Tuesday, April 24, 2007

If Hitler was an atheist...

Then why did Nazi soldiers ware belt buckles inscribed with "Gott mit uns," which translates to "God is with us."

I caught the tail end of Bill O'Reilly's interview of Richard Dawkins. Billo's arguments were remarkably stupid and clueless, like, "I'm a Catholic and that's truth to me." He also made the tired old claim about Stalin and Hitler being atheists and thus tried to stereotype atheists as immoral.

What makes the "Hitler was an atheist" claim so clueless is the fact that there is such overwhelming evidence against it. Just type the words "Hitler, atheist" into goggle and you get 928,000 sites listed and at least most of the first ones provide evidence that Hitler called himself a Christian. It takes an incredibly clueless sucker to believe Hitler was an atheist today when the facts can be easily checked.

And it's not just Bill O'Reilly, on an edition of Meet the Press some time ago, Tim Russert talked to Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life, and this is one of the things Rick Warren said:
Sam [Harris] is overlooking the 20th century. Because the truth of the 20th century is more people were killed in the 20th century by atheist governments than all Christian ideas throughout history combined. When you look at the godless communism, and Nazism, which in itself we’re the ruler—tens and tens of millions, maybe a hundred million people were killed in the 20th century by atheists, not by believers. So yes, you can go back to the Crusades, and they were wrong. They were flat out wrong. But let’s take the most recent history. Atheists were what caused the most people—Stalin was an atheist, Mao was an atheist, Hitler was an atheist. He was an occultist, actually. And, and so let’s just make sure that history is told.

Here are some Hitler quotes, mostly from: http://www.nobeliefs.com/Hitler1.htm

"My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before in the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.... When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom to-day this poor people is plundered and exploited."
- Adolf Hitler, in his speech in Munich on 12 April 1922

German Christian Movement Badge. Hitler backed The German Christians movement (DC) with the party's organizational support.

"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

Note the "Cross of Christ" standing atop the Swastika, indicating its higher supremacy.

"We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out."
- Adolf Hitler, in a speech in Berlin on 24 Oct. 1933

Hitler Youth Day Badge 1933

"National Socialism neither opposes the Church nor is it anti-religious, but on the contrary it stands on the ground of a real Christianity.... For their interests cannot fail to coincide with ours alike in our fight against the symptoms of degeneracy in the world of to-day, in our fight against a Bolshevist culture, against atheistic movement, against criminality, and in our struggle for a consciousness of a community in our national life... These are not anti-Christian, these are Christian principles! And I believe that if we should fail to follow these principles then we should to be able to point to our successes, for the result of our political battle is surely not unblest by God."
- Adolf Hitler, in his speech at Koblenz, to the Germans of the Saar, 26 Aug. 1934

Nazi Army (Heer) chaplain's hat with silver Christian cross.
"God the Almighty has made our nation. By defending its existence we are defending His work...."
- Adolf Hitler, in a radio address, 30 Jan. 1945

Priests giving the Nazi salute.

Atheists have been the targets of a vicious smear campaign for years that uses big lies, illogical arguments and Orwellian manipulations. It has been highly effective and according to a University of Minnesota study, atheists are America’s most distrusted minority. Atheists rank even lower on the charts than Muslims, immigrants, homosexuals, and every other minority group. Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry. Bill O'Reilly, Rick Warren, Ann Coulter and many of the media's Christian spokespersons claim to believe Adolf Hitler was an atheist. Do they know something we don't?

Hitler's claim to be a Christian might have been a lie, in which case the Christian followers of Hitler were clueless suckers. And we can't say for sure that Bill O'Reilly, Rick Warren and Ann Coulter believe the things they say about Hitler's atheism. So, they are either idiots or liars, or perhaps both.

