How Darwinian and atheistic were the Nazis?

If you want a nicely written and well documented refutation of the idea that the Nazi regime was atheistic—or explicitly Darwinian in its racial policies—read this long but fascinating post by Coel Hellier,  “Nazi racial ideology was religious, creationist, and opposed to Darwinism.”  It absolutely takes down the common claim (one made by the faithful to show that “atheists were genocidal too”) that Nazis were bent on persecuting religion.  And it also shows that their racial ideology, involving multiple origins of human ethnic groups and special creation, had very little to do with Darwin. Take that, Ann Coulter!

Coel is a professor of Astrophysics at the University of Keele in the UK, and, besides dispelling attacks on atheism, spends his professional time “finding planets around other stars.




				

79 Comments

  1. Pete Moulton
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    Too bad, but Coulter won’t care. She never met a fact that she couldn’t ignore, or, more likely, twist to her own odious purposes.

  2. Posted November 17, 2011 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    That’s excellent!

  3. Andrei
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Great article. Finally somebody has pointed out that not only Nazi’s ideology has anything to do with Darwin, but it has next to nothing to do with eugenics based on artificial selection as well.

    It was not about creating a super-race by means of artificial selection (eugenics). It was all about preserving the original God-created master Aryan race against contamination due to cross-breeding with other “inferior” races.

  4. jose
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Darwinian inhumane practices… why bring up Hitler when you can offer good, ol’ American eugenics?

    • Chris Booth
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Ah, yes, artificial selection.

      Of course, artificial selection is not a “Darwinian” conception. It pre-dated Darwin by millennia, and gave us such eugenic populations as the dachshund, the German Shepherd [Hitler's dog, Blondi, was a German Shepherd or Alsatian, and of impeccably eugenic breeding], the schnauzer, the Rhenish horse, the Black Forest horse, the Rheinlander rabbit, the German Giant rabbit, the German Nun pigeon, and the Swabian-Hall swine.

      Etc.

      • jose
        Posted November 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        Eugenics ≠ artificial selection, in the same way as the Manhattan Project ≠ nuclear fission. You’re not looking at the whole story.

  5. eric
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, I think we have to file this under “very nice sermons to the choir.” The folks who really need to hear this message are exactly the ones who will ignore it.

    • Nick Andrew
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

      It’s not unfortunate at all. This is excellent information, and permits a way better response to Christians raising the spectre of the Holocaust than “But Hitler was a Roman Catholic!”

      • Microraptor
        Posted November 17, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

        I think eric’s point was that the people who make the Nazi/Atheist argument are people who aren’t going to listen to evidence anyway.

        Certainly, I’ve run into more than a few people like that who immediately play the No True Scotsman (and therefore Atheist!) card when I’ve pointed out the huge amount of religious language and symbolism the Nazis used.

  6. Posted November 17, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    If you’ve ever read Mein Kampf, then you know that Nazism was entirely a Christian phenomenon, and that Hitler was unabashedly Christian. He quotes extensively from the Christian Bible to support his views.

    One might then suggest that his theology was incorrect, but his theology was that of Martin Luther — a theology which was still almost entirely congruous with even the Catholics, despite the differences that led to the Reformation.

    This is hardly surprising, considering that Christianity is itself fundamentally profoundly anti-Semitic. Yes, yes, I know — Jesus was a Jew. But the Jesus character was deliberately created to be a Jew in name only, and in word and deed to be the anti-Jew. The Jewish hierarchy was caricatured to be petty and evil so as to both provide a foil for Jesus and to further drive home the anti-Semitic nature of the moral. We see the exact same thing happen with Orpheus (another incarnation of Osiris / Dionysus), who was ostensibly Thracian yet profoundly anti-Thracian.

    I’ll close by noting that even the most liberal of Christian denominations is exactly as violently sectarian as the Nazis. The only difference is that the liberals will grant membership to their club based on criteria other than heritage, and they hand off responsibility for torturing outsiders to Jesus rather than take the task upon themselves. Fortunately for the rest of us, Jesus is a figment of their imaginations, but that does little to prevent a Christian from deciding to help Jesus with the job.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Tulse
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      Yes, yes, I know — Jesus was a Jew.

