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When religious people attribute the acts of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot to atheism

When religious people attribute the acts of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot to atheism

Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot were not atheists, nor were their actions attributable to atheism.

"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" - Adolph Hitler

It is a common talking point among fundamental Christians to attribute the horrors committed by infamous world leaders to atheism, and many times we are ill-equipped to refute those erroneous claims.  In fact, in 2010, an Anglican Archbishop named Peter Jensen told his Australian congregation that atheism is not the rational philosophy that it claims to be. He stated,

"Last century we tried godlessness on a grand scale and the effects were devastating: Nazism, Stalinism, Pol Pot-ery, mass murder, abortion and broken relationships – all promoted by state-imposed atheism…the illusion that we can build a better life without God." He further stated, "It's about our determination as human beings to have our own way, to make our own rules, to live our own lives, unfettered by the rule of God and the right of God to rule over us…What we're really seeing, once more [is] an example of the contest between human beings and God over who rules the world."

Atheist Foundation president David Nicholls says the comments are an act of desperation by the church.  Personally, I think "desperation" is an understatement of epic proportions.   There are so many things wrong with Jensen's statements that I had to sit here and stare at my screen for quite a while before I even found a starting point.  I gave considerable thought to expounding on the sheer arrogance that a god rules the world regardless of whether or not anyone actually believes in one, the utterly ridiculous notion of a struggle between god and man, or their dogma about not being able to achieve peace, happiness and harmony in our society without their god.  However, space being at a premium, I decided to a different route.

First of all, there is no such thing as state-imposed atheism.  A state can ban religion, but it cannot ban atheism because it is not a belief, a faith, a set of doctrines or dogmas and cannot be imposed on anybody.  Atheism is an absence of belief, and you cannot ban something that does not exist.  I have heard the argument so many times from believers who think that atheism is a belief. They compare it to a religion.  They say it takes faith.  They accuse us of hating god.  Believers really need to find another line of fire, as all of these arguments only serve to make them look like complete idiots, which is unnecessary, as many believers are otherwise intelligent individuals.

This chapter, however, will deal with the claims about Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mass Murder and Broken Relationships.  We'll start with the people mentioned, and, as far as I'm aware, none of them said "I don't believe in god, therefore I will slaughter lots of innocent people". Let's start with Adolf Hitler…

On Adolf Hitler…

Christians have been trying to discredit Hitler's faith for decades, turning their eyes away from history books. From the earliest formation of the Nazi party he expressed his Christian support to the German citizenry and soldiers. He was baptized as Roman Catholic in Austria, attended a monastery school and was a communicant and an altar boy in the Catholic Church.  He was confirmed as a "soldier of Christ" and his goal was to become a priest.  He was never excommunicated or condemned and the church had stated that he was "Avenging for God" in attacking the Jews. It was only as recent as March of 2011 that the Catholic Church finally made it official that they no longer deemed the Semites the killers of Jesus.

Hitler was given veto power over whom the Pope could appoint as a bishop in Germany and forged a treaty whereas the National Socialist State was officially recognized by the Catholic Church.  In a letter to the Nazi party, he wrote

"…this treaty shows the whole world clearly and unequivocally that the assertion that National Socialism is hostile to religion is a lie."

He allied with Pope Pius in converting German society and made a deal with the church whereas the church absorbed Nazi ideals and preached them as part of their sermons, and in turn, Hitler placed Catholic teachings in public education.  This lead to Hitler enacting doctrines of the Church as law.  He outlawed all abortion, raged a death war on all homosexuals, and demanded corporal punishment in schools and home.

He was quoted as stating,

"The National Socialist State professes its allegiance to positive Christianity.  It will be its honest endeavor to protect both the great Christian Confessions in their rights, to secure them from interference with their doctrines, and in their duties to constitute a harmony with the views and the exigencies of the State of today…Providence has caused me to be Catholic, and I know therefore how to handle this Church."

In fact, the Holocaust grew out of Hitler's Christian education due mainly to Jews having an inferior status in Christian Austria and Germany.  The Christians there also blamed the Jews for the killing of Jesus and the hatred that Hitler fostered against Jewish people began from the preaching of Catholic priests and Protestant ministers throughout Germany.  It is well known that Martin Luther held a livid hatred for Jews and their religion.  Luther wrote a book titled "On the Jews and their Lies" which set the standard for Jewish hatred all the way up to World War II.  Hitler, of course, expressed a great admiration for  Luther.

The Nazis began to control schools insisting Christianity was taught.  They included anti-Semitic Christian writings in textbooks that were not removed from doctrine until 1961. Nazi soldiers wore religious symbols and placed religious sayings on military gear.  The official Nazi army belt buckle read "God With Us" in German. They got sprinkled with holy water and listened to Catholic sermons before maneuvers. The Nazis had a secret service called the "SS Reich" that would spy on citizens and if anyone was suspected of heresy they would be prosecuted.