However, we have more clues than what Hitler told people about his beliefs. We know what was in Hitler's library:

"Another indication of Hitler's beliefs about religion comes from his private library of numerous books. Although most of Hitler's books came as gifts from writers and publishers, those where he penciled and underlined sections reveal, not only the books that he read, but also those that he commented on and had an interest in. Timothy W. Ryback, who examined Hitler's books, found more than 130 books devoted to spirituality and religion including the teachings of Jesus Christ. Some of the titles included, Sunday Meditations; On Prayer; A Primer for Religious Questions, Large and Small; Large Truths About Mankind, the World and God; a German translation of E. Stanley Jones's 1931 best seller, The Christ of the Mount; and a 500-page work on the life and teachings of Jesus, published in 1935 under the title The Son: The Evangelical Sources and Pronouncements of Jesus of Nazareth in Their Original Form and With the Jewish Influences. Ryback also found a leather-bound tome -- with WORTE CHRISTI, or "Words of Christ," embossed in gold on the cover -- According to Ryback, it "was well worn, the silky, supple leather peeling upward in gentle curls along the edges. Human hands had obviously spent a lot of time with this book.... I scanned the book for marginalia that might suggest a close study of the text. A white-silk bookmark, preserved in its original perfection between pages 22 and 23 (only the portion exposed to the air had deteriorated), lay across a description of the Last Supper as related by Saint John. A series of pages that followed contained only a single aphorism each: 'Believe in God' (page 31), 'Have no fear, just believe' (page 52), 'If you believe, anything is possible' (page 53), and so on, all the way to page 95, which offers the solemn wisdom 'Many are called but few are chosen.'"

We know what books were in Hitler's library, and it contained plenty of Christian theology and those books had notes in the margins, in Hitler's hand, indicating he'd read them and thought about them a lot. The evidence is there and if you can look at all that evidence, the words Hitler wrote and said, the Christian symbolism of the Nazis, etc. and still say Hitler was an atheist, then you are willfully ignorant and simply prefer your delusions to reality.


mel said...

Excellent, Norm. Thanks.

The well-meaning but nevertheless self-deluded theists I know, when faced by this kind of information, would probably acquiesce. But their fall-back position would be equally fallacious: that Hitler and his followers were not "true" Christians but usurpers. And they would fail to have any sympathy and/recognize themselves in these so-called false theists.

This is the self-preserving power of religion -- that it sees all evil as other and all good as self. It would then only make sense that, despite the data you've shared here, Hitler must have been an atheist for at least the following reasons:

1. No true theist would do/believe as did he and his followers

2. Only atheists are godless enough to do what the Nazis did.

And this is why we will not soon be rid of religion or the banal evil that it inspires.

jewish philosopher said...

Hitler was not exactly an atheist or a theist. He was a pantheist and Darwinist.

normdoering said...

Sorry, jewish philosopher but you're wrong - Hitler was no Darwinist

Randi Schimnosky said...

Norm, I find your blog full of useful information, and I'd like to link to it to help in debates with the theists, but the title of the blog, and that picture of the skull with "evil atheist conspiracy" and "join us in hell" just concedes to the theists that which they'd like to believe of us. For this reason it isn't going to be something useful to me for providing links to theists to counter their BS. How about you stop playing into their hands with the "blog from hell" stuff and stop portraying us as evil hell-bound people?

normdoering said...

Randi Schimnosky, instead of linking this site just click the links in my posts and get my sources for this information.

Anyone who is scared off by a cartoonish skull is far too vulnerable to emotional manipulation to be worth debating.

Gary said...

I'm an atheist who has read eight or nine books on WWII including a biography of Hitler. Through those sources, I've been aware of some of Hitler's words on Christianity.

While I would prefer not to think of Hitler as an atheist, just as Christians would prefer not to think of Hitler as a Christian, I long ago come to the impression that Hitler wasn't a Christian believer. Rather it seems to me that he was one who used Christianity to manipulate the masses.

After all, if Germany in the '30's had anything in common with America today, atheists would have been untrusted by most people, and Hitler would have had to choose between proclaiming a belief in Christianity and being rejected by the people. In fact, often he is explicitly defending Nazism against charges of being anti-Christian, charges which undoubtedly came for a reason. George Bush doesn't need to give speeches about not being anti-Christian.

