Even if he was, so what? But no really, he wasn’t.

One of the most annoying arguments I come across in the Christian vs. Atheist debate is “Hitler was an atheist”, and probably many atheists would agree with me on that one. I think this really bothers me because it completely neglects the fact that people have killed in the name of the Judeo-Christian god. It implies that those without the Judeo-Christian god have an easier time committing atrocious acts. The utter disregard for historical facts also really rubs me the wrong way. I usually respond by pointing to a picture of a “gott mit uns (god with us)” Nazi belt buckle or a quote of Hitler’s where he mentions his belief.  A typical response to that is something along the lines of “he wasn’t a true Christian because of his actions” or “he just pretended to be Christian” and this is a logical fallacy called the “No true Scotsman”. The fallacy is an attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion by declaring there is a “true” form of a certain group or belief. Another example of this was a time when I said something about Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and I was told on Twitter he wasn’t a “True Christian” because he killed animals, that Christians don’t kill god’s creatures. I tried to point out they were making this fallacy and they essentially gave me a “LA LA LA NOT LISTENING” style response. I’m pretty sure good ol’ Phil would have said they weren’t a “True Christian” too.

Besides the fact that there have been and are some pretty awful Christian people, I think many Christians don’t understand that as an atheist I don’t think that all Christians are bad. Just because Hitler was a Christian doesn’t mean I think all of them would want to commit genocide on an entire race of people. I also don’t think every Christian is a backwards and idiotic bigot like Phil Robertson. I may have many problems with certain Christian leaders and issues with the ideology, but it would be ridiculous for me to hate all Christians. Even though certain Christians don’t represent the entire population of them, and no single one does, doesn’t mean we can’t point to them as examples of what’s wrong with the religion. The same goes for other religions and cultures as well. There are probably many Christians I may agree with on certain things, just like I don’t always agree with every single atheist.

What disturbs me is when I get the sense from the Christian that says something like “Hitler and Stalin were atheists” actually thinks that there is a direct connection with their actions and lack of belief, otherwise they wouldn’t feel a need to mention it. It makes me wonder if they think I and other atheists could possibly be as evil as he was, that also feels implied with their need to mention it. “Hitler was Christian” is mainly uttered by an atheist in response to the “he was an atheist” argument and they are usually rational enough to know his religious belief was not the direct reason for what he did.  At least speaking for myself that’s what I think and I hope most atheists out there are rational enough to recognize that. I don’t want people to make assumptions about me because of my lack of belief, so I always try to not make assumptions about people with beliefs just because of the many bad apples.



8 thoughts on “Even if he was, so what? But no really, he wasn’t.

  1. I don’t think it matters what Hitler’s theological position was – he was a madman.
    However, what it was is not up for debate – he was an atheist. As posted here (not by me):

    “MY LORD AND SAVIOR . . . IN THE BOUNDLESS LOVE AS A CHRISTIAN . . . HE HAD TO SHED HIS BLOOD UPON THE CROSS. My feelings as a Christian point 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. This is God’s truth!”

    Yes. Pandering. Hitler pandered towards Catholics here. Catholics historically have hated Jews – for the ostensible reason of killing their god – and thus speaks as another “hater” of Jews to them.

    But on a deeper level; on the esoterica, and metaphysical doctrine behind Christianity, Hitler was speaking as a christian here. Definitely not a traditional, “moral” Christian, but a Christian in the gnostic sense.

    “Today, 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…”

    Ok. Now contrast this obvious display of sycophancy with this”

    “We are the joyous Hitler youth,
    We do not need any Christian virtue
    Our leader is our savior
    The Pope and Rabbi shall be gone
    We want to be pagans once again.”
    -Song sung by Hitler youth

    “They refer to me as an uneducated barbarian. Yes, we are barbarians. We want to be barbarians, it is an honored title to us. We shall rejuvenate the world. This world is near its end.”

