Nietzsche Tests Our Faith in God – Conspiracy Theorists Test Our Belief in Free Speech | Adam Garrie
There are many ways in which one can test his faith in God, but the two most common tend to be experience and intellectual curiosity. There can be little doubt that the faith of many people throughout the world is being tested by the present pandemic, just as sure as the faith of millions was inexorably challenged by the world wars. It remains to be seen whether the western world might return to its Christian heritage or otherwise drift ever further away.
The other method through which one can test his faith is intellectual exploration. Insofar as this is the case, the writings of Fredrich Nietzsche are a valuable tool for any Christian. If one is able to read Nietzsche with an open mind and remain a Christian when the long literary journey is done, one has passed the most rigorous of all tests.
A Christian who reads Nietzsche can honestly say that his faith has been challenged, his instincts made to feel insane, his nuance made to feel foolish and his highest morals made to feel wicked or even grotesque. And yet it is because of Nietzsche’s metaphysical attacks on Christian history, theology, rituals and traditions that one is forced to examine one’s faith, not under the scrutiny of empiricism, but rather, under the vastly more thorough scrutiny of a philosophy whose metaphysics is as rich as Christianity itself and whose conclusions range from the strangely comforting to the intentionally terrifying.
Nietzsche’s ability to tease his reader with highly elaborate wordplay and manifold metaphor matches some of the most profound spiritual texts in the world. To put it another way, if one simply wants to find the right words to utter in order to pithily declare that there is no God, one can read the drab and self-insistent texts of today’s most widely published atheists. By contrast, Nietzsche’s writings accuse the reader of being the murderer of God and ultimately one’s conscience must act as the jurors at the trial of one’s own faith.
Taken as a whole, whilst devout Christians read the Bible regularly and sing hymns with frequency, reading Nietzsche ought to be done once in youth, once in middle age and once in one’s twilight years. This way, one can put himself on trial during various stages of one’s life and emerge either as a stronger Christian or as a more doubtful Thomas.
In today’s western world, the mad rantings of online conspiracy theorists serve a similar purpose. Although such people are as far from the profundity of Nietzsche as one can get, their attacks on all that our post-war secular religion of state names as holy, are equally scathing as Nietzsche’s attacks on Christianity.
Unlike with Nietzsche, I do not at all recommend that one reads the rambling social media texts of conspiracy theorists unless one fancies a good laugh. But once the initial laughter subsides, one finds that the average conspiracy theorist is a creature to be pitied rather than hated. Such people seek to beat their readers into intellectual submission to fiction presented as fact, in a quest for the most narcissistic form of self-affirmation that one could imagine. The world of the conspiracy theorist is truly the “teenage wasteland” of our time.
But whilst I detest everything that most conspiracy theorists say and stand for, I am the first to defend them when neo-Stalinist censors come for their free speech. I do so because I am fully aware that when one censors those with mad, strange, vulgar or disquieting views, it will become far easier to readily censor the views of anyone who deviates from the domineering leftist consensus in social media (a consensus that no more reflects the real world than a dictatorship’s propaganda films reflect the world of ordinary people under such a regime).
But beyond the legal and ethical arguments in favour of allowing the free speech of even the most absurd conspiracy theorists, there is also a moral argument. The presence of conspiracy theorists tests not only our patience with the absurd, but also our tolerance for free speech, peaceful debate and civilising Christian humility. If we as a society are true believers in the freedom to speak as one pleases, one must accept this belief is most thoroughly tested when we are faced with reems of digital detritus that we would rather live without.
The temptation to join the gang of leftist censors as a sideshow of mild mannered conservative fellow travellers is often strong for some, particularly when one feels that censoring the conspiracy theorist might put a poor soul out of his online misery and force him to rethink the trajectory of his life in a more healthy manner. That said, this could only be done under the spell of a naïve belief that once the leftist finishes off with the tin foil hat brigade, his lust for censorship will be satisfied.
History shows that the left maintain a penultimate goal of censoring anything that collides with its dogmatic agenda. Unlike Lenin and Mao, however, today’s western left are cunning enough to realise that if they begin their campaign of censorship with the mad conspiracy theorists, few will take note and some will even be pleased. And yet, in short order, that which the mild mannered silent majority view as sensible, will be censored with all the vigour that the left continue to demonstrate in their quest to eliminate intellectual pluralism.
This is why mild mannered conservatives have a moral duty to stand up for the peaceful free speech of even the most repellent individuals. Just as reading Nietzsche thoroughly tests one’s faith in God, conspiracy theorists test our faith in a free and civilised society. If we can find it within ourselves to tolerate and defend the free speech of those we profoundly dislike, we will do something to retard the locomotion of the bells of censorship already tolling for us.
Photo by javabean on Flickr.