Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Lie That Hitler Was an Atheist

I have written at length concerning this most outrageous lie that has come to be circulated in recent years by the supposedly honest, Ten Commandment abiding, Christians.  Deeply ashamed of the crimes committed by their fellow Christians in the Nazi holocaust, many Christians have slipped into denial and are trying to re-write history in order to substitute a lie and blame the whole thing on atheism. 

Central to this claim is their assertion that Hitler was secretly an atheist.  Central to that false claim is the book "Hitler's Table Talk", which allegedly provides transcriptions of private conversations that Hitler had over a series of mealtime conversations between 1941 and 1944.

I have pointed out before that even if every word of that book is taken as absolute truth, it only shows a hostility toward the established christian churches.  It does not show hostility toward Christ or Christianity as Hitler perceived it.  It most definitely does not show that Hitler was an atheist, or even an agnostic.

I recently came across a webpage that lays out the pertinent passages from that book as well as the history of the book.  I heartily recommend that anyone interested in the truth of these matters peruse this webpage.  It explains in succinct manner that these quotations do not remotely support the notions that Hitler was a secularist of any sort or that Nazism was a secular movement of any sort.  It also explains that even the passages critical of established christian churches may have been inserted by Martin Bormann, who edited the first drafts of the notes on which it was based and who, himself, was hostile to the Catholic Church.

Most importantly, the webpage points out that the original German language transcript that was not edited by Bormann does not contain these passages.  The transcript that was edited by Bormann existed only as a single copy in the possession of Swiss collaborator Francois Genoud until 1980.  It is this transcript that allegedly shows Hitler making statements against Christianity.  The man who possessed it privately for years and "translated" it into French, Francois Genoud, went on to fabricate an entire book of Hitler quotes, allegedly made to Bormann, which he claimed to be a "continuation" of the "Table Talk" conversations between Bormann and Hitler in 1945.

In other words, the anti-Christian statements were almost certainly inserted in the text by either Bormann or Genoud.  In any event, hostility toward Christianity certainly is not the same as atheism or secularism, especially given Hitler's other statements concerning the way in which Hitler thought Paul (a Jew) heavily influenced Christianity after Christ's death.  Any anti-Christian statements made by Hitler would have to been seen as criticism of Paul's influence.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Religion as the "Perfection of Narcissism"

Below is a video of part of a talk that Sam Harris gave at the University of Notre Dame.  I found it on YouTube under the title "Sam Harris simply destroys catholicism".  He certainly levels some devastating critiques at Catholicism in the video, but mostly he speaks about the problem of theodicy (the question of why god allows evil) and how the fact that believers are undisturbed by this evil proves their utter lack of empathy and compassion for other people.  This lack of empathy for others combined with the smug self-satisfaction of believers for having been born into the "one true religion" is, as Sam correctly notes, "the perfection of narcissism."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Well, That's Embarrassing

After giving Pat Condell's website a recommendation in my last post, I went back to it and played what seems to be his latest video commentary.  I found, much to my horror, that this video features Pat repeating one of the strawman type arguments made by theocrats in the U.S. as if it were the truth--and worse, mimicking their outrage over this lie that they claim American atheists say but that we don't actually say (except perhaps a few confused atheists who have been in the bible belt too long--so long that they have begun to parrot the bullies who beset them). 

This ridiculous strawman argument is that atheists want religious symbols removed from government building in the U.S. because the symbols hurt our feelings or otherwise offend us.  Frankly, this is so wrong that it is shocking to hear it coming from Pat.  He has always been very insightful in the past.  I can only assume that his comfortable position in a country where secularism is widespread has rendered him ignorant of what it is like to live in the U.S. where almost the entire country is in the grip of religion and where atheists have to fear for their jobs and their physical safety.

First, such displays of religious symbols on government property are permissible under the U.S. Constitution only if the forum is open to displays of all religious viewpoints.  There would be no basis for complaint unless the government officials in charge of the particular property had excluded other religious viewpoints.  So, NO, Pat, this isn't about our feelings being hurt.  It is about enforcing our laws, specifically our Constitution.

Second, the reason our Constitution forbids government endorsement of religion (or the appearance thereof) is that it gives those who are already intolerant and theocratic an excuse and encouragement to be actively bigoted and engage in discrimination or outright attacks against those who don't believe.  This has actually happened to me more than once, Pat, so don't think that I am making this up.  If you doubt me, research it yourself.  I am not the only one who has had such experiences.