    “Providence has ordained that I should be the greatest liberator of humanity. I am freeing man from the restraints of an intelligence that has taken charge, from the dirty and degrading self-mortification of a false vision called conscience and morality, and from the demands of a freedom and independence which only a very few can bear.” – Rauschning, Hitler Speaks, p. 222

    “The heaviest blow which ever struck humanity was Christianity; Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew.” – Norman Cameron and R.H. Stevens, trans., (Oxford, 1953), Hitler’s Table-Talk, p. 7

    “The law of selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing the survival of the fittest. Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.” – Norman Cameron and R.H. Stevens, trans., (Oxford, 1953), Hitler’s Table-Talk, p. 51

    “The earth continues to go round, whether it’s the man who kills the tiger or the tiger who eats the man. The stronger asserts his will, it’s the law of nature. The world doesn’t change; its laws are eternal.” – Norman Cameron and R.H. Stevens, trans., (Oxford, 1953), Hitler’s Table-Talk, p. 38-39

    The final statement is textbook Malthusian-Darwinism.

    Hitler was a secularist. He wanted society COMPLETELY removed from the sacred; he despised the sacred, hence him taking such pride in being a “barbarian” – to save the world from that digusting Jewish “invention” called conscience.
    He went on to point out that all the dictators who slaughtered people on a grand scale,
    and their followers, were atheists, but we’ll leave that alone (I don’t know about Saddam Hussein, actually, but he wasn’t really in the big leagues, was he? Also, besides Hitler, those he mentioned were all Communists, so, like, whatever).

  2. Hi, this is my first time stumbling across your blog and I think you have a few interesting things to say. I appreciated your explanation of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. And I agree with you that the moral failings of a single member of any group don’t necessarily tell us anything about whether all members or most members of a group are likely to be good or bad people. That’s totally true.

    However with regard to whether Hitler was a Christian or not, see the wiki on Hitler http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler where it gives an overview of his religious views. Yes, he was baptized Catholic, but never attended Mass again after leaving home. In his public pronouncements he sought to leverage the German protestant Christian heritage as a political tool, but it was clearly at odds with his private beliefs shared with his political associates. The fact that as an adult Hitler had personally abandoned any belief in God is a pretty well-documented historical fact.

    If people are arguing, “Well, Hitler claimed to be a Christian, but no true Christian would act the way he did, so that shows he was not really a Christian” that would be an example of the no true Scotsman fallacy. But if people argue, “Well, Hitler claimed to believe in Christianity in public, but it is well documented that in private he told close friends that he had rejected Christianity, therefore it’s reasonable to say that in reality he was not really a Christian.” That is not a logical fallacy, it is just a matter of definitions. If someone who is gay is still in the closet, are they gay or are they straight? It’s a reasonable definition of gay to say that they are actually gay, though they are in the closet.

    Happy blogging!

      • I guess it depends on what you mean by pretended and whether the charge is valid or not. If Hitler (or Phil Robertson or anyone else who had a public Christian persona but who some Christians wouldn’t want to accept as a representative of their religion) really did not consider himself to be a Christian or to be bound by Christian principles in any way, even though he presented himself as Christian publicly for political purposes, then that is not a no true Scotsman. It is just an analysis of what he really was vs what he pretended to be.

        The no true Scotsman works by saying, “No Christian would do x.” Then when a Christian is found who has done x (the counter-example) responding, “Well, if he did x then he’s not a true Christian.” Thus, by definition, all counter-examples are excluded. That is a logical fallacy.

        I’m not saying Hitler wasn’t a Christian because no true Christian would sponsor genocide (or any other horrible thing he did.) I’m saying Hitler wasn’t a Christian because it seems obvious from historical documents (his collaboration with the pope at tha time or quote-mining from Mein Kampf notwithstanding) that he didn’t personally believe in Christianity. Thus Hitler is not actually a counter-example of a Christian doing x. He’s an example of a non-believer doing x.

        Christians in debates sometimes say silly things that just aren’t true because they’re repeating what they heard from a Christian source (for just one example – the myth that Darwin recanted his theory of evolution on his deathbed. Just not true. But some creationist debaters will cite it as if it were fact.) But other groups do the same thing – some feminists repeating the fictitious stat that 20-30 percent of emergency room visits are due to domestic violence, for example. And I’m afraid the idea that Hitler was a Christian is another example of that kind of thing. It’s just not objectively true, but there is some superficial data that supports that, and some atheists have jumped on that and stated it and others have repeated it because they heard it or saw it in a trusted source.