      Don’t be absurd — judging from all the pictures, paintings, and sculptures, he was definitely Nordic.

      • Occam
        Posted November 17, 2011 at 7:53 am | Permalink

        She was black albinoid transgender.

        • Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

          You joke, of course, but this is actually in and of itself pretty strong evidence that Jesus was fictional.

          We know exactly what each of the Twelve Caesars looked like. You can buy for your own private collection for each of them a coin minted during his reign with his likeness on it.

          Nowhere will you find even a hint at a description of any of Jesus’s physical characteristics. Was he tall, short, fat, skinny, bald, hirsute — what? Nothing even slips out tangentially, such as a mention that he towered over the Sanhedrin at his trial or that those at the back of the crowd in the Sermon on the Mount had to stand on tiptoe to see his diminutive figure.

          And when people do start painting or sculpting likenesses of Jesus, they’re all copies of pagan gods. Without knowing the provenance, you’ll never be able to tell Jesus with a lamb on his shoulders from Orpheus with a lamb on his shoulders. Look at all those black madonnas, including those of Isis and Horus.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Dominic
            Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

            We should read this –
            The Aryan Jesus:
            Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany. By Susannah Heschel
            http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8820.html

          • Marella
            Posted November 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

            I do remember reading that there is one sentence about how “he was short of stature” somewhere in one of the gospels but I don’t remember where. It’s not a lot to go on mind you.It might have come out of one of Bart Ehrman’s books, not sure and it was explaining the difficulty of seeing Jesus in a crowd. I still agree that Jesus never actually existed though. I wasn’t aware of the existence of Black Madonnas till I went to Europe, I was stunned, now I get it.

            • Posted November 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

              Well, Luke 19 opens by telling how Zacchaeus had to climb a tree to see Jesus “because he was little of stature,” but it seems pretty clear that the “he” in question was Zaccheaus, not Jesus. I suppose it’s not out of the question that it could refer to Jesus instead, but it would require a rather twisted interpretation of the passage (or, at least, the English translations of it).

              But that’s the sort of thing that’s so conspicuously missing. People naturally and unconsciously make those kinds of references all the time when describing real events. Skilled writers do, too, to breathe life into fiction. But bad fiction authors — and, let’s face it, only a bad author would write serious “authentic” zombie pr0n in any age — tend not to write like that.

              We know that some random schmuck who wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus was short, but we know nothing at all about Jesus himself? Yeah, right.

              b&

              • Chris Booth
                Posted November 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

                People often confused Jesus with Brian Cohen from up the block, so we have a very good idea of what he looked like. Rather like Graham Chapman, in fact.

              • Marella
                Posted November 17, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

                I see, well that’s another nail in the coffin of my opinion of Bart Ehrman.

              • InfiniteImprobabilit
                Posted November 18, 2011 at 5:12 am | Permalink

                Errm – but we know what Jeezus looked like. Picture here: http://www.thepaincomics.com/weekly050504a.htm
                (The ‘artist’s statement’ is a glorious rant too, btw)

              • Dominic
                Posted November 18, 2011 at 7:22 am | Permalink

                Ah – the baby Jesus – he was a wee little fellah!

  7. Posted November 17, 2011 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    I understand what makes people tie Darwinism to Nazism — one could closely relate a superficial understanding of selection to the Nazi’s idea on breeding, although it’s worth pointing out that people had been engaging in intentional selective breeding for a loooooong time before Darwin.

    And I understand what makes people tie atheism to Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc. It’s very nearly a fair cop: Some of their atrocities were committed in the name of a very bizarre and misguided atheism (though it’s important to note that atheism was a tangential part of the philosophy, and one could argue that while you can have atheist totalitarianism, you can’t really have secular totalitarianism, because any totalitarian government is for all meaningful purposes the church… but I digress! The point is, I at least understand why people make this argument)

    But I’m always entirely baffled when people try to tie together atheism and Nazism. What the-? Hitler was nominally Catholic, and Nazi philosophy was woven through and through with theistic overtones, allusions, and even direct invocations.

