concept of a covenant that we see the birth of a moral framework that was distinctive within the ancient near east. Aside from the rather revolutionary idea that Yahweh was the only true God, the codified nature of the commandments given to Moses at Sinai established a requirement for Israel to morally conduct themselves in a certain way if they were to enjoy the blessings of God. If this moral conduct was to be found wanting, curses and destruction would surely follow. Leviticus 26:14-46 provides a template for the inevitable disaster that Israel would face were she to turn her face away from YAHWEH. Expected punishments include disease, defeat in war with foreign nations, and the destroying of crops leading to hunger and eventual cannibalism if the rebellion continued. It is clear that in this early period of the unfolding Israelite story fear was a significant motivator used to ensure compliance to Divine writ. For Nietzsche, a God who must rely on the threat of punishment in order to achieve fidelity from his people is not a God worthy of serving. It is within this sphere that Nietzsche finds his initial impetus for rejecting Jewish morality. He writes, for example, that ‘the history of Israel is invaluable as a typical history of an attempt to denaturalize all natural values.’ (15) The Hebrew Bible is of course a somewhat easy target, and Nietzsche would hardly be alone in condemning its God for perceived injustices against humanity. German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer was an early influence on Nietzsche’s thought in this regard, and wrote himself that contrary to polytheism, intolerance was a trait essential to a monotheism that would not ‘allow another to live.’ (16) For Nietzsche however, the ultimate target for the criticism of religious morality was the New Testament, and specifically its injunction to accept weakness and servitude as virtues.

Nietzsche’s vitriol toward what he understands as the demeaning nature of a specifically Christian (as opposed to Jewish) moral framework can be found throughout his entire corpus. The most detailed treatments of Christian morality as a phenomenon, however, are his works On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic and Daybreak. Within these texts, Nietzsche explored the formation of the dual concepts of good/evil and good/bad. What may appear to contemporary readers as self-evident categories (i.e. different ways of stating the same polarities) are shown by Nietzsche to have historically represented two distinct ways of thinking about the problem of morality. Nietzsche understands the good/bad distinction as the normative ideal. In this category, the realm of the ‘good’ corresponded to nobility. The nobility represented power, life-assertiveness and discipline. Within this definition of ‘good,’ the understanding of what is admirable and desirable in terms of moral conduct is not shaped by arbitrary prohibitions but by living a life based on an autonomous expression of the so-called ‘will to power.’ The corresponding category of ‘bad’, therefore, was the opposite all things noble. It is to live a life of meekness, submission to the status quo and the humble acceptance of the claim of others over one’s own life. The noble (i.e. good) approach to life is therefore the preferable one, and Nietzsche concludes that ‘every aristocratic morality springs from a triumphant affirmation of its own demands.’ (17)

The real perversion of Judaeo-Christian morality came about through the emergence of the idea that the opposite of ‘good’ was in fact that which was ‘evil’. In the aforementioned distinction (good/bad), the concept of what constitutes ‘bad’ does not necessarily imply a corresponding measure of guilt for having transgressed a boundary set by external forces. The ‘bad’ can be considered in this sense to represent unhelpful decision-making rather than the more penal connotations usually associated with the term when used theologically.  For the Christian, however, the notion of ‘evil’ is that which runs contrary to the will of God, and therefore it carries a weightier, transcendent quality. Nietzsche frequently referred to this as ‘guilt consciousness.’ Within Christian theology, the dividing up morality into the categories of good/evil was a manifestation of the underlying spiritual battle taking place within the cosmic order. In the fourth Gospel John particularly emphasizes the dichotomy of light and darkness as a present reality on earth when he recounts Jesus teaching Nicodemus that ‘light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil’ (John 3:19). Jesus’ words clearly point toward the idea that morality can be understood as originating only in light or darkness. There are no grey areas. If the Gospel of Jesus Christ was responsible for bringing light into the world, what (or who) was responsible for the reality of darkness? Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that Satan is the ruler of this world, thus testifying to the understanding of ‘evil’ as being the demonic.   

