when I shout, "Curse all cowardly devils in you who like to whine and fold their
hands and pray," they shout, "Zarathustra is godless." And their teachers of
resignation shout it especially; but it is precisely into their ears that I like
to shout, "Yes, I am Zarathustra the godless!" These teachers of resignation!
Whatever is small and sick and scabby, they crawl to like lice; and only my
nausea prevents me from squashing them.
Well then, this is
my preaching for their ears. I am Zarathustra the godless, who speaks: "Who is
more godless than I, that I may delight in his instruction?"
I am Zarathustra
the godless: where shall I find my equal? And all those are my equals who give
themselves their own will and reject all resignation.
Last night I
returned from an interesting weekend at the Council for Secular Humanism, where
I began my new job. This morning I want to outline my plans as the Regional
Coordinator, but first I want to try to convey to you something of my vision,
and to ask you to consider sharing it with me.
afternoon I shook hands with Paul Kurtz, who told me the project of laying the
groundwork for a North Jersey/New
York Center for Inquiry was in my hands. I told him I was enthusiastic, that my
new position allowed me, for the first time in years, to combine all my time and
energy into a single, meaningful mission, and that I felt I was standing at the
beginning of an adventure. And all this I did feel. But I knew that inside me
there was one wire that failed to connect, one spot that remained cold with
reluctance: could I really step into the role of the kind of Secular Humanist
staff I had met in recent months? I had just read the newsletters of a couple of
the Metro area Humanist groups I will be coordinating. And there was this sense
that I did not quite have the feel for this sort of thing.
duties include serving as traveling debater and speaker for the Campus
Freethought Alliance. I will teach periodically as Professor of Biblical
Criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute. I will write, review, and edit
for Free Inquiry and for the Journal of Higher Criticism, which will become part
of Prometheus Books. I am to coordinate area meetings and conferences for the
four other Secular Humanist groups in the area. I want to help organize Campus
Freethought Alliance cells at Montclair State, Drew, and Princeton. But these
chores are distinct from my work with our own group here, which would count as a
fifth Humanist group and eventually form the basis for a Center of Inquiry with
its own building, a kind of parish hall for area Humanists, Atheists, and
Freethinkers. It is this last, the development of our own community, that
And this is where
the question of vision becomes relevant. Here is where I am able to put my own
imprint on things. Back to that parting moment with Paul Kurtz, and that missing
piece I felt. My lingering doubt had to do with the character of Humanism as we
know it. To me, to be blunt, Humanism as practiced is tepid, timid, vapid,
torpid. It has all the excitement of a civics lesson, of a PBS telethon. Its
partisans tend to champion the mundane, to lower the drop ceiling as far as they
can. To exorcise the imagination, to fear myth, the exile the Muses along with
the gods. Colorless, boring, Rotarian. Mired in political mud. If this is
Humanism, if this is rationalism, you can forgive people for preferring
As I drove down
the picturesque length of Route 81 from Syracuse to Scranton, a revelation began
to settle upon me. Had Dr. Kurtz meant what he said? That it was now in my
hands? I had to assume he did. And this made me ask myself what kind of a
Humanist movement I would create if I had the chance? If I could have it the way
I wanted? Without the compromises, the watering down I already expected to have
to make? It was indeed to be my experiment. They had placed confidence in me,
based on the response people had given to my... performances. They must want me
to do my thing, even if they didn't quite know what that might amount to.
And I began to
think back to an earlier revelatory experience. A couple of years ago, I was
cooling my heels at a schedule-less and boring convention where I was ostensibly
a guest speaker but in fact did no speaking. I spent a good deal of time in my
room reading Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra. I had lately begun to wonder
whether my teaching had any real purpose to it anymore, my having left the
community of faith. Should I just put the whole religion thing behind me and
move on? But to what? Reading Zarathustra galvanized me, gave me a vision.
Suddenly I understood who I was, what was my destiny. It was to carry on for
Zarathustra, to be a gadfly against the numbing forces of convention and
superstition and conformism. To will the death of God and to proclaim it. To
press beyond the torpor of agnosticism and liberal religion, to the practice of
the absence of God.
