Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Lie that Nazism Was an Atheistic Movement

Among the many lies the allegedly moral Christians like to spread is the calumny that Hitler and the Nazis were atheists.  This is slanderous defamation of atheists of the worst sort.  It is aimed at both atheists as a group and at individuals and used as an excuse to abuse them outrageously.  It is particularly heinous because it is leveled against atheists by the very groups who were, in fact, the rank file of the Nazi Party and its army:  Christians.

I have posted numerous times on this subject because I find it disturbing that so many religious apologists are trying to claim that the Nazis were atheists.  These claims are lies.  They are hate speech.  They are code for "kill them all".

The only way to deal with this sort of outrageous lie is to know the facts, especially the details that make the claim obviously preposterous.  Here are some of those facts.

First and foremost is the platform of the Nazi Party:

I have pointed out the overwhelming evidence that they Nazis were Christians, but there is one particularly damning piece of evidence that I did not include in previous posts:  The Nazi Party Platform.  It states in Article 24:
"The Party stands for positive Christianity, without associating itself with any particular denomination." 
This, one would think, would put the debate to an end conclusively.  The Christian nature of the Nazi Party was enshrined in its very platform, which is a political party's defining document.  But, given the devious and dishonest nature of religion and religious people, the debate rages on as the religious' lust for power rather than truth causes them to, once again, play on the ignorance of the populace.

The next time you hear a believer spreading the outrageous lie that Hitler or the Nazis were atheists and you want to reply with something relatively subtle and non-confrontational, you can simply ask the following:

"Why would atheists try to exterminate the Jews?"  (You can then add:  "A lot of Jews are atheists.")

Or you can say:

"Have there been other incidents where alleged atheists tried to kill or otherwise persecute Jews?"


"Do you have any evidence proving that atheists would hate Jews enough to persecute them?"  "Or have ever persecuted them?"

The truth, of course, is that atheists have no reason to hate Jews.  In fact, given that Jews tend to be much more tolerant of us than members of other religions, it might even be said that we are more likely to actually prefer them.  I know I usually do.  You can point that out as well:

"Jews have virtually no history of hostility toward atheists.  In fact, they are usually quite tolerant of usAn atheist would be much more likely to see Jews as natural allies because we are both hated and persecuted by Christians and Muslims."

This point is a good example of the type of relatively subtle points we need to make.  It points out a rather obvious problem with the way the religious think without being too confrontational.  It is highly unlikely that the religious person has ever given this any thought.  At most, they may have some vague notion that the holocaust was a sort of attempt to practice Darwinism, which, in their minds, is inextricably bound up with atheism.

While they are right that atheism and Darwinism are connected, there is no connection between Darwinism and the holocaust.

The Holocaust was clearly an example of "artificial selection" not "natural selection". Artificial selection was around for thousands of years before Darwin and has nothing to do with his ideas. His idea was that natural selection, over time, would result in the creation of different species. There is nothing in Darwin's work about artificially selecting members of your species for extermination because they don't have the right religion. That is an age old religious idea.

People with evil intent will always look for ways to make their goals seem respectable, and there are undoubtedly people who invoke Darwin to support their callous social politics. In fact, I have heard people do just that. They happened to be religious people, however.

Calling it Darwinism is a misnomer and a perversion of Darwin's thesis. Because there is no evolution of a new species occurring or even being encouraged. Such people may talk about breeding "new men", but they don't intend to bring about a new species. They simply intend to cull the herd of those they consider defective.

Darwin's thesis has two essential components: 1) natural selection over time--which has no design but is brutally non-random; and 2) accumulation of naturally selected traits resulting in the creation of new and distinct species.

So-called "social Darwinism" has neither of these.

Atheists have no reason to hate Jews and no history of persecuting Jews, but christians have a very well documented history of hating and persecuting Jews.  In fact, they even had published debates over the course of centuries as to whether or not they should kill all the Jews.  Again, I refer you to James Carroll's wonderful book "Constantine's Sword" for further reading documenting this history.

Until the 20th Century, most christians chose not to kill all the Jews, not out of the goodness of their hearts or their alleged moral superiority but because Augustine reminded them that the Jews were the one's whose holy prophecies Jesus supposedly fulfilled.  Thus, he reasoned, they should be allowed to live to serve as witnesses to the existence and genuineness of the prophecies.  Otherwise, someone might argue that the whole story was made up.  (Of course it was, but that is another topic.)

What is important to remember here is that Augustine felt the need to publish reasons for not killing the Jews back in the 4th Century.  This was less than a century after the christian church gained worldly power under Emperor Constantine.  In other words, the debate had been going between christians virtually throughout the whole of their history--at least since the time they gained political power and made genocide an actual possibility.

