by mr dan
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When confronted, as we all are so frequently, with the ridiculous accusation that Adolf Hitler was an atheist, there are two broad ways to respond. The first is to take the high road and point out the logical fallacy of the argument: that the statement “Hitler was X, and Hitler was bad, therefore X is bad” isn’t a rational one. This is true. But it’s ineffective.
The second view is to assert the truth that Hitler was not an atheist. Many belittle this tactic as too defensive. It’s true that Hitler’s supposed atheism is an article of faith for many people, and, like Jesus’ divinity or Stephanie Meyer’s literary genius, no amount of evidence or argument will ever talk them out of it. To attempt such a feat is to waste time and breath.
But neglecting to refute a lie is a tacit endorsement of that lie. The number of times I have seen people ineffectively take the high road is staggering. Just say no. “Hitler was an atheist, you say? No! No he wasn’t.” While it may be true that you’re not likely to change the mind of the person with whom you are arguing, casual observers to he discussion may be more open-minded.
Hitler was quite undeniably a Catholic, not an atheist. The internet is full of excellent sources articulating on this point, but none are stronger than a quick thumbing through the pages of Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. In fact, the very first sentence says, “Today it seems to me providential that Fate should have chosen Braunau on the Inn as my birthplace.” Fate? Providence? Those are theistic concepts, which no atheist would ever invoke.
Only a few pages later Hitler writes of the “solemn splendor of the brilliant church festivals” and that at a young age, “the abbot seemed to me…the highest and most desirable ideal.”
After rambling some more anti-Semitic nonsense, he summarizes, “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.”
Part of the Nazi uniform was a belt buckle declaring “Gott Min Uns” — ”God is With Us.” Christian imagery was often part of Nazi paraphernalia and propaganda, and Hitler often referred to God, Jesus Christ and Christian virtues in his writings and speeches.
Some point to the fact that Hitler edited himself into the Bible as proof that he was not a believing Christian. This doesn’t make any sense at all. Hitler considered himself to be doing great Christian works, and when he added “Honor your Fuhrer and master” to the commandments, he was really just reinforcing Romans 13:1-3: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, he who resists authorities resists what God has appointed.” It wouldn’t make sense for an atheist to declare himself divine and chosen. The more you read the Bible and Mein Kampf, the more you see how much the two have in common.
I’ll leave you with one other hilarious note. Listen to this. “If, with the help of his Marxist creed, the Jew is victorious over the other peoples of the world, his crown will be the funeral wreath of humanity and this planet will, as it did thousands of years ago, move through the ether devoid of men.”
Thousands of years ago the earth was devoid of men? Well, if you ask a Young-Earth creationist, it was. But if you ask, I don’t know, any reputable scientist, biologist, anthropologist, archaeologist, or historian, they’ll tell you that homo sapiens have been on this planet for about 200,000 years. Thousands is, of course, a vague term, and may refer to 200 of them, but I’d say that’s a bit of a stretch. It may not exactly be Young Earth Creationism, but it certainly doesn’t square well with any atheistic science.
There have been some very bad Catholics over the years, but I don’t remember any of them killing 11 million people. Hitler was the worst of the worst, and it is true that there were many factors that lead to his insanity. But chief among them were his own personal interpretation of Christian teachings, including an anti-semitism reinforced by the Church and the idea that Christians were chosen for superiority.
The fact that Hitler was a Catholic doesn’t make Catholics Nazis. But the fact that Hitler may have been a bad Catholic doesn’t mean he wasn’t a believer. You can’t call him an atheist just because his version of the Jesus myth isn’t the same as yours. That’s like a Protestant calling the Pope an atheist, or saying Fred Phelps doesn’t believe in God.
From now on, the high road is the second place you should go. First and foremost, when they try to drag you through the mud by throwing you in with the Fuhrer, remember: just say no.
mr dan is vice president of CVA. he views expressed in this post are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Connecticut Valley Atheists or its individual members.