Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Die fröhliche Wissenschaft
Believers and their need to believe. — The extent to which one needs a faith in order to flourish, how much that is ‘firm’ and that one does not want shaken because one clings to it — that is a measure of the degree of one’s strength (or, to speak more clearly, one’s weakness). Christianity, it seems to me, is still needed by most people in old Europe even today; hence it still finds believers. For that is how man is: an article of faith could be refuted to him a thousand times; as long as he needed it, he would consider it ‘true’ again and again, in accordance with that famous ‘proof of strength’ of which the Bible speaks. Metaphysics is still needed by some, but so is that impetuous demand for certainty that today discharges itself in scientific-positivistic form among great masses — the demand that one wants by all means something to be firm (while owing to the fervour of this demand one treats the demonstration of this certainty more lightly and negligently): this is still the demand for foothold, support — in short, the instinct of weakness that, to be sure, does not create sundry religions, forms of metaphysics, and convictions but does — preserve them. Indeed, around all these positivistic systems hover the fumes of a certain pessimistic gloom, something of a weariness, fatalism, disappointment, fear of new disappointment — or else self-dramatizing rage, a bad mood, the anarchism of exasperation and whatever other symptoms or masquerades there are of the feeling of weakness. Even the vehemence with which our cleverest contemporaries get lost in pitiful nooks and crevices such as patriotism (I refer to what the French call chauvinisme and the Germans ‘German’), or in petty aesthetic creeds such as French naturalism (which enhances and exposes only the part of nature that simultaneously disgusts and amazes — today one likes to call it la vérité vraie — ), or in Petersburg-style nihilism (meaning faith in unbelief to the point of martyrdom), always indicates primarily the need for faith, a foothold, backbone, support… Faith is always most desired and most urgently needed where will is lacking; for will, as the affect of command, is the decisive mark of sovereignty and strength. That is, the less someone knows how to command, the more urgently does he desire someone who commands, who commands severely — a god, prince, the social order, doctor, father confessor, dogma, or party conscience. From this one might gather that both world religions, Buddhism and Christianity, may have owed their origin and especially their sudden spread to a tremendous sickening of the will. And that is actually what happened: both religions encountered a demand for a ‘Thou Shalt’ that, through a sickening of the will, had increased to an absurd level and bordered on desperation; both religions were teachers of fanaticism in times of a slackening of the will and thereby offered innumerable people support, a new possibility of willing, a delight in willing. For fanaticism is the only ‘strength of the will’ that even the weak and insecure can be brought to attain, as a type of hypnosis of the entire sensual-intellectual system to the benefit of the excessive nourishment (hypertrophy) of a single point of view and feeling which is now dominant — the Christian calls it his faith. Once a human being arrives at the basic conviction that he must be commanded, he becomes ‘a believer’; conversely, one could conceive of a delight and power of self-determination, a freedom of the will, in which the spirit takes leave of all faith and every wish for certainty, practised as it is in maintaining itself on light ropes and possibilities and dancing even beside abysses. Such a spirit would be the free spirit par excellence.