Still Think Hitler Was an Atheist?

Ever since the liberation of Germany by the Allied powers in World War II and the discovery of the horrific crimes committed by the Nazi regime, Adolf Hitler and his followers have become synonyms for evil in the annals of human history. As such, it is not surprising that some religious apologists have attempted to discredit atheism by linking it to the atrocities of the Nazi regime and claiming that Hitler and his followers were atheists. Here is one Christian claiming this; here is another. The ever-dependable fountain of hatred Ann Coulter has said so as well:

Interestingly, this was the approach of all the great mass murderers of the last century — all of whom were atheists: Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

Even before today, there was more than sufficient evidence to lay this falsehood firmly to rest. Regardless of what Hitler really believed, he was emphatically not an atheist: he said so himself numerous times, and in fact firmly declared his opposition to atheism. Here is a quote uttered by Hitler in April 1933:

Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without religious foundation is built on air; consequently all character training and religion must be derived from faith…

And from a speech given in October of that year:

We were convinced that the people need and require 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.

However, an article released today by the United Press, Hitler bested God by 2 commandments, should be the final nail in the coffin of this spurious claim. This brief article concerns the discovery of an extant copy of “Germans with God”, a version of the Bible written by the Third Reich and distributed to German churches in 1941. The Nazi version contains two additional commandments to add to the standard ten, neither of which should be very surprising: “Honor your Fuhrer and master” and “Keep the blood pure and your honor holy”. Here is its rendition of the original decalogue:

  • Honor God and believe in him wholeheartedly,
  • Seek out the peace of God,
  • Avoid all hypocrisy,
  • Holy is your health and life,
  • Holy is your well-being and honor,
  • Holy is your truth and fidelity,
  • Honor your father and mother — your children are your aid and your example,
  • Maintain and multiply the heritage of your forefathers,
  • Be ready to help and forgive,
  • Joyously serve the people with work and sacrifice.

Christian apologists fond of Nazi comparisons might want to take a closer look at that first one: “Honor God and believe in him wholeheartedly“. Again, this is a Bible that the Nazi regime, and this almost certainly means Hitler himself, wrote, edited and approved of.

Of course, religious apologetics have never been about the facts, and some Christians will doubtless continue to claim that Adolf Hitler, despite announcing his opposition to atheism on multiple occasions, despite declaring his intention to “stamp out” atheism, and despite presiding over the distribution of Bibles urging their readers to believe in God “wholeheartedly”, was an atheist. But of course, there are always people who will believe things on the basis of no evidence whatsoever and that all the available evidence contradicts.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • TheLastChance

    Really, doesn’t Gott mitt uns mean anything to these people?

  • Philip Thomas

    The question seeems to be like two bald men fighting over a comb to see which one gets to jam it in the other’s eyes…I mean, really what difference does it make if Hitler believed something or not? You might as well say Hitler (And Pol Pot, Stalin, Franco, Saddam Hussein, etc) wasn’t a solipsist, so solipsism rules!

    I think many of my fellow Christians who tallk about this topic have managed to confuse atheism and rejection of Christianity. Hitler rejected Christianity, both implicitly and explicitly (http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/mischedj/ca_hitler.html#hitlernonchristian)

    but he does not seem to have professed atheism and as you rightly note, he many times stated his belief in God. Some of those quotes suggest an almost pagan approach- but no one today would accuse Hitler of being pagan, because paganism is not perceived as a threat…

  • Ben Abbott

    When some refer to the likes of Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Franco, Saddam Hussein, etc as Atheists, it is not for the purpose of illuminating they flawed morality of such tyrants. The destruction on humanity is clear to all … their lives are obviously immoral.

    The purpose of such an accusation is not intended to disparage Hitler et al, but rather to undermine the freethinkers of the world. The motive is control of authority over the people. Coulter and others like her have no *faith*, only a blind hunger for power :-(

    Atheists should be wary of defending such accusations. Posturing for a defense will result in many associating “the defender” with guilt. Instead we should do our best to expose the real motives behind such accusations. When doing so stick to the substantive. The actions/words/walk of such individuals is generally quite revealing of their own tyranny ;-)

    … well that’s my opinion anyway.

    p.s. I don’t mean to critique the article. It’s quite nice. I’ve not read of the Nazi Bible before. Thanks!

