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The Error of Associating Fascism with Atheism

By Ben Love ~

I want to address an issue that seems to be cropping up now and then in my ongoing dialogues with Christians. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I will encounter those Christians who use the atrocities committed in 1930s and 1940s by Nazi Germany as evidence that an atheist government, devoid of belief in God, will run wildly evil and will, well… fuck everything up for everyone. The record on this matter, however, might not be as clear as these Christians want it to be. Indeed, any brief student of Nazi Germany’s history can, without much effort, discover several pieces of evidence that not only connect both the Lutheran Protestant Church and the Roman Catholic Church to the doings of Hitler’s Third Reich, but that also indicate indisputably that Adolf Hitler believed that the Christian God specifically was on his side and that he, Hitler, was actually doing the work of this God.

Consider the following quote taken from Mein Kampf, the manifesto written by Hitler himself: 

“…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.” So, to which “Lord” is Hitler referring? He tells us in a speech he gave in Munich in 1922: “My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior… In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian, I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.”
“We’re convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement…”

Clearly, Hitler was referring specifically to the Christian God when he made these statements. Hitler even identifies himself as a Christian in this excerpt, an awkward matter of which many Christians are either unaware or, more likely, simply indifferent to.

What’s even more interesting is that Hitler was not at all silent on the topic of atheism. In this next quote, taken from a speech he gave in Berlin in 1933, Hitler makes mention of his loathing of the philosophy of atheism, a loathing which is documented elsewhere:

This clearly does not indicate, as some Christians would like us to believe, that National Socialism in Germany was an atheistic movement. On the contrary, National Socialism was an openly theist movement fronted by a self-professed Christian. And it was clear that Hitler, as the head of state, was speaking on behalf of the government he epitomized.

The facts are quite simple: the more one looks into the matter of the Third Reich, the more one comes away finding that it was not atheism fueling Nazism; it was theism! These National Socialists, of which Hitler was merely the spokesman, made it perfectly well known that their openly hostile discriminations against the Jews were rooted in Christian ideologies, passed down over the centuries, implicating the Jewish people in the execution of Jesus Christ and religious crimes against humanity.

Therefore, let us hear no more about how atheism was at the heart and soul of Nazism. It simply isn’t true.

However, I would be remiss not to mention that Joseph Stalin’s communist regime in the Soviet Union was indeed atheistic. It’s obvious from the mountain of evidence that Soviet Socialism was rooted in an absence of belief in God and complete intolerance of all religions. However, I would advise the reader to be wary of automatically connecting the atrocities of Stalin’s regime to those atheistic ideas undergirding it. Atrocities have been committed by humans of all societies and ideologies since the beginning of time. Nations have engaged in malevolent behavior throughout recorded history. We have no shortage of evidence for similar crimes being committed by numerous Roman emperors, European kings, the popes of the Crusades (who were most certainly not atheists), and Napoleon’s troops as they ravaged across Europe, to say nothing of the institution of slavery, which has existed for millennia and continues to exist today, even in nations where theism reigns supreme in the culture and in the government. In fact, let us not blind our eyes to the fact that the United States, a nation ostensibly erected upon openly theist principles, has itself been involved in slavery and other egregious crimes against humanity.

In any case, whether atheism was to blame for the many atrocities committed by Stalin’s socialist regime is a matter for the evidence to determine, but it could never be asserted that theism hasn’t slept in the same bed. For evidence of this, consider what ISIS is doing in the world today. What is ISIS if not hostile, militant theism? Consider the Crusades, which were essentially just crimes of unrestrained slaughter committed by Christians carrying the flag of Jesus Christ. Consider the oppression of the Native Americans by white Christians. The obvious truth is that humans, regardless of what they believe or don’t believe, are capable of both good and evil. I’ve met Christians with terrible values. I have met atheists with model values. Likewise, I’ve known atheists who are quite heinous, while some of the Christians I know are incredibly loving people. The point here is that atheism without humanism is just as dangerous as religion without love.

In short, the Christians should not get the “easy out” of blaming the horrors of the twentieth century on atheism. Theism played its role equally, as it always does.