Here are a few quotes from Hitler:

"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

"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 by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth!  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 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 my self 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."  -Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922

"Christianity could not content itself with building up its own altar; it was absolutely forced to undertake the destruction of the heathen altars. Only from this fanatical intolerance could its apodictic faith take form; this intolerance is, in fact, its absolute presupposition." -Adolf Hitler Mein Kampf

"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."  -Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf)

On Joseph Stalin:

Joseph Stalin was raised to be a Catholic Priest and I remain curious as to why his Christianity is shoved aside in all these arguments. Yes, there is no way to get around the fact that in his early career, Stalin made a vast effort to rid Russia of religion, but that had nothing to do with atheism.  It was the only way he knew to seize power of the country.

For generations the entire populace of Russia had been taught that the head of state was supposed to be close to god.  At the time in question, the head of the church in Russia was a tyrant.  The Russians were already disposed to servility and all Stalin did was exploit these two facts, and place himself in the position of god.  Once Stalin was firmly seated in office, he revived the Russian Orthodox Church in order to intensify patriotic support for the war effort.  Stalin was part of a council convened to elected a new church Patriarch.  Then the Russian theological schools were opened, and thousands of churches began to function. Even the Moscow Theological Academy Seminary was re-opened, after being closed since 1918.

So, while Stalin was no peach, he was not exactly what you would call a died-in-the-wool atheist.  He was more a secular minded religious opportunist, which is a personal character trait.  He did not use atheism to gain control, but religious principles that were modified to fit his own, sick and twisted method of revolution.

What about Pol Pot?

Truly a monster, having killed some twenty-five percent of the entire population of Cambodia.  Pol Pot targeted not just different religions, but education, science and medicine in his quest for total domination.  Now, let's take a head count of atheists who are against education, science and medicine.  Thought so…

Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge were composed of Buddhists and Pol Pot was a Theravada Buddhist. He studied at a Buddhist monastery and then at a Catholic school for 8 years.  Cambodia's communism was influenced by Theravada Buddhism.

Prince Norodom Sihanouk said,

"Pol Pot does not believe in God but he thinks that heaven, destiny, wants him to guide Cambodia in the way he thinks it the best for Cambodia, that is to say, the worst. Pol Pot is mad, you know, like Hitler."

So, while Pol Pot was definitely not a Christian, he was also not an Atheist.

Let's get on with some Mass Murder, shall we?

Add up the deaths that were attributed to Hitler, Stalin and Pot.  Then round up for good measure.  You can safely say that the number is staggering.  Probably upwards of fifteen million.  However, consider the following conflicts where the main differences between the opposing factions were and are religion. Granted, some of these conflicts were heavy laden with politics, but those politics had religious beginnings and underpinnings.

In alphabetical order, with later add-ons:

  • Albigensian Crusade, 1208-49
  • Algeria, 1992-
  • Baha’i, 1848-54
  • Bosnia, 1992-95
  • Boxer Rebellion, 1899-1901
  • Christian Romans, 30-313 CE
  • Croatia, 1991-92
  • English Civil War, 1642-46
  • Holocaust, 1938-45
  • Huguenot Wars, 1562-1598
  • India, 1992-2002
  • India: Suttee & Thugs
  • Indo-Pakistani Partition, 1947
  • Iran, Islamic Republic, 1979-
  • Iraq, Shiites, 1991-92
  • Jews, 1348
  • Jonestown, 1978
  • Lebanon 1860 / 1975-92
  • Molucca Is., 1999-
  • Mongolia, 1937-39
  • Northern Ireland, 1974-98
  • Russian pogroms 1905-06 / 1917-22
  • St. Bartholemew Massacre, 1572
  • Shang China, ca. 1300-1050 BCE
  • Shimabara Revolt, Japan 1637-38
  • Sikh uprising, India, 1984-91
  • Spanish Inquisition, 1478-1834
  • Taiping Rebellion, 1850-64
  • Thirty Years War, 1618-48
  • Tudor England
  • Vietnam, 1800s
  • Witch Hunts, 1400-1800
  • Xhosa, 1857
  • Arab Outbreak, 7th Century CE
  • Arab-Israeli Wars, 1948-
  • Al Qaeda, 1993-
  • Crusades, 1095-1291
  • Dutch Revolt, 1566-1609
  • Nigeria, 1990s, 2000s

If you add up all of the lives that were lost in the name of one religion or another, you come up with a staggering figure that is in excess of eight-hundred-million. That's eight-hundred-million.  An eight, followed by eight zeros. 800,000,000.

So, even if the believers who are uneducated enough to think that Hitler, Stalin and Pot were psychotic mass murderers because they believed these men were atheists, it is horrifically clear that religious murder wins out.

————————————————————–

Excerpted from my book, "A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World – The Rise Of Atheism On Planet Earth."

