Adolf Hitler: the world's most famous creationist
This week on The Thinking Atheist Facebook page, we've talked quite a bit about tactics that the religious use against atheists in a debate. One of the most inflammatory charges of the believer is that Hitler was an atheist, and the influences of Darwin were responsible for Hitler's atrocities in the mid-20th century. I heard this very argument from my theist mother.
A (German) friend and page fan has experience with this subject. She asked for permission to correct the record on Hitler, and to give ammunition to the rest of us in our conversations with those who insist on punching the Hitler hot-button.
Meg's blog is below. It's a bit long, but it's a compelling read. I hope it helps someone out there. I know it will help me.
Adolf Hitler: The World's Most Infamous Creationist by FB fan - Meg Ablond
If you haven't heard the Hitler arguments from a theist yet, I think it's safe to assume that you are in the minority. Here's a brief rundown of the most common accusations that the faithful enjoy slinging about der Führer in case you're not familiar with them:
1) Hitler was an atheist
2) Hitler was a faithful Darwinist
3) It was Darwin's ideals that drove Hitler to exterminate the Jews
Most atheists are aware that Hitler considered himself a Christian, a Roman Catholic to be precise, and know that the accusation of him being an atheist are as patently false as they are absurd. What many do not know is that Hitler was also a Creationist.
Yes, Hitler was a Creationist. And before the hypersensitive and pedantic among you get your fingers busy typing about how that doesn't mean all Creationists are evil or that Creationism leads to Nazism; thanks, I'm well-aware of that fact and that's not why I'm mentioning Hitler's beliefs. So take a deep breath, calm down, and enjoy the rest of this post, which is going to give you some helpful ammunition for shooting down the Hitler-Atheism myths.
Nearly a decade ago, I married a German and moved with him from America to Germany. And one of the first things I learned here, besides that there are people on this planet who consider beer an acceptable breakfast beverage, is that no matter how rotten and depraved the actions of the Third Reich appeared when we were taught about them in school and via the US media, the picture we get is still a sterilized version of Nazis' barbarity and beliefs.
As it turns out, the family I married into has a Nazi history, an unpleasant surprise as my (now ex) husband was anything but racist or antisemitic.
My former father-in-law, a highly intelligent person, speaks nearly perfect English, which he learned after being taken prisoner by Allied Forces in France and then shipped off to a work camp in Colorado. He never spoke about his Nazi upbringing and the war with his children and, given that the man has all the warmth and compassion of an iceberg, to his family it was obvious that they were not to mention it.
Then one Christmas when the old man had been hitting the schnapps, and shortly after I had been to visit a former concentration camp, Dachau, I couldn't stand not knowing anymore how anyone could support Hitler, much less be willing to fight for him. So I took advantage of father-in-law's inebriated state and asked.
You could have heard the proverbial pin drop; everyone fell silent.
The old man glared at me and stood up, growled at me to stay there in my seat, then left the room. I assumed he'd gone off to get something, and I knew it could take awhile for him to return. The home of my former parents-in-law is like a museum, complete with a basement full of archives.
As one might expect from people raised during the reign of the Third Reich, which had the organization necessary to round up many millions of people and exterminate them with astonishing efficiency, everything my parents-in-law did was recorded and filed, the belongings not needed for their daily lives never thrown away, and instead neatly stored and organized.
These people could tell you how much they spent on bread in April, 1952. That's not an exaggeration. So I shouldn't have been too surprised when the old man reappeared with large boxes and photo albums, and to find them stuffed with Nazi memorabilia, pamphlets, sew-on patches earned during father-in-law's time with the Nazi version of the Boy Scouts, the Hitler Youth, booklets on how being a good Nazi and being a good Christian were one and the same and the virtues of the Nazi policy of "Positive Christianity", photos of father-in-law in his Nazi uniform taken at Church...
One got the impression that my father-in-law had been waiting his whole life for someone to finally ask him about his past, to give him reason to talk about it. And talk he did, for hours...
I was still a Christian at the time, and I had never given any real thought to Hitler and his own religious beliefs, though if I had done so the last thing I would have considered him was Christian. And the last thing I wanted to admit to myself was that Hitler had been a devout Christian.
But there was a pile of evidence staring me in the face and my father-in-law enthusiastically showing me through it. In his own words, Hitler believed...
