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 Class Forums - Spring 2013
 PHIL 200-002 - Friedrich Nietzsche
 Christ's Error
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Henry Thomas
Apprentice

22 Posts

Posted - Feb 22 2013 :  8:00:19 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
A passage on page 138 of The Gay Science that caught my eye. The passage reads as follows:
quote:
The founder of Christianity thought that there was nothing of which men suffered more than their sins. That was his error--the error of one who felt that he was without sin and who lacked firsthand experience.
I found this to be interesting because I have seen this personally as I think most people have. What I understand from this passage is that the founder of Christianity didn't think he was a sinner. If he thought that there was nothing of which men suffered more than their sins, he must have thought that the worst thing a man can do is sin. Therefore he must have thought that he was above most men because he did not believe he was a sinner and did not even have any experience with sinning. This can be the result of an out-of-control ego or a huge abundance of power.

I witnessed this problem with a priest in my neighborhood. He was in charge of a very large church. He appeared suspicious to me the whole time I attended the church. I will not name him. Let's just say the whole time I went to the church, he would always have very nice suits on and would drive Bentleys and just have very nice things. I would wonder how he had such nice things being just a priest, but no one else thought twice about it because he was their priest. They thought he could do no wrong.

Well, in 2012 everything hit the fan. It turned out that he was using the church's money for everything. When I say the church's money I mean donations.

To sum up: when he was asked what he was thinking stealing and taking advantage of people like that, being a priest, he said he could do no wrong because he was serving the Lord and therefore could commit no sin. I would appreciate any comments or stories that others might have.

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John Edelmon
Fledgling

16 Posts

Posted - Feb 24 2013 :  8:16:05 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Any stigma can make a good dogma.

I think you do yourself no favors by using Nietzsche's book as a primer for Christianity and then trying to relate that to the real world. People can call themselves whatever they like, and if what they do is consistent with what they believe, then you could consider them devout. But this is not the case with your priest. He has not followed Christ's command to love his neighbor; he has stolen from his neighbor!

As for Jesus Christ, who you assume was merely a man, what on earth compelled his ego to be silent when he was judged to be guilty?! Why would he and many of his followers suffer for a claim they knew to be false?

But if you assume for just a moment that Jesus Christ was really God -- that God came down to earth and was born a man -- and if you could conceive in your mind that he did heal the blind and raise the dead, what is God doing on a cross?

This seems to me the very opposite of an out-of-control ego: a humble one. He is not distant -- even he was tempted.
quote:
Matthew 4:1-11
New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “"If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”"

4 Jesus answered, “"It is written: ‘'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 "“If you are the Son of God,"” he said, "“throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘ “‘ “‘ "'He will command his angels concerning you,
“‘ “‘ “‘ and they will lift you up in their hands,
“‘ “‘ “‘ so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’'"

7 Jesus answered him, “"It is also written: '‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “"All this I will give you,"” he said, “"if you will bow down and worship me.”"

10 Jesus said to him, “"Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’'"

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
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David Berger
Journeyman

83 Posts

Posted - Feb 25 2013 :  2:29:19 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
More than humility, the passage from Matthew shows Christ's obedience. However, the question rests on a quote dealing with the founder of Christianity. I do not think we should make the assumption that whoever "founded" Christianity, (whatever it takes to be founder), considered himself or herself -- or themselves if there were more than one -- to be without sin.

We ought not to focus on this statement as having to do with Christ's being in error so much as with the nature of Christianity. I do not think we need to worry about defending Jesus.

What you say, Henry, about those who feel they are without sin is, while interesting and worthy of discussion in its own right, not quite relevant to Nietzsche's point. (By the way, this is paragraph 138, page 189, not page 138.) The whole paragraph is simply stating that Jesus committed his whole life to alleviating the suffering of people, by trying to help them eliminate their sins. It seems Nietzsche is saying these sins really are not so full of suffering. Yet Christians spread the doctrine that the sins they speak of are the greatest cause of suffering.

I would say that Nietzsche calls this error because even if it is true that many people suffer from greed, lust, pride, unfaithfulness, and such, it is not true for all. There are many who would at least claim that quite on the contrary, such things bring them great pleasure. This is the ethical consideration in question: Is suffering, as Christians define it, truly the cause of man's sins, as Christians define them? If one answers that this is truly the case, then perhaps we should all be following the Christian doctrine!