Imagine if those intolerant Muslims in England who so frequently cause you to fog up your glasses with heated rhetoric had actually reached such numbers that they were effectively in control of your government.  Imagine some of the things they would do.  Well, that is the situation here in the U.S., Pat, except that the lunatics are "christians".  The only thing we non-believers can do to fight them is insist on strict adherence to the separation of church and state, as provided in our Constitution.

Pat Condell On "Insulting Religion"

A few months ago, Pat Condell posted a video in which he correctly pointed out that he has a right to insult religions that insult him, which almost all of them do--especially Christianity and Islam.  I love Pat's commentaries.  He is almost always absolutely correct.  I highly recommend his website.  Here is the video:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How a Mob Forms

Almost a year ago the Manchester Guardian published a frightening article (republished on Alternet) about the influence of Fox News, which stated that "[o]ne in four Americans believes "most or all" of what's said on Fox News, despite Fox's fabrication of everything from death panels to Climategate."

I have noticed that in study after study of gullibility, pliability, and outright insanity, there seems to be a consistent finding that about a quarter of the test subjects are extremely vulnerable.

The Asch Experiments, studying conformity, the Milgram experiments, studying blind obedience, and data on the incidence of serious mental illness all show around the same percentage of the population is essentially irrational and out of control.  These studies have shown that anywhere from 25 to 35 percent of any population is disturbed in some fashion--simply unable to see or react to reality in a rational manner. 

I have also noticed that many times those who are more rational will go along with, or give undue deference to, whichever person or group frightens them the most.  To my mind, this is a huge moral failure on their part:  doing what is easier rather than what is right.

It has occurred to me that this is how mobs form--they coalesce around the core of scary, out of control people because most other people are scared of them.  They would rather go along to get along and are probably simply happy that they are not the mob's target.  Such people console themselves that the target has "brought this upon him or herself" by not being "smart" enough to go along with the crowd.

What religion and right wing political movements have in common is that they both use the emotionally disturbed and mentally challenged as weapons.  They push the emotional buttons of such people, whip them into a frenzy and then point them toward their political opponents.  

I think that this describes much of what is occurring in American politics today.  The religious and political right are taking advantage of the instinctual, emotional desire present in most people to protect the young.  They convince people that fetuses are actually "babies" and use this instinctual desire to whip them into a moral frenzy that blinds them to other considerations. 

If that doesn't work on particular individuals, then they use racism.  This takes the form of objections to taxes and the size of Government.  Such objections arouse feelings of selfishness and fear of those who are different (usually black people or Hispanics).

Those who object to taxes and "big Government" are almost always completely unperturbed by obscene levels of defense spending and unprovoked wars against those who are "different" (currently, Muslims).  What they object to, in a most vociferous fashion, is spending to help those who are poor.  This is obviously because the poor in the U.S. have historically been black or Hispanic.

Putting aside these political questions, it is useful to be aware of the dynamics of mob formation because, as non-believers, we are uniquely vulnerable to mob action.  Our non-belief gives a ready made weapon to anyone who takes a dislike to us.  Should that person be manipulative and a bit (or a lot) psychopathic, he or she can use this to whip the core of the mob into a frenzy.  If this is done in the workplace, a church, or a school--i.e., a place where the rational must get along with everyone because they are there for the long term--then we can find ourselves the target of an irrational mob before we know it.

If you see evidence that someone is trying to do this to you, you need to take action immediately.  The action needed will vary with the circumstances but can include placating that individual who has targeted you, making friends with other leaders in the group, finding a way to force the troublemaker out, or even leaving the group yourself.  Usually, people don't want to take that last step of leaving, but I have found that whatever the cost of the move is, it will be far less than the cost of staying if all other stratagems have failed or will fail.  And, the sooner one realizes this and makes a diplomatic exit, the better.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kafkaesque Bullying

By now I am sure almost everyone has heard about the awful treatment received by Jessica Ahlquist in Rhode Island (of all places!) when she agreed to act as the plaintiff in a lawsuit to have a clearly Christian prayer removed from the wall of her public high school.  She has been threatened with all sorts of horrible things.  Not just the usual hellfire and brimstone.  There have been actual threats of rape and other forms of violence.  You have to read it for yourself both because it's hard to believe and because I can hardly stand to think about it, much less repeat it.  Almost needless to say, there has been name calling that would peel the paint off a wall at 30 paces.

Atheist commentators have had a lot to say about it, of course.  Jon Willis' comments are wonderful.  The Friendly Atheist has even set up a scholarship fund for her, and I encourage everyone to contribute.

Some have pointed out how these threats and insults prove the need for anti-bullying laws to protect gays and non-believers from religious bullies.  (Or, more generally, unpopular minorities from being bullied or mobbed by the majority.) 