    If I could make a metaphor: There might be reasonable debate over whether it is okay to disparage the Black Panthers on the basis of the actions of their more radical offshoots… but if somebody tried to disparage the Black Panthers based on the actions of the Klan, I’d be completely baffled. That’s how I feel about Nazism and atheism. It just doesn’t even make sense!

    • eric
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      Some of their atrocities were committed in the name of a very bizarre and misguided atheism

      Those dictators murdered people and repressed religious belief because they wanted the people to transfer their loyalty and devotion from their religion to that leader. That has about as much to do with atheism as Charles Manson or Jim Jone’s actions have to do with Christianity.

      Cults of personality are not “examples of atheism” when the cult leader is atheist any more than they are “examples of Christianity” when the cult leader is Christian.

      • Posted November 17, 2011 at 7:16 am | Permalink

        Indeed, it’s pretty much always the case that personality cults are religions, with the personality in question being the most important god.

        I fail to see the distinction between Christianity in which Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, and North Korea in which every utterance of the Dear Leader is a divinely-inspired great moral Truth. (Well, granted, the one is a millennia-old zombie faery tale character and the other a flesh-and-blood human alive today, but they’re both alive and well in the hearts of their followers.)

        Cheers,

        b&

        • eric
          Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

          The distinction is, the former is not to blame for the latter. These are instances of two organizations using similar/parallel techniques. The older organization is not culpable for the younger’s use of that technique, any more than the Greeks are morally responsible for U.S. Presidential decisions because they invented democracy.

          • Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

            You seem to have missed the part where the Jesus character is brutally violent and virulently anti-Semitic.

            When Christians like Hitler go and commit the atrocities that Jesus explicitly commanded, I think it’s perfectly fair to blame the cult of Christianity.

            If Hitler is to blame for the Final Solution even though he never personally fired a single bullet, then how is Jesus not to blame for Hitler who was following Jesus’s orders?

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Jim Jones
              Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

              See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Portage_to_San_Cristobal_of_A.H.

              Quote: The attention Hitler is receiving, however, renews his strength, and when the trial begins, he brushes aside his “defence attorney” and begins a long speech in four parts in his own defence:
              Firstly, Hitler claims he took his doctrines from the Jews and copied the notion of the master race from the Chosen people and their need to separate themselves from the “unclean”. “My racism is a parody of yours, a hungry imitation.”
              Hitler justifies the Final Solution by maintaining that the Jews’ God, purer than any other, enslaves its subjects, continually demanding more than they can give and “blackmailing” them with ideals that cannot be attained. The “virus of utopia” had to be stopped.
              Hitler states that he was not the originator of evil. “[Stalin] had perfected genocide when I was still a nameless scribbler in Munich.” Further, Hitler asserts that the number of lives lost due to his actions are dwarfed by various world atrocities, including those in Russia, China, and Africa.
              Lastly, Hitler maintains that the Reich begat Israel and suggests that he is the Messiah “whose infamous deeds were allowed by God in order to bring His people home.” He closes by asking, “Should you not honour me who have made [...] Zion a reality?”

    • vel
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      “It’s very nearly a fair cop: Some of their atrocities were committed in the name of a very bizarre and misguided atheism”

      I disagree. It is simply megalomania, wanting to think of one’s self as “god”. I see nothing to do with atheism, other than a common theist tactic of disbelieving in all gods but one’s own, and in this case, one’s self.

    • Andrei
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      I am sometimes puzzled why atheists are so pissed off by the idea that Stalin/Mao etc. committed atrocities in the name of atheism. Even if they did, so what?

      Ancient Aztecs used to make mass human sacrifices in the name of their religion, yet nobody seems to imply that Christians somehow share responsibility for that because they are religious, too.

      • Tulse
        Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

        I am sometimes puzzled why atheists are so pissed off by the idea that Stalin/Mao etc. committed atrocities in the name of atheism.

        Because it’s a lie? Because it’s a lie that is intended to smear atheism with false responsibility?

        • Andrei
          Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:34 am | Permalink

          It is not necessarily a lie. One proclaims Communism as the Ultimate Goal of the human development, and atheism as the necessary pre-requisite to reach this goal. Then killing religious people that refuse to embrace atheism becomes morally sound. How is that any different from “killing in the name of atheism”?

