Nietzsche’s Critique of Christianity: One of the most famous critics of Christianity, Nietzsche, even called himself The Anti-christ. He had grand ambitions as a writer. He aimed to supplant the morals and values of a Christ-centric Western culture — to go beyond good and evil. Nietzsche took a naturalistic approach to morality rather than the metaphysical one prominent in the Western world at the time of his writing. Borrowing from Darwin, Nietzsche didn’t believe in the intrinsic value of humans (opposing the Christian idea that every human is made in the image of God and therefore has inherent value). Christian morality is service-based and self-sacrificial, which is why it focuses so much on kindness and compassion. Nietzsche had a darker interpretation though. Reading the Bible prompted him to ask, “Who’s interests do these morals serve?” He claims that Christian morals serve the feeble, poor, weak, and inferior. Nietzsche dubbed Christian ethics as a “slave morality,” saying that it was a way to take revenge on the strong and powerful people in Ancient Rome. He saw the story of Jesus as a way for the oppressed to oppress their oppressors. Nietzsche may have published Beyond Good and Evil in 1886, but our fiercest debates today — from the purpose of education to who should pay for healthcare — point back to his 19th-century critique of Christianity and the clash of these Western systems of morality. For a deeper examination of these ideas, I recommend Michael Sugrue’s lectures on the Geneology of Morals and the death of God.

**Tim Keller’s ‘Questioning Christianity’ Lectures: I attended these lectures live while living in New York, and they became my main entry point into Christianity. Keller’s core skill is explaining Christian ideas to a skeptical and secular audience. In particular, I recommend two episodes: Identity and Morality. Historically, our identities were given to us at birth. We were defined by our birthplaces and our family names. To the modern mind, this classic relationship with identity is oppressive and limiting, because modern life is different. We want to be unconstrained. Our identities come from within. But what we end up doing is measuring our worth by our level of achievement and our latest successes. In the absence of God, we manufacture our own identities, which can cause us to conflate self-worth with social status. Keller’s other lecture, on morality, sent me down a rabbit hole of the intellectual underpinnings of the founding American ideas, as codified in the Declaration of Independence. The canonical line reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” The problem is that human equality isn’t self-evident at all. It only becomes self-evident when your worldview assumes the existence of a Creator who created every human in His image. Throw away God and you throw away moral absolutes. If you want to pull on this thread, I explore it at length in Why You’re Christian.

Friday Finds (Nietzsche, Keller, Words, Relationships)

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