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David Berger
Journeyman

83 Posts

Posted - Feb 25 2013 :  2:35:05 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
As for anyone who embraces a doctrine that states, as one of its primary commandments, that one ought not to steal, but who claims to be without sin, having stolen -- this is being completely hypocritical. An illogical, even wretched sort of person! However I concur with John that Nietzsche's claim does not give us insight into the question whether preaching Christ's doctrine leads to one's feeling immune to the commandments of said doctrine. Nor does the existence of one scumbag priest indicate a prevalence of this tendency. However, it is disturbing and would lead one to consider unearthing more evidence, if the issue seemed really of interest.

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John Edelmon
Fledgling

16 Posts

Posted - Feb 26 2013 :  9:22:47 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
We are broken things in a broken world. We are not surprised there is suffering. We are surprised God offers us a way out. We are surprised He would intercede for us.
When the smoke clears the war-zone, the body feels no more, the food runs out, the earth heaves, the friend betrays, the desire is never satisfied, life seems meaningless, and millions of people are slaughtered -- should we stoop so low to say that sins are not so full of suffering? Or will our pride reach greater heights?

The shameful truth of the matter is that we are just men.
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Henry Thomas
Apprentice

22 Posts

Posted - Feb 27 2013 :  01:21:07 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I actually agree with John on his post, my reason being that we are all just men and men make mistakes. It is what makes us human. This is where such things as believing you are better than most people comes from. In many cases, ego will get in the way. So while the man I quoted said a sin creates the worst suffering, this is simply not true because there is no such thing as a person who does not sin at all. So when the founder did not believe that he had ever sinned in his life, he must have felt as though committing a sin was not actually committing a sin when he did it. This reminds me of when Nixon said that it is not illegal when the president does it.

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John Edelmon
Fledgling

16 Posts

Posted - Feb 27 2013 :  12:14:31 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The founding of Christianity is something quite different from what you may think it was. The belief spread through witnesses who went into the world testifying to Christ's death and resurrection. This was a reaction to what they saw and what God commanded. In this they acted by faith on grounds of reason. What they saw was God, who became a Son of Man, who performed miracles, and who raised the dead. He who had done no wrong took on the wrongs of billions. He died for our sin. His Word was not in vain. He rose from the dead and lives.

And now he offers us that promise.

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David Berger
Journeyman

83 Posts

Posted - Mar 01 2013 :  2:23:01 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Yes, yes, that's how the story goes. However suppose we take it that this Jesus Christ fellow really did go without sin his whole life, defining sin as the Bible does. Does this in any way indicate a necessary relation between suffering and sin? It is considered by some a sin not tp go to church, to have sex outside of marriage, and to steal from the offering box. Having sex outside of marriage is an example of a supposedly sinful act that has no clear correlation (so far as I know) with observable suffering.

Nietzsche is evaluating the claim that sin is the greatest cause of our suffering, and judging it to be erroneous. It certainly seems like a weak claim to me. An implausible explanation of all suffering! The rehearsal of a tale contained within a mythology does not make it any more compelling. What would strengthen a position against Nietzsche is evidence that sins as defined by Christianity are the root of suffering. How could you, John, substantiate the claim that all the suffering you describe is rooted in sin?

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John Edelmon
Fledgling

16 Posts

Posted - Mar 03 2013 :  11:31:25 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
What is Good? What is not Good? What is not Good if there is no Good?

The nature of suffering is not Good. That is its definition.

What is sin? It is a violation of Good, it is not Good.

Where there is sin (of all shapes and sizes), there is suffering (of all shapes and sizes). And there is sin everywhere in the world -- even in churches.

The point is that this world is not good -- it is ill -- and that suffering affects the righteous and unrighteous alike. Sin goes beyond the scope you have been looking through -- it affects people directly and indirectly. This is no longer a good world, but a fallen one. Which is more evil, the hurricane or the serial killer? How do you quantify that? What can be learned by comparing two evils? Are they Good or not Good?

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Tom Trelogan
Forum Admin

1432 Posts

Posted - Mar 04 2013 :  10:52:25 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by John Edelmon

The nature of suffering is not Good. That is its definition.