          A better argument must take into account any irrational “goals”, religious or atheist alike. Since religious goals are necessarily irrational, while atheist goals can be both, then so there.

          • eric
            Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

            I think part of what Tulse and others are saying is that folk like Stalin were insincere about “atheism as the necessary pre-requisite.” They got rid of churches because churches were competing sources of political power and authority, not because they thought getting rid of them would truly better their citiens’ lives.

            To say Stalin acted out some atheist policy is to lie, because “an atheist does x” is not the same as “a person does x for atheism.”

          • Tulse
            Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

            One proclaims Communism as the Ultimate Goal of the human development, and atheism as the necessary pre-requisite to reach this goal. Then killing religious people that refuse to embrace atheism becomes morally sound. How is that any different from “killing in the name of atheism”?

            Because it is “killing in the name of Communism”?

            If I declared that the reptilian overlords from the Omega Quadrant had decreed that all false beliefs must be purged to pave the way for their invasion fleet, and thus all religious believers must be killed, would that be “killing in the name of atheism”?

            Put another way, there is nothing about atheism qua atheism that caused communist regimes to kill people, but instead that organized religion posed a challenge to communist control. Yes, that meant that they wanted to wipe out religion, but that doesn’t mean it was done “in the name of” atheism.

            • Andrei
              Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

              there is nothing about atheism qua atheism that caused communist regimes to kill people, but instead that organized religion posed a challenge to communist control.
              If you believe that, then you must stop accusing Christians of killing in the name of their religion.

              There is nothing in Christianity that caused Inquisition to burn heretics at the stake, but instead that heresies posed a challenge to Christian control. Yes, that meant that they wanted to wipe out heresies and other forms of unbelief, but that doesn’t mean it was done “in the name of” Christianity.

              • Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink

                Squeeze me?

                “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”

                …and:

                “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

                “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

                “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

                “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

                You could also try reading Mein Kampf, in which Jesus laid out the Biblical foundation for the Holocaust quite expertly, thankyouverymuch.

                As for Torquemada…well, all he did was pay attention to Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount:

                “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

                “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

                Better a few weeks of Earthly torture than an eternity in Hell, eh?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Tulse
                Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

                There is nothing in Christianity that caused Inquisition to burn heretics at the stake, but instead that heresies posed a challenge to Christian control.

                Heresies posed a threat to Christian souls. Believing in a heresy could lead to eternal damnation, and letting a heresy spread would make one responsible for those damned souls. Wiping out heresies is, theologically, the equivalent of quarantine and triage during an epidemic. It is precisely the religious belief that one has the One True Faith, and that other faiths lead to damnation, that justified the killing of heretics.

                And, as Ben notes, if one believes in the afterlife, then killing someone mistakenly is not a big deal — believers go to heaven, and heretics go to hell. In other words, “Kill them all. God will know his own.” The goal is not earthly power, but eternal salvation — with that as the prize, what are a few massacres here and there?

                So yes, religion, especially Christian religions, have unique features which do mean that they can be held directly accountable for killings done in those religion’s name.

              • Andrei
                Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

                My point is, essentially, that you can never win the argument “Stalin-Mao did not kill in the name of atheism”. You really really need something better.

                If you don’t believe me, go ahead and take a course on “Scientific Communism” or “Scientific Atheism” as I did when I was a university student back there in the xUSSR.

              • Tulse
                Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

                My point is, essentially, that you can never win the argument “Stalin-Mao did not kill in the name of atheism”. You really really need something better.

                Do you mean win rhetorically? Because on that you are probably right — the religious are often not interested in factual debate.

                If you don’t believe me, go ahead and take a course on “Scientific Communism” or “Scientific Atheism” as I did when I was a university student back there in the xUSSR.

                No one is saying that atheism was not a part of communism. What is under dispute is whether purges and killings were done because of atheism, or primarily in order to shore up a political ideology that happened to have atheism as one of its many tenets.

              • Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

                And, to expand on Tulse’s point, even if we don’t budge the hard-core believers, making clear that atheism doesn’t directly lead to atrocities is an essential part of helping the rank-and-file understand that it’s okay to stop writing letters to Santa.