  • Philip Thomas

    On a slightly irrelevant tangent, this reminds me of the comment by Clemenceau when told of President Wilson’s peace plan to end World War One
    “Fourteen! The Good Lord had only Ten!”
    Hitler seems to be halfway…

  • stillwaters

    Philip Thomas writes:

    The question seeems to be like two bald men fighting over a comb to see which one gets to jam it in the other’s eyes…I mean, really what difference does it make if Hitler believed something or not? You might as well say Hitler (And Pol Pot, Stalin, Franco, Saddam Hussein, etc) wasn’t a solipsist, so solipsism rules!

    Nice attempt at a non-existent implication, but you seem to be missing the point. The point is that many religious apologists claim that Hitler was an atheist to smear atheism. The article is showing that this claim is blatantly false. It is *not* saying that atheism rules because Hitler wasn’t an atheist. It is only saying that religious apologists are making false accusations to attack atheism.

  • Philip Thomas

    I didn’t intend to imply that at all.My comments were more against the Christian apologists than against ebonmuse.

  • Archi Medez

    Nice work, Ebonmuse!

    All the evidence is consistent that Hitler was not an atheist. To Ben Abbott, I think you have a point re morality. However, beliefs, religious or non-religious, can affect morality depending on the contents of those beliefs. We must keep in mind that the hatred toward the Jews does have some basis in Christian doctrine and tradition. (Of course, the Christian doctrine does not tell believers to carry out atrocities against the Jews).

    At the same time, showing that Hitler was not an atheist helps expose the lies told by people like Coulter. (At any rate, if in the course of a discussion, someone makes an important error, at the very least we need to correct it).

    It remains probably true, of course, that Mao and Stalin were atheists (Saddam is a Sunni Muslim; he is secular, but lots of Muslims are secular). As Ben Abbott noted, the critical issue here is one of moral failure, and the causal reasons for that failure. Clearly, there is nothing in atheism that could have led Mao and Stalin to carry out atrocities. To the extent that Marxism requires violent revolution, and to the extent that Stalin and Mao were both probably psychopathic narcissists, we can identify these other factors as contributing to their moral failures.

    Several threads back, I cited some materials on Hitler, which indicate that his view of Christianity was strange at best, and he was in the process of replacing the extant forms of Christianity. The link can be found here. (Scroll down to Installment 1)

  • Alex Weaver

    I dunno, the extant views of Christianity are, for the most part, also strange at best…

    As for Stalin…didn’t he study at a seminary school at one point? (Not that he couldn’t have deconverted, or just not cared, but I bet that fact would catch most of the mudslingers off guard).

  • http://secularplanet.blogspot.com Secular Planet

    I am NOT saying Hitler was an atheist, but this by itself doesn’t prove that he wasn’t atheist by any stretch of the imagination. We all know that Hitler would and did lie to rise to power and to stay in power. The idea that he would use any means possible, including altering religion, to foster his goals is unquestioned.

    This is anything but a nail in the coffin on the issue.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    …but this by itself doesn’t prove that he wasn’t atheist by any stretch of the imagination.

    Well, if this doesn’t prove that, then what would?

    I acknowledge what you’re saying. We can never conclusively reconstruct the mental state of a dead person. However, it also doesn’t gain us anything to say that no matter what evidence exists to the contrary, we can always imagine a scenario where Hitler was secretly an atheist. We can only rely on the evidence we have to reach a conclusion, not on the evidence we don’t have. And all the evidence we do have indicates that he was not an atheist, which was my point in this post.

    We all know that Hitler would and did lie to rise to power and to stay in power. The idea that he would use any means possible, including altering religion, to foster his goals is unquestioned.

    Yes, and I think that itself says something important. Less important than Hitler’s personal beliefs were the methods he used to get others to follow him – after all, despite the unquestioned evil of his beliefs, he was only one person, and could not have wreaked the horrors he did unless he was able to persuade many others to go along with him. And when he appealed to the public, when he gave speeches aimed at winning others over – and he was very successful at doing that – the means he employed was religion. That, I think, is the point atheists should be making whenever the inevitable Nazi comparisons come up.

  • lpetrich

    As to how much we can trust Adolf Hitler on his beliefs, it must be said that he was remarkably honest about at least some of them, like his anti-Semitism, his anti-Marxism, his belief that Germany was stabbed in the back by traitors in WWI, and his desire to build a Greater Germany by conquest if need be.

