Was Hitler an atheist?

It comes up time and time again in online forums and blog comments. Somebody, usually a christian, mentions that atheism caused WW2 and Communism. While I may do another post later on Communism and Stalin, this one is directed at that first point (Hitler and Nazi Germany).

Essentially what I hope to answer is: “Was Hitler, and by extension the Nazi party, an atheist; and were the actions of the Third Reich the natural result of “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”?”

Before I get too far into this though, I want to make clear, this is not intended to be the end-all be-all on this discussion, it is merely intended to show enough to refute the claim that atheism was in any possible way, responsible for the actions of the Nazi party. You may have your own quotes or bits of information that you feel refute these claims here, and if so, great. We can look over your evidence, and see if it shows a conflicted view of history, or if it actually “debunks” the claims I am making.

I’d like to start off with a small handful of quotes from Adolf Hitler, on the subjects of religion, faith, god, etc…

  • 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. – Mein Kampf p.65
  • This human world of ours would be inconceivable without the practical existence of a religious belief. The great masses of a nation are not composed of philosophers. For the masses of the people, especially faith is absolutely the only basis of a moral outlook on life. The various substitutes that have been offered have not shown any results that might warrant us in thinking that they might usefully replace the existing denominations. …There may be a few hundreds of thousands of superior men who can live wisely and intelligently without depending on the general standards that prevail in everyday life, but the millions of others cannot do so. – Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 10
  • Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith. – Adolf Hitler, in 26 April 1933, from a speech made during negotiations leading to the Nazi-Vatican Concordant of 1933
  • “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.” – from John Toland [Pulitzer Prize winner], Adolf Hitler, p. 507
  • “The anti-Semitism of the new [Christian Social] movement was based on religious ideas instead of racial knowledge.” – Mein Kampf, p. 119

Clearly these quotes (along with countless others) show Hitler at least publicly showed respect for religion, god, religious beliefs, etc…

Many have made the claim that Hitler said these types of things publicly in print and speeches in order to win over the masses of followers he would need ot control Germany and put his plans into action. And while this is certainly possible, something being possible is obviously not proof (t’s possible that I have a winning lottery ticket in my pocket right now, that does not mean I should go out and spend money on pointless crap with no thought about thinking about how I will pay the bills later).

Now obviously I have only focused on Hitler there, because as the leader of Nazi Germany, he was the most visible person associated with Nazi Germany; but there were many other high ranking officials who made their thoughts clear on the subject of religion; including Goebbels, Hess, Himler, and others.

  • “Bolshevism denies religion as a principle, fundamentally and entirely. It recognizes religion only as an “opium for the people”. For the help and support of religious belief, however, National Socialism absolutely places in the foreground of its programme a belief in God and that transcendental idealism which has been destined by Nature to bring to expression the racial soul of a nation.” – Joseph Goebbels, “Communism with the Mask Off”
  • “No matter what human beings do I shall some day stand before the judgement seat of the Eternal. I shall answer to Him, and I know he will judge me innocent.” – Rudolf Hess, in a statement to the Nuremberg Tribunal
  • British historian Peter Longerich recently published a 1035-page study on Himmler quoting, inter alia, from documents in the German Federal Archives in Berlin (“Bundesarchiv Berlin”). Longerich quotes Himmler as saying in November 1944 that Islam is “a practical and sympathetic religion for soldiers.” “It promises that those who fall in battle will go to heaven.”

Now I would like to end my “evidence” with the “Hitler Oath” that German soldiers took:

I swear by God,
this holy oath,
to the Führer of the German Reich and people.
Adolf Hitler…

<Watch movie>

(Source: Hitler: Tyrant of Terror, shown on the History Channel)

Now this is in no way “proves” one way or the other the true beliefs of men who can not speak for themselves, but at the very least it calls into question, and probably “debunks” the idea of Hitler as an atheist, or the Nazi party as being based on atheist ideas…


Many other websites have covered this topic as well, here is a BRIEF summary of some of the ones I stumbled across while putting together this post, that you may find interesting.

 

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About Rodibidably

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
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10 Responses to Was Hitler an atheist?

  1. writerdood says:

    I think that if I were an evil atheist overlord, obsessed with domination and command over all that I surveyed, I would use whatever methods and mythologies present in the population of my targets to assist me in gaining their willing obedience. Using religion against people is, well… I think it’s probably an obvious ploy. Something that would be inevitable from anyone with the ethics and morals of a Nazi. So, I wouldn’t necessarily call it evidence that they still used religion in their sayings and vows and creeds. For them it was probably a weapon.