What is sin? It is a violation of Good, it is not Good.

Where there is sin (of all shapes and sizes), there is suffering (of all shapes and sizes). And there is sin everywhere in the world -- even in churches.
John, surely you don't mean to argue that since no A is a B and no C is a B, whenever there's a C there's an A (i.e., that since no instance of suffering is a good thing and no sin is a good thing, wherever there's a sin, there's an instance of suffering), do you? If you do, that's a non sequitur. From the facts that (1) no alligator is a banana and (2) no cat is a banana, it certainly doesn't follow that wherever there's a cat there's an alligator.
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John Edelmon
Fledgling

16 Posts

Posted - Mar 04 2013 :  2:11:25 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I should have elaborated more on the nature of sin. More than I did in speaking of sin "of all shapes and sizes."

Let me reword the point in this way: In a place broken and filled with broken things, would one expect to find something whole or something broken? And if one did find something whole, would it follow that something whole came from the broken place or from somewhere else?

When you are sick, does it follow that you have violated Good? Not from what I can tell.

When you are sick, does it follow that you are imperfect? Yes.
In an imperfect world, does it follow that there is imperfection? Yes.

Sin goes beyond the scope of a single act causing a single instance of suffering. Sin has contaminated the world. It is not an object to be compared with suffering, but a place where suffering can flourish.

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David Berger
Journeyman

83 Posts

Posted - Mar 13 2013 :  10:53:31 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
You call sin everything that is not good, but then we must determine what is good! For I personally think hurricanes are good because they kill lots of people, and I generally think that having a large number of people die for no good reason is beneficial to the environment. Of course I still typically avoid them, but my point is that hurricanes are not essentially "not good."

But let's take your more compelling example of disease. You consider disease to be an imperfection, something that shows that this world is broken, sullied. Compared to what, a world without disease? I think it could very well be the case that had there been no disease up to this point, our gene pool might well have become a cesspool! Humanity might never have evolved. Is this better or worse as an imaginable fate?

The point is that what we call good, what we call evil -- these are merely distinctions we make. But can we all agree on them? If we cannot agree on what is good, then your point that absence of good is sin is not at all compelling.

There are certain sins, for instance, being prideful or blaspheming, that I, in many degrees, encourage! And these sins do not cause suffering -- not in any necessary way at least.

Can you show that the connection between sin and suffering is necessary, in a way that non-Christians would understand? Perhaps show how my blasphemy leads to suffering, or is essentially connected with suffering somehow? If you can convince me, you'll not only have refuted Nietzsche, you'll have earned a convert! But don't be intimidated! It is tough to defend an argument the conclusion of which implicates the whole of everyone.

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John Edelmon
Fledgling

16 Posts

Posted - Mar 15 2013 :  1:08:34 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Do you realize that if you assume that your calling things good and evil is merely and expression of your preferences, then the rest of your questions about good and evil are meaningless? They are irrelevant. They and you don't matter. Your logic does not allow it.

I will share with you one thing. And I want you to consider it seriously before you ever bring up a question regarding good and evil again.
http://www.resplect.com/?q=node/18

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David Berger
Journeyman

83 Posts

Posted - Mar 15 2013 :  2:01:27 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
This is very sound. Admitting the existence of a moral law forces one to admit the existence of a God. However it seems to me there is no moral law. In general, arguments appealing to a god or mythology are not compelling to me.

It seems to me that any belief about whether moral choices are a matter of taste or a matter of divine law, is itself a matter of taste.

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John Edelmon
Fledgling

16 Posts

Posted - Mar 21 2013 :  5:52:39 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The belief that there is no moral law is the justification for too many evils. And it has almost led to the actualization of my own murderous thoughts.

You have taken a position of unquestionable self-defeat. What can you say to the thief who comes in the night and binds you? His tastes have conquered yours!

However, because you understand that admitting the existence of a moral law forces one to admit the existence of God, you will understand that if there is no God, all things are permissible and meaningless. The sole duty of man is to fear God and to follow His commandments. All else is vanity and striving after the wind.