    Also, he remained on good terms with the Catholic Church despite his somewhat eccentric personal beliefs; he also cited “the Lord” Jesus Christ’s Temple temper tantrum as a prototypical example of what to do about the Jews.

    I find it especially curious that the Catholic Church never excommunicated Catholic Nazis, even Hitler himself — even after it became safe to do so after the defeat of Hitler and his good friend Mussolini in 1945, and even though the Church has excommunicated Communists.

  • Philip Thomas

    Well, in order to be excommunicated, you must first be in communion with Holy Mother Church. Hitler was not a Roman Catholic- so he wasn’t excommunicated (however, he also wasn’t publicly comdemned, a terrible oversight). With regard to those Nazis who were Catholics, this is just a small example of the Church’s shameful and mistaken policy in the period. As I understand it, the Curia were persuaded by past history (including, bizarrely, the effect of excommunicating Elizabeth I of England!) that it would be wiser not to speak out: that is something which brings the guilt of the Holocaust on all Catholic consciences, myself included.

  • http://secularplanet.blogspot.com Secular Planet

    However, it also doesn’t gain us anything to say that no matter what evidence exists to the contrary, we can always imagine a scenario where Hitler was secretly an atheist.

    I haven’t said that. If we learned that Hitler attended private Masses, that he carried around a Bible hidden in his coat, etc., this would be good evidence. What he does in public for show indicates very little, but his private devotions would be powerful.

    And a willingess to alter religious texts is actually points toward disbelief in their sacredness, not toward faith. This is my point.

  • Philip Thomas

    Of course, if he was a solipsist, he likely wouldn’t tell anyone that either!
    The reports of Hitler’s private conversation I have seen include many anti-Christian remarks, but none that are clearly atheist. I think it probable Hitler beleived in a God of some kind.

    Ebon, you claim that Hitler used religion in his speeches and to rouse the populace. Of course, religion was used to a degree, anything he could turn to his purpose was. But I think the Nazi appeal could more correctly be labelled an ideology: there was no priestly caste or regular services or detailed theology behind it. Insofar as it drew on anything, it drew on crude forms of nationalism and racism.

  • Archi Medez

    Secular Planet,

    “What he does in public for show indicates very little, but his private devotions would be powerful.”

    The “Table Talk” book deals with precisely this, though it has some flaws. If you are interested in this topic, I recommend that you take a look at what Richard Carrier, an atheist who has studied these materials in the original German, has written about it. Privately, Hitler was talking about destroying Christianity, especially including Catholicism. The link I cited above shows that the Nazis were in the process of forcefully replacing extant forms of Christianity with their “German Faith.”

  • Ben Boyd

    I should like to ask Which God? Hitler who claimed to be God? Christ?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Considering that the book in question was a translation of the Bible, it is a fair conclusion that the god being referred to was the Christian one.

  • Rino

    Interesting fact: The first concentration camps were made my Christians. Though many of the people running the camps in the time of Hitler were Christians, I’m talking way before! See the book “Holy Horrors!”… Christians forced Jews into camps where they were branded with a star of David to identify them. Of course Christians have slaughtered Jews throughout the ages. That’s nothing new. Read Martin Luther for Christ sake! In Table Talk he says that Jews should have a stone tied around their neck and be pushed into the river Elbe. Luther is a hero to the German speaking people of that area, and was a great inspiration to Hitler.

    Well, of course Hitler did believe in god, even talks about it in his book. But pointing out that some guy that did bad things wasn’t the same religion as you is pretty self righteous: instead of pointing the finger at a single person that isn’t like you and saying they’re bad, and this must make you good, why don’t you set a good example and actually do some good in the world? Did Jesus say ‘look at that Joe guy. He doesn’t follow me, and he’s a leper. And look at Shawna! She’s a prostitute, and of COURSE, she doesn’t follow me!’ Of course he never said that. And I have read the bible. That’s why I’m not a Christian, because it does say a lot of fucked up stuff.

    There were scores of murderers who were not only Christian and/or religious, but they killed BECAUSE of religion. Jim Jones comes to mind. And the crusades. And the inquisition. Religion throughout history is hardly a bloodless entity. It may be the bloodiest, in fact.