About Al Stefanelli

Al is a retired author, writer and journalist. His books include "Free Thoughts - A Collection Of Essays By An American Atheist" and "A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World - The Rise Of Atheism On Planet Earth." Al began writing in 1985, starting with the New York Times. In 1993 he joined a McClatchy newspaper, writing a weekly column for ten years. His writing continues to be widely distributed on the Internet and in print. He also produced and hosted a weekly syndicated radio broadcast from 1995 to 1998, and his work won a North Carolina Journalism award in 1998. Al is the former Georgia State Director for American Atheists, Inc., and served on the Board of Directors for "The Clergy Project." He is also a former Southern Baptist Pastor, having served two churches and as pulpit supply for three counties. Currently, he writes part time for The God Discussion, co-hosts the Internet radio programs, "The God Discussion Show" and "Reap Sow Radio." Al lives in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree City, GA.
  • PD

    great article with information i hadn't known before. one bit of nitpicking though: you say "Even the Moscow Theological Academy Seminary was re-opened, after being closed since 1918." but you never mention what year it was reopened.

    • Spuddie

      My guess is late 1941, early 1942. Coinciding with the approach of Nazi forces towards Moscow. =)

  • cam8510

    Regarding Adolf Hitler, I agree, he was not an atheist. In fact I have found a parallel between Hitler's speech on August 22, 1939 and quotes of "God" in Joshua and Deuteronomy. The comparison is striking to me. It is as if Hitler planned this speech and the subsequent aggression with his Bible open to the passages I cite in my article http://cam8510.hubpages.com/hub/Hitler-and-God-an-historical-comparison

  • gazerbeam

    Thanks for this. Bookmarking.

  • Deborah_B

    This is a "must read."

  • Bionaut

    This article is filled throughout with historical inaccuracies. Blatantly ignoring the historical record will convince only those who will take it as "fact." Please do the research next time.

    • Deborah_B

      Al includes source references and footnotes in his book, so in the web format here, I guess some of this cannot be verified without research. However, what is your source material that disputes this information?

    • http://profiles.google.com/neotechni Techni Myoko

      "Please do the research next time."

      Practice what you preach. You cannot demand something of others that you are unwilling to do yourself. Your post is filled throughout with historical inaccuracies. Blatantly ignoring the historical record will convince no one.

      • Bionaut

        Oh I practice what I preach allright. That is why I provided two dozen sources in just two posts alone. And while even in your attempted rebuttal you simply copy the rhetoric of my accusation I can rest confidently that you will find nothing historically inaccurate in my posts no matter how hard you try.

        As I teach my students, when encountering historical revisionism, OVERWHELM with evidence, thus my use of noted scholars, biographers, the OSS account at Rutgers, historians, prominent Nazi's who were there, etc. How many more sources do you want? 20? 50? 100? My grad degree is in this field. Take a big guess what Stefanelli's is.

        • http://profiles.google.com/neotechni Techni Myoko

          "My grad degree is in this field. Take a big guess what Stefanelli's is."

          http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-authority.html

          "Oh I practice what I preach allright."

          The facts disagree with you

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Adolf_Hitler

          Adolf Hitler was raised by a Christian Catholic father and a devout Catholic mother; he ceased to participate in the sacraments after childhood[citation needed]. In his book Mein Kampf and in public speeches he often made statements that affirmed a belief in Christianity.[1][2] Prior to World War II Hitler had promoted "positive Christianity", a movement which purged Christianity of its Jewish elements and instilled it with Nazi philosophy.[3] According to the controversial collection of transcripts edited by Martin Bormann, titled Hitler's Table Talk, as well as the testimony of some intimates, Hitler had privately negative views of Christianity. Others reported he was a committed believer

          Apparently you teach lies. Nice teacher. Again, practice what you preach. He did research, you refused to.

          • Bionaut

            I noticed you "conveniently" left out the rest of the wiki entry. Try again big guy.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Adolf_Hitler#Role_of_religion_in_the_Nazi_state

            • Spuddie

              Except the whole "eradication of religion" part is a bit of unconfirmed hearsay from the Cold War era.

              The world really didn't get a clear picture of the Nazi and Soviet governments during WWII until after the KGB started releasing tons of archives for quick cash. Given the wealth of available sources presently, there should be a lot more to corroborate such plans.

              Any source on WWII before 1974 is inherently unreliable due to the failure to account for ULTRA. Also any source before 1990 is probably incomplete due to lack of access to mundane and previously classified Soviet documents.

              The only religion Hitler really ascribed to is, "everyone should worship Hitler". Christianity, like ideology was just a tool to be used.

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  • Bionaut

    Oh my, where do I even start? First some credentials. I
    teach International conflict and political philosophy and usually don’t have
    the time to comment on assertions like this because this revisionism is
    literally all over the net. However this article is simply out of bounds. First,
    the use of selective quotes by Hitler supposedly affirming his stance as a
    Christian only prove he was an opportunist, he made just as many quotes against
    Christianity. His right hand man Goebbels stated he was anti-Christian and this
    was also confirmed by Albert Speer and Bormann. I will provide some quick
    links.