And yesterday I
knew the time had come. I knew the moment had arrived for me to create a
Humanism in my own image, or in Zarathustra's image. Atheism is not enough. It
is a fixation on what one does not believe. Agnosticism is the coward's haven,
the kingdom of the mugwump. Even Humanism is insufficient for the reasons I have
already mentioned. One must stand for something adventurous. One must valorize
life with myth. And Nietzsche showed the way. The way of the Superman. That is
the way I intend to take, and I hope you will take it with me.
I would like to
continue Heretics Anonymous and the Grail as they are. But I would like to
return to a more active schedule for Heretics. Perhaps twice a month. And, if it
works out, I would like to revive the Skeptic Tank, an alternate weekend group
to meet perhaps at the Library in Montclair. The point of this is to widen the
membership and to acclimate us to meeting in a bigger space.
I'd also like to
revive the Borders class under the name the Freethinkers Bible. And, speaking of
the Bible, I may be writing the annotations for a Skeptics Annotated Bible for
project of mine would be to try to revive the defunct Fundamentalists Anonymous
movement, along with an occasional counseling practice for people leaving
religion, the whole thing to be called "Ex-Fundies." This would have as national
a scope as I could give it, as the original Fundamentalists Anonymous had, but
it would be, strictly speaking, a part of my outreach from here.
Aiding all this
would be a radio call-in show I am hoping to sell.
And I'd revive the
newsletter, which has gone under the titles The Epistle and The Encyclical. This
time out it would bear the Nietzschean alias The Great Noon.
The Humanism I
want to create is Nietzschean Humanism, Superhumanism, as I called it in an
earlier sermon. It will embody myth and fiction, style, flair, irreverence and
outrageousness. Movements depend on the gifts of a leader, or they sink into the
kind of torpor from which Humanism presently suffers. I want to become the Anton
LaVey, the Zarathustra, of Humanism. The Antichrist, the Ingersoll. I want to
proclaim the death of God and the dawn of the Superman.
Dr. Kurtz and I
scanned the long list of similarly and generically named Humanist organizations
associated with the Council for Secular Humanism, and he suggested naming our
group, our little empire, with some label indistinguishable from the others. You
know, like the Judean People's Front, the People's Front of Judea. You can't
tell them apart. But driving down Route 81 I realized that's the last thing I
want to do. We aren't one more pea in a pod. We will be noticed and remembered.
This will be The Sect of Zarathustra. For the timid, the newsletter will
stipulate that we are "affiliated with the Council for Secular Humanism." But
its motto will run: Proclaiming the Death of God and the Dawn of the Superman.
I'm not proposing it for some meek committee's fretful consideration; I'm
telling you how it will be.
What a vision to
advance! What a movement to join and to build! What a fiction, an epic, to live
out! If we spend one second fretting that some will misunderstand, then we have
misunderstood. If it is anything, the Humanism I envision raises its standard
proudly and decisively without conducting focus groups first. When the Buddha
raised the Golden Lotus and saw only a single face which smiled at his meaning,
he did not think he had made a mistake. If this movement, this Sect of
Zarathustra, thinks it has to ask permission to be itself, it has already
betrayed itself. It has become decadent in the moment of its birth.
But you'll never
have to use the name if it frightens you. We'll still call this meeting the
Grail, and the Friday evenings Heretics Anonymous. I love those names and the
things they stand for. And if a building is ever built, it will no doubt be
Jersey Center for Inquiry. But my new Humanism, with the Dionysian flair of
mockery, myth, and the Muse, will declare its debt to Nietzsche. It will
celebrate the Superman, rejoice in irreverence, carry on a guerrilla campaign
against the respectable illusions of established priestcraft.
politics? Civics lessons? Getting "In God We Trust" off the coins? I leave those
agendas to the Rotarians and Unitarians who can gaze no higher. I breathe a
rarer atmosphere, the fire of the Empyrean. God, I tell you, is dead. It is time
to be gods ourselves.
Robert M. Price
June 12, 1999