For his part, Nietzsche dismisses the idea of ‘evil’ representing anything requiring a divine cause. (18) Attempts at objectifying morality as the prerogative of God alone are understood by Nietzsche as a sneaky game played by followers of Christ in order to achieve two things. First, the idea of outsourcing the basis of morality to the initiative of a Divine being  assists in justifying the experience of weakness and powerlessness as part of a cosmic plan. To understand life as a series of unfolding events in the history of God’s self-revelation results in individuals becoming pacified and accepting of their own misfortune in the hope of some future liberation. Of this psychological rationale, Nietzsche writes that ‘this life is deemed guilty so that in heaven via a detour through hell there is the promise of a posthumous second innocence.’ (19) In reality, however, the world is marked by arbitrariness, brutality and chaos. Contrary to a life of meek piety, the task of the Übermensch (over man) is to claim one’s autonomy and assert one’s own will with as much power and creativity as possible.

Up to this point, Nietzsche’s view of Christian morality is fairly benign. It seems that Christians are to be almost pitied for their false belief in a better life in eternity. However, the second element of a Nietzschean approach to the problem of ‘herd’ morality has to do with its underlying longing for violence and vindication- or what Nietzsche refers to as the ‘revenge of humble, Christian-like souls who can do no more than creep through the world.’ (20) Not only do Christians repress their natural humanity, but they do so with the hope that those who are more powerful than them will meet with an eternity of punishment in hell. If this sorry state of affairs were not enough, Nietzsche sees Christian morality is being guilty of yet another sin: in order to motivate any kind of altruistic action, it must first appeal to the transcendent will of God before undertaking any positive act. This rather cynical interpretation of Christian moral theology allows Nietzsche to degrade the identity of Christians to such an extent that not even their good work in the world can be acknowledged as such.  

As is noted by Richard Schacht in the introduction to an excellent collection of essays reflecting on the impact and legacy of the Genealogy of Morals, (21) Nietzsche’s concern with this particular work was two-fold. Aside from offering an interpretation of the phenomenon of moral development and a fierce critique of the uniquely Christian approach to moral concerns, the question of what morality might look like in a world in which ‘God is dead’ is largely left untreated here. However, the absence of a detailed vision of what a post-Christian future may look like is not an oversight on Nietzsche’s part, but rather a deliberate attempt to prompt our thinking toward the creative possibilities of human potential without recourse to a deity. This aspect of Nietzsche’s thought will be addressed in the following section.

The Future World:

To summarize the key points of this essay thus far, I have shown that the origins of the created order are for Nietzsche best represented by the Greek Gods of Dionysus and Apollo. These deities represent chaos and order, and the tension between them is (according to Nietzsche) the natural state of the universe. Monotheism is an attempt to suppress these natural instincts in the service of the God of the Hebrews. I then explored Nietzsche’s understanding of Christian morality as a continued form of suppression of natural instincts through the theological justification of weakness and powerlessness. I also suggested that the absence of a detailed vision for the future of the world is a deliberate challenge by to Nietzsche’s his contemporary and future readers.

The task we are left with (providing we accept that ‘God is dead’) is essentially a creative one, and the responsibility for what we create as humans is solely our own. The world of the future is not part of any eschatological plan, but is inextricably linked to our own decision-making. This is one of the key themes to emerge in Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. In this work, Nietzsche can been as expanding on the concepts outlined in the Birth of Tragedy and Genealogy of Morals, in the sense that the future world must be based on two premises. First, the future world of Man will need to acknowledge the essentially arbitrary nature of life (Dionysus), and face this immutable fact with boldness. Whatever controls and limitations we attempt to place on our existence will always be countered by recurring chaos. Second, the morality we have inherited, even if not consciously realized, reflects outdated European Christian dogmatism, and as such will no longer apply to the new world order.

On what moral basis then should the future world exist? Did Nietzsche imagine a harsh form of social-Darwinism, like the Nazis tried to suggest? (22) Do we even need morals at all? For Nietzsche, the solution to the problem of morality without God is to embark on a drastic reconsideration of the fundamental purposes of morality. On this point Nietzsche highlights the Christian tendency to interpret moral goodness based on its faithfulness to the transcendent will of God. This approach to morality is dangerous, and Nietzsche suggests here that the exclusive love of the God of the Bible- the foundation of all Christian morals- is a form of barbarism. (23) Instead, future generations will exist in a context for which traditional conceptions of good/evil are meaningless. In such a world, morality will be based on its usefulness instead of its religious origins. It must be remembered here that Nietzsche’s understanding of the chaotic forces of nature and his notion of the Übermensch prevent us from interpreting ‘usefulness’ as some sort of utopia in which all people and cultures share equal status. Unlike the leveling instincts of monotheism, the alleged ‘usefulness’ of morality will be different for different personalities and cultures. Nietzsche sums up this view of future morality perfectly when he writes that ‘in the end it must be as it is and always has been: great things remain for the great, abysses for the profound, nuances and shudders for the refined, and, in brief, all that is rare for the rare.’ (24) There is a sense, then, in which Nietzsche imagines the post-Christian world as less of a fresh vision and more of a reversion back to our original state before the corrupting influences of monotheism and later Christianity. Still, a specific vision of what this reversion may look like is not forthcoming.