    There is no question that Hitler planned on eradicating/diminishing
    Christianity, the historical record is very clear on this.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/13/weekinreview/word-for-word-case-against-nazis-hitler-s-forces-planned-destroy-german.html

    http://org.law.rutgers.edu/publications/law-religion/articles/RJLR_3_1_2.pdf

    http://www.leics.gov.uk/the_nazi_master_plan.pdf

    Even the respected biographer Alan Bullock is clear on this:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=B2lkTfoa-SkC&pg=PA219#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Even the infidels.org, one of the largest atheistic
    organizations around has stated the following :
    "Once Hitler had gained power, he began to see
    Christianity as a threat to the National Socialists' domination of Germany.
    After 1935 his speeches and writings became more and more virulently
    anti-Christian; he argued that Christian worship was a sign of weakness, and
    that it should be replaced by reverence for the nation and the state, and of
    course for the National Socialist Party."

    http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/sn-hitler.html

    . In February 1937, Hanns Kerrl, Minister of Religion in the
    Third Reich said: “The question of the divinity of Christ is ridiculous and
    inessential. A new answer has arisen as to what Christ and Christianity are:
    Adolph Hitler.” University Nazis in Keil wrote in 1935: “We Germans are
    heathens and want no more Jewish religion in our Germany. We no longer believe
    in the Holy Ghost; we believe in the Holy Blood.” Baldur von Schirach, head of
    the Hitler Youth, before World War II said, “Our religion is Germany.” In fact,
    grace before meals given to poor children by the Nazi Welfare Committee ended:
    “For this food, my Fuehrer, my thanks I render.” Maybe I’m just confused, but I
    can’t precisely recall Jesus ever taking on the name of “Fuehrer” but then
    maybe I haven’t reading my college textbooks closely enough.

    In his 1939 book, Days of Our Lives, Pierre van Passen
    wrote: “Germany is much farther on the road to dechristianization than the
    Soviet Union, even if the churches in the Reich remain on and the incense still
    rises from the altars. In the place of God has come the would be almighty state
    which, insatiable as the Moloch of old, demands man’s entire devotion, mentally
    and physically.” As Walker writes, “Heinrich Himmler despised Christianity and
    members of the SS had to formally renounce their Christian faith and formally
    become agnostic in order to become a member of the Schultzstaffel,” and, “The
    only people who opposed the Nazis solely on grounds of moral conscience when
    opposing on grounds of moral conscience placed them in mortal danger were
    Christians.” As Franklin D. Roosevelt said on January 6, 1942: “[The Nazis]
    know that victory for us means victory for religion. And they could not
    tolerate that. The world is too small to provide adequate living space for both
    Hitler and God.”

    Ian Kershaw, another highly respected source who wrote one
    of the most critically and favorably reviewed bios of Hitler
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0192802062/qid=1143443943/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/002-4538320-4538410?s=books&v=glance&n=283155
    stated the following about Hitler and Christianity:

    "Apart from the organized sectors of the working class,
    the Nazis had greatest difficulty, as is well known, in penetrating the
    Catholic sub-culture, where the dominant image of Hitler provided by Catholic
    'opinion leaders' was equally negative. The main attack was levelled at the
    anti-Christian essence of the Nazi Movement and of its leader's philosophy.
    Publications sought to demonstrate that Hitler's ideas stood in direct
    contradiction to the teaching of the Christian catechism. Especially in
    Bavaria, where Catholicism was dominant and extreme anti-Marxism widespread, he
    and his Movement were seen as a variant of 'godless Bolshevism'-an association
    which was frequently to recur after 1933 during the 'Church struggle'. Though
    Catholic anti-Nazi polemics generally concentrated on attacking the
    anti-religious, and especially anti-Catholic, thrust of Nazism, some
    publications did offer a devastating assault on the entire Nazi doctrine.
    Hitler's brutality, contempt for human rights, warmongering, and elevation of
    force to a principle of political behaviour, were all castigated in Catholic
    publications of the early 1930s. One Catholic weekly above all, Der Gerade Weg,
    published in Munich under the editorship of Dr Fritz Gerlich-murdered in Dachau
    in 1934-and Fr. Ingbert Naab, kept up a relentless assault on Hitler,
    describing him in September 1932, at a time when, despite his open show of
    solidarity with five of his SA men who had been condemned to death for the
    brutal murder of a communist in Potempa, the Centre Party was involved in
    negotiations with the Nazis, as 'the incarnation of evil'."

    I literally have hundreds of other sources concerning the
    view of Nazi Germany toward Christianity, from the SS actively discouraging
    Christian belief to Nazi propaganda (I have an enormous library). The Nazis only mentioned God if they thought it would help. Did you know that thousands of Protestant pastors were arrested for issuing a manifesto against Hitler?

    How many links do you need?

    Oh, and by the way, the belt buckle that states "God is with us" had been in place in German armed forces since the 19th century. When Hitler came to power he had it REMOVED from his SS divisions:http://books.google.com/books?id=wu0B6_XO3boC&pg=PA1&dq=%22Gott+mit+uns%22+SS&lr=#v=onepage&q&f=false
    I have not even got started on his comments about Stalin and his war index which is stark contrast to the histrical record….