None of the quotes I've read, including those in your blog post, seem indicative of an actual religious feeling on Hitler's part.

The one thing that momentarily gave be serious doubt about my impressions is the content of Hitler's library. You say "it contained plenty of Christian theology and those books had notes in the margins, in Hitler's hand, indicating he'd read them..."

But then I noticed that, while the quote you present on the library says "those where he penciled and underlined sections reveal, not only the books that he read, but also those that he commented on and had an interest in," it does not actually say that any of the Christian books had such underlined sections or marginalia. Regarding "WORTE CHRISTI," which had the well-worn cover, it says he searched for such markings, but does not explicitly say he found any.

(If you can point to other text associated with that quote that does explicitly say there were markings in Hitler's hand, I'll be interested to know that.)

The cover may have been well-worn for many reasons; it may have been well-worn when he received the book; someone else may have borrowed it; or he may have perused it for aphorisms to quote in his attempts to appear Christian. I wouldn't draw too many conclusions from a single well-worn book cover. Or even a few notes if he did write any; if he was trying use Christianity to manipulate people, he would have had to teach himself something about it.

I feel that you can usually sense real Christian belief, and I just don't sense it in Hitler's words. Of course my personal, intuitive impression of those words is not to be considered the world's most reliable guide either.

However, it may be useful to look at other sources than Hitler quotes or examinations of the contents of his library. For example, William Shirer's "The Decline And Fall of the Third Reich" says the following:

"As Bormann, one of the men closest to Hitler, said publicly in 1941, 'National Socialism and Christianity are irreconciliable... What the Hitler government envisioned for Germany was clearly set out in a thirty-point program for the 'National Reich Church'"

Among the thirty points: "The National Church demands immediate cessation of the publishing and dissemination of the Bible in Germany... The National Church will clear away from its alters all crucifixes, Bibles and pictures of saints... On the alters there must be nothing but Mein Kampf (to the German nation and therefore to God the most sacred book) and to the left of the alter a sword."

This document was written by Rosenburg, "the Fuehrer's Delate for the Entire Intellectual and Philosophical Education and Instruction for the National Socialist Party."

Hitler, as the Fuehrer, needed to present a face to the people that would enable them to trust him. But he was the absolute leader of the Party, and personally chose its leaders, and there is no reason not to think that the views of people like Rosenberg and Bormann in this regard didn't reflect Hitler's own. Denying it could be considered analogous to the views of those who deny that Hitler knew about the Holocaust, saying it was only the party leaders who directed it. Such a belief is, of course, butressed by the fact that there are no public quotes from Hitler on the Holocaust and no documents explicitly expressing his support.

But common sense tells us that Hitler not only knew all about it but gave the orders; he just didn't want to be able to be directly linkable to it because he knew that many Germans would condemn it, costing him their trust. He was extremely careful in separating his actual beliefs and actions from anything that could weight against him publicly. The Party itself was more vulnerable; but the Nazi oaths were taken to Hitler personally, not the Party.

I believe the situation with Hitler and atheism is similar. He was very careful about giving certain public impressions, but the Party was not Christian, and Hitler controlled the Party with an iron fist.garyr

normdoering said...


You've been lied to.

Here's more on Hitler's library:
Hitler's Forgotten Library.

A survey of all the evidence forces us to conclude that Hitler believes himself destined to become an Immortal Hitler, chosen by God to be the New Deliverer of Germany and the Founder of a new social order for the world. He firmly believes this and is certain that in spite of all the trials and tribulations through which he must pass he will finally attain that goal. The one condition is that he follow the dictates of the inner voice that have guided and protected him in the past.

Gary Robinson said...

My point was that it is doubtful that Hitler was a Christian. I've done a fair amount of prior reading on the subject.

You responded: "You've been lied to." You're obviously very confident in your position, to use such patronizing language.

