Why is religion so appealing? Over 84 percent of the world’s population practices some type of religion. How can Friedrich Nietzsche believe that religion, Christianity in this case, is “the most fatal and seductive lie that has ever yet existed?” Comparing his view on religion and the readings from the Bible, we can make the distinction that Christianity is a trap for the lower classes.
Friedrich Nietzsche looked to the ancient Romans to understand why Christianity took such a strong hold in society. The social structure was stratified into three classes; the nobility, the priests, and at the bottom the commoners or plebeians and slaves.
The upper class nobles had the ability to say that anything that they did was “good” and “right.” They looked down on the lower classes and believed that because they were not like them, that they were “bad” or worthless. Why was this so? It was simply because the nobles said so.
On the other hand, the plebeians and slaves looked up and the nobility and condemned as “evil” and saw themselves as good. The priestly class was simply not strong enough to be able to rise to the nobility but was above the commoners. The priests used their influence over the commoners telling them that the nobility was something to be defeated because they went against God. The lower classes were not able to take over the nobility with force so the priests led them to have spiritual resentment. This allowed the common man to believe that “the first (nobles) would be last, and the last (them) would be first at the gates of heaven.” Being able to believe that they would have a place in heaven because of the torment that they were subjected to, kept them appeased in their mind.
Many of the Psalms in the Bible let the lower classes justify their suffering.
The Lord is my Shepard; I shall not want.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
That give me courage.
You spread the table before me
In the sight of my foes;
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
For years to come
The Sermon on the Mount:
“Blest are you the poor; the reign of God is yours.
Blest are you who hunger; you shall be filled.
Blest are you who are weeping; you shall laugh.
“But woe to you rich; for your consolation is now.
Woe to you who are full; you shall go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now; you shall weep in your grief
These psalms tell the lower class that they do not need riches or the high life, their enemies will not be allowed into heaven at the eternal feast, and that they are guaranteed a place in heaven.
To a suffering person, these words are a relief. If they believe these ideas then they can make their life seem like it has a greater purpose. Nietzsche saw that the priests were using the people, gaining power and control over a wide area. As time went on the Christian religion spread throughout the world and the Pope has an incredible amount of power, even to the extent that they have power over the nobility.
Christianity, in the eyes of Nietzsche, has corrupted the world. It allowed the majority of the people on the earth to stop trying to move higher in an effort for self-improvement and become weak. Nietzsche’s views are understandable one can only wonder how the world would be different without a religious following that believed in humility and suffering.