Given this history, it is nothing less than astounding to me that anyone could possibly believe that the Nazis were "godless" or pagan.  The history of this "debate" amongst christians is quite well documented and should be mentioned as one of the many reasons that the recent attempts to blame atheists for the holocaust are scandalous, disgusting, and falsely defamatory to the point where any such claim should be considered hate speech aimed at non-believers or pagans.

Anytime you hear or read of another person asserting that the Nazis were atheists or otherwise godless, you can add the fact of these long public debates amongst christians regarding the "Jewish question" (as the Nazis called their continuation of the debate) to the long list of reasons to consider the accusation that the Nazis were atheists or pagans an outrageous lie.

One of the ways in which Christianity has tried to distance itself from the Nazis is to focus on the pagan influences amongst the leaders of Nazism.  Undoubtedly, there were such influences.  As I mentioned before, however, this is akin to the Nuremburg defense.  The fact that the leaders were less than purely Christian in outlook does not relieve their Christian followers of moral culpability--especially given that these Christian followers were the ones who committed the actual atrocities and did so eagerly with only a little encouragement from their leaders.

In addition, this is akin to the "no true Scotsman" logical fallacy in which a person argues that a perpetrator of bad acts could not have truly been a member of the group simply because his actions are inconsistent with the idealized view of the group.  Thus, the bad acts are said not to reflect upon the group as a whole.  Obviously, this is a "tails, I win; heads, you lose" argument.  It is a circular argument in which the conclusion (no one in my group is bad) is taken as an immutable given.

Most Christians have their individual opinions about the particulars of their religion.  In fact, no one person can define in detail what it means to be a Christian--though many claim to be able to do so.  Thus, when a Christian does something very unpopular, the other Christians will argue that he wasn't "really" a Christian.  In doing so, they will try to get everyone to focus their attention on the ways in which that individual differed from many other Christians--failing to mention that the same type of "distinctions" can be made about all Christians.

One of the most useful bits of "evidence" the religious have for this subterfuge is the Nazi symbol, the swastika.  The swastika is an ancient symbol found in many cultures.  So ancient, in fact, that its pagan origins are undeniable--it predates Christianity.  This does not mean, however, that it was adopted as part of the Nazi's rejection of Christianity any more than the adoption of various pagan symbols used at Christmas and Easter mean that Christianity is pagan.

The swastika was simply an ancient good luck symbol.  The word swastika came from the Sanskrit word svastika, meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote good luck.  It was adopted by some Christians just as were ancient fertility symbols--rabbits and eggs.  In fact, the name for it in German is Hakenkreuz or "hooked cross".

To the best of our knowledge Hitler saw the swastika as a Christian symbol.  Hitler's first encounter with the swastika was in his boyhood catholic school, which had it engraved on its wall in several places as part of its crest.  (See Anna Elisabeth Rosmus, Out of Passau: Leaving a City Hitler Called Home, p. 35.)

Hitler's family moved to Lambach, Austria, in 1897.  For several months Hitler attended a Catholic school there located in an 11th-century Benedictine cloister, where the walls were engraved in a number of places with crests containing the symbol of the swastika.  It was in Lambach that the eight-year-old Hitler sang in the church choir and entertained the fantasy of one day becoming a priest.

Thus, if presented with this argument, one can say:

"There is no reason to believe that Hitler or the Nazis saw the Hakenkreuz as any less Christian than a Christmas tree."


"If the swastika proves the Nazis weren't Christian, then Easter and Christmas prove that the majority of those who call themselves Christian aren't Christian either."

Hitler stated repeatedly in public that the Nazis were Christians and that atheists were their enemies.  Among the many statements:

            "We are a people of different faiths, but we are 
    one. Which faith conquers the other is not the 
    question; rather, the question is whether Christianity 
    stands or falls.... We tolerate no one in our ranks who 
    attacks the ideas of Christianity... in fact our 
    movement is Christian.  We are filled with a desire 
    for Catholics and Protestants to discover one another 
    in the deep distress of our own people.

-Adolf Hitler, in a speech in Passau, 27 October 1928, Bundesarchiv Berlin-Zehlendorf, [cited from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich]

Hitler's actions and that of his regime were motivated largely by, and based squarely on, Christian teachings about Jews, which were taught and spoken of openly for centuries until after the Holocaust was exposed.  See Joseph Daniel Goldhagen's book "Hitler's Willing Executioners".  Since that time, the Christians only speak of this and teach it in private, but they still do it.

