The Religious Disposition



The religious nature is a fascinating area of investigation for a psychologist.

As with his analysis of philosophy, Nietzsche is interested in why someone holds the beliefs they do, and the link between the person and their beliefs.


Nietzsche distinguishes between different types of religious faith based on environment and culture.

Eg. the religion of northern Europeans such as Cromwell and Luther differs greatly from those influenced by Greek and Roman culture, where rational debate and liberalism are more commonplace.

In light of this, a religious attitude, such as that of French mathematician Blaise Pascal, represents a 'suicide of reason'.

Christianity is based upon sacrifice: 'Sacrifice of all freedom, all pride, all self-confidence of the spirit'. But Pascal sacrificed his intellectual beliefs, out of a fear that they would lead him to question his faith...

The Inversion of Values

In this section, Nietzsche also outlines his picture of how Christianity has 'inverted' all that was once considered good.

The image of 'god on the cross' would have been, for noble pagans, a 'paradoxical formula'. A 'god' represented power, strength, wisdom, so to see such a being suffering would have been unthinkable.

This turning-upside-down of 'antique' values was the means by which those enslaved by the Greek and Romans could revenge themselves.

Nietzsche sees Christianity as a slave revolt in morality. The ruling class in the Roman-occupied world held things like power, courage, and wealth to be good, and cowardice, weakness, and poverty to be bad.

But Christianity takes these ideals and inverts them. Christians see that which was once considered good to be evil, and that which was considered bad is now considered good.

So, unable to be superior in an earthly sense, they allow themselves to become superior in a spiritual sense.

The slave morality is a reaction to master morality. The slave hates what he sees in his master as arrogance, pride, 'scepticism towards suffering'... so he values compassion, pity, etc.


Here, Nietzsche begins his analysis of a certain kind of religious attitude – 'the religious neurosis'.

This attitude involves three kinds of self-denial: sexual abstinence, solitude, and fasting.

The problem with understanding this situation is based on our difficulty in understanding the figure of the saint can deny his will.

A kind of miracle seems to take place when sinner becomes saint... But this is a misunderstanding which arises because of the faith in antithetical values. In fact, that which motivates the sinner is still present within the saint...


Nietzsche points out the difference in religious attitudes between southern and northern Europeans.

Northerners have ‘little talent’ for religion, and religious emotions, while Latin races are more naturally suited to it. So atheism is natural to northern Europeans.

Nietzsche points out that even Southern thinkers with a sceptical approach retain an underlying religious type of emotion.

So, once again, Nietzsche draws on the influence of environment, culture…


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