I’ve mentioned before how I shared an article from The Poached Egg (one of my top recommended resources) on my Facebook and Twitter accounts entitled 5 Uncomfortable Facts Atheists Need To Hear by Barak Lurie, a former atheist. I had actually shared this article several times before. And the reason I’ve shared it several times is that I think that it’s pretty spot on. Only this time, the village internet atheists on Twitter got a hold of it and responded like wildfire. In 2 days time, I had 163 responses, which is pretty crazy for a small fry apologist like me. (Typically I have 0 to 1 response on Twitter.) I also explained my personal rules for Twitter and Facebook debates, and why I’m choosing to respond on my blog instead.
The 5 points are:
1. Atheism is responsible for more deaths than Judaism or Christianity
2. Hitler was not a Christian
3. Atheism is an ideology – whether you realise it or not
4. People of faith are responsible for a huge amount of good in our society
5. Judaism and Christianity created civilisation
My previous blog addressed point #1: Atheism is responsible for more deaths than Judaism or Christianity. This blog will address point #2:
2. Hitler was not a Christian
From Barak’s article:
Atheists routinely urge that the Nazis were Christian, invoking Christianity to justify their horrors. This is false.
Nazism and fascism never held themselves out as Christian enterprises. More particularly, Hitler himself despised Christianity. He saw Christianity as “meek” and “flabby” and sought to destroy it “root and branch”. He bemoaned why Germany was “stuck” with “feeble minded” Christianity and preferred other “strong-arm” systems.
Hitler’s writings and speeches are so full of passages dripping with contempt for Christianity that to argue he was Christian is like arguing George Washington fought for the British during the Revolutionary War.
Several atheists in my replies agreed to this. Some contested that Hitler was not an atheist, But that wasn’t the claim of this article. The claim is not that Hitler was an atheist, only that he was not a Christian.
In my previous post, I mentioned that one reply that I received was a link to an article entitled The Atheist Atrocities Fallacy – Hitler, Stalin & Pol Pot by Michael Sherlock. The article goes on to claim that Hitler WAS a Christian, that Pol Pot was a Buddist, and that while Stalin was an atheist, he was, in reality, an honorary Christian. My previous post addressed the other claims, but now let’s address that claim that Hitler was a Christian.
One of my peers, Alan Bogle, with M.A. in International Relations and Comparative Politics from the University of Memphis, and an Undergrad in history, responded with many references:
The sheer number of historians who attest to this is overwhelming, scholarly consensus is very clear on this.
“Had the Nazis won the war their ecclesiastical policies would have gone beyond those of the German Christians, to the utter destruction of both the Protestant and the Catholic Church.” –“Nazi culture: intellectual, cultural and social life in the Third Reich”, p. 240, Mosse, George Lachmann, 2003
“It seems no exaggeration to insist that the greatest challenge the Nazis had to face was their effort to eradicate Christianity in Germany or at least to subjugate it to their general world outlook.”—“Germany a modern history” Marshall Dill p 365
“The Nazis sought to “to eradicate Christianity in Germany root and branch.”—“The Nazi revolution, 1933-1935: prelude to calamity” with a background survey of the Weimar era.” Eliot Wheaton P 290/363
“Consequently, it was Hitler’s long range goal to eliminate the churches once he had consolidated control over his European empire.”—“ A concise history of Nazi Germany” Bendersky, Joseph p.147 2007
“And even fewer paused to reflect that under the leadership of Rosenberg, Bormann and Himmler, who were backed by Hitler, the Nazi regime intended eventually to destroy Christianity in Germany, if it could, and substitute the old paganism of the early tribal Germanic gods and the new paganism of the Nazi extremists.”—“ Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany” William Shirer p240
“The objective was to either destroy Christianity and restore the German gods of antiquity or to turn Jesus into an Aryan.”—Historical Dictionary of the Holocaust” Jack Fischel p123 2010
““There is no doubt that in the long run Nazi leaders such as Hitler and Himmler intended to eradicate Christianity just as ruthlessly as any other rival ideology, even if in the short term they had to be content to make compromises with it.”–World Fascism: A historical encyclopedia, Volume 1, 2006
“In Hitler’s eyes, Christianity was a religion fit only for slaves; he detested its ethics in particular. Its teaching, he declared, was a rebellion against the natural law of selection by struggle and the survival of the fittest.”–Hitler a Study in Tyranny, by Alan Asheleigh Bullock
His own right hand man Joeseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda, noted:
“The Fuhrer is deeply religous, though completely anti-Christian. He views Christianity as a symptom of decay. Rightly so. It is a branch of the Jewish race… Both [Judaism and Christianity] have no point of contact to the animal element, and thus, in the end, they will be destroyed.”
