Friedrich Nietzsche, Human All Too Human (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches), subtitled A Book for Free Spirits (Ein Buch für freie Geister).

First published in 1878.   A second part, Assorted Opinions and Maxims (Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche), was published in 1879, and a third part, The Wanderer and his Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten), followed in 1880.

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Previous Section   472. RELIGION AND GOVERNMENT   Next Section

RELIGION AND GOVERNMENT.  So long as the State, or, more properly, the Government, regards itself as the appointed guardian of a number of minors, and on their account considers the question whether religion should be preserved or abolished, it is highly probable that it will always decide for the preservation thereof.  For religion satisfies the nature of the individual in times of loss, destitution, terror, and distrust, in cases, therefore, where the Government feels itself incapable of doing anything directly for the mitigation of the spiritual sufferings of the individual; indeed, even in general unavoidable and next to inevitable evils (famines, financial crises, and wars) religion gives to the masses an attitude of tranquillity and confiding expectancy.  Whenever the necessary or accidental deficiencies of the State Government, or the dangerous consequences of dynastic interests, strike the eyes of the intelligent and make them refractory, the unintelligent will only think they see the finger of God therein and will submit with patience to the dispensations from on high (a conception in which divine and human modes of government usually coalesce); thus internal civil peace and continuity of development will be preserved.  The power, which lies in the unity of popular feeling, in the existence of the same opinions and aims for all, is protected and confirmed by religion, the rare cases excepted in which a priesthood cannot agree with the State about the price, and therefore comes into conflict with it.  As a rule the State will know how to win over the priests, because it needs their most private and secret system for educating souls, and knows how to value servants who apparently, and outwardly, represent quite other interests.  Even at present no power can become "legitimate" without the assistance of the priests; a fact which Napoleon understood.  Thus, absolutely paternal government and the careful preservation of religion necessarily go hand in hand.  In this connection it must be taken for granted that the rulers and governing classes are enlightened concerning the advantages which religion affords, and consequently feel themselves to a certain extent superior to it, inasmuch as they use it as a means; thus freedom of spirit has its origin here.  But how will it be when the totally different interpretation of the idea of Government, such as is taught in democratic States, begins to prevail?  When one sees in it nothing but the instrument of the popular will, no "upper "in contrast to an "under” but merely a function of the sole sovereign, the people?  Here also only the same attitude which the people assume towards religion can be assumed by the Government; every diffusion of enlightenment will have to find an echo even in the representatives, and the utilising and exploiting of religious impulses and consolations for State purposes will not be so easy (unless powerful party leaders occasionally exercise an influence resembling that of enlightened despotism).  When, however, the State is not permitted to derive any further advantage from religion, or when people think far too variously on religious matters to allow the State to adopt a consistent and uniform procedure with respect to them, the way out of the difficulty will necessarily present itself, namely to treat religion as a private affair and leave it to the conscience and custom of each single individual.  The first result of all is that religious feeling seems to be strengthened, inasmuch as hidden and suppressed impulses thereof, which the State had unintentionally or intentionally stifled, now break forth and rush to extremes; later on, however, it is found that religion is overgrown with sects, and that an abundance of dragon's teeth were sown as soon as religion was made a private affair.  The spectacle of strife, and the hostile laying bare of all the weaknesses of religious confessions, admit finally of no other expedient except that every better and more talented person should make irreligiousness his private affair, a sentiment which now obtains the upper hand even in the minds of the governing classes, and, almost against their will, gives an anti religious character to their measures.  As soon as this happens, the sentiment of persons still religiously disposed, who formerly adored the State as something half sacred or wholly sacred, changes into decided hostility to the State; they lie in wait for governmental measures, seeking to hinder, thwart, and disturb as much as they can, and, by the fury of their contradiction, drive the opposing parties, the irreligious ones, into an almost fanatical enthusiasm for the State; in connection with which there is also the silently Co operating influence, that since their separation from religion the hearts of persons in these circles are conscious of a void, and seek by devotion to the State to provide themselves provisionally with a substitute for religion, a kind of stuffing for the void.  After these perhaps lengthy transitional struggles, it is finally decided whether the religious parties are still strong enough to revive an old condition of things, and turn the wheel backwards: in which case enlightened despotism (perhaps less enlightened and more timorous than formerly), inevitably gets the State into its hands, or whether the non religious parties achieve their purpose, and, possibly through schools and education, check the increase of their opponents during several generations, and finally make them no longer possible.  Then, however, their enthusiasm for the State also abates: it always becomes more obvious that along, with the religious adoration which regards the State as a mystery and a supernatural institution, the reverent and pious relation to it has also been convulsed.  Henceforth individuals see only that side of the State which may be useful or injurious to them, and press forward by all means to obtain an influence over it.  But this rivalry soon becomes too great; men and parties change too rapidly, and throw each other down again too furiously from the mountain when they have only just succeeded in getting aloft.  All the measures which such a Government carries out lack the guarantee of permanence; people then fight shy of undertakings which would require the silent growth of future decades or centuries to produce ripe fruit.  Nobody henceforth feels any other obligation to a law than to submit for the moment to the power which introduced the law; people immediately set to work, however, to undermine it by a new power, a newly formed majority.  Finally it may be confidently asserted the distrust of all government, the insight into the useless and harassing nature of these short winded struggles, must drive men to an entirely new resolution: to the abrogation of the conception of the State and the abolition of the contrast of "private and public”.  Private concerns gradually absorb the business of the State; even the toughest residue which is left over from the old work of governing (the business, for instance, which is meant to protect private persons from private persons) will at last someday be managed by private enterprise.  The neglect, decline, and death of the State, the liberation of the private person (I am careful not to say the individual), are the consequences of the democratic conception of the State; that is its mission.  When it has accomplished its task, which, like everything human, involves much rationality and irrationality, and when all relapses into the old malady have been overcome, then a new leaf in the story book of humanity will be unrolled, on which readers will find all kinds of strange tales and perhaps also some amount of good.  To repeat shortly what has been said: the interests of the tutelary Government and the interests of religion go hand in hand, so that when the latter begins to decay the foundations of the State are also shaken.  The belief in a divine regulation of political affairs, in a mystery in the existence of the State, is of religious origin: if religion disappears, the State will inevitably lose its old veil of Isis, and will no longer arouse veneration.  The sovereignty of the people, looked at closely, serves also to dispel the final fascination and superstition in the realm of these sentiments; modern democracy is the historical form of the decay of the State.  The outlook which results from this certain decay is not, however, unfortunate in every respect; the wisdom and the selfishness of men are the best developed of all their qualities; when the State no longer meets the demands of these impulses, chaos will least of all result, but a still more appropriate expedient than the State will get the mastery over the State.  How many organising forces have already been seen to die out!  For example, that of the gens or clan which for millennia was far mightier than the power of the family, and indeed already ruled and regulated long before the latter existed.  We ourselves see the important notions of the right and might of the family, which once possessed the supremacy as far as the Roman system extended, always becoming paler and feebler.  In the same way a later generation will also see the State become meaningless in certain parts of the world, an idea which many contemporaries can hardly contemplate without alarm and horror.  To labour for the propagation and realisation of this idea is, certainly, another thing; one must think very presumptuously of one's reason, and only half understand history, to set one's hand to the plough at present when as yet no one can show us the seeds that are afterwards to be sown upon the broken soil.  Let us, therefore, trust to the "wisdom and selfishness of men "that the State may yet exist a good while longer, and that the destructive attempts of over-zealous, too hasty socialists may be in vain!  

Friedrich Nietzsche, "Ecce Homo" Ebook

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