You quoted Jim Walker's "Hitler compared to God/Jesus/Christians" page, focussing on the discussion of Hitler's library. Walker seems to take as his sole source for that discussion the Timothy Ryback article, "Hitler's Forgotten Library".

The quote you present starts off by saying "Another indication of Hitler's beliefs about religion comes from his private library of numerous books. Although most of Hitler's books came as gifts from writers and publishers, those where he penciled and underlined sections reveal, not only the books that he read, but also those that he commented on and had an interest in."

Makes sense.

Then more than half of the rest of the discussion you present focuses on "WORTE CHRISTI."

The only little problem there is that in a part of Rybeck that immediately follows his discussion of that book, and that Walker chooses to ignore (and that you chose to ignore if you actually read the material you pointed to), Rybeck says "On page 241 appears the passage "You should love God, your Lord, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your spirit: this is the foremost and greatest commandment. Another is equally important: Love your neighbor as you would love yourself." Beside this passage is one brief penciled line, the only mark in the entire book."

Rybeck goes on to speculate whether that mark was made by Hitler's younger sister, a devout Catholic who occasionally visited Hitler at that location.

Regarding the other titles mentioned in the quote you presented, not one is specifically said to have any marginalia from Hitler.

This is exactly the circumstance that I guessed might be true after reading your blog post, a guess that I stated in my original reply.

Rybeck goes on to discuss some other books that do have marginalia from Hitler, but it is clear from the discussion that those markings do not butress a belief that Hitler was a Christian or any kind of believer in what is commonly referred to as "God," but rather that he had a specific belief about himself and his destiny and where that destiny came from.

In my own readings on Hitler, it has been pointed out that Hitler believed that "Fate" intervened in his life to enable him to follow the path he followed.

In Rybeck, the word "God" is substituted for "Fate." But that's just terminology. If you are going to assume that "God" as used here means anything remotely like the Christian God, you might as well also believe that Einstein's "God does not play dice with the universe" meant Einstein was a Christian.

Both readings are an utter misunderstanding. (I'm not talking here about Hitler's propaganda here; I'm talking about Rybeck's analysis.) True believers on either side -- atheist or Christain -- tend to take the mentions of God and use them in the way that supports their tendency toward confirmation bias. If they are are cheerleaders for atheism, they'll want to think Hitler was a religious believer and Einstein wasn't. If they are cheerleaders for God, they will want to believe the opposite. Either way, they will pick and choose the "facts" that seem to support their belief, ignoring others.

Rybeck makes it very clear that his take is not that Hitler believed in God in any traditional sense: his last sentence, summarizing the entire article, was "Hitler believed that the mortal and the divine were one and the same: that the God he was seeking was in fact himself." But in picking and choosing, a true believer might well ignore such details.

Again, my point, clearly stated, was that I don't think Hitler was a believing Christain. I didn't say he didn't have any non-rational beliefs. I have long been well aware of his belief in "Fate," and in himself as a fulfillment of "Destiny." In your overzealousness to contradict me, you pointed only to Rybeck; but Rybeck, if read honestly, makes it explicit that his view is very close to mine. (Interested readers should go to the source for themselves, and especially read Rybeck's summary.)

Even the quote you give in your reply buttresses that point of view. Your quote has Rybeck quoting another writer when he says "A survey of all the evidence forces us to conclude that Hitler believes himself destined to become an Immortal Hitler, chosen by God to be the New Deliverer of Germany and the Founder of a new social order for the world." A very Christian belief, no doubt.

I am myself an atheist, and I have very much enjoyed your blog. Your assumptions coincide with the conclusions I've come to have about religion, and in certain areas you're clearly well-read and have a strong understanding. But regarding the Hitler discussion, you are overreaching, you give no signs that you have a real background, and your haughty dismissiveness is indicative of a lack of the spirit of inquiry that is necessary to be serious.

Interested readers can go to the sources and see for themselves. In any case, unless more rationality follows in this thread than I expect to see, I won't be making another entry here.

normdoering said...