Samuel Koehne, a Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute, working on the official Nazi views on religion, answers the question Was Hitler a Christian? thus: “Emphatically not, if we consider Christianity in its traditional or orthodox form: Jesus as the son of God, dying for the redemption of the sins of all humankind. It is a nonsense to state that Hitler (or any of the Nazis) adhered to Christianity of this form.”
Roger Griffin, the professor of modern history at Oxford and the foremost expert in the world on socio-historical and ideological dynamics of fascism wrote that “There is no doubt that in the long run Nazi leaders such as Hitler and Himmler intended to eradicate Christianity just as ruthlessly as any other rival ideology, even if in the short term they had to be content to make compromises with it.”- –World Fascism: a historical encyclopedia, Volume 1. p. 10
Robert Wistrich, who is considered to be one of the foremost historians on Hitler and the Holocaust writes that Hitler thought Christianity was finished.
In his article What Will Happen When Christianity Withers?, Daniel Mann says this:
According to historian Richard Weikart, National Socialism (Nazism) provides an illuminating example of what happens when Christianity loses its grip. The Lutheran Church, the largest German church, had, from the 18th century, largely abandoned their traditional faith, paving the way for Hitler
The Nazi Bible rewrote the 10 commandments and removed all Jewish references.
Jeremiah Johnston, Ph.D., M.A., M.Div., B.A., in his book Unimaginable: What Our World Would Be Like Without Christianity, says this:
In a speech before a crowd in Munich, in 1920, Hitler spoke of the Nazi Party’s Twnty-Five Point program. The twenty-fourth point contained the assurance that the party “stands for a positive Christianity, without binding itself denominationally to a particular confession.” The qualification about not being bound to a particular confession is in reference to Roman Catholicism and Protestantism (which in Germany mostly meant Lutheran). Throughout his speeches and in many places in Mein Kampf, Hitler spoke of the “two denominations” that waste the energies of their followers in endless squabbles. In many of his speeches Hitler referenced “positive Christianity” (German: Positives Christentum). But in time it became clear that Hitler’s Positive Christianity bore little resemblance to historic Christianity and certainly not to the Christianity practiced by Catholics and Protestants.
There is ample evidence for this claim. Hanns Kerrl was appointed by Hitler to form a Reich Church (Reichkirche) under the banner of Hitler’s Positive Christianity. It was expected that all clergymen would swear allegience to Hitler. According to Kerrl, Positive Christianity had nothing to do with the Apostle’s Creed, nor would its adherents place their faith in Jesus Christ. Alfred Rosenberg, an outspoken anti-Semite, one of Hitler’s trust lieutenants and found of the Militant League for German Culture, planned to eliminate the “foreign Christian faiths” (that is, Roman Catholicism and all Protestant denominations) and replace them with Positive Christianity. Rosenberg hoped Hitler’s Mein Kampf would replace the Bible and the Swastika would replace the cross. What Rosenberg envisioned was replacing Christianity with Germanic paganism, in which there would be no more talk of the Ten Commandments and redemption through Christ. The new religion would be based on racial purity and conquest, not turning the other cheek and praying for one’s enemies. There would be nothing Christian about the new Positive Christianity…
Hitler’s talk about Positive Christianity was nothing more than a ruse. A number of perceptive contemporary critics saw right through him and spoke out (though in exile). Hitler knew perfectly well that if he openly condemned Christianity or declared himself an atheist, he would have almost no following among the German people. So cautious was Hitler on this point that even as late as 1941 he did not permit Joseph Goebbels, his minister of public enlightenment and propoganda, to withdraw from the church. This was “for tactical reasons,” Goebbels wrote in his diary. Hitler knew that he could not advance an anti-Christian agenda at the beginning of his rule. He hoped to gain Christian support by presenting himself as an opponent of Russian Bolshevik Communism and atheism.
