Apparently P. Z. Meyers* has gotten a bit tired of the invocations of Nietzsche by believers determined to show how he's been misinterpreted by neo-atheism:
And then Spencer and Smart drag out one of my pet peeves: Nietzsche. Not Nietzsche the philosopher, of course, but Nietzsche the dolorous atheist. Nietzsche the regretful non-Christian. Nietzsche the sorrowful, reluctant thinker who praises Jesus while weeping sincerely, and simultaneously predicting cultural cataclysm because we’re losing our faith. It’s the only atheist message the devout want to hear — if you’re going to abandon religion, at least be sure to stroke the pastor’s ego on your way out the door.
These guys always make Nietzsche sound like a 19th century S.E. Cupp, which is an awfully nasty insult to deliver to a guy you’re praising. ...
You know what? Fuck the Christian cartoon Nietzsche. He’s wrong, he’s annoying, and I feel no obligation to respect his views of a lovely essential Christian dogma. Also, as noted above, if atheism is a reaction to false authority…why the hell do you think citing a philosopher who has been dead for over a hundred years will make us roll over and surrender? Nietzsche ain’t the atheist pope, either. Christians can keep trying to shoehorn atheism into obligatory tropes that they’re subject to, but all it does is convince us that Christians don’t know what they’re talking about.
So of course, Meyers then proceeds to a detailed demonstration of why this interpretation of Nietzsche is wrong. Oh wait, no he doesn't! He just proceeds to turn around and bash on some Christian straw-men:
Christian ideas like free will and equality? Have you ever heard of Calvinism, or are they not Christian now? You’ve got a holy book with a set of prophecies that are destined to occur, and this same book endorses slavery and genocide, and somehow, in the endlessly malleable universe of Christian fantasy, outright heresy has been morphed into a central tenet of the religion. Amusing.
This is a ... strange reading of Calvinism, both in terms of how it relates to the history of the development of democratic political systems in the west, and also how it understands Calvinist readings of the Bible. Suffice it to say, I'm not sure that Meyers understands Calvinism any better than he understands Nietzsche, and to be clear, he does not really appear to understand Nietzsche at all, nor does he understand what it is about Nietzsche that folks like Nick Spenser think the neo-atheists get wrong.
The point being made by Spencer is one that has been made by others (including me), which is that Nietzsche's philosophy simply does not allow you to reject the Christian idea of God while at the same time holding on to moral principles such as love, kindness, generosity, mercy, etc. Those things are dependent on a philosophical and religious superstructure rooted in the idea that God exists as a guarantor of the moral stability of reality. In the absence of such a guarantor, the universe is knocked off of its axis, and really anything goes.
But Nietzsche is not Dostoevsky. When he concludes (to use Dostoevsky's words) that "without God all things are possible," he takes that as a good thing -- a grand thing. Now that God is dead, Nietzsche says, we can remove the shackles that have bound us to the slave morality of love and mercy and we can embrace the morality of the Overman, that of the will-to-power, in which we may bend the world to our will, dominate and subjugate the weak, who refuse to relinquish their slave morality, and allow the genuinely noble and creative geniuses of a new world to arise and take their rightful place in lordship over the world.
That's Nietzsche. You can like that or abhor it. You can try to build your morality on some other foundation than the existence of God or some other form of metaphysical moral guarantee. What you can't do, however, is to ignore Nietzsche's proclamation, glom into the phrase "God is Dead" without introspection, and fail to understand what he sees are the implications of that phrase.
The problem that the neo-atheists face, and Meyers' "fuck the cartoon Nietzsche" is simply a reconfirmation of this fact, is that they are philosophically shallow. Really, deeply, alarmingly philosophically shallow. Daniel Dennet is an exception to this, being a trained philosopher himself, though in his writing on atheism he doesn't often put that training to best effect. For the rest -- Dawkins and Meyers and Krauss and Hawking -- they have made the mistake, continually, of deciding to hold forth on a subject they really don't know well, while at the same time claiming to have some form of privileged insight into it, rooted in their scientific training. But their lack of philosophical acumen is usually quickly apparent, as it is here, based upon their complete inability to comprehend the details of the subject under discussion.
Meyers can like Nietzsche or dislike him. But he can't pretend that Spencer is misrepresenting him, unless he wants to do the hard work of reading and interpreting Nietzsche to at least some significant degree. Having failed to do so, he just further demonstrates the point that Spencer is making in his book.
But the S. E. Cupp line was good. No one should be forced to be compared to S. E. Cupp, but then that's Meyers doing the comparing, not Spencer.
*As a footnote, Meyers never does himself any favors as an intellectual when he holds forth on books, like Spencers, that he refuses to read. I can certainly understand that life is too short to spend reading books that you know in advance you're likely to hate, but it's hard to credit any claims of "Spencerian inanity," when Meyers clearly doesn't have the first idea about the substance of Spencer's book.