Tennessee is considering a law that would do just the opposite (no surprise).  It would allow religious based discrimination and bullying as a form of "religious expression".

Opponents of this proposed law frequently cite the case of a young man who had been in a high school near Nashville.  He committed suicide recently as a result of being bullied because he was gay.  His case is just one of many that have followed a similar pattern throughout history, but because it is recent and occurred in the state of Tennessee near its capital city it seems ideal as evidence for the need to stop such religious based bullying.

Supporters of the law that would protect religious based bullying have argued that his suicide was not the result of bullying but was the result of the young man's drug and alcohol problems, which, of course, are blamed on his rejection of god.

There is little doubt in my mind, however, that any alcohol or drug problems this young man had were probably the result of trying to cope with continual bullying.  For the people who bullied him to then blame him for his reactions to the way they treated him is so typical of the way these people think.  As I pointed out before, they will do or say anything and everything to make it appear that their victim is the one with the problem--that he is the one to blame.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Atheism Is Not a Religion III

If you didn't catch Bill Maher's show Real Time on Friday night (February 3, 2012), at the end of his "new rules" segment he had a wonderful "new rule":  "Idiots must stop claiming that atheism is a religion".  Here is the video:

Perhaps the most insightful part of the video occurs at the 1:22 mark where Bill says:

"Now, it's a dodge, of course, straight out of the grand intellectual tradition of 'I know you are, but what am I?'"

Because it reveals what is almost always true of religious arguments:  They are dishonest attempts to dress up reasoning that would be more at home on a kindergarten playground.

See also my previous posts related to this topic:

Atheism Is Not a Religion

Atheism Is Not a Religion II

The Lie that Nazism Was an Atheistic Movement VI

I have written several posts on this particular lie that has become so popular among the religious in recent years.  In my very first post on this topic, I mentioned the fact that some of the countries within the sphere of Nazi influence did much more to resist the implementation of the holocaust than others.  I mentioned that Norway, Denmark, and Bulgaria with their non-Catholic churches refused to go along and effectively prevented the extermination of most of the Jews living in those countries.

I would like to add Greece to this list of places that resisted.  Although the government of Greece was complicit in the Holocaust, the Greek Orthodox Church resisted. 

When the Nazis began trying to round up Greece's Jews, Archbishop Damaskinos Papandreou of Athens formally protested in a letter sent to both the Nazis and the leaders of Greece's wartime collaborationist government.

According to The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, Damaskinos' letter is unique.  No similar document protesting against the Nazis during World War II has come to light in any other European country.

The letter reads, in part:

The Greek Orthodox Church and the Academic World of Greek People Protest against the Persecution... The Greek people were... deeply grieved to learn that the German Occupation Authorities have already started to put into effect a program of gradual deportation of the Greek Jewish community... and that the first groups of deportees are already on their way to Poland... According to the terms of the armistice, all Greek citizens, without distinction of race or religion, were to be treated equally by the Occupation Authorities. The Greek Jews have proven themselves... valuable contributors to the economic growth of the country [and] law-abiding citizens who fully understand their duties as Greeks. They have made sacrifices for the Greek country, and were always on the front lines of the struggle of the Greek nation to defend its inalienable historical rights...
In our national consciousness, all the children of Mother Greece are an inseparable unity: they are equal members of the national body irrespective of religion... Our holy religion does not recognize superior or inferior qualities based on race or religion, as it is stated: 'There is neither Jew nor Greek' and thus condemns any attempt to discriminate or create racial or religious differences. Our common fate both in days of glory and in periods of national misfortune forged inseparable bonds between all Greek citizens, without exemption, irrespective of race...
Today we are... deeply concerned with the fate of 60,000 of our fellow citizens who are Jews... we have lived together in both slavery and freedom, and we have come to appreciate their feelings, their brotherly attitude, their economic activity, and most important, their indefectible patriotism...

Damaskinos went on to publish the letter, even though the local Schutzstaffel commander, J├╝rgen Stroop, threatened to execute him by firing squad. Damaskinos's famous response to him was:

According to the traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church, our prelates are hanged, not shot.  Please respect our traditions!
The Archbishop's brazen reply was sarcasm.  He was referring to the hanging of Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople by a Turkish mob in 1821, the point being made that the SS commander would act in a similarly barbaric fashion if he were to carry out his threat.