In the footnotes, Jeremiah says this:
As noted in Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia…281: “Hitler was politically prudent enough not to trumpet his scientific views publicly, not least because he wanted to maintain the distinction betweeen his own movement and the godlessness of Soviet Communism.” The same point is affirmed by Laurence Rees, The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler…135: This his relationship in public to Christianity – indeed his relationship to religion in general- was opportunistic. There is no eveidence that Hitler himself, in his personal life, ever expressed any individual belief in the basic tenets of the Christian church.”
By sounding like a defender of a new, vigorous form of Christianity, Hitler believed he could keep Catholics and Protestants in line. After winning the war, Hitler planned to purge Germany of Christianity. The evidence is clear on this point. Like Nietzche before him, who he admired, Hitler hated Christianity.
Much of this evidence derives from private remarks Hitler made to his closest associates. By 1937, Hitler “was declaring that ‘Christianity was ripe for destruction,’ and that the churches must yield to the ‘primacy of the state,’ railing against any compromise with ‘the most horrible institution imaginable.'”
Even more ominous was the language Hitler used. He not only spoke of the “destruction” (Untergang) of the church, but often spoke of the “church question,” much as he would speak of the “Jewish question,” terminology used by Hitler at least as far back as 1919. We all know how Hitler answered the “Jewish question.” There is no reason to doubt that Hitler planned the same for the Christian church.
Back to the footnotes:
See Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny…219: “In Hitler’s eyes, Christianity was a religion fit only for slaves…Once the war was over, he promised himself, he would root out and destroy the influence of the Christian churches.”
Other historians have reached the same conclusion: for all his quasi-religious talk,
Hitler sometimes spoke of doing “the Lord’s will” and of “Providence.” The former was said in mockery, the latter was Hitler’s way of speaking of his destiny, which was part of his pagan animism. See Allan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives….412.
Hitler was not only not a Christian and not a theist in any Judeo-Christian sense, he planned to destroy Christianity and wipe out the Jewish people.
In the following pages, Jeremiah shows how the Hitler Youth song sung in 1934 was anti-Christian. The song is as follows:
We are the joyful Hitler Youth
We need no Christian virtue
For our Fuhrer Adolf Hitler
Is ever our Mediator.
No Pastor, no evil one, can hinder
Us from feeling as Hitler’s children.
We follow not Christ but Horst Wessel,
Away with incense and holy water.
The Church can be taken away from me,
The swastika is redemption on earth,
It will I follow everywhere,
Baldur von Schirach, take me along!
I think the evidence is overwhelming that Hitler was not a Christian. As I said before, many atheists agree, while others still continue to claim that he was.
I’ll close with this extended quote from Barak Lurie’s book Atheism Kills: The Dangers of a World Without God – And Cause for Hope, which the end of the original article that spurred the Twitter responses refers to. On Hitler, Barak says this:
Adolph Hitler elevated himself to the Fuhrer (“the Leader”), and he demanded his people to direct all allegiance to him. Once Hitler had obtained total power, he never invoked God’s or Jesus’ name. Then he sought to eliminate God, and the people who gave the world His troublesome Ten Commandments. In all his quests for power, that was his core purpose.
The fact that Hitler played into the latent existing antisemitism of the day does not mean he supported Christianity. Far from it, and just like Mussolini before him, Hitler had contempt for Christianity (see below). But he was more than happy to exploit German contempt for Judaism—for the moment. But he dedicated himself to only one overall mission: destroy God and anyone who supported Him.
And destroy he did. Hitler killed 6 million Jews in the span of approximately five years. And Jews were only “one of four groups racially targeted for persecution in Nazi Germany and in German-controlled Europe”142; gypsies and Poles were targets too. All told, Hitler’s Holocaust was responsible for the deaths of at least 11 million people.
But wait, what’s this? On the Internet, you will find people constantly referring to Hitler as a devout Christian, and that Hitler had embraced Christianity as the very core of Nazism. So their argument becomes “Hitler was a Christian! Hitler was a Christian!” and that this reflects the evil nature of Christianity itself, or at least that the greatest mechanized slaughter of all time happened in the name of Christianity.
They’re like Janice Brady from The Brady Bunch TV show, who’s always complaining about her older sister, Marsha (“Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”). You’ll find references to Hitler’s supposed love for Christianity, especially in his creed Mein Kampf, which he wrote in the 1920s while in prison, and in his early days before he attained complete power in 1933. But to believe Hitler was a Christian is like believing that the four guys from the music group the Village People were really a policeman, a cowboy, a sailor, and an Indian chief.
