Inscription translates as “God is with us.”
If one has enough debates with theists one will eventually hear something to the effect of “Atheists are no better morally, just look at Adolf Hitler!” While I agree that Atheism is not necessarily morally superior to Theism this assertion that Hitler was an atheist always surprises and baffles me. Given the sheer weight and breadth of Hitler’s various theistic, and specifically Judeo-Christian, remarks where precisely do Theists get this impression? This first question doesn’t even mention his many condemnations of Atheism. I’ve chosen to look at this question by breaking it down into two sections, Hitler’s anti-atheist statements and his theistic pronouncements.
“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, Berlin October 1933
“There may have been a time when even parties founded on the ecclesiastical basis were a necessity. At that time Liberalism was opposed to the Church, while Marxism was anti-religious. But that time is past. National Socialism neither opposes the Church nor is it anti-religious, but on the contrary, it stands on the ground of a real Christianity. The Church’s interests cannot fail to coincide with ours alike in our fight against the symptoms of degeneracy in the world of today, in our fight against the Bolshevist culture, against an atheistic movement, against criminality, and in our struggle for the consciousness of a community in our national life, for the conquest of hatred and disunion between the classes, for the conquest of civil war and unrest, of strife and discord. These are not anti-Christian, these are Christian principles.”Adolf Hitler, Koblenz August 1934
“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 during negotiations for the Nazi-Vatican Concordat (treaty) 1933
I think these statements represent a very clear picture of Hitler’s views on Atheism. It’s clear, to me at least, that he had no love at all for Atheists or secularists whatsoever. These are by no means all of his pronouncements against Atheism, but I think they’ll serve as a cross-section of his thoughts.
Theistic Statements and Pronouncements
In his notorious book “Mein Kampf” Hitler makes a number of clearly un-atheistic statements such as:
“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.”
“Once again the songs of the fatherland roared to the heavens along the endless marching columns, and for the last time the Lord’s grace smiled on His ungrateful children.”
“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.”
“What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood, the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe.”
These, it must be pointed out, are only a few of the statements made in the text that use theistic ideas of god and religious phrasing, there are a great many more. One can’t help but notice that Hitler doesn’t speak at all like an Atheist. Indeed he speaks as a man who not only believes in a directing and designing personal god, but as one who sees himself as doing the work of that god. Historian Richard Steigmann-Gall of Kent State University wrote in his 2003 book “The Holy Reich” “Hitler gave no indication of being an atheist or agnostic or of believing in only a remote, rationalist divinity. Indeed, he referred continually to a providential, active deity.”
Aside from “Mein Kampf” here are some quotes from various public speeches and remarks:
“In the Bible we find the text, ‘That which is neither hot nor cold will I spew out of my mouth.’ This utterance of the great Nazarene has kept its profound validity until the present day.” –Adolf Hitler, speech in Munich, 10 April 1923
“The fact that the Vatican is concluding a treaty with the new Germany means the acknowledgement of the National Socialist state by the Catholic Church. This treaty shows the whole world clearly and unequivocally that the assertion that National Socialism [Nazism] is hostile to religion is a lie.” –Adolf Hitler, 22 July 1933, writing to the Nazi Party
“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
Again, these are only a few examples of Hitler’s declarations of religious belief and support. There are many more, and they are not hard to find with even a little bit of looking.
In the interest of fairness I’ll state that a great many atheists’ assertions that examples such as those above point to the fact that Hitler was a Christian or a Catholic of some specific denomination also seem to be wrong and simplistic. Hitler had a great many negative things to say about Christianity, and often had not great things to say about Catholicism. (He was very careful about those statements however since Catholic support and sufferance were so important to his survival and success.) In the interest of fair play here are some:
“The heaviest blow which ever struck humanity was Christianity; Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew.” – Adolf Hitler, Table Talk pg. 7
“The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death…. When understanding of the universe has become widespread… Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity…. Christianity has reached the peak of absurdity…. And that’s why someday its structure will collapse…. …the only way to get rid of Christianity is to allow it to die little by little…. Christianity the liar…. We’ll see to it that the Churches cannot spread abroad teachings in conflict with the interests of the State”. Adolf Hitler, Table Talk pg. 49-50.
“The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great scourges: the pox and Christianity.” Adolf Hitler, Table Talk October 19th 1941
It must be noted that some English translations of the book “table talk” have been criticized as not being a true showing of the original German text and that some translators have in fact left out theistic elements such as “What man has over the animals, possibly the most marvelous proof of his superiority, is that he has understood there must be a Creative Power!” in order to paint Hitler as a disbeliever for propagandist purposes.
What this post goes the long way around toward demonstrating is that there is absolutely no basis for the idea that Hitler was an Atheist, or that the National Socialist (Nazi) Party was in any way an Atheistic movement. There is every reason to suspect that Hitler himself was a Theist of some description and perhaps even believed himself to be an instrument of the divine. However there is also reason to believe that Hitler would not have considered himself a Christian or even a Catholic. I would ask atheists this: When debating please stay away from this concept. There are more than enough genuine Judeo-Christian atrocities in history without having to reach for the questionable ones. For instance ask instead why the Vatican had a treaty with such a man for years, or why none of the nominally catholic leaders of the Nazi party was ever excommunicated. If we have right and reason on our side then there’s no reason to go for the cheap “Yeah? Well the monster was on YOUR side!!”