Christianity itself declares that
the worth of the tree is to be determined by the quality
of its fruit.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Refutation
of Deism, 1814
The record of the Church is often cited to support arguments
that underpin Christianity. For example Christians are frequently
assured that their morality is superior to the morality of others
and are taught a version of history that appears to verify this
view. According to this version of history, Christians suffered
great persecution with almost supernatural forbearance, while
they themselves were always merciful to others. Furthermore,
for centuries the Church kept learning alive and provided education
while holding at bay the twin threats of the heathen barbarians
and the Muslims. Christianity was a great respecter of other
civilisations, cultures and beliefs. Christianity led mankind
out of darkness and into light, taking the prime role in a long
series of social reforms. It protected the weak. It championed
justice. It had a consistently positive influence in areas such
as education, legal reform, political reform, human rights and
medicine. It was far superior in all respects to the intellectual
conceit of selfish godlessness. Such views are still central
to many Christian denominations. We are taught them at school.
We hear them in churches. We hear them confirmed every Sunday
night on the wireless and the television.
But not everyone shares this view. Some educated people hold
views about Christianity that contradict all of the assertions
just made. Some hold views not far from those of Nietzsche,
who, in The Antichrist, expressed himself as follows:
I call Christianity the one great curse, the one enormous
intrinsic perversion, the one great instinct of revenge, for
which no means are too venomous, too underhand, too underground
and too petty I call it the one immortal blemish of
It seems hardly credible that Nietzsche could be talking about
the same great faith that we hear so much about throughout our
lives. How could he have formed such a negative view of Christianity?
In this section we review the Christian record, and compare
it to that of freethinkers, and see if we can find a clue as
to why Nietzsche formed the view he did.
Some possible explanations
for and defenses of the record of Christianity