In the Hitchens article from yesterday, he discusses Nietzsche's episode in Turin where he had a nervous breakdown/psychotic break:
Eventually, and in miserable circumstances in the Italian city of Turin, Nietzsche was overwhelmed at the sight of a horse being cruelly beaten in the street. Rushing to throw his arms around the animal’s neck, he suffered some terrible seizure and seems for the rest of his pain-racked and haunted life to have been under the care of his mother and sister. The date of the Turin trauma is potentially interesting. It occurred in 1889, and we know that in 1887 Nietzsche had been powerfully influenced by his discovery of the works of Dostoyevsky. There appears to be an almost eerie correspondence between the episode in the street and the awful graphic dream experienced by Raskolnikov on the night before he commits the decisive murders in Crime and Punishment. The nightmare, which is quite impossible to forget once you have read it, involves the terribly prolonged beating to death of a horse. Its owner scourges it across the eyes, smashes its spine with a pole, calls on bystanders to help with the flogging … we are spared nothing. If the gruesome coincidence was enough to bring about Nietzsche’s final unhingement, then he must have been tremendously weakened, or made appallingly vulnerable, by his other, unrelated sufferings. These, then, by no means served to make him stronger. The most he could have meant, I now think, is that he made the most of his few intervals from pain and madness to set down his collections of penetrating aphorism and paradox. This may have given him the euphoric impression that he was triumphing, and making use of the Will to Power. Twilight of the Idols was actually published almost simultaneously with the horror in Turin, so the coincidence was pushed as far as it could reasonably go.This reminded me of the opening scene in Amazing Grace, a film about William Wilberforce, the religious friend of William Pitt who ended the the British transatlantic slave-trade. In the movie, Wilberforce, played by the kindly and sympathetic Ioan Gruffudd, halts his carriage to stop the beating of a horse and soon after has a similar "unhingement" and becomes a religious fanatic or fundamentalist. He also endeavors to end the British slave trade against great odds.
To me the idea of a horse being beaten for some reason always brings to mind Orwell's Boxer, who represented the Russian working class in his book Animal Farm. Loyal and hardworking, worked to death in fact.
John Brown was a religious fanatic too. In AMC's "Hell on Wheels," the preacher in the railroad camp road with John Brown during "Bloody Kansas." It's very interesting that Obama chose to give a speech in Osawatomie.
As I understand it, Nietzsche and Mencken had a very negative of religion as a sort of a slave mentality. On the Internets someone wrote:
[Nietzsche] thought Christian morals and asceticism rejected life. The good for him is only that which asserts his aristocratic, elitist ideal. Christian morals defend the opposite - the meek, impoverished, and lower class. He was also skeptical of the Platonic rejection of the material world common in Christianity.Hitchens writes Mencken believed in a sort of Social Darwinism. Christianity began as a slave religion under the Roman Empire. I share Hitchens's and Marx's view of it as an opiate. It's a less condescending, more sympathetic view, although maybe pity is ultimately condescending.
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.