In a piece of journalism I read today

But I've come to believe that there's also something deeper at work: that most of the world's people live with the legacy of slavery. Even in a nominal democracy like the United Kingdom, most people were more or less in bondage until little more than a century ago: on near-starvation wages, fired at will, threatened with extreme punishment if they dissented, forbidden to vote. They lived in great and justified fear of authority, and the fear has persisted, passed down across the five or six generations that separate us and reinforced now by renewed insecurity, snowballing inequality, partisan policing.

I don't want to consider the theological truth of Christianitys central claim, but as a social force. Nietszche accuses it of fostering a slave morality, but it seems that the slavery is enforced by a political class. Surely then Christianity provides a morality/ethics that sustains a populace under such a burden. Of course one could argue that sustaining can decay into enforcing; can one say that Nietschze is asking that this compact should now be overturned? That is if the 'meek are to inherit the earth' they cannot do this by remaining meek.

  • 4
    I'm not connecting the dots here. First, I'm not sure the quote from the Guardian is historically accurate. Second, I don't see what it has to do with Christianity or Nietzsche. Third, I think the question would be stronger if you quoted Nietzsche rather than paraphrased him. Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 23:51
  • 1
    My (somewhat scant) reading of Nietsche suggests that he is concerned with the ways in which "slave morality" serves to inhibit self-actualisation of people who would otherwise break free. In particular, esp. in view of his position in "The Antichrist", he seems to think that it is slave morality which inhibits (deleteriously!) the ability of self-actualizing people from doing all that they could do, rather than the masters who impose a "slavish morality" upon "lower" classes. Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 0:11
  • 1
    I might put some of this in an answer if we can clarify the concern a bit further, but just some immediate thoughts. The "slavery" here is psychic and social at once -- taking generalized repression as a sublime object of ideology, castration deified; Deleuze puts it this way: "A 'disinterested' love for the oppressive machine: Nietzsche said some beautiful things about this permanent triumph of slaves, on how the embittered, the depressed and the weak, impose their mode of life upon us all".
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 1:43
  • 1
    Slave morality not a matter of masters imposing limiting-repressive manners, law or policy (that they themselves would trangress and so enjoy pleasures prohibited to "the rest of us"); to my mind the master is in reality the one who is prohibited from desire/castrated/incapable of evil -- in short, the lamb is setting a table of laws over the eagle, denying for everyone the expression of passions that are not present in them anyway (or attenuated/decayed/made fragile, etc.)
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 1:44
  • 2
    Spinoza is acutely aware of this problem as well; recall in what way he says kings and priests are similar: they use sad passions (bitterness, grief, guilt) to diminish our power of acting...
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 1:46

2 Answers 2


What did Nietzsche mean by accusing Christianity of slave-morality?

“I finally discovered two basic types and one basic difference. There are master morality and slave morality. . . . The moral discrimination of values has originated either among a ruling group whose consciousness of its difference from the ruled group was accompanied by delight - or among the ruled, the slaves and dependents of every degree.” ... “The Christian faith is from the beginning a sacrifice: sacrifice of all freedom, all pride, all self-confidence of the spirit, at the same time enslavement and self-mockery, selfmutilation … Modern men, with their obtuseness to all Christian nomenclature, no longer sense the gruesome superlative which lay for an antique taste in the paradoxical formula ‘god on the cross’. Never and nowhere has there hitherto been a comparable boldness in inversion, anything so fearsome, questioning and questionable, as this formula: it promised a revaluation of all antique values. – It is the orient, the innermost orient, it is the oriental slave who in this fashion took vengeance on Rome and its noble and frivolous tolerance, on Roman ‘Catholicism’ of faith – and it has never been faith but always freedom from faith, that half-stoical unconcern with the seriousness of faith, that has enraged slaves in their masters and against their masters. ‘Enlightenment’ enrages: for the slave wants the unconditional, he understands in the domain of morality too only the tyrannical, he loves as he hates, without nuance, into the depths of him, to the point of pain, to the point of sickness – the great hidden suffering he feels is enraged at the noble taste which seems to deny suffering.”
Nietzsche - Beyond Good and Evil.