                The experienced rhetorician knows that, in public debate, the intended audience is almost never the person you’re debating.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Andrei
                Posted November 17, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

                You’ll never win it because it is not sound. It won’t impress the people sitting in the fence even a tiny little bit.

                You should never accept guilt by association in the first place, regardless of anybody in the past using atheism to justify killings. Stalin could have killed people in the name of his mustache, and in this case arguing that he did not is utterly pointless.

                When religious folks resort to Stalin-Mao “argument”, it usually means that they are on a shaky ground, and they are trying to derail the discussion into more safe harbor. You certainly can and should point out that atheism does not lead straight way to GULAG for the same reason moustache does not.

                But asserting that “people don’t kill people in the name of their moustaches” will lead you nowhere.

              • Tulse
                Posted November 17, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

                Now I’m confused, Andrei, because your statements seem to me to be all the more reason to argue against the association, if for no other reason than so that the “fence-sitters” can see the argument is specious. If one lets poor arguments go unchallenged, they simply become accepted wisdom. You’re right that a response may not convince the committed, but as Ben notes, the committed are not necessarily the ultimate target of such responses.

              • Andrei
                Posted November 17, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

                Well, I presume it is all my fault because I did not state my intentions clearly enough in my post comparing Stalin to Aztecs. In my defense I can only say that English is not my native language. :)

                My point was actually that you should not feel pissed of by the “Stalin killed people in the name of atheism” thingy. People kill people for a lot of wrong reasons. It could be religion, atheism, politics, money, women, pets, whatever.

                Arguing that “Stalin did not…” produces a wrong impression that you take this assertion too seriously, and makes your position weaker.

          • Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:51 am | Permalink

            You’re absolutely right! How could I possibly have missed it all these years?

            Oh, if Stalin had only abandoned his atheism and embraced the true love of Quetzalcoatl, Russia would have been spared the Purges. Had only Mao rejected his atheism and walked the path of Ares, China would have been spared the Long March. And would that Pol Pot had turned his back on his atheism and bathed in the bright light of Thor, the Killing Fields would have ever been green.

            Wait — what’s that? It’s only the Christian gods that could have saved them? Well, never mind, then. Carry on. As you were.

            Cheers,

            b&

            • daveau
              Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

              Ridicule gets you nowhere with teh true believers.

              • Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

                Oh, I know that. They’re a lost cause. (Mostly.)

                Their kids, on the other hand….

                b&

              • daveau
                Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

                I am stealing that middle paragraph…

              • Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:56 am | Permalink

                Steal away! It’s all your’n.

                (Depending on what you’re planning on stealing it for, it probably could stand a bit of editorial tweaking…re-phrase one of the two “had only”s, that sort of thing.)

                Cheers,

                b&

              • daveau
                Posted November 17, 2011 at 11:57 am | Permalink

                Did I mention that I like repetition? I like repetition.

      • Sigmund
        Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

        I don’t have a problem with admitting they were atheists. I think it is a huge stretch, however, to suggest that they did anything in the name of atheism rather than what they actually claimed – that their actions were done to create a communist society.
        That is a political rather than a religious reason. Indeed there were (and are) atheists of widely different political viewpoints (Mussolini was an atheist!) most of whom were directly opposed to communism.

        • TJR
          Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

          In other words all any of this means is that political religions can be just as bad as supernatural religions.

          Which we already knew.

  8. Steve Smith
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Nazism was mainly pro-Christian, Hitler was a Catholic, and killing Jews was promoted from Christians throughout history from John Chrysostom to Martin Luther to Adolph Hitler.

    Here are specific quotes from Hitler on this subject:

    The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them in ghettos, etc, because it recognized the Jews for what they were. … I recognize the representatives of this race as pestilent for the state and for the church and perhaps I am thereby doing Christianity a great service by pushing them out of schools and public functions. —Hitler, 26 April 1933

    And the founder of Christianity made no secret indeed of his estimation of the Jewish people. When He found it necessary, He drove those enemies of the human race out of the Temple of God.” —Mein Kampf (1925), Vol. 1, p. 174

    All of Hitler’s speeches are online at Google books. Search The Essential Hitler: Speeches and Commentary for all instances of “Darwin” or “evolution”. Hitler never referred to Darwin: searching for “Darwin” yields “No results found”. Searching for “evolution” yields twelve results, none of them referring to biological evolution. I challenge anyone to find a single instance in which Hitler mentions Darwin.