    • Deborah_B

      Thanks for taking the time to give all of this information. I completely agree that there are so many different quotes associated with Hitler that people can pretty much pick and choose what they want to believe about him. However, the greater point here, at least in my reading of the article, is that mass murder is not the exclusive product of atheism.

    • http://www.facebook.com/finn.sutcliff Finn Sutcliff

      Nicely stated and certainly shows that the relationship between Hitler and Christianity was less than amicable (to say the least), but would you say Hitler was an Atheist? It seems to me that if his eventual goal was for reverence to be directed at the state and himself that would make him an extreme Statist, a totalitarian, but not necessarily Atheist as he espoused a belief system with himself as the God figure. Although you seem pressed for time, I would like to see your comments on Stalin and Pot.

      • Bionaut

        Hitler was not an atheist nor was he a Christian. He was an opportunist;
        he would say anything publicly (in his quest to seize power) that would help
        his ascent. His private beliefs were a bit difficult to define because, true to
        his mode of operation, he stated what would ever serve his purpose at the time. Best scholarly consensus is that it was a strange hybrid of Nordic deism and social Darwinism.

        The problem I have with Mr Stefanelli’s article (concerning just Hitler at the moment) is that he is either twisting the historical record or simply ignoring it. Take a look at some of his comments:

        “He was confirmed as a "soldier of Christ" and his goal was to become
        a priest.”—The wishful thinking of a small boy…perhaps. In Michael Rissman’s book “Hitlers Gott: Vorsehungsglaube und Sendungsbewußtsein des deutschen Diktators” he recounts that a young Hitler was influenced in school by Pan-Germanism, and began to reject the Catholic Church, receiving Confirmation only unwillingly.

        “He outlawed all abortion.”—No he did not. This should have
        been readily apparent. Abortion was only prohibited for healthy Aryan women.
        Forced sterilization and abortions were either forced or highly advocated for
        those of inferior stock.

        After Germany invaded Poland they began a campaign called “Auswahlfeiheit”
        which means “Freedom of choice.” It was issued to Polish women in a policy
        advocated by Hitler to encourage abortions and reduce the non-Aryan stock.
        Until the invasion Poland was heavily regulated by Roman Catholic doctrine/laws that prohibited the use of contraceptives and obviously abortion. Hitler quickly legalized both.

        Hitler stated: “They may use contraceptives or practice
        abortion–the more the better. In view of the large families of the native
        population, it could only suit us if girls and women there had as many
        abortions as possible. Active trade in contraceptives ought to be actually
        encouraged in the Eastern territories, as we could not possibly have the
        slightest interest in increasing the non-Germanic population." (Harvest of
        Hate, 1954, pp. 273-4)

        “The Nazis had a secret service called the "SS
        Reich" that would spy on citizens and if anyone was suspected of heresy
        they would be prosecuted.”—Oh please. What Mr Stefanelli is referring to is the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt which was run by Reinhard Heydrich(possibly the only man who was more evil that Hitler in the Reich). Their job was to promote the interests of the State and root out opposition. Even a cursory search shows that Reichssicherheitshauptamt tried to eradicate Christian activsts.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt

        Even the Holocaust museum bears mentions of this:

        “Heydrich and Himmler had a shared view both of the identity of the long-term
        enemies of the German race and of the measures to be taken against them. Like Himmler, Heydrich believed that the destruction of overt, “visible” opponents was not sufficient to guarantee the security and survival of the German race as the Nazis defined it. These opponents included: Communist and Social Democratic activists; intellectual and organizational adherents of liberal democracy, traditional conservative nationalism, and Christian values; and Jews who held leading positions in the Marxist and liberal democratic movements in Germany and Austria as well as non-affiliated Jewish intellectuals who opposed the Nazi regime.

        These “visible” enemies, however, possessed international
        ties and aligned themselves with “camouflaged” enemies, who sought from within to destroy the “natural” bond between the Nazi leadership and the German people. As Heydrich explained in April 1936, racially conscious Germans must realize that “effective struggle against the enemy must derive from recognition of the fact that all visible, apparent enemies are but the tip of the iceberg of eternal, unchanging dangerous spiritual forces.” The enemies themselves were “eternally the same”: “the Jew, the Freemason, and the politically-oriented cleric.” The “invisible,” submerged, camouflaged ideological wellsprings of these “enemies” lay in the “infectious residue” of “Jewish, liberal and Freemasonic spirit,” modes of thinking (democracy, communism, Christian and liberal individualism) that were outgrowths of allegedly inherited racial characteristics. Only the complete destruction of the “biological sources” of such thinking would eliminate the danger presented by such influences.