  3. Compare the analysis from these two sites:




    Both authors clearly have bias, but note that the first guy (whose name was not obvious to me on a cursory look at the page) doesn’t cite any critical analysis on one side or the other of the question by any other authors. He pulls quotes with no reference to context and he makes assertions that are simply unsupported. He claims the Nazi regime forcibly converted the Germans and cites as evidence (point b) that the Nazi’s started a youth movement. There is plenty of actual historical data that the youth movement was secular and anti-Christian but the author is only interested in looking at the issue from his own perspective. Any data that might support his point is thrown out there. Any inconvenient facts are simply ignored. This is standard conspiracy theory type of argumentation, and once you’ve read a bunch of conspiracy theories from across the spectrum (all political and religious points of view from all sides have them) the signs are pretty easy to recognize.

    D’souza, who writes the second article, is likewise grinding an axe, but notice how he cites an argument from an opposing view (Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris) and then uses facts to see whether the argument holds water or not. His most important citations are from an actual historian, Evans, who produced History of the Third Reich, and Hitler’s Table Talk, compiled by one of Hitler’s close aides during the war.

    I think it’s pretty clear from Hitler’s quotes on their own (from speeches and Mein Kampf) that he saw Christianity as a potentially useful tool to get both German Lutherans and Catholics stirred up against the Jews (who he despised on grounds shaped by his beliefs in eugenics and social darwinism) and to inspire nationalism, but it seems pretty clear he didn’t believe in any god or Jesus. D’souza’s explanation about Hitler’s use of Norse or Christian mythology arising from an atheist view of the world shaped by Nietzsche and Wagner seems very credible to me.

    Even Hitchens’s assertion that Hitler was a polytheist (i.e. that he actually believed in Norse paganism) seems almost tenable from a historical perspective. But the idea Hitler was actually Christian? No credible historian takes that seriously, because, like most giant conspiracy theories, you just have to be so ignorant of so many facts about the world that don’t fit the theory in order to be able to buy it.

  4. Hitler was a psychopath. It doesn’t matter whether or not he was an atheist.

    Theists like to point to Hitler’s atheism (and Stalin’s and Pol Pot’s–assuming those are true) to prove that atheists don’t have any moral values. But atheism qua atheism has nothing to do with morality. It consists simply of not believing in any gods. Atheism is fundamentally an ontological position, not an ethical or moral position.

    But most contemporary atheists are also secular humanists: we believe that there are moral values, with some of us believing that these moral values are real and absolute and others (like me) believing that moral values represent long-running “debates” throughout cultures.

    I think that we should not pit atheism against any of the theisms on the issue of morality. I count myself as an atheist not because atheism is a more moral position, but because it accords with the evidence. I count myself a secular humanist because humanism seems to me to provide the best means for arriving at just, fair outcomes for all.

    Many secular humanists also believe that the major theisms (especially Christianity and Islam) are more or less out of touch with the morality of modern society. In particular, the major theisms rest on texts that can be and are used to support denying human rights (what we perceive to be human rights) to various disfavored groups–women, homosexuals, persons who do not agree with the tenets of those theisms, etc. For these reasons, some secular humanists–who also count themselves as atheists–argue against those theisms.

  5. Nice posting. It reminded me that the whole “Hitler and Stalin were atheists!” argument flabbergasted me just recently, so I had to put my two cents in here. Neither religion nor atheism is necessary or sufficient for psychopathic behavior, but if a religious person wants to correlate it at all with beliefs, the statistics are so overwhelmingly against them that I’m amazed they bring it up with a straight face. Anyway, the broader danger is any ideology, of which religion is only the most popular subset. In a thoughtful world any claim of “revealed truth” ought to trigger only laughter and derision, but sadly our brains adapted to go the other way. Oh well, AI will be here to take over soon…

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