When we hear the old bells ringing out on a Sunday morning, we ask ourselves: can it be possible? This is for a Jew, crucified two thousand years ago, who said he was the son of God. The proof for such a claim is wanting.
Within our times the Christian religion is surely an antiquity jutting out from a far-distant olden time; and the fact that people believe such a claim (while they are otherwise so strict in testing assertions) is perhaps the oldest part of this heritage. A god who conceives children with a mortal woman; a wise man who calls upon us to work no more, to judge no more, but to heed the signs of the imminent apocalypse; a justice that accepts the innocent man as a proxy sacrifice; someone who has his disciples drink his blood; prayers for miraculous interventions; sins against a god, atoned for by a god; fear of the afterlife, to which death is the gate; the figure of the cross as a symbol, in a time that no longer knows the purpose and shame of the cross—how horridly all this wafts over us, as from the grave of the ancient past! Are we to believe that such things are still believed?
–I cannot, at this place, avoid a sigh. There are days when I am visited by a feeling blacker than the blackest melancholy–contempt of man. Let me leave no doubt as to what I despise, whom I despise: it is the man of today, the man with whom I am unhappily contemporaneous. The man of today–I am suffocated by his foul breath! . . . Toward the past, like all who understand, I am full of tolerance, which is to say, generous self-control: with gloomy caution I pass through whole millenniums of this mad house of a world, call it “Christianity,” “Christian faith” or the “Christian church,” as you will–I take care not to hold mankind responsible for its lunacies. But my feeling changes and breaks out irresistibly the moment I enter modern times,our times. Our age knows better. . . What was formerly merely sickly now becomes indecent–it is indecent to be a Christian today. And here my disgust begins.–I look about me: not a word survives of what was once called “truth”; we can no longer bear to hear a priest pronounce the word. Even a man who makes the most modest pretensions to integrity must know that a theologian, a priest, a pope of today not only errs when he speaks, but actually lies–and that he no longer escapes blame for his lie through “innocence” or “ignorance.” The priest knows, as every one knows, that there is no longer any “God,” or any “sinner,” or any “Saviour”–that “free will” and the “moral order of the world” are lies–: serious reflection, the profound self-conquest of the spirit, allow no man to pretend that he does not know it. . . All the ideas of the church are now recognized for what they are–as the worst counterfeits in existence, invented to debase nature and all natural values; the priest himself is seen as he actually is–as the most dangerous form of parasite, as the venomous spider of creation. . – – We know, our conscience now knows–just what the real value of all those sinister inventions of priest and church has been and what ends they have served, with their debasement of humanity to a state of self-pollution, the very sight of which excites loathing,–the concepts “the other world,” “the last judgment,” “the immortality of the soul,” the “soul” itself: they are all merely so many in instruments of torture, systems of cruelty, whereby the priest becomes master and remains master. . . Every one knows this, but nevertheless things remain as before. What has become of the last trace of decent feeling, of self-respect, when our statesmen, otherwise an unconventional class of men and thoroughly anti-Christian in their acts, now call themselves Christians and go to the communion table? . . . A prince at the head of his armies, magnificent as the expression of the egoism and arrogance of his people–and yet acknowledging, without any shame, that he is a Christian! . . . Whom, then, does Christianity deny? what does it call “the world”? To be a soldier, to be a judge, to be a patriot; to defend one’s self; to be careful of one’s honour; to desire one’s own advantage; to be proud . . . every act of everyday, every instinct, every valuation that shows itself in a deed, is now anti-Christian: what a monster of falsehood the modern man must be to call himself nevertheless, and without shame, a Christian!–
Jesus said to his Jews: `The law was made for servants ‑ love God as I love him, as his son! What have we sons of God to do with morality!’