    • Rodibidably says:

      I think that if I were an evil atheist overlord, obsessed with domination and command over all that I surveyed, I would use whatever methods and mythologies present in the population of my targets to assist me in gaining their willing obedience.
      It’s possible that this was Hitler’s intent. However if you look at his life, he was raised with religion and he never publicly denounced it. To speculate that he was not religious one must provide evidence. To date, I’ve never seen compelling evidence that he was an atheist. And with quotes like these it’s certainly possible that he was in fact a theist of some type.

      Using religion against people is, well… I think it’s probably an obvious ploy. Something that would be inevitable from anyone with the ethics and morals of a Nazi.
      Again, this is of course possible. But just because something is possible, does not mean that the evidence bears it out as true.
      To make a claim like this, you’d have to provide evidence to support the claim.

      So, I wouldn’t necessarily call it evidence that they still used religion in their sayings and vows and creeds.
      I agree, and I said as much…

      But I do think it’s fair to say that with information along these lines it’s virtually impossible to call Hitler (and the Nazi regime) atheists.

      For them it was probably a weapon.
      That is possible. But it’s also baseless speculation. To make such a statement be anything beyond pure conjecture you’d need to back it up with some type of evidence…

      Anybody can make claims with nothing to support them. Glenn Beck has turned that into a successful career in fact. But without evidence, it’s nothing but one opinion. And with contradictory evidence so plentiful, it’s a fringe (and/or uninformed) opinion based on ignorance.

  2. writerdood says:

    Anybody can make claims with nothing to support them.

    (I’ll try the italics thing and see how it works).

    I think you’re being a little defensive. I’m not attacking your theory here. All I’m doing is offering you an alternative explanation for what you claim to be evidence (namely the Hitler oath). What you offer is not necessarily evidence that Hitler is or isn’t an atheist, because it’s possible that Hitler was using religion that he did not believe in himself. And you offer, against that alternative, that Hitler was raised with religion and never denounced it. But there are plenty of people raised with religion that never denounce it but still don’t believe it. There are obviously even more who believe in it and still use it on a daily basis.

    I think evidence might be a section of Hitlers own diary that identifies his beliefs. THAT would be evidence. Not the circumstances in which he lived.

    Now, that being said, this isn’t something I’ve researched AT ALL. I’m offering you an alternative. It’s your job to provide “evidence” to disprove the alternative. Not my job to prove the alternative. To me, saying you have evidence that Hitler was religious because he was raised that way is pretty weak evidence.

    One thing I do remember about Hitler is that he was very superstitious. That’s why he collected religious artifacts from many cultures. From his collections and his obsession, I would guess that he believed in some type of supernatural power. I do think we probably was religious of some kind, and that you’re theory that he wasn’t an atheist is probably correct, but the skeptic in me has to base that on my own understanding, not what you claim to be evidence.

    Finally, I despise Glen Beck, and I agree with your assessment of him. Please don’t compare me to Glen Beck just because I do you the favor of playing devils advocate. Lighten up already, dude.

    • Rodibidably says:

      I was not trying to be defensive, just pointing out that the default position based on how he was raised and based on what he said has to be that he is a believer…

      To make a claim other than that would be the claim that needs to be shown to have enough evidence to overrule the default position.

      When you say:
      ’m offering you an alternative. It’s your job to provide “evidence” to disprove the alternative. Not my job to prove the alternative.
      You’re actually dead wrong. In this scenario the default is to accept his words, his actions, and the historical record of his life. Any claim that contradicts those must be the one that is “proven” with enough evidence to override the currently accepted evidence.

      You are correct that he could have been intentionally lying, but all we have to go on are his actions and his words. Both of which show a reverence toward religion.

      It’s virtually impossible to guess at somebody’s state of mind or thoughts if those thoughts are contradicted by their actions and words. It’s all just speculation at that point…

      I do apologize if I came off as combative or aggressive, but this is a topic that so many people are ill informed on that to see somebody take the position that he is an atheist and to not provide evidence to support that claim tends to set me off a bit…

      • writerdood says:

        I see. That’s okay then. I know how it gets when you’re passionate about something, and it’s really the first time I’ve every heard about anyone suggesting that Hitler was an atheist. From what I remember, he was extremely superstitious, wanting to obtain all sorts of artifacts like the shroud of Turin, the holy grail, the arc of the covenant, that cross with some saint’s blood inside that turns liquid on the anniverary of his death, the spear of Longinus, anything to do with Atlantis, he hired gypsy fortune tellers, etc etc. Now, while none of this indicates he was of a specific religion, it certainly seems unlikely behavior for an atheist.