Even more revealing than Damaskinos' formal and public protests were the orders given to the priests under his jurisdiction.  They were quietly told by Damaskinos to distribute Christian baptismal certificates to Jews fleeing the Nazis, thus saving thousands of Jews in and around Athens.  Fortunately, the Jewish community in Greece was so ancient and well-integrated that it was impossible to discern them from Greeks of other religions.  Baptismal certificates were usually sufficient to save them.

Thanks in no small part to Damaskinos' actions, only a very small number of Greek Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

One has to wonder why comparable actions were not taken by the Pope and other religious leaders in Europe at that time.

I find these facts particularly damning in light of the recent efforts by the Catholic Church to re-write history and claim that Hitler was an atheist when, in fact, he was a Catholic--as were huge numbers of those who carried out the Holocaust.  Fully 50% of the Waffen SS were confessing Catholics.  Many, if not most, of the collaborators who did the actual killing were from Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania, all of which are heavily Catholic.  (Not to mention the horrors perpetrated by the ultra-Catholic regime in Croatia during the war.)  In addition, unlike the Greek Orthodox priests under Damaskinos' jurisdiction, the Catholic priests inside the German Reich did not provide false baptism records to Jews in their communities.  Instead, they actually opened their records to the Nazis so that they could discover which of the baptized Catholics had Jewish ancestry.

In light of all these facts, it is nothing short of appalling for the church to try to paint the Nazis as atheists.  To do so is comparable to blaming the Holocaust on the Jews--especially when one considers that atheists were among the very first of the Nazis' victims.

Just a few years ago, Pope Benedict XVI, who was himself a member of the Hitler Youth, repeated this outrageous, slanderous calumny.  I would like to reproduce here a letter to the editor of a newspaper.  The letter was written by a contemporary of the Pope soon after this despicable incident.  The author of the letter was himself a German who had been a member of the Hitler Youth during the war:

"According to Reuters, Benedict XVI recently claimed that 'the brutal extermination of Jews by the 'godless' Nazi regime would never be forgotten or denied.' This statement is a blatant falsehood.
As a former member of the Hitler Youth organization, the Pope must have been aware that Hitler considered himself a messenger of God who was sent to rid the world of the "Christ killer" Jews and that Pius XII signed a Concordat with the Nazi regime that gave the Roman Catholic church special rights and privileges. He also must be aware that in religion classes in German schools, Roman Catholic priests told pupils not to feel sorry for the Jews since they deserved what they were getting because "they killed our Lord Jesus."
To now call the Nazi regime "godless" is dishonest and disappointing, coming from a Pope who is expected to tell only the truth."
Hitler was not an atheist, and the Nazis were not godless.  The Pope knows this, as does everyone who knows the facts concerning this period in history.  Furthermore, the Pope's personal history makes this knowledge undeniable and proves quite clearly that he is a manipulative liar and a shameless propagandist and scapegoater. 

In fact, his attempt to rewrite history and use atheists as scapegoats is so completely contrary to the facts that it can only be seen as an implicit admission of the Church's guilt.  After all, the innocent don't need to tell outrageous lies and pin the blame on innocent parties.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Beyond the Universe There Is Nothing"

I stumbled upon this quote at an interesting site called futilitycloset.com.  The site seems to have nothing to do with beliefs either way; it's just a compendium of miscellaneous quotes, facts and etc.  I liked it so much I thought others might like it too.

George F. Spencer of Lyndon Center, Vt., died in 1908 at age 83. His epitaph is inscribed on the sides of a granite monument:

"Beyond the universe there is nothing and within the universe the supernatural does not and cannot exist. Of all deceivers who have plagued mankind, none are so deeply ruinous to human happiness as those impostors who pretend to lead by a light above nature. Science has never killed or persecuted a single person for doubting or denying its teachings, and most of these teachings have been true; but religion has murdered millions for doubting or denying her dogmas, and most of these dogmas have been false."

(From Charles L. Wallis, Stories on Stone, 1954)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Who's Crazy?

I have written before of the accusation that we long term non-believers have so often heard that we are "crazy" for not believing.  I have come up with a rather aggressive reply.  Speaking to the believer who says non-believers are crazy say:

"You have an invisible, psychopathic friend with limitless magic powers and you think I'm crazy?"

If you want to be a bit more polite, then you can add:

"because I refuse to believe in invisible things without evidence?"

This, however, will usually lead to a repeat of their specious claim that the existence of the universe if proof that god exists.  When that happens, just refer to the arguments I have made about this trite bit of circular reasoning.

Does the Universe's Existence Prove God's?

Does the Universe's Existence Prove God's?  Part II

Does the Universe's Existence Prove God's?  Part III

Is the Earth/Universe "Just Right" For Us?