Gary Robinson,

I think you're getting hung up on Hitler's library. What about the rest of the evidence, like the Hitler quotes: "My feelings as a Christian... In boundless love as a Christian... We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity... in fact our movement is Christian..." etc.

What is a Christian if not someone who self identifies as a Christian?

And it wasn't just Hitler, the majority of the head Nazis were Christian.

Did your reading include:
The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, Richard Steigmann-Gall

Steigmann-Gall offers a different perspective, writing, “I suggest that, for many of its leaders, Nazism was not the result of the ‘Death of God’ in secularized society, but rather a radicalized and singularly horrific attempt to preserve God against secularized society.”

mountain king said...

Hitler vehemently rejected the traditional Christianity in which he was raised. During the period of his ascent to power, he needed the support of the German people — mostly Christian, mostly Lutheran — and he occasionally used boilerplate rhetoric such as “I am doing the Lord’s work” to try and secure this. This rhetoric, it should be noted, is a commonplace rhetorical device among atheist writers. Nietzsche, for instance, regularly compared himself to Jesus, even titling one of his books Ecce Homo (“behold the man,” a biblical reference to Christ). But no intelligent reader of Nietzsche can doubt that he was a rabid atheist, as was Hitler. One should not confuse political opportunism with personal conviction. Not surprisingly, Hitler invoked Christ’s death at the hands of the Jews in order to solicit Christian support for his (secular and racial, not religious) anti-Semitic agenda.

Once Hitler and the Nazis came to power, however, they denounced Christianity and launched a ruthless drive to subdue and weaken traditional Christianity. Since 1937 the policies of Hitler’s government became openly and increasingly anti-religious. In particular, they repudiated what they perceived as the Christian values of equality, compassion and weakness and extolled the atheist notions of the Nietzschean superman and a new society based on the “will to power.” Hitler’s leading advisers, such as Goebbels, Heydrich and Bormann, were atheists who were savagely hostile to religion. Several of his associates reported that the Fuhrer’s personal views were deeply anti-Christian. Again, Hitler’s hostility to religion in general, and Christianity in particular, were not incidental to the violence that characterized his regime. They were part of the Nazi ideology — a secular ideology that deified race over creed — and they helped to justify the horrors of extermination and holocaust. Like Stalin and Mao, Hitler illustrates the point made by both Dostoyevsky and earlier John Locke: when God is excluded, then it is not surprising when morality itself is sacrificed in the process and chaos and horror is unleashed on the world. So it has been in our time, and all the elaborate evasions produced by today’s atheists cannot change what their anti-religious kinsmen did, cannot change the grim facts of history.

Also you still didn't debunk the "stalin&mao argument"

Avernus said...

I don't see why anyone, being Catholic myself, should get riled and be forced to make false assumption on the claim that Hitler was Catholic.
Hitler was a Catholic in my opinion, and I am not offended by this, because each religion will get a fair share of every type of person in it.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I've been somewhat undecided about Hitler's religiosity. I'm still fact finding. Your post and the comments to follow by all are great references.

As of now, I don't think Hitler was a fundamentalist.

It is clear he used religion to serve his ends. If he was religious, this would be nothing unusual. If he was a non-believer, it would make him a grade A, flaming asshole; although I suppose he qualifies for that status either whatever his true beliefs and intentions were.

Anonymous said...

Btw, I couldn't help notice how similar our names are. Mine is "Doelling". Is yours German as well? Just wondered...

I thought you might get a kick out of my pseudonym though. I go by "Theo Doersing" on most of my comments and posts.

It's an anagram for "There is no goD"

pitje said...

hitler was a white man, too.
So white people will kill millions.
he was dark haired, so dark haired men will kill millions.
he was austrian, he wore uniforms, he was a vegetarian, he had parkinsons' disease, was a dog-owner, and he was a failed painter.

So everyone watch out for people with similar traits.

Anonymous said...


you poor persecuted thing.. I applaud your self-control in not blathering the inane "you are all going to hell" which is the typical Christian response when faced with criticism.