The Nazi movement was inherently hostile toward atheism: freethinkers clashed frequently with Nazis in the late 1920s and early 1930s. On taking power, Hitler banned freethought organizations (such as the German Freethinkers League) and launched an “anti-godless” movement. In a 1933 speech he declared: “We have… undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.”  The Freethought Hall in Berlin was given to a Christian Church at that time by the Nazis.

In other words, atheists were one of the Nazis' primary political opponents and victims.  If anyone tries to make the argument that the Nazis were atheists, you can say something like:

"That's an absolute lie.  Atheism was not tolerated under the Nazis."

You can add:

"Nazi Germany was officially a 'Christian Nation' with no separation of church and state."

Anyone who bothers to do any research on this knows it is a lie to say Hitler or the Nazis were atheists.  Here is a link to a group of articles de-bunking this outrageous claim as a first step to anyone interested in the truth.  In addition, here are some of the more salient facts that show the allegation to be a lie and which are of a sort that are useful in conversation:

Hitler was raised Catholic, attended Christian services, and never publicly disavowed the Catholic Church nor Christianity in general.  Nor did the Church ever disavow or excommunicate Hitler or any of his followers, even after their crimes against humanity had become clear.  In contrast, the atheistic communists worldwide were excommunicated all at once in 1948 with the stroke of a pen by Pius XII, the same Pope who signed the Concordat with Nazi Germany and then ordered his followers to obey their political leaders--meaning the Nazi government. 


By 1948, everyone knew about the full scope of the Nazi's incredible atrocities.  There can be no pretense that the Pope "didn't know".  Why didn't the Pope excommunicate the surviving Nazis instead of helping them escape?

Throughout the war, all Nazi soldiers wore belt buckles that had "Gott mit uns" (God is with us) engraved on them.

 The highest decoration the soldiers could receive was an iron cross--obviously it wasn't the iron that made it a decoration, and a cross as a symbol wasn't picked at random but was based on the Christian cross. 

The Nazi government used baptismal records to determine who was Jewish and who was not, thus making Christianity the national religion of Germany and a requirement for living (as opposed to dying) in Germany.

See The Encyclopedia of Unbelief By Gordon Stein Contributor Gordon Stein, Paul Edwards Published by Prometheus Books, 1985. Page 290. "The Union of Proletarian Freethinkers was banned by the Nazis as early as 1932, and the Prussian National Socialist faction introduced a bill banning the Union of Freethinkers. The end of all freethinking unions arrived in 1933, with the consolidation of Hitler's power." 
See The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939 By Adolf Hitler, Norman Hepburn Baynes, Royal Institute of International Affairs Published by H. Fertig, 1969. Page 378.
See Richard Steigmann-Gall (2003). The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919–1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Roughly two-thirds of Germans were Protestant, almost all of the rest Catholic. Many Nazi soldiers, including many who partook personally in the massacres perpetrated by the Nazis were from countries such as Poland, The Ukraine, the baltic states, Croatia and other heavily Catholic countries.

It is sometimes alleged that the Nazis were pagans.  Some of them apparently had pagan beliefs.  It is not always clear if those individuals were completely pagan or combined paganism with their own understanding of Christianity.  The Nazi Party as an institution, however, clearly was Christian with merely a few pagan symbols and ideas added because of their link to the German/Aryan past.  The pagan minority was extremely small, in any event.


The addition of a few pagan ideas doesn't make an institution pagan.  If it does, then almost all Christian churches are actually pagan.  Easter, Christmas and the worship of the Virgin Mary and the Saints all have roots in pagan religions that were engulfed by Christianity.  In fact, Easter is the name of a pagan god. 

Many of the people who claim that the Nazis were atheists draw almost all their authority for the statement from a book entitled "Hitler's Table Talk", which purports to give an account of things Hitler said in private.  What this book actually reveals is that Hitler may have privately ceased to believe in the Christian Church and criticized it, but the alleged conversations reported in it (especially in the more accurate German language versions) show that he still believed in god and thought he was doing god's work.  He thought Christ was an Aryan whose work had been perverted by Paul (who had been a Jew, don't forget).  He saw himself as Christ's successor ridding the church of Paul's "jewish" influence. 

The English translation of this book is completely unreliable.  It contains numerous fabrications, omissions, and mistranslations.  It is based on the French translation and not the original German, and the French translation was produced by a man who perpetrated a hoax in the 1970's when he tried to market a forged "Hitler's last testament".  There are numerous other indicators of this particular man's lack of honesty throughout his lifeAnyone quoting from the English translation (by W.H. Trevor-Roper) can be pulled up short by pointing this out. 