    In contrast, Hitler refers to Christianity as the “unshakable foundation” for the Nazi state numerous times:

    The Government of the Reich, which regards Christianity as the unshakable foundation of the morals and moral code of the nation, attaches the greatest value to friendly relations with the Holy See [Hitler's speech to the Reichstag, 23 March 1933]

    • Dominic
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Good research!

      • Occam
        Posted November 17, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        Not really; see below.

        • Dominic
          Posted November 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

          Oh… :(

    • Occam
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Surely it has occurred to you that such a speech, from a yet insecure Hitler, barely in power for seven weeks, might have something to do with tactical appeasement of the Catholic Zentrumspartei, the votes of which Hitler needed for securing a two-thirds majority for the “Ermächtigungsgesetz” (Enabling Act conferring upon his government dictatorial powers), which was to be voted upon immediately after Hitler’s speech you are referring to.
      (As we all know, Hitler got his two-thirds majority.) All of this, including the speech, is summarily documented here:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enabling_Act_of_1933

      Had Hitler adhered to Shintoism, Lamaism, Cargo cult and Jainism rolled into one, he’d still have been compelled to court and cajole the Catholic faction in the Reichstag, using the very words you quoted. By themselves, these words mean nothing more than a wily politico trying to co-opt willing, and willingly naïve, accomplices from among the ranks of conservative politicians.

      That’s what I meant, in my comment below, by delving a lot deeper: you can’t simply quote Hitler’s speeches, or his writings for that matter, without a seriously documented analysis of the context. Not if you want to prove anything, that is.

      • Steve Smith
        Posted November 17, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        you can’t simply quote Hitler’s speeches, or his writings for that matter, without a seriously documented analysis of the context

        Here is some context for Hitler’s consistent praise of the Church: Hitler’s Mother Mary with the Holy Child Jesus Christ, painted in 1913 when Hitler was twenty-four years old. There’s a wealth of history throughout Hitler’s lifetime supporting these views.

        a yet insecure Hitler, barely in power for seven weeks, might have something to do with tactical appeasement of the Catholic Zentrumspartei

        That’s laughable. In February 1933, the Nazis torched the Reichstag, suspended habeas corpus, arrested and murdered numerous political opponents, and set to work constructing Dachau. Some insecurity!

        • Occam
          Posted November 17, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

          1. The stages of the Nazi takeover and the equations of power in Germany are minutely documented. I suggest you familiarise yourself with the relevant facts.

          2. One tell-tale detail: the Reichstag fire Wikipedia entry you linked. If you were familiar with the current German historical literature, you’d know that the debate is still very much open about whether the Nazis just used Marinus van der Lubbe as scapegoat, as a fall guy, as a decoy, were silently complicit, or just profited from the unexpected windfall of the arson. (And I’m talking about historical research, not van der Lubbe’s exoneration in court.)
          If you just even cared to click on the German-language link in Wikipedia, you’d see that the evidence is a lot more equivocal, and the debate a lot more detailed, than what transpires into English-language media.

          3. Yes, Hitler painted a Mary icon in a vernacular style. Yes, Hitler was born in a Catholic environment. So there was no ideological evolution in Hitler between 1913 and 1933, let alone 1941? There are whole libraries devoted to the study of Hitler’s anti-semitism. Are you certain you have it all figured out?

          • Steve Smith
            Posted November 17, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

            the debate is still very much open …

            Hitler killed everyone who knew the details about the fire, so we’ll never know for sure, but I agree with William Shirer’s judgement that “there is enough evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it was the Nazis who planned the arson and carried it out for their own political ends.”

            Nothing you’ve written supports the bizarre claim that Nazi insecurity forced Hitler to mouth Christian platitudes to gain the support of the Catholic Central Party. Hitler’s plan A was just to kill the Socialists, which would achieve a majority. It was Goering that convinced him to hold elections whose outcome would be trivial to influence using the power and wealth of the state, which Hitler now controlled.

