“Christianity is Platonism for the people.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
In the course of fulfilling my duties as an underpaid slave to the university a teaching assistant, I’ve had the mixed blessing of reading and reflecting on Plato for two consecutive quarters these past few months. I say mixed because while this has afforded me an opportunity to understand Plato’s thought in more richly textured detail, it has served mostly to reinforce the position I already held on that most beloved of philosophers – which is, simply, that Plato blows.
Yes, I’m being hyperbolic. But allow me to make my case. I believe I can argue, with only moderate exaggeration, that any sincere atheist should have some serious misgivings about Mr. Plato – and this is simply because, as Nietzsche argued at length, Plato kind of invented Christianity. We must say “kind of,” of course, because Plato obviously never clearly articulated a concept even of a singular, all-powerful humanoid God, let alone anything as obtuse and ridiculous as a singular, all-powerful humanoid God which first creates imperfect beings in his image, then condemns them for acting on their nature and then creates a son to sacrifice for said imperfect beings who then somehow transforms himself into a sin sponge that sucks up all the ickiness in those poor beings simply by enduring some severe unpleasantness for a mere weekend.
But I digress – because here’s the thing. Plato may not have come up with the exact details of that ridiculousness, but he helped build the intellectual foundations absolutely essential to making the theological claims of Christianity thinkable at all. And in certain respects what he came up with, I dare say, rivals if not surpasses Christianity on the absurdity meter.