Was Hitler an Atheist?

I recently ran into a Christian who tried to convince me that Hitler was an atheist, and it was his atheism that made him a mass murdering psychopath.

While you can argue whether you believe Hitler was an atheist who was using religion to pass his policies or not, the bottom line is that Hitler died a Catholic. The Catholic Church helped smuggle out Nazi war criminals and Hitler himself talked about God quite often. He also banned atheist groups in 1933.

Here are a few of Hitler’s quotes on religion.

“The anti-Semitism of the new movement (Christian Social movement) was based on religious ideas instead of racial knowledge.” – [Adolf Hitler, “Mein Kampf”, Vol. 1, Chapter 3]

And this one, which sounds a lot like the right-wing Christian groups of today.

“Today Christians … stand at the head of [this country]… I pledge that I never will tie myself to parties who want to destroy Christianity .. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit … We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press – in short, we want to burn out the *poison of immorality* which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of *liberal excess* during the past …(few) years.”

 [The Speeches of Adolph Hitler, 1922-1939, Vol. 1 (London, Oxford University Press, 1942), pg. 871-872]

How often do we hear something similar to this when a crisis arises? You usually have some Christian talking heads tell us on national television that we need to put God back in the schools or that it’s the decline in religiosity that is to blame for the so-called ‘moral decline’.

But there is far more.

“The best characterization is provided by the product of this religious education, the Jew himself. His life is only of this world, and his spirit is inwardly as alien to true Christianity as his nature two thousand years previous was to the great founder of the new doctrine. Of course, the latter made no secret of his attitude toward the Jewish people, and when necessary he even took the whip to drive from the temple of the Lord this adversary of all humanity, who then as always saw in religion nothing but an instrument for his business existence. In return, Christ was nailed to the cross, while our present-day party Christians debase themselves to begging for Jewish votes at elections and later try to arrange political swindles with atheistic Jewish parties– and this against their own nation.”

[Adolf Hitler, “Mein Kampf”, Vol. 1, Chapter 11]

In that quote, Hitler manages to profess his Christianity, show his hatred of the Jewish people and tie them to another group he hates – atheists.

“I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so”

[Adolph Hitler, to Gen. Gerhard Engel, 1941]

There are many, many quotes by Hitler, professing his Christian belief. On the belt buckles of his soldiers was written  “Gott Mit Uns”, which means “God with us”.

Regardless of the spin you want to put on it, Hitler definitely was not an atheist. If it hadn’t been for antisemitic rhetoric spewing from the Catholic Church over decades, Hitler might have had a harder time convincing Christian Europe that the Jews were evil.

Unlike religion, atheism doesn’t have a specific dogma associated with it. It would be silly of someone starting a war (and being able to convince others to go to war) to do it under the banner of not believing in gnomes, every bit as much as it’s silly to do so under the banner of non-belief in God(s).

 

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4 Comments

  1. I don't think we can ever know for sure the personal beliefs of politicians, but to say one's atheism is the major factor for the crimes they commit is unprovable, insulting, and (to atheists) counterintuitive.

  2. The Hitler atheist claim gets thrown about by theists who have never taken the time to look at the facts. I was actually called a Nazi just earlier today by a theist, as they had no rational argument and so they reverted to name calling. Its a very sad affair, as the truth is so evident that Hitler was most likely a Catholic and I have yet to see evidence contrary to that.

  3. This is a subject I have taken a strong interest in. I have yet to find a single credible source that Hitler was atheist. He certainly never stated as such himself. Even the diehard Christian fundamentalist author Richard Weikart, who has written two books on the ludicrous Darwin-Hitler ideological link, accepts that he was not atheist.

    However, rather than relying on what Hitler said to argue against his being an atheist I think it's more informative to see what prominent Protestant Christian theologians who knew him wrote about his religious beliefs. There are a number of sources available including Gustav Adolf Diessmann (Professor of Theology at Heidelberg and Berlin), Gerhard Kittel (Professor of Evangelical Theology at Tubingen), Emanuel Hirsch (Professor of Theology at Gottingen) and Paul Althaus (Professor of Practical and Systematic Theology at Gottingen). All had no doubt, not only that Hitler was a Christian, but that he had been divinely-inspired to carry Christianity into a new phase. These weren't mere passing remarks, it formed the basis of their theology at that time.

    Similarly, William Temple (Archbishop of York & Canterbury during Hitler's regime) wrote two books 'The Hope of a New World' (1941) and 'The Church Looks Forward' (1944) in which he discussed Hitler's religious beliefs. Nowhere does he consider him to be anything other than a misguided Christian.

    In the USA, the highly influential white supremacist Baptist Minister William Bell Riley and Catholic priest Charles Coughlin (both of whom had nationally syndicated radio shows which attracted 30 million+ listeners) spent the 1930s praising Hitler's example and commitment to Christianity with an extraordinary level of sycophancy.

    I've been unable to source anything before the 1970s to suggest that Hitler was atheist and, having visited Germany several times, my experience has been that the notion is still largely unknown to Germans today.

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