        Ultimately, “invisible” Jewish opponents were the Jewish
        people themselves — as the Nazis defined them — and those who “thought like
        Jews”: Communists, liberals, democrats, champions of minority rights, Freemasons, Christian clerics who opposed the regime, Soviet communists, and the U.S. and British leadership classes who opposed the “natural” expansion of Nazi Germany. To be absolutely safe, the Nazis had to destroy the members of the so-called Jewish race, whose genetic makeup created the basis for such thinking, as well as the Slavic and Asiatic leadership classes, whose heredity incorporated a propensity to follow that Jewish leadership. “

        http://www.ushmm.org/wlc_ie/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10007406

        The job was to root out opposition to the regime. Mr
        Stefanelli tries to change the wording and make the erroneous assertion that it
        was to remove people “suspected of heresy” (as if this was done on a purely
        religious basis in regards to Catholic doctrine). In Edward Crankshaw;s book "Gestapo; Instrument of Tyranny" he
        writes that Reinhard Heydrich made plans to attack against the Christian
        churches. Does this sound like a man who is supposed to root out heresy!?

        There are other examples as well but I think I have proved
        my point about his assertions concerning Hitler. As far as his claim that
        Stalin was not an atheist, this is simply complete ignorance of the historical
        record and worse than his claims about Hitler. The evidence is overwhelming. If still desired I will tackle it when I get home. I can supply a list of biographies or individual anectdotes. God knows there are enough of them.

        • Sean Cruise

          I agree that Hitler only banned healthy Aryan women from having abortions. Healthy stock, as you put it, was about maintaining purity of race/blood; the "positive" Christianity that the Nazis pushed involved the idea that “Blood sin and desecration of the race are the original sin[original sin being a Christian concept] in this world" – and that "Anyone who dares to lay hands on the highest image of the Lord[the Christian concept that Man - in this case the Aryan race - was created in the Lords image] commits sacrilege against the benevolent creator of this miracle and contributes to the expulsion from paradise." – Mein Kampf.

          Now, according to Christianity it was original sin that got Adam and Eve expelled from paradise[eden] – or corrupted God's creation(causing death, disease, etc). To create a race as God intended[one without original sin], the Nazis had to eradicate all the impurities that had been accumulated over the centuries. That meant eradicating jews(who were blamed for the impurities) and creating a "perfect" race with the use of eugenics(not to be confused with Darwinian evolution).

          "finally to put an end to the constant and continuous original sin of racial poisoning, and to give the Almighty Creator beings such as He Himself created?" – Hitler, Mein Kampf

          So your claim that Hitler's religious beliefs were a strange hybrid of Nordic deism and social Darwinism – while omitting the massive influence Christianity had on his beliefs(along with the horrendous traditional attitudes Christians held towards the Jews – means you aren't being entirely honest.

          Hitler was a person with a Christian identity (he identified as one) who – like most Christians in first-world Christian countries – hold an affinity to some of their earlier cultural folklore and traditions.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mlshatto Marian L Shatto

      You have made a very strong argument for Hitler's having been anti-Christian. Anti-Christian, however, is not the same as atheistic. Even someone who worships Satan has a god. Can you please provide some citations of Hitler's having denied the existence of any god? Thank you.

      • Bionaut

        Hi Marian. My argument is that Hitler was anti-Christian. I never stated he was an atheist and those that do are simply wrong. The author of this article is trying to argue that he was a Christian. Now I do state that Stalin was an atheist and not a "religious opportunist." That is a ludicrous statement. Biographies from Simon Sebag Montefiore to Donald Rayfield confirm this time and again.

        • Sean Cruise

          I don't agree that Hitler was exactly anti-Christian. He was,
          however, anti how variants of Christianity were becoming. He saw
          Christianity, especially how it was in the past when it dominated
          society, as a religion that made European civilisation, and its very
          identity, great:

          “The greatness of Christianity did not lie in attempted negotiations for
          compromise with any similar philosophical opinions in the ancient
          world, but in its inexorable fanaticism in preaching and fighting for
          its own doctrine." – Mein Kampf.

          Because there is no uniform concept of God & Christianity(giving rise to
          numerous dominations; some more liberal and tolerant of other faiths,
          races & philosophies than others), he believed Christianity was
          under threat. In his mind this meant civilisation, its identity, was
          in danger of collapse:

          “Without clearly delimited faith, religiosity with its unclarity and
          multiplicity of form would not only be worthless for human life, but
          would probably contribute to general disintegration." – Mein
          Kampf.

          “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." – Mein Kampf.

          "But if out of smugness, or even cowardice, this battle is not fought to
          its end, then take a look at the peoples five hundred years from now.
          I think you will find but few images of God, unless you want to
          profane the Almighty." – Mein Kampf.

          To prevent the collapse of Christianity(at least how he saw it), he
          attempted to eradicate liberalism, jews, communism, and anything else
          that would corrupt his pure Aryan utopia – where his branch of
          “positive” Christianity would set the standard of their identity.

          What he attempted to do was nothing new. It's been done before by
          Protestant and Catholic Kings and Queens who pushed one variant while trying to eradicate the other.

