Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Hitler and Religion
There are few so universally detested figures in history as Adolf Hitler and that is probably the reason why people debate his religion so dramatically. Many atheists like to smugly assert that Adolf Hitler was a Christian and then watch their red-faced Christian friends explode in apoplectic rage. At the same time, many Christians insist that Adolf Hitler was an atheist and then further assert that Hitler's atheism was the very force that propelled him to commit all of his horrible atrocities.
I submit that when atheists try to argue that Hitler was a Christian it is based on a fundamentally flawed understanding of both history and Christianity. On the other hand, when Christians claim that atheism drove Hitler's insanity it is not only a flawed position but also a position which will garner them few atheistic friends and likely won't promote the foundation for dialogue which Christians are supposed to be open to.
Atheists enjoy quoting Hitler's speeches and writings in their attempt to prove that Hitler was, indeed, a Christian. They forget that when they do this they are quoting a man who was a master of manipulation. Germany was a nation full of Christians and in order to deceive these people, Hitler had to use the language of Christianity. When Hitler made speeches which referenced Christ or Christianity he wanted to appeal to the masses. Hitler could not have stirred a crowd, however brilliant his oratory, if he had screamed, "You see, its been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn't we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?!" (Quoted by Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, pg. 115) or if he had shouted, " . . .Christianity is not a natural religion for the Germans, but a religion that has been imported and which strikes no responsive chord in their hearts and is foreign to the inherent genius of the race!" (13th February 1945, The Political Testament of Adolf Hitler).
Adolf Hitler was a Christian in the same way that a carpet salesman "absolutely loves" his potential customer's hideous wallpaper. Not only did this carpet salesman hate the wallpaper but he fully intended on letting the flimsy stuff quickly peel off the wall. In other words, Hitler was only a Christian by Machiavellian convenience.
Hitler convinced his countrymen he had the best interests of Germany in mind. Hitler convinced Stalin to make peace with him and he convinced Europe that he had no intentions to fight. Hitler convinced idealists, including Canada's Mackenzie King, that their appeasement would sate his appetite. How did Hitler convince all of these people? By lying. Hitler was a masterful liar which any person only slightly familiar with his life will know. The question is why some people can see these lies and manipulations, but not Hitler's deceitful Christianity. Hitler was as much a Christian as a pig is a flower. The image is ridiculous, but it shows how remarkably devious the master con-man had to be in order to make his gigantic hog's rump smell like a daisy.
Sure, Hitler had personal beliefs that Christians share with him. However, Hitler was only a Christian so long as Jesus wasn't a Jew, so long as Jesus was the bastard son of a Roman soldier, so long as all of Paul's gospels were ignored, so long as the fundamental belief of Christianity in the equality of mankind was eliminated, so long as Christianity was separated from its historic roots and fitted into his twisted nationalism. Hitler denied early Christianity as corrupted by Paul, the Jew, and blamed the religion for the collapse of Rome. Hitler might fit into a Unitarian definition of Christianity, but so do Wiccans (who, incidentally, are also not Christians.)
Hitler's twisted beliefs were far from Orthodox Christianity and his heresy should have alarmed his countrymen. Although Hitler pined for the days of Wotan and noble German barbarism, he ultimately wanted to replace Christianity with National Socialism. This did not mean persecuting Christians because Hitler felt that Christianity had such a soft flaccid underbelly that it would eventually die of natural causes. National Socialism with its psuedo-scientific reason, inequality and dominance of the Aryan race would prevail and the Third Reich would rule for a thousand years.
Atheism is problematic in that it is humanly impossible to be an atheist. Humans, by nature, must worship something and as much as so-called atheists deny worshipping anything, there is always something they venerate. No, Hitler was not a Christian but neither was he an atheist. Atheists, by definition, deny the existence of God or gods. Hitler did not deny the existence of God just as long as he could define exactly what God is and thereby make an idol in the form of the German nation. Hitler was neither a Christian nor an atheist, he was a Nazi.
Still, atheists do have ammunition when it comes to the topic of Nazism and Christianity. Christianity in Germany did appear to be the weak easily- manipulated superstitious religion that Hitler believed it to be. So-called Christian men supported the little dictator and the church that whould have opposed him barely offered a squeak of protest. Men and women adapted to the nationalist religion with a syncretistic fervour that would have made King Ahab blush. The passivity and outright collaboration is shameful and can only, in my mind, be alleviated by looking at the few examples of Christian fortitude in the German nation.
All of Hitler's speeches which spoke about God? Resounding gongs and clanging cymbols, nothing more.