- “The slave revolt in morality begins when ‘ressentiment’ itself becomes creative and gives birth to values: the ressentiment of natures that are denied the true reaction, that of deeds, and compensate themselves with an imaginary revenge. While every noble morality develops from a triumphant affirmation of itself, slave morality from the outset says No to what is “outside,” what is “different,” what is “not itself”; and this No is its creative deed.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals
It is not immediately evident what we mean when we call something “good.” For instance, a Blue Jay may be a “good” bird of prey, but we might think it evil for raiding nests and devouring babies of other birds.
What was noble about antiquity, power, beauty, strength and wealth, became demonized. Jesus said it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. What could make more sense than a people under the Imperial Roman thumb inventing a sour grapes ethics that valorized their condition of poverty and meekness, and demonized the wealth and power of their conquerors? Likewise, Jesus told the rich young man he needed to sell off all his possessions in order to enter the Kingdom. The love of beauty, strength and nobility was replaced by love of the poor, weak, and broken (poor) in spirit. This makes sense of course, because who would be more willing to need Jesus then the downtrodden? In this way Christianity was a power grab by the only possible method available to them, because they couldn’t stand against Rome on classic terms of might makes right.
It was Christianity’s genius then of appealing to the hidden weakness of their enemies and let their enemies’ own compulsion for pity to speak as their conscience, and so by a philosophy of turning the other cheek an excess of evil is created that challenges the masters’ love of control and power. We read
- You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
— Matthew 5:38-42
Nietzsche called this philosophy of non-resistance the key to the religion and the great genius in it. This transfiguration of the strong is what happened to the soldier at the cross (truly this was God’s son / an innocent man)
It’s difficult when we ask, as with Euthyphro, whether it is holy because God loves it, or does God love it because it is holy? In a way both are true. In the Jewish tradition when God creates he “sees” that it is good. By contrast, one and the same event can be seen as the most holy or most demonic depending on who is looking at it: just recall the Palestinian celebrations when 9’11 happened.
Nietzsche challenged us to get beyond evaluating according to religious categories such as good and evil, and value instead by what is most conducive to mental and physical health instead of sickness – both personally and as cultural physicians. He called Christianity a Platonism for the people, one that denied this life and put hope in the next one. Are we strong enough to say there is no justice in this life, nor the next one, and affirm this life anyway?
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