          • Spuddie

            The reality of the situation is that for ANY authoritarian leader, religion or ideologies are all means to an end. Whatever can allow the leader a path to power will be accepted. Authoritarian ideologies be they Fascist, Communist, or Monarchy really never amounts to more than "Whatever the leader tells us is OK". The great myth of the 20th century was that there were real political differences between types of dictatorships. You can quote Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot to claim all sorts of positions. The truth is, none of them ever held themselves accountable to what they said in public. Consistency was never important.

            Attitudes towards religion by such states always vary depending on how easily it could be co-opted by the state. Hitler was more than capable of co-opting Lutheran churches and cowing the Catholic hierarchy to either tacit approval of the Nazi regime or at least to keep them from opposing it.
            Stalin after years of persecuting Christian churches had no trouble in an ideological sense to resurrect the Orthodox Church when the Nazis were invading the USSR. Whatever tenets of Marx were followed by his government were always subordinate to the will of the leader. In North Korea and China, religious authorities still exist but they remain co-opted by the state.

    • 90Lew90

      I think you've just confirmed the point I made above in pointing out that Hitler's activities were "for" or "in the cause of" the nation, the "race" and National Socialism, not atheism. This is the equivalence religious people try to draw when you point to religious violence having been carried out "for" or "in the cause of" religion. The bottom line is that there is no equivalence. The other rather more barmy line they take then is that the violence of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot happened because of God's withdrawal in response to these men's supposed godlessness. This argument amounts to nothing more than special pleading, because it requires that the atheist accepts that their god exists and also (at least for Christians) that man is naturally depraved, and that without "him" we'd all be off to hell in a handcart. Both lines of argument spring from the willed ignorance of the believer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=540250023 Matt Meskill

    Don't you mean "…A state can ban religion, but it cannot IMPOSE atheism because it is not a belief…" ???

    • Deborah_B

      I would agree with that. The state can ban organizations and what people outwardly practice, but cannot control what thought.

  • noodlesoup

    Bionut: can we assume you'll be arguing with the same passion next time some religious blogger wrongly states that Hitler was an atheist?

    • noodlesoup

      Oops, sorry. "Bionaut". No offence intended.

    • Bionaut

      I have stated below that Hitler was NOT an atheist. The
      article in question simply has a good number of erroneous assertions. In
      addition to his statements about Stalin and Pol Pot he picks figures out of the
      air and implies it is correct. For example look at his statement "Add up
      the deaths that were attributed to Hitler, Stalin and Pot. Then round up for
      good measure. You can safely say that the number is staggering. Probably
      upwards of fifteen million."–Not even close to the actual figure. The
      scholar R. J. Rummel, who teaches Political Science and was a Nobel Peace Prize
      finalist has published dozens of books/journals/studies chronicling so-called
      “democide,” or death by government, He believes Mao alone was responsible for
      77 million deaths. For a closer look (albeit morbidly fascinating) Rummel has
      compiled the largest database containing figures and stats from democide:

      http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/20TH.HTM

      In fact you would be hard pressed to find a single reputable
      scholar that puts the deaths attributed to Mao at anything less than 30
      million.

      In fact you would be hard pressed to find a single scholar
      that puts the deaths attributed to Mao under 30 million.

      And his comments about religion and wars is staggeringly
      wrong (he tries to get around it by stating "If you add up all of the
      lives that were lost in the name of one religion or ANOTHER, you come up with a
      staggering figure."–Another? Does he actually think people will not spot
      this? Of course if you add "another" which is greed, territorial
      gain, mineral/resources seizure, etc and basically any reason whatsoever, then
      you do get a staggering figure.

      The number of wars caused by religious reasons is actually
      very small. Audits have proved this time and again.

      People have become lazy, they do not want to do the
      research, this stuff gets peddled around. It accompanies Holocaust denial, 911 conspiracies, etc in spreading like brushfires across the net.

      • http://twitter.com/lesebyst Lesebyst

        "one religion or another" is a turn of phrase, he's referring to multiple religions not multiple reasons.

      • noodlesoup

        Your points are well made and not unconvincing, but you didn't address the question: will you be policing Christian blogs for claims that Hitler &c were atheists, and pointing out at such length the errors in those arguments?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Johnson/578763485 Robert Johnson

    What about the Communist nations that are officially atheistic? The USSR was officially atheistic and murdered over 14 million Ukrainians in the early 1930s.

    Also, Communism was practiced by the apostles in Acts in which the Christian god acted as the KGB and killed a couple who did not turn over all of their cash from the sale of their home to Peter! ( http://www.deism.com/communismbible.htm )

    Progress! Bob Johnson
    http://www.deism.com

    • http://twitter.com/lesebyst Lesebyst

      The UK is 'officially' Christian, but less than 18% of the population believes in the resurrection. Official religions mean nothing, people think however they want to.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rick-Pryce/100001497129875 Rick Pryce

        Yes and no, Lesebyst. Yes, people will believe what they want (leaving aside for the moment the argument that "religion" is only a set of "beliefs"). No argument there, as far as it goes.