"My feeling 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." -Hitler in a speech on April 12, 1922.
Hitler made similar remarks in his book, "Mein Kampf", which was written when he was young. So he must have changed his mind and lost sight of his faith later, right?
"The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and co-operation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life."
No, that isn't from a modern day, Republican speech; that's what Hitler said in a statement in 1933.
And even more surprising was the Nazi banned book list; Darwin's "On the Origins of Species" and any book deemed to support evolution it were on it.
"The most marvelous proof of the superiority of Man, which puts man ahead of the animals, is the fact that he understands that there must be a Creator."
"The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger."
Nope, those aren't quotes from Ray Comfort or Kent Hovind as one might understandably assume; Hitler said those things in his book, "Mein Kampf."
As a Christian, I still had no trouble incorporating evolution into my beliefs; I saw evolution as God's method of producing all of the species we see on Earth.
To me, Darwin's book being on the banned list didn't make any sense. What about the Nazi breeding programs? That's about evolution, isn't it?
Well, no. Hitler's program didn't involve evolution. As my father-in-law explained, Hitler prescribed to a belief called Eugenics, which is breeding for a superior (Aryan) race. If you're familiar with evolution and how it works, you realize that Eugenics is the exact opposite of evolution.
In evolution, the larger and more dynamic the gene pool, the better. The more genetic diversity you have, the less likely a disease or a gene defect is going to wipe out the entire species. More genes = more likely to adapt and survive. And evolution is not a ladder; there is no end goal, no perfect being, only a being well-suited for its current living environment.
In Eugenics, the aim is to breed a "superior" version of a species; to lessen genetic diversity in favor of traits deemed to be preferable.
Purebred dogs are an example of why Eugenics is a really bad idea and how it runs contrary to evolution. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is thought to be superior when it has an especially large ridge on its back. Due to breeders selecting animals for their ridges, it's not uncommon now for the dogs to be born with ridges so large that they develop open canals that lead from the surface of their skin straight to their spinal column, resulting in a horribly painful, open wound directly on their bare spine.
"From where do we get the right to believe, that from the very beginning Man was not what he is today? Looking at Nature tells us, that in the realm of plants and animals changes and developments happen. But nowhere inside a kind shows such a development as the breadth of the jump , as Man must supposedly have made, if he has developed from an ape-like state to what he is today." - Hitler in his book "Tischgespräche"
"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." - from a speech Hitler gave on April 26, 1933.
Did I mention that school prayer was mandatory under the Nazis? If I wanted to commit the logical fallacy of guilt by association comparing Hitler's beliefs in a Christian nation, family values, creationism, and school prayer to America's modern Religious Right, this would be an ideal opportunity for it. But that would bring me down to their level. Oops. Guess I already drew the parallels. Oh well.
In his own words, Hitler was a devout Christian and he was a Creationist.
"For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties." - Hitler in his book "Mein Kampf"
So the next time someone wants to equate you, as an atheist, with Hitler, I invite you to share Hitler's actual beliefs with them. Then just sit back and relax as the faithful endure spastic mental gymnastics trying to spin it all.
Looking back on that discussion with my father-in-law, considering the information I've gathered about Hitler myself since becoming fluent in German, and combined with my loss of faith, I'm actually not surprised anymore that Hitler was a Christian and a Creationist. If someone is delusional enough to think they're on a mission from God to commit genocide, it isn't much of a stretch for them to be delusional enough to believe that Adam and Eve probably saddled up a triceratops when they had to make long journeys, is it?
So why aren't we told about Hitler's enthusiasm for Jesus in America? After all, it's common knowledge in Europe. Funny how there's little to no mention of Hitler's religious beliefs in the average school curriculum or documentary, while we learn at length about Hitler's other beliefs.
Economics and politics played huge roles in the Nazis coming to power. But so did religion. Anyone who denies or ignores that fact is enabling a repeat.
Finally, the faithful might argue that Hitler was not a real Christian. Although the average German, including my former father-in-law, himself a Christian, will readily tell you that Hitler was. And given Hitler's statements, I think it's safe to assume he would argue that he most certainly was a Christian, and that's the important aspect. Because whether Hitler was a Christian in someone else's view or according to their definition is beside the point; the point is that, as someone who believed in a god, Hitler was not an atheist.