His seemingly pro-Christian fervor was just a ruse: he orchestrated it solely to get the Christians to either back him, or at least not to get in the way. And nothing he advanced or did was remotely Christian nor “for” Christianity.
It turns out that dictators manipulate, lie and deceive. Who knew? And Hitler had lied and deceived over and over again: he lied to the rest of the world when he said he wanted only peace. Then he lied that he wouldn’t pursue any territory after acquiring Czechoslovakia. He lied to the Russians when he signed a treaty that he wouldn’t go to war with them. He lied and deceived the world about his plan to annihilate the Jews and all other supposed “undesirables.”
His specific lies were extensive: “We have no territorial demands to make in Europe”; “I do not desire anything further than that this German nation shall take its place and grow into the unity and co-operation of the European community” (March 1936); “We want nothing from France—nothing at all” (September 1938); “Germany does not conduct a war against small nations” (April 1940).
Those who claim Hitler was a devout Christian understand that he was a ruthless, psychopathic liar who would say anything to accomplish his murderous scheme to wipe out all non-Aryan people from Europe and beyond. Except for his supposed deep faith in Christianity—that you can apparently take to the bank.
We know better now. As Historian Paul Johnson observed, Hitler hated Christianity with a passion. After assuming power in 1933, Hitler told Hermann Rauschning that he intended “to stamp out Christianity root and branch.”
And then this, from Hitler himself: “You see, it’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn’t we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?”
And then, in 1933, away from the public, Hitler explains his plans to destroy Christianity: “It is through the peasantry that we shall really be able to destroy Christianity, because there is in them a true religion rooted in nature and blood” (emphasis added).
And his contempt for Christianity grows more with time. By 1940, he states, “The religions are all alike, no matter what they call themselves. They have no future—certainly none for the Germans. Fascism, if it likes, may come to terms with the Church. So shall I. Why not? That will not prevent me from tearing up Christianity root and branch, and annihilating it in Germany” (emphasis added).
And more contemptuously yet:
Whether it’s the Old Testament or the New, or simply the sayings of Jesus, according to Houston Stewart Chamberlain—it’s all the same old Jewish swindle. It will not make us free. A German Church, a German Christianity, is distortion. One is either a German or a Christian. You cannot be both. You can throw the epileptic Paul out of Christianity—others have done so before us. … It’s no use, you cannot get rid of the mentality behind it. We don’t want people who keep one eye on the life hereafter. We need free men who feel and know that God is in themselves.
Indeed, his true and seemingly consistent belief appeared to be pantheistic, if anything, reaching back to a world that worshipped nature: “The old beliefs will be brought back to honor again . . . the whole secret knowledge of nature, of the divine, the demonic . . . We will wash off the Christian veneer and bring out a religion peculiar to our race.”
Yehuda Bauer, professor of Holocaust Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describes the real “god” of Hitler and the Nazis: “They wanted to go back to a pagan world, beautiful, naturalistic, where natural hierarchies based on the supremacy of the strong would be established, because strong equaled good, powerful equaled civilized. The world did have a kind of God, the merciless God of nature, the brutal God of races, the oppressive God of hierarchies.” In other words, not Christian.
As Hitler grew in power, he made many other anti-Christian statements. For example: “I’ll make these damned parsons feel the power of the state in a way they would have never believed possible. For the moment, I am just keeping my eye upon them: if I ever have the slightest suspicion that they are getting dangerous, I will shoot the lot of them. This filthy reptile raises its head whenever there is a sign of weakness in the State, and therefore it must be stamped on. We have no sort of use for a fairy story invented by the Jews.”
It was political pandering, just like many of our past and current politicians who invoke God’s name to gain support. Also, it seems probable that Hitler, being the great manipulator, knew that he couldn’t fight the Christian churches and their members right off the bat. So he made statements to put the church at ease for the moment.
It was all a ruse. Hitler just wanted to bring the church into line so that it wouldn’t interfere with his scheme. “He knew he dare not simply eradicate it: that would not have been possible with such an international organisation, and he would have lost many Christian supporters had he tried to. His principal aim was to unify the German Evangelical Church under a pro-Nazi banner, and to come to an accommodation with the Catholics.”
In other words, while he was certainly evil, he also knew which fights he could win (at least until 1941) and only fought those.
Kindle version, 49-52