    Hilter and Stalin might also have been Libras as far as I know. But they weren’t killing because they were libras. So it doesn’t really matter.

    I’m an atheist and I refuse to pick up a gun and go kill someone, no matter what the country tells me. Not many Christians can say that! Talk about hypocracy.

  • http://sovereignjohn.wordpress.com Sovereign John

    Ignoring history allows them to keep repeating the same scam over and over again.

    Nazi Christmas

    The War on Winter Solstice continues…

  • Goldstein

    Rino, plenty of atheists HAVE been willing to take up guns and kill people.

    Especially religious people.

    A good example is Leon Trotsky, who absolutely got a thrill out of riding around Russia in his armored train burning churches and killing priests.

    He killed BECAUSE of his atheistic hatred of religion. And at 100 million dead in the twentieth century ALONE, the record is the worst in history, exceeding by many times the casualties of all the so called religious wars in history.

    Who ya kiddin, you abysmal hypocrite?

    I will never submit to atheist rule!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111

  • Alex Weaver

    Goldstein:

    Do you have a single reputable source for either the 100 million statistic (the highest estimates I’ve seen for the total death toll from Soviet atrocities, including famine victims, was about 50 million, and 30 million is what I’ve usually seen quoted) or the claim that they were motivated in the fashion you claim?

    Didn’t think so.

  • http://www.operacast.com G Riggs

    Secular Planet confounds skepticism-towards-Christianity with atheism. Cute, I must say.

    EbonMuse’s point is that tooooooooooooo many people deliberately claim that Hitler CLAIMED to be an atheist when Hitler CLAIMED no such thing whatever, and in fact CLAIMED otherwise many a time. Was he a non-Christian? Very likely. Was he of another faith? Also very likely. Ultimately, he claimed to be a believer in a deity of some sort, said nothing to contradict that, and those that claim he ever specifically claimed to be an atheist are

    L Y I N G !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The false claims in this regard that I’ve read rarely stop at merely saying “Oh, that man Hitler was just an atheist”. Nine times out of ten, they are far more explicit and go much further — and deliberately, maliciously, falsely so: they say specifically that Hitler specifically SAYS that he (Hitler) is an atheist! THAT is the BIG LIE that EbonMuse is addressing here. Hitler never SAID any such thing — period, end of paragraph.

    Secular Planet’s point is ultimately a complete red herring: he(?) suggests that Hitler may have really been an atheist and none of us any the wiser on that. Well — DUH! Any historical figure of whose private life we know little — Shakspeare, for instance — might have been an atheist and we none the wiser. So what? Obviously, any believer can impute atheism to ANY historical figure who appears as a shadowy figure in his private life, or who has come off as especially unethical in the pages of history, or both. Convenient, yes. Pertinent here, NO!!!!!!!

    EbonMuse has called believers on their false claim that Hitler SAID he was an unbeliever. Hitler SAID no such thing. And saying that Hitler SAID such a thing happens to be one big lie. Secular Planet is deliberately(?) obfuscating the issue by introducing the notion that Hitler’s private thoughts are somehow relevant here.

    They AREN’T!!!!!!!!!

    G Riggs

  • Vjatcheslav

    Hitler was formally a roman-catholic (he was born in what’s now Austria, a catholic region), and he has never formally ceased to be a roman-catholic (as far as I now). Stalin did indeed study some time at a seminar in Tiflis, but it is not wholly sure if he was expelled or if he left himself. And about his atheism: he was also a power politician. He virulently attacked the church, certainly as institution, partly because it had so much power. But in WW II he accepted again the church, because he needed al the support for the defense he could get. About Trotski riding in his train and burning churches: it is possible he did that, but we also have to know that the church in tsarist Russia was a verry powerful institute, which was nearly fully controlled by the Russian State. It is comprehensible that the bolsjewists acted so, because the church was a verry big symbol of the tsarist dictatorship and idiocy.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Secular Universe’s point, that Hitler’s adaption of religion might have been cynical, is certainly possible — but that only furthers the atheist view of the evils foisted upon the world by religion. Hitler motivated 70 million Xians to participate in a nation which murdered more than eleven million people merely by scattering references to “Providence” and “Almighty God” in his speeches? What were they ^thinking^?

    And on a side note, read “Gulag Archipelago” by Solzhenitsyn for a good