For the Christian hermeneutician, the temptation can be to interpret Nietzsche primarily as an opponent. As Nietzsche makes no secret of his disdain toward Christianity, it is plausible enough to interpret him as no more than a philosophical challenge to be met by those with a more balanced and nuanced view of theology. As I alluded to in the introduction, the problem with doing this is that interpreters can become bogged down in responding to the various elements of Nietzsche’s arguments without considering his vision of the spirit of Christianity as a whole. Theologian Stephen N. Williams’ contribution to Nietzschean scholarship is therefore a welcome consideration of the German philosopher as a necessary dialogue partner for theological reflection. Far from seeing Nietzsche as a demonic attack on the integrity of Christianity, Williams writes that ‘what is distinctive in Nietzsche’s thought is what lies behind that error (Christianity), what constitutes its deeper nature, and what damage issues from it.’ (25) In other words, Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity is best understood when interpreted as an argument against its cause and effect, not its specific doctrinal claims. In this mode of interpretation, the specific components of Nietzsche’s religious philosophy become less important than its overall phenomenology. Understood in this light, Nietzsche’s polemic against Christianity is of ongoing relevance for the theological task. As an example, one of the most important questions alluded to by Nietzsche relates to the complex theological relationship between culture and revelation. Nietzsche’s treatment of Christian morality, for example, forces readers to consider whether certain moral features of Christianity are justified theologically, or if they are instead a deification of certain cultural norms reflecting the interests of a given community. This is certainly one of the dominant themes in On the Genealogy of Morals. In addition, Nietzsche’s passionate portrayal of the tension between the influences of chaos and order within the cosmos are a direct challenge to theologies that arrogantly seek to advocate for a radically interventionist God whose primary purpose is to maximize human happiness. Unfortunately, God’s ultimate sovereignty does not remove the arbitrary, complex and messy realities of life. Nietzsche reminds us that any attempt to systematize or manipulate the created order are destined to fail.   

Ultimately, however, Nietzsche’s real value for theological discussion lies in his fierce defense of the integrity of the individual, which he understands as being degraded by the monotheistic and religious ‘ideal.’ This aspect of Nietzsche’s thought is, in my view, particularly pertinent for theological reflection in the Western theological tradition. There are rich sources within theological history that offer a different perspective on the nature of Christianity, especially as it relates to the integrity of the individual believer. These sources go a long way toward countering Nietzsche’s view of the essentially totalitarian and uncritical nature of faith. Far from being thoughtless consumers of pre-prepared dogma, many of the earliest incarnations of Christian communities highly valued the confronting task of faith as a journey that needed to be undertaken individually. (26) The apophatic tendencies within writers such as Bernard of Clairvaux and St. John of the Cross, for example, point toward a rich understanding of faith as an individual process rather than a instantly received conversion. St. John’s poem Dark Night of the Soul in particular is a beautiful reflection on the mystical duality of faith in an ultimately unknowable God. By the time of the European Reformation also, the question of the place of the individual will in relation to God was one of the key theological issues. Martin Luther’s On the Bondage of the Will takes seriously the question of individual autonomy, but unlike Nietzsche suggested that the real oppression of the individual spirit comes from a predisposed inclination toward evil. According to the Reformers, the freely offered grace of God is the only power capable of breaking the cycle of selfishness and abuse of power. (27) Had Nietzsche developed his own vision for a future governed by the will to power ideal, he would surely have needed to reckon with the ideas of Luther (and others like him) who understand humanity as being prone to limitations by virtue of its inclination toward greed and self-serving action. Christian theology refers to these limitations as having their origin in the idea of sin. Other traditions, such as Marxism, understand evil as being the result of economic and institutional oppression. Whatever cause to which one attributes the reality of evil, Nietzsche’s relative silence on the subject is a significant weakness within his own hermeneutical approach. Additionally, Nietzsche says nothing about how individuals exercising their ‘will to power’ are to co-exist with a sense of collective responsibility toward others. In our own largely multicultural contexts, this question is even more significant.   

