When it comes to things like philosophy or existentialism, I’m not your guy. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not like trying the pursuit for meaning of life or the perfect belief system doesn’t interest me.
It’s just that I’ve never been able to wrap my head around complex ideas like those. And after what might’ve been hundreds of attempts, I stopped trying.
I stopped trying to look for what we were supposed to value, what we were supposed to live for, and what was right or wrong. Everyone seemed to have a “sensible” opinion on those questions. On deeper inspection though, almost none of them actually made sense.
Even now, I’ve got no idea of what actually matters. I don’t have a single answer, and I don’t even know if there’s supposed to be one.
But from all the noise from everyone I met, Nietzsche was an exception.
<<First things first — what’s with the name? Forget about the arrangement of z’s, and c’s for a minute— the correct pronunciation’s “Knee-cha”. Later on though, you’ll learn how nothing in this world is true or false. So technically, “Knee-cha” is just the most widely accepted societal expression of his name.>>
Sorry about that. Time for some philosophy.
Imagine There’s No Heaven…
According to a 2020 survey, around 15% of the world was atheistic. That statistic has never been higher in history.
But still, that makes 85% of the population religious. Regardless of how much we’ve started to base our beliefs on science, most of us haven’t stopped pointing to God for all the answers.
Nietzsche didn’t believe in a God, and had even less faith in Christianity. For that matter, he didn’t tend to believe in anything he couldn’t feel, see, or have a natural intuition for. And to prove his point, let’s go back in time to conduct one of his famous thought experiments:
In an era where the Romans ruled most of Europe, religion wasn’t the norm. Instead you’d be able to divide society into two moralities— the slave morality and the master morality.
Masters were people who had a will to power and dedicated their lives to using them. It’s a recurring concept you’ll see Nietzsche’s work, and it loosely refers to our desire to gain and evolve. That includes money, power, and status, but also our values, relationships, and culture.
Slave morality was the opposite. People that didn’t have a will to power. People who couldn’t have a will to power. People who didn’t desire material possessions or an evolution in values.
Master morality was something only the rich and the royal tended to display. Slave morality was characteristic to the people that served under them. But notice how this wasn’t set in stone.
Your morality came from your thoughts and values — not what family you were born into. Naturally, there must’ve been royals that didn’t have a will to power, and peasants that had a never-ending supply.
But with that divide in moralities, there was a divide in how people from each school of thought saw things. The “masters” thought excellence and evolution was their duty, and saw people with the slave mentality as “bad”.
The “slaves” began resenting their masters and saw everything they did as bad. The circumstances were always the same, but people with different moralities perceived them differently.
In Nietzsche’s theory, people with the “slave morality” resented their masters so much that they created an entire religion devoted to that resentment. That religion was Christianity, and it was a powerful force that spread to everyone with the same hatred.
Suddenly, poverty, humility, and forgiveness became “virtues”. People who didn’t have any money were now noble. People who didn’t have the power to take revenge were now seen as forgiving. People who didn’t have any real accomplishments to their name were now humble.
Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue. But now, people who didn’t work towards anything significant in life didn’t care. People began seeing life as meaningless because the most important thing was supposed to come after death — heaven.
It would be a place where they would be eternally fulfilled and get to see their former masters in pits of fire. It was the easy way out. Christianity was a free pass to waste their lives — blindly believing that there was something better waiting for them after it.
When democracy appeared, slave morality had the upper hand. After all, there were more people on that boat since it was the easier option. Followers of Christianity became the new “masters” (without the master morality) and the church became the driving force of society for centuries.
Even so, Nietzsche never called himself an atheist. He was open to adopting any religion that came his way — under the condition that it made sense. Christianity (and every other religion out there) didn’t cut it. In his opinion, they just didn’t come from the right place.
To him, humans weren’t cut out to understand god-level concepts like the meaning of life or what came after death. Ideas like those are mentally impossible for us to grasp.
But it’s people who start religions. So if someone came up with a religion that they said had all the answers, it’d be a bit hard to believe.
We also happen to be the only species who can get corrupted. At a certain point, people realized they could use religion and beliefs as excuses for horrible injustices.
Some got corrupted along the process — using their influence to make money, gain power, or to follow through with even more sinister motives. But that doesn’t stop anyone from creating new religions left and center.
To Nietzsche, the essence of faith and religion was to be an excuse. Excuses people made so they didn’t have to live in the present or work towards a life of virtue. But those people were only fooling themselves.
Life is the only thing we know of for certain. So why waste the most precious thing to you for something you don’t even know exists? Why not just live your life the way you want to live it?
And that’s what Nietzsche to a revelation. The revelation is that God is dead:
"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?”
The idea of God made its way into every corner of the world and in every part of our values. Imagine what would happen if the very thing we’ve built society on just vanished?
Now that they know how we could only count on living once, more and more people began losing faith in religion. The God that people once leaned on for support and direction wasn’t around anymore. Where did that leave them?
God gave people a reason to believe in a life after death. What do people do with themselves knowing they devoted their lives to a lost cause?
As much as Nietzsche said we killed God, he never existed in the first place.
So when he disappears one day after all we’ve been through with him, it feels like we were the murderers. But we aren’t.
Before he died, Nietzsche saw a dark future. He saw a future where no one would forgive themselves for what they did, and one where no one saw a meaning to life. He knew we were moving towards a future of nihilism, pain and suffering.
Killing God wasn’t our mistake. We just made the mistake of believing in one.
Even though it feels like humanity’s at the top of a roller coaster that only keep falling, what can we do? All we can do is live and make the most of what we have. All we can do is survive and keep surviving.
Ok, let’s backtrack for a second. Religion? Slavery? God? There probably isn’t a touchier article out there. By no means is Nietzsche the gold standard for everything. That’s the thing about philosophy. His views represent one of an almost infinite number of ways to define meaning in life.
Whether you end up becoming a Nietzsche super-fan or not — it’s your call. You get to choose what that meaning is to you, and that’s the greatest power you have. And maybe — just maybe — you got a little closer to what you’ve been looking for.
Thanks for reading.