“The act of most spiritual revenge. It was the Jews who, with awe inspiring consistency, dared to invert the aristocratic value-equation (good = noble = powerful = beautiful = happy = beloved of God) and to hang onto this inversion with their teeth, the teeth of the most abysmal hatred (the hatred of impotence), saying, "the wretched alone are the good; the suffering, deprived, sick, ugly alone are pious, alone are blessed by God . . . and you, the powerful and noble, are on the contrary the evil, the cruel, the lustful, the insatiable, the godless to all eternity, and you shall be in all eternity the unblessed, the accursed, and damned!"
Nietzsche - Genealogy of Morals

Nietzsche traces the master and slave morality back to the masters and slaves of ancient times. He suggests that our most cherished values originated not among those who were the best and brightest of their times, but among those who were the most oppressed and impoverished. The dominant emotion in the evolution of morality, in other words, was not pride in oneself or one's people, but a defensive prejudice against all of those who succeeded and achieved the happiness that one could not oneself achieve. Nietzsche argues that the roots of ressentiment morality are to be found in the history of the Jews. In ‘Jewish hatred’ for the Roman oppressor lie the seeds of Christian faith and morality. The ancient Hebrews and then the early Christians simmered with resentment and concocted a fabulous philosophical strategy against their ancient masters. Instead of seeing themselves as failures in the competition for wealth and power, they re-valued their values and turned their resentment into self-righteousness. Morality is the product of this self-righteous resentment, which is not nearly so concerned with living the good life as it is with chastizing those who do live it. In its extreme form - asceticism - it is the active denial of the good life, the ultimate outlet of resentment as self-righteous self-denial.

Nietzsche suggests then, on the basis of this analysis, that Christian morality is inherently structured as a form of slave morality's ressentiment toward the masters, and it accomplishes revenge imaginatively, by means of passing judgment. The strong, active traits of the masters are vilified by the slavish, who come to regard their own passivity and weakness as virtues. This pattern pervades the moral ideals of Christianity. Many modes of self-assertion and self-expression are analyzed as sins on the Christian scheme, while passive suffering is deemed characteristic of the blessed. Since Christianity is based on "slave morality' it must be a point of honor for the "strong" to overcome it. For them it is"indecent" to still be Christians. Nietzsche assert with regularity that religion is necessary primarily or solely for the weak.

  • I think this simplifies a complex historical phenomenom. In recent times, one only has to see the example of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. These were all religiously inspired men. How do you explain this given your analysis above? These, I think were all strong active men - unless you beg to disagree? Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 0:28
  • Lets take an example of an army under the command of a general. Surely the general commands his men. Are his men free or are they slaves? Or is this far too simple a characterisation? Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 0:33
  • I understand, I think Nietzsches analysis. But I fail to see how it didn't work. It appeared to do so. After all you call the strategy 'fabulous'. When Nietszche says that morality must be revalued in the contemporary situation, it appeared that they did exactly this then. Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 0:37
  • 1
    @MoziburUllah You asked "What did Nietzsche mean by accusing Christianity of slave-morality?" My answer is basically the own words of Nietzsche. The term "fabulous philosophical strategy" is a description of the vision of Nietzsche. Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 1:09
  • 1
    I do not agree: since even Roman critisists of Christianity, such as Celsus, noticed bravery of Christians in face of death. And bravery in face of death was between Roman values. Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 14:06

Nietzsche realized that christianity raises the weak and put focus on weak, poor and low people. This culture implicites that a good christian - in the meaning of the church - is a mentaly and physical weak person. Weak persons bow their before power - that was the aim of the church. By the way the church and christianity has nothing to do with the substance of the bible. This is an institution to keep people as group in a ordered way of life. That helps the elite to enslave people. Strong people think themselfs, stand for their found knowledge and are not influenced by church or any other institution like state or media. Nietzsche wanted an Übermensch who is mentally and physically strong, a new race of selfthinking truth-loving humanity and does not obey the authorities just because to feel comfortable. "Destroy the tables of the authorities" and make new ones which the humans have found themselfs, not brought by a enslaving elite or institution who follows their will. The Übermensch or the New humans should use their one will and mind.

This is contrary to the aim of the church and therefore the aim of christianity.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .