A quick post here (well… ish), apropos of nothing. This issue really is all over the internet like a rash and it increasingly gets my goat. Neither am I alone – my oft-mentioned atheist blogger chum recently posted expressing similar frustration. SO much virtual ink is wasted; both sides of the Great Debate hurl impassioned rhetoric at one another as if the beliefs of one deeply depraved man will somehow prove to be the smoking gun by which God’s existence is ultimately proved or otherwise. Perhaps the fact I’m a History teacher will count for something here as I state the following…

  • Hitler was not an atheist – he spoke quote commonly about God and would seem to have been convinced by his existence. In Mein Kampf he wrote ‘I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator’. Some like Bernhard Rust in his party wanted to denounce all religion but Hitler, largely by way of political opportunism (knowing that most Germans were church attendees) refused to countenance such a move, opting to remain a member of the Catholic church even as he waged a campaign against the reputation of those who worked for it and shut down its youth organisations. As Albert Speer later wrote, ‘he had no real attachment to it’ (the Catholic church). However, he never made a single statement I know of that suggested avowed atheism.
  • Hitler was not a Christian – there is nothing to suggest he believed that Christ was the Son of God and had died for his sins. He actively placed himself in the place of Jesus in children’s’ prayers (‘Abideth thou long with me, forsaketh me not, Fuhrer, my Fuhrer, my faith and my light!’) and showed considerable derision for Christianity, stating that “The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew”. (From ‘Table Talk’ – a series of Hitler’s conversations recorded by Martin Bormann). His subversion of Christianity was significant, installing Nazi ‘Reich Bishops’ and placing a swastika over the cross. Those, such as Martin Niemoller, who insisted upon preaching the gospel within a ‘Confessing’ Church ended up martyrs in concentration camps.

I’m not saying anything new here. For all the back on forth on discussion forums, most pages to come up via search engine on this issue will be eventually expressing the same conclusion as above. However, there is still a strong Dawkins/Hitchens-driven idea that, at the very least, the votes of the religious took Hitler to power and that the Catholic church stand accountable for their ‘deal with the devil’. The former is essentially vacuous, given the overwhelming majority of Germans who attended church and claimed religious affiliation as a matter of course, just as in the rest of Europe. That religion was the ‘done thing’ in no way suggests faith-based motivation for all decisions made by the general populations of Europe for the past thousand-plus years, nor lively life-altering faith in the majority. My History lessons are in no way unique when offering a primarily economic, reactionary and nationalistic motive on the part of the electorate. As for the latter… well, you’ll forgive me for feeling no great accountability for the actions of Catholic leaders, past or present. I am quite happy to believe that some Catholics are Christians – however, the two are not the same thing and I in no way endorse any of those things that set the former apart.

I don’t believe as a general rule that we Christians should steer clear of Nazism in our apologetics – after all, the lack of a basis for moral disgust at Hitler’s regime if we are to be shorn of an absolute external source of morality is one of the strongest factors in our favour when defending God’s existence. What’s more, there are certainly grounds for discussion in examining Hitler’s literal and discompassionate reading of Darwinism as applied to ‘species’ within humanity (this given that, practically speaking, Darwinian theory seems the closest thing to a replacement for an all-encompassing Christian worldview in the apologetic outworkings of many atheists). However, Hitler is a freak in terms of the extent and effect of his depravity – there is nothing to be gained for either side in lumping him in with us or with atheists… it’s clear he wasn’t significantly motivated by either view. Such to-and-fro can, on our part, suggest ignorance and cheap point-scoring, considerably detracting from delivery of the gospel message.


1 comment so far

  1. Tom Stanbury on

    Good post from a man in his area of specialism, I am better informed as a result.

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