Even if it were true that Hitler had become an atheist, this is nothing but an even weaker version of the Nuremburg defense.  The Christians are now essentially arguing that all the Christians who did the actual killing were ordered to do so by a man who was secretly an atheist and therefore all the blame rests with this one man and with his alleged secret atheism. 

The Nuremburg defense was not accepted at the Nuremburg trials and it should not accepted as a basis for a defamatory allegation against people who were, in fact, victims of the Nazis.  Such an outrageous and harmful claim requires real evidence.  The evidence, however, points most decidedly toward those currently doing the accusing as the guilty parties.

There is not one shred of evidence that Hitler's alleged atheism had any role to play in what happened.  Hitler was also a vegetarian.  Saying that the Holocaust occurred because Hitler lacked morals as a result of being an atheist is the logical equivalent of saying that it occurred because he was a vegetarian and his brain was deprived of protein.

In addition, as I have explained in other posts, the alleged link between religion and morality is not only non-existent, it is actually the opposite of the truth.  All evidence and logic show that religion actually leads to less morality--which explains why the Holocaust was perpetrated by so many good Christian soldiers.

One wonders why these good Christian soldiers would follow such orders.  One also wonders why the man who allegedly gave them went to such lengths to portray himself to them as a Christian.  The obvious implication is that he knew they were devout Christians and that their Christianity could be used to control them.  He also knew that they would do literally anything if they thought it was in the service of their religion.

The claim that the soldiers were in fear of their lives has been rejected and has been proven to be false.  Joseph Daniel Goldhagen found several cases while researching his book "Hitler's Willing Executioners" where soldiers told their superiors that they simply could not participate in such things and were not punished at all.  Some were simply sent home to Germany and resumed their civilian careers.  He found no instance where a soldier was executed for failure to participate in massacres. 

Even if Hitler were secretly an atheist, there is no evidence that he actually killed anyone or even ordered the death of anyone in the Holocaust.  The authorization he gave was either little more than encouragement or off the record.  See e.g., Christopher R. Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, 2004, p. 309 et seq.

Apparently Hitler didn't have to try very hard to get his soldiers to do the killing.  Why?  Because those soldiers had been prepared by centuries of anti-semitic propaganda from the various Christian Churches to think of their victims as vermin who deserved slaughter.  This propaganda is not in doubt and in some cases it continues to this day.  The larger churches have ceased overtly urging their followers to hate Jews and others, but the idea hasn't gone away.

It is particularly irksome to hear this slanderous lie from Catholic leaders.  During the war, the Catholic clergy in the Third Reich collaborated, informing the authorities which of their parishioners were actually converted Jews or the descendants of converted Jews, telling German schoolchildren that the Jews were simply getting what they deserved (I was told this by a man who actually was one of those schoolchildren), and in most cases doing nothing to stop it. 

After the war, the Catholic Church helped surviving Nazis escape justice, giving them new identification papers and sending them to countries controlled by the Church, such as Argentina and Paraguay. 

See, e.g., Phayer, Michael. 2008. Pius XII, The Holocaust, and the Cold War. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34930-9.

There were a few Catholics who resisted the regime and were killed or sent to concentration camps as punishment, but it must be remembered that they did so because of their individual consciences and in defiance of the orders of their church.  Now the Church wants to pretend that these few were the only Catholics living in the Third Reich at the time and were representative of the Church's policies.  Just like they want to pretend that Hitler's alleged secret atheism explains the whole thing.  Neither assertion is true.

When the Nazis began euthanizing the mentally ill during the 1930's, the Catholic Church not only heard about it right away but put up an almighty stink and literally put a stop to the program.  The number of "defectives" who were to be euthanized was only about 250,000, so that was a very small project compared to the millions of Jews later killed.

Yet, the Church wants everyone to believe that they had no knowledge of the Holocaust even when many of the people directly involved were Catholic.  Apparently, they would have us believe that in a world where three people can keep a secret only if two of them are dead that none of these Catholics ever told anyone what they knew--even in confession.  This is simply not believable.  Rather, as is the case in the current child-abuse scandal, it is clear that the Church's leaders have lied and are lying in order to protect the Church.  After all, if the Church collapses most of them will probably go to jail and the rest will have to get real jobs.