  9. Heber
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    I’ll read it, though I think it is a complete non-sequitur to whether atheism leads to genocide.

  10. George
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    I think the link between Darwin and Hitler exists, but it’s not as direct as many would like to believe. Hitler was inspired by people like Richard Wagner and Ernst Haeckel, who got his ideas from Schleicher, Lamarck, Goethe and, yes, Darwin.

    The Nazi ideology was based on Polygenism (rejected by Darwin) and not Creationism. It is absurd to blame Darwin for the monstrosities of the Nazis, but were there no Darwin, there would had probably been no Haeckel and Hitler, nor Marx and Stalin.

    • Andrei
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      One can also make a similar “argument” about just any historical person. Examples:

      Were there no Newton, there would had probably been no Haeckel and Hitler, nor Marx and Stalin.

      Were there no Aristotle, there would had probably been no Haeckel and Hitler, nor Marx and Stalin.

      Luckily, without a direct connection such an “argument” is so easy to refute.

    • Zombie Sympathizer
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      So you’re saying that Darwin invented totalitarianism and antisemitism? Things which had been engaged in for thousands of years before Darwin was born? Funny, I can’t seem to find the chapter on the necessity of exterminating Jews and how to form my own personality-worshiping cult in my copy of The Origin.

    • Sigmund
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      Marx was a contempory of Darwin and had published many of his most famous works prior to Darwins publication of ‘Origin of Species’.
      Hitler’s rise to power was so much based on contingency that removing almost any historical figure from the late nineteenth century would render the rise of a ‘Hitler’ unlikely.

      • Lenoxus
        Posted November 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        That is a relevant point. Oh butterfly effect, why must you crush our alternate-history dreams?

        • Occam
          Posted November 17, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

          I never thought I’d have to disagree with our esteemed Sigmund, but here I must.

          The historic circumstances that made Hitler’s ascent to power possible were hardly a matter of contingency. I’d very much like to see which variables should be altered in a counterfactual hypothesis that would radically change those circumstances.
          Hitler’s pathological personality, his idiosyncrasies: yes, those were an immense, and immensely improbable, fluke. Any halfway talented authoritarian demagogue would have stood a decent chance of rising to supreme power in Germany in 1933 under the circumstances then prevailing. It was a toss-up. That the most talented of them all happened to be a homicidal maniac was history’s grim joke.

          • Sigmund
            Posted November 17, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

            Hitler had a very particular personality that gave the Nazis a distinctiveness – in particular a propensity for genocide – that was not shared by other fascist movements in Europe.
            If you want to say that another fascist leader would have taken over Germany then I would agree that, given the state of Germany at the end of the 1920s, yes, this was likely. However that leader would have been in all probability much more like a Franco or a Mussolini.
            Hitler, and in particular his absolute obsession with the Jews, was unique, and I don’t find it plausible that some other leader would have taken the same route as he did.

            • Occam
              Posted November 18, 2011 at 1:28 am | Permalink

              On this I think we are in perfect agreement.
              Exactly what I was trying to state in my reply. I nowhere implied that another dictator would have resorted to the same large-scale genocide and ethnocide as Hitler did.
              Various historians have hypothesised that even Hitler could not have conducted his policies of extermination in peacetime. For the murder of millions of people, he needed the cover and chaos of war. To me this seems plausible.

              Which is not to say that the various Fascist movements and regimes did not have murderous propensities — they just resorted to more conventionally scaled massacres and pogroms instead of all-out extermination. My own great-grandfather was murdered in a pogrom in 1941, my grandfather was left for dead — and my father was made to pay ransom to retrieve the bodies. Had it been a thorough Nazi operation instead of a bumbling Eastern European Fascist thuggery, he would have died too.

    • pete
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Yeah, they’d get it from Wallace instead or failing that “A N Other”

    • anonymous
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Yeah, because before Darwin there were no genocides, dictators, or any other bad stuff.

      *headdesk*

  11. Posted November 17, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Here’s some more cases of Nazis bent on persecuting religion.

    • CFM
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      I fully agree that Hitler was a theist and that nazism was not an atheistic ideology.