The breadth of Christian experience and traditions suggest that Nietzsche’s hermeneutical approach to Christianity- for all its insights and genius- was too generalistic and fails to fully grasp the underlying rationale and psychology of theological nuances. Instead of viewing  Nietzsche as an infallible guide to the question of religious interpretation, we should understand him as offering an ongoing reminder that absorption into a community of faith should not devalue individual identity and uniqueness. The genuinely religious life is one of ongoing wrestling with ideas and transcendent realities that our finite minds can scarcely comprehend. To embark on this journey takes courage and resilience, not weakness and mediocrity.



(1) See: Hendrik van der Breggen, “Awakening from the Nightmare: A Critical Overview of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Philosophy,” Christian Research Journal, 34 No. 1 (2011): 38.

(2) So he writes: ‘We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.’ Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Trans. R.J. Hollingdale (London: Penguin, 1974), 56:23.

(3) Peter Watson’s The Age of Atheists commences with a discussion of Nietzsche’s death of God philosophy, and argues that Nietzsche heralded the the second most important blow to Christianity after Darwin’s Origin of the Species. See: Peter Watson. The Age of Atheists: How We Have Sought to Live After the Death of God  (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014), 1-33.

(4) See: Alexander S. Jensen. Theological Hermeneutics (London: SCM Press, 2007), 109-11.  

(5) On this point see: David Stewart, “The Hermeneutics of Suspicion,” Literature and Theology Vol. 3/1 (1989): 269-307.  

(6) Sigmund Freud. The Interpretation of Dreams. Trans. James Strachey (New York: Basic Books, 2010), 570.

(7) Jensen, 112.

(8) Jensen, 110.

(9) See: Bernard Reginster, “The Will to Power and the Ethics of Creativity,” in Nietzsche and Morality. Eds.Brian Leiter & Sinhababu (Oxford: Clarendon, 2007), 32-34.

(10) For a full treatment of the concept of the Dionysian see: Claudia Crawford, “The Dionysian Worldview,” Journal of Nietzsche Studies, No. 13 (1997): 81-97.   

(11) Friedrich Nietzsche. The Birth of Tragedy. Trans. Francis Golffing (New York: Anchor, 1956), 63.

(12) See: Friedrich Nietzsche. The Genealogy of Morals. Trans. Carol Diethe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 2.20.

(13) This phenomenon is discussed more thoroughly Patrick Madigan’s convolutedly titled “The ‘Curse’ of Monotheism; Or the Search for a Logical Justification to Support it, Given the Heavy Social and Psychological Price We Pay For It,” The Heythrop Journal, Vol 50/6 (2009): 1003-5.  

(14) The Birth of Tragedy, 11.

(15) Friedrich Nietzsche. The Antichrist. Trans. R.J. Hollingdale (London: Penguin, 1990), aphorism 25.

(16) See: Arthur Schopenhauer. Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays. Trans. E.F.J. Payne (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974), 358.

(17) Friedrich Nietzsche. Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality. Eds. Maudemarie Clark et. al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), aphorism 10.

(18) Ibid, aphorism 19.  

(19) Friedrich Nietzsche. Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality. Eds. Maudemarie Clark et. al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 129.  

(20) Ibid, 323.

(21) Richard Schacht, ed., Nietzsche, Genealogy, Morality: Essays on Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994)

(22) Readers interested in this complex and interesting topic should consult Weaver Santaniello’s excellent Nietzsche, God and the Jews: His Critique of Judeo-Christianity in Relation to the Nazi Myth (New York: University of New York Press, 1994)

(23) See: Friedrich Nietzsche. Beyond Good and Evil: A Prelude to the Philosophy of the Future. Trans. Judith Norman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 67.

(24) Ibid, 43.

(25) See: Stephen N. Williams. The Shadow of the Antichrist: Nietzsche’s Critique of Christianity (Michigan: Baker Academic, 2006), 91.

(26) For an insightful assessment of the formation of a distinctly religious mode of individuality in antiquity, see: Jörg Rüpke & Wolfgang Spickermann (eds.). Reflections on Religious Individuality: Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian Texts and Practices (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012)  

(27) So Luther can assert that ‘the help of grace is given, because “free will” can do nothing.’ See: Martin Luther. On the Bondage of the Will (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1957), 270.




























About Ryan Buesnel

Welcome to my page! I am a writer and musician from Melbourne who enjoys reading philosophy, theology and military history. I am a Ph.D. Candidate through Charles Sturt University, with my thesis exploring the activities of the German State Church during the Third Reich-era.
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