        However, where "Official Religions" DO make a difference is when they are tied to the power structure of a given society (Christianity in Europe, Islam in the Middle East, etc.). Power corrupts pretty easily, and since "religion" deals with ultimate matters, religious power can, and all too frequently has, corrupted ultimately. Using religious reasons to justify power grabs, scape-goating, pogroms, etc., etc., are examples of such.

        Full disclosure time. I'm a Christian pastor in Canada. I'm also a bit of a history nut, so I have an idea of some of the atrocities which have been committed in the name of the Church. Sigh…

        The problem is that scape-goating and "othering" people who are different, for whatever reason, are games we all play. Religious people need to stop pointing fingers at non- or other-religious people as the source of all evil in the world. Fair enough. But it cuts both ways. Non-religious folks need to stop pointing fingers as well.

        • Bionaut

          I agree.

  • 90Lew90

    It might be put succinctly (as I do when confronted with this challenge), that neither Hitler, Stalin nor Pol Pot emabrked on their slaughters "for" or "in the cause of" atheism. However when you look at religious conflict, the Crusades, say, or Islamist violence, or the centuries of persecution of the Jews, this violence was always committed "for" or "in the cause of" religion. That should be enough to put the matter to bed but being as they are, religious people like to tell themselves their own stories, and they're also prone to extreme contortions of logic and often prove impervious to reasonable argument. This being the case, I've come to find direct confrontation with them nigh on pointless. Better, I think to circumvent them altogether and speak directly to power by making atheism or humanism a visible, vocal constituency worthy of attention.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Russell-King/729022005 Russell King

      And do you beleive the "reasons" given for the violence in which the US has engaged, especially over the past 50 years? Religion is often used as a secondary, if not primary, cover for violence, but it is almost never the actual cause.

      • 90Lew90

        To be honest, I'm not sure what you're talking about.

  • decathelite

    Look, whether a dictator is a Christian or an Atheist doesn't matter. Both have killed an astounding number of people. But did Queen Isabel personally murder all the heretics during the Spanish Inquisition? No. Did Stalin personally murder all his countrymen? No. The cause of all genocide is attributable to one very very bad idea – people doing what they are told without questioning the person in authority. And that, I believe, is a largely religious idea born out of the story of Abraham and Issac, which is shared among the three monotheistic religions and has permeated our culture for thousands of years.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stanley-James/503792594 Stanley James

      and these people followed various madmen because instead of learning to think for themselves they were trained in churches in general to "believe", and that mentality spilled over into their every day life.

      • Spuddie

        Well in all honesty, only a small percentage of their followers are ever true believers. The rest join on because they feel they could personally benefit from the situation or at least avoid negative consequences of opposing them.

        Usually people who follow dictators fall under 2 camps:
        1. People who can enrich themselves as part of the regime or;
        2. Cannon fodder who are too stupid to realize, they are not in the first category

  • Spuddie

    Correction, Stalin was educated in an Eastern Orthodox seminary school not a Catholic one.

    • Bionaut

      One of many errors….

  • KarlUdy

    The figure of 800 million is extremely suspect. A quick check of Wikipedia (which I know is not authoritative but is helpful for giving a general overview) shows a page with a list of the deadliest wars, genocides, etc. The 28 deadliest wars do not total anywhere near 800 million. Assuming the highest estimates, it comes to 500 million and this includes 250 million from 5 wars that are clear not religiously motivated (WWi, WWII, Mongol conquests, and two Chinese dynasty changes). It seems that to get to 800 million every war and genocide in history needs to be included. Now to argue that all wars are religious wars is one way to make the argument, but you'd go a long way to find anyone who thinks it's a good one.

    Moreover, the list is very problematic. The Huguenot Wars and St Bartholomew's Day Massacre are both included even though the latter was a battle in the former. The inclusion of the Holocaust in a list to be compared with the deaths due to, among others, Hitler. And it appears that many have been included where the deaths were martyr deaths, so religion is to be blamed because people might kill you for being religious?!

    Given all this, it really is very hard to take anything in this article seriously.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stanley-James/503792594 Stanley James

    Heres the skinny on hitler and his gang and the churches in Germany etc. Sri b ut a lot of pix on what is really the second page are missing.

    Most of the pix come from german archives, some from the holcoaust museum etc

    note about 20% of the way down how Pacelli – later Pius XII – signs the concordant that legitimized the nazis in the eyes of german catholics.

    BTW didnt he just recently get sainthood?

    • Michael

      An appeasement with a murderer to prevent further murders of his own sect. Can't really fault him for that – if so, see what the last ten or so US presidents have signed

  • Michael

    Pretty obvious this article has multiple holes. I won't get into the Hitler argument since it has been addressed, but Stalin was raised Georgian Orthodox and was a seminarian in the ORTHODOX faith before becoming atheist.

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