        However, the evidence you present is based on the historical record of his actions. And those actions also fit the alternative explanation. They could therefore be claimed as evidence by proponents of the explanation that he was using religion for his own ends and posing as a believer because he needed to. So, you see, the evidence fits both hypothesis, and therefore isn’t really very good. I would have to say that the default position is a bit weak when it comes to disproving the alternative. As you noted, It’s virtually impossible to guess at somebody’s state of mind or thoughts. It’s all just speculation. This is what I was thinking as well. How someone acts and how they think can often be completely different. There’s no real way to know for sure without a personal diary or an unbiased record left by the individual (from a source we could trust).

        Personally, I think you’re right. I doubt Hitler was an atheist, due to the preponderance of circumstantial evidence, and the fact that the alternative explanation is itself uncommon. I’m sure you could, with research, provide multiple references and records indicating acts that would be unlikely to be done by an atheist. But that doesn’t disprove the alternative, and in my mind, when you can’t disprove something, it’s left open ended.

        I base things on probabilities. That’s how my mind works. Almost nothing is 100% certain unless I’m looking right at it (and then there’s always the possibility that I’ve gone insane or that I’ve been drugged). So, I’d have to say for Hitler being an atheist, given what I know of the individual, 90% unlikely, 10% questionable. Despite how wild it sounds, there’s always a chance he really didn’t believe in God, and that he was a poser who used religion for his own ends. It’s also possible he didn’t believe in religion, but kept up appearances that he did for political reasons. (Something that probably happens in this country with our own politicians). Also, I should note that I am also using that 10% for other alternatives that I am probably not thinking of. There are always alternatives, and people can be really weird sometimes. Hitler, I think we can agree, was pretty weird, and quite likely very insane.

      • Jeff Randall says:

        I agree that the facts COULD support multiple hypothesis.
        However, I would argue that the default assumption in this case would be that he is a believer. Roughly 70-80% (or more) of people believe in god today; and historically the percentage opf believers has been even higher than today.

        To assume that somebody (whether it be Hitler or some other person) is not a believer in some version of a god, you would need evidence that clearly shows that lack of belief.
        In much the same way that when you hear galloping, don’t assume unicorn, when you see statements that show belief, don’t assume non belief.

        People who don’t believe that jesus has some type of power would probably not spend much effort trying to find the spear of destiny ( http://web.org.uk/picasso/spear.html ).

        Of course it is always possible that he was an atheist, but there is no evidence that clearly points towards that idea. And there is plenty that points towards him having some type of belief, even if it was not the traditional catholic faith that he was raised with or claimed to have.

  3. writerdood says:

    Fair enough. I think you are correct in that perspective and statistically accurate. It would indeed be the default assumption that he was religious to some degree, probably a personal flavor of whatever it was he’d been taught.

    • Jeff Randall says:

      If somebody had the evidence that showed Hitler was an atheist (perhaps a secret diary or something where he states that all of his pandering to religion was intentionally deceptive), and the evidence was verifiable, I don’t think it’s a too much of a stretch to find it plausible.

      It’s just that as far as I am aware, no such evidence exists.
      And all of the evidence regarding his views on religion seem to show that at the very least he had some type of reverence or belief for many christian doctrines.

  4. Mariano says:

    The evilbible.com page has been considered, dissected and found fallacious. The parsed essay found at the URL below even provides further context from Mein Kampf to demonstrate that evilbible.com simply does not consider Hitler’s intentions:

    http://atheismisdead.blogspot.com/2009/10/adolf-hitler-was-christian-was-adolf.html

    • Jeff Randall says:

      I looked over your site, and while you CLAIM many times that evilbible.com has been discredited, I did not find any attempts at evidence showing that it was discredited.

      As well, it also fails to address the many other sources I mentioned here, or to address the facts of Hitler’s own words, deeds, life, etc…

      You may claim he was not a believer of some variety if you wish, but your claims would not be supported by the evidence.
      You may use the No True Scotsman logical fallacy if you wish, and claim he was not a “true christian” if you wish, but your claim would be the very definition of a logical fallacy.

      Now if you’d like to respond to some of the points raised here, and show me where I am wrong, I welcome it. If you’d like to throw out logical fallacies or unsupported claims, you’re welcome to do so, but don’t expect me to waste my time responding.

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