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David Berger
Journeyman

83 Posts

Posted - Mar 25 2013 :  11:10:26 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Is the belief that there is no moral law a belief that there is justification for "evils"? Or is it a belief that no act may be justified as good or evil? I say it is the latter. Indeed, I think all things are permissible and meaningless. What do I say to the thief who has bound me? I tell him, "You jerk! It is horribly disrespectful of you to bind me, and I worked really hard for the stuff you are taking!" To me, this complaint is not equivalent to the judgment: "Thief, you are evil!" Nobody likes to get robbed; it's as plain as that! And if someone wishes to rob others, he or she obviously doesn't care whether it's good or evil.

If you are telling me that if it weren't for your religious belief, you would be a murderer, I am quite frankly a little scared of you. It is one thing to say that moral guidelines help people to understand what ought to be permissible, but do you really think that if there were no divine mandate, you would go on a rampage? Does the thought of bathing in blood so lure you that you would not consider thoughtfully the consequences?

To see the world free of dichotomies involves no striving. It seems to me much more peaceful to refrain from spending one's time fault-finding.

But we are now getting into an ethical debate. The Buddha mandates that we must be beyond good and evil, we must not find fault in others, if we wish to be awakened. Here is an example of a doctrine that seems to admit of a taste almost the opposite of Christian values in many ways. Would you call the bhikkus and bhiksunnis vain strivers?

I only press the matter to see if you would admit at least the possibility that even if one cannot have a concept of sin if one subscribes to no moral system at all, at least some moral system (assuming we might apply such a term to the Buddhist literature) could possibly have a more appropriate definition of sin?

Or will you insist that the Christian definition of sin is the only viable one?

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John Edelmon
Fledgling

16 Posts

Posted - Mar 25 2013 :  12:13:45 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
If somebody robs you, he or she obviously doesn't care what you think. But is the act objectively wrong or is it only subjectively wrong? If it is only subjectively wrong, then there are no grounds on which the thief could ever be condemned -- right and wrong become matters of power. And if all things are permissible and meaningless, what does it matter anyway?

http://thenewamerican.com/reviews/opinion/item/13990-if-there-is-no-god-there-is-morality

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David Berger
Journeyman

83 Posts

Posted - Mar 25 2013 :  10:09:13 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
What you want is objective condemnation. Absolute morality. If God is a part of your universe, your belief system, then an absolute morality may cohere.

This is clear. But I still feel I can understand the Christian value structure without admitting to its objectivity or superiority.

So do you think the best paradigm to hold is one according to which there is a lawful universe ruled by a deity? Or must this moral paradigm have a deity--might it not be of an atheistic sort, as Buddhism is, which at times in its scriptures takes a moral tone? Or is the Christian Lord the only true possibility?

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Henry Thomas
Apprentice

22 Posts

Posted - Mar 27 2013 :  10:26:59 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I agree. I absolutely believe that I can read about Christianity and understand it without admitting to its objectivity or superiority. I also believe that the Christian Lord is not the only possibility and that there are clearly other options. I believe the atheistic deity of which you made mention would be preferable since if you take religion out of it, we are left just thinking about what is right and what is wrong, and this eliminates a lot of judgment and bias.

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David Berger
Journeyman

83 Posts

Posted - Mar 27 2013 :  10:35:30 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Let us not use the contradictory phrase "atheistic deity," The form of Buddhism I am thinking of has no gods. But indeed, an atheist could still hold a value system that has implications similar to those of any particular religion. My only question is whether we think a deity has to be or ought to be part of one's conceptual scheme.

I myself spread the word of The Divine Dragon (Dragonis Most High) for those agnostics who seek a truly great deity. If you would like to read his holy scriptures, which come to us from the prophet Davidicus, I will post them. All who follow the Divine Dragon shall have the pleasure of knowing Objective Good, and shall be granted Paradise and Unicorns. Therefore his Divine Love glows with an intensity equal to that of his Eternal Black Flame.

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Ryan Crawford
Moderator

5 Posts

Posted - May 02 2013 :  2:33:23 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I think you're a bit off in some the conclusions you have drawn. Whether one believes in God or not, I do believe one of the most important virtues is humility. If that's right, then to be narcissistic or "elitist" as your statement suggests...well, that would imply that Jesus is sinning. However, Jesus is not a sinner. Therefore (according to the Bible) Jesus is not a narcissist or an individual who thinks of himself as "above" others.

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