      Nevertheless I do have to point out that one of the quotes you linked to, a quote I already read on Pharyngula once, is taken out of context. Quote-mining bothers me, even if it is done to support sth. I agree with:

      “The anti-Semitism of the new movement (Christian Social movement) was based on religious ideas instead of racial knowledge”.

      The very next sentence is:

      “The reason for this mistake gave rise to
      the second error also.”

      The “Christian Social movement” (the Austrian “Christian Social Party” (CS)) talked about here was not the same thing as the NSDAP. Their anti-semitism was indeed openly religious in nature.

      Historians and political scientists alike have made it all to clear that so called “racial” anti-semitism draws heavily on religious anti-semitism, that it could even be described as religious anti-semitism “in disguise”, albeit with some pseudo-scientific nonsense added.

      Still, to imply, by quote-mining, that Hitler said his own anti-semitism was religious in nature, is simply wrong.

  12. Tulse
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Hitler was inspired by people like Richard Wagner and Ernst Haeckel

    “The party and its representatives must not only reject a part of the Haeckelian conception — other parts of it have occasionally been advanced — but, more generally, every internal party dispute that involves the particulars of research and the teachings of Haeckel must cease.”

    Banned books from Third Reich libraries included: ““Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (Haeckel).”

    Did you even read the article?

    • George
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Yes. Did you read what I wrote? I said Haeckel (not Darwin) inspired Hitler. (Now, you would probably have to do a little more reading than just this article to understand the impact Darwin had on Haeckel.)

      Same goes for Marx. Marx admired Darwin a great deal. But I remember when as a kid growing up in Czechoslovakia instead of Darwin I was taught strait Lamarckism (more convenient to the communists). Yes, even ideologies evolve.

      • Tulse
        Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink

        Did you read what I wrote? I said Haeckel (not Darwin) inspired Hitler.

        Right, and I pointed out two instances of the Nazis explicitly rejecting Haeckel. Perhaps I’m missing your point, but I don’t see how you’re responding to the quotes I provided (unless you’re arguing that what inspired Hitler personally was later rejected by the Nazis as an organization).

  13. Occam
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Sorry, but I have to dissent.
    “nicely written and well documented refutation”

    Nicely written, yes.
    Well documented, not so much.
    There is a huge body of research in German on the subject, little of which is directly quoted or indirectly referenced by Prof. Hellier.

    The religious and creationist claims about the causal link between Darwinism and Nazism are total bunkum, of course. But in that case, they do not deserve additional ventilation.

    Nazi ideology and practice however was a serious business. If we really want to know and understand what was going on, and why, we have to delve a little deeper.

    • Dominic
      Posted November 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      Would it not be fair to say that they adapted and adopted bits of belief from here and there in order to fit their socio-political world view? They were themselves a mixed bunch with different backgrounds so it makes sense to say they brought a load of views to the new creed of Nazism.

      • Occam
        Posted November 17, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

        Absolutely.
        There is abundant documentary evidence that many consciously shaped and streamlined their ideological outlook in order to fit the ambient Zeitgeist and improve their chances of access to power. What is now termed ‘Nazism’ was initially a rather mixed bag. The appeal of Nazism was also the appeal of a broad ladder for a generation of brutal social climbers.

        Also, at variance with Soviet Communism, Nazism did not benefit from a solid ideological corpus.
        Classic Soviet Communism could refer to the collected writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, re-interpreting them au gout du jour according to political necessities. Nazism had only Mein Kampf as a fixed written reference, and there were periods when even Hitler found it poltically expedient to withdraw attention from his own writings.

  14. raven
    Posted November 18, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Xians were murdering Jews long before the Nazis.

    The roots of anti-semitism go back to the NT which is filled with anti-semitic rants. Even jesus in John is an antisemitic bigot.

    The first official state sponsored Jewish persecution by xians, was the reign of Constantine in the 300’s CE. He was the first xian emperor. It couldn’t have happened any earlier.

    Martin Luther was a rabid antisemite who wrote a book detailing a Final Solution to the Jewish question, On the Jews and their Lies.

    The Holocaust was simply the final flowering of 2,000 years of xian persecution.

    These are just facts.


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