Morality & Politics

Atheist Morality: Was Hitler An Atheist?

A German Army belt buckle. The inscription translates to "God is with us"Atheists have been and continue to be the targets of a vicious, tireless smear campaign. For example, after informally questioning my co-workers, I realized to my chagrin that most of them think Adolf Hitler was an atheist! Not one of them realized that Adolf Hitler had a strict Catholic upbringing (of the type that supposedly produces moral, virtuous people), or that he was an altar boy in his youth, or that he once told General Gerhart Engel that "I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so". None of them knew that his infamous "Mein Kampf" contains phrases such as this: "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." (among many, many other things; see my page on Hitler's Religion for more). None of them knew that Nazi soldiers wore belt buckles inscribed with "Gott mit uns" (God is with us).

None of them knew that he made Christian school prayer mandatory for the 1930's German schoolchildren who grew up to be his dreaded SS, or that he publicly espoused "family values", which in his mind meant the condemnation of sexual "perversions" rather than the promotion of healthy marriages and parenting methods (rather reminiscent of the right-wing fundamentalist position today). None of them knew how much the German Christian Social movement resembled the modern right-wing Christian Fundamentalist movement. None of them knew that Hitler closely followed the anti-Semitic teachings of none other than Martin Luther, founder of Protestantism, but this isn't surprising since they didn't know about Martin Luther's extreme anti-Semitism either, even though he wrote a book titled "On Jews and their Lies". Anti-atheists have noted that Hitler had minor disagreements with the Catholic church in Germany (but not with the church in Rome, with which he signed a Concordat in 1933, and which ordered the German church to fall in line), and they have attempted to twist these minor disagreements into a widespread misconception that he was an atheist, when nothing could be further from the truth.

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush, speaking to a reporter in 1988, while serving as Vice President of the United States (he's arguing that millions of Americans should have their citizenships revoked, and that neither George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln were citizens or patriots, since Washington and Jefferson were deists rather than theists, and Lincoln was an atheist)

A dissenting opinion on George Bush's ignorant notion that America is "one nation under God": "No man [should] be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor [should he] be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor ... otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief ... All men [should] be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and ... the same [should] in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."- Thomas Jefferson, Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779.

Numerous arguments have been advanced in favour of the notion that Hitler was an atheist, despite the above information. Among them are:

Christian claims concerning Hitler's "atheism" are historical revisionism at its worst. Every vague hint, every subtle clue to anything even slightly different from Christianity is blown wildly out of proportion, while all of the official policies of the Nazi government as well as Hitler's own speeches and writings are dismissed as unimportant, irrelevant, and misleading. If you listen to a typical right-wing Christian fundamentalist describing World War Two, you would think it was a struggle between the righteous forces of God-fearing Christians and the evil forces of godless heathens. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When confronted by the fact that Hitler's example hardly helps in their slander campaign against atheists, some anti-atheists suddenly switch gears to Marxism and point out that Marxism is atheistic, in an obvious attempt to tie atheism to past and present human rights abuses in Russia and China. However, that is a logical fallacy: the fact that all Marxists are atheists does not mean that all atheists must therefore be Marxists (if you don't understand why that's a fallacy, go back to school). It's also an unnecessary slander against Marxists. While I find Marx's communist ideas to be very seriously flawed, I must note that he never would have approved of the violent regimes of Stalin or Mao. Atheism is merely the refusal to believe in a God for whom no scientific evidence exists. It does not necessarily lead to Stalinism, or decadence, or the breakdown of family values, or any of these other ridiculous charges that are routinely levied at it.

Continue to 2. Should Christians Throw Stones?

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