Many of the records involving the "final solution" were sealed for decades and only recently became available.  (Eerily similar to the Vatican's centuries old refusal to allow access to its records of trials for witchcraft.)  It is clear from a recent report of the participation of the German foreign service in the Holocaust that knowledge of the "final solution" was widespread and not just limited to those few thousands directly involved.  Likewise, anecdotal reports both of survivors and Germans willing to speak honestly indicate that knowledge of what was going on was widespread.  How could it not have been?  When so many good Christian Germans were living close enough to the camps to smell the stench?  Yet those same people lied repeatedly and nearly unanimously about their knowledge--giving strong reason to believe that all such denials from those who should have known are lies.

I don't want to pick on the Catholic Church in particular because it is clear that German protestants were just as bad or worse and that Martin Luther was one of the most virulent anti-semites of all time.  The Catholic Church, however, being a single, hierarchical, authoritarian organization was uniquely positioned to prevent what happened--just as it prevented full implementation of the Nazi euthanasia program--but did nothing.  Worse, the Catholic Church has been in the forefront of the movement to lie about this and claim that Hitler and the Nazis were atheists.

It is also clear that the Catholic Church was willing to look the other way because they saw the Nazis as the alternative to the communists.  See, e.g., Phayer.  If the communists came to power throughout Europe, the Church would have been in great peril.

For that reason the Church was the driving force behind the Spanish Civil War, which began after a left-wing government came to power through free elections.  The Civil War was fomented and prosecuted by the right-wing of the Church in order to overthrow a democratically elected government.  Which side did the Nazis support and actually fight alongside?  The Church's side, of course.

(There are also good reasons to believe that the Catholic Church was instrumental in pushing America into the Cold War, including the intervention in Vietnam and various Latin American countries.) 

In some non-Catholic countries, Bulgaria, Denmark, and Norway, the local populace and the local (i.e., Protestant or Orthodox) churches refused to go along with the holocaust and effectively prevented the extermination of most Jews living in those countries.  Their refusal was based on the fact that they knew what the Nazis were doing.  They knew that the Jews weren't simply being "re-settled".  How could the Catholic Church, which is a de facto network of spies thanks to the sacrament of confession, not know? 

At the same time, one of the worst regimes that supported the Nazis was the ultra-Catholic regime in Croatia, which committed atrocities that disturbed even hardened Nazis.  Many of the atrocities were actually committed by Catholic Clergymen.  That story is so shocking it deserves to be treated as a separate topic in a later post.  The embedded link, however, should give anyone interested a good start. 

The one nation allied with or occupied by the Nazis that absolutely refused to persecute Jews was Japan, which isn't even Christian!!  Japan didn't have a population raised to believe in the blood libel against the Jews and wasn't subjected to centuries of anti-semitic propaganda.

For those actually implicated in the Holocaust to try to blame it on atheists is shameless scapegoating of the worst sort.  It is the classic sort of behavior one would expect from the emotionally disturbed and psychopathic.  It is exactly the sort of "BIG LIE" that the Nazis used so often and planned to use to cover up their crimes.

For nearly 2,000 years Christians used the Jews as scapegoats for nearly everything.  Now that the Christians have gone too far and actually tried to kill them all (as they threatened to do for centuries) public relations considerations prevent them from using Jews as scapegoats anymore.  Yet, they need a scapegoat more than ever to blame that little escapade on, so they turned to their convenient enemies the atheists and tried to pin the blame on them.

Finally, this is an example of the "no true Scotsman" logical fallacy in which someone will argue that it is impossible for someone from his "group" to have done such a thing so either it didn't happen or the person wasn't really from his group.  Although it is often referred to as a logical fallacy--because an unproven premise is accepted and allowed to take precedence over all objective evidence--it is really more akin to a delusion and a symptom of an ego based mental illness in which the person's fragile ego prevents him from accepting facts if they make his "group" look bad.

That, in a nutshell, explains what is going on and why such obviously false lies are being spread.


  1. You're lying: it was a movement by a narcissist leader who openly endorsed a twisted version of God but privately supported atheism. You seem to be trying to make it a black and white issue. As far as the Christians who followed him, they would have entirely been Lutherans and Catholics or similar such Christians, in other words Arminians and earn-your-salvation with Christ's-help types, in other words, narcissistic Christians. And why would self-centered Christians so readily follow a narcissist? Figure it out.

  2. Lying? Really? Cite me one remotely credible source that disproves what I have written. You won't because you can't. Especially the part about privately supporting atheism. He did no such thing. The closest any religious person can come to "proving" this is the comments he made about the christian church of the 20th Century published in "Hitler's Table Talk". His comments amounted to no more than an assertion that christianity had gone off in the wrong direction.

    This is black and white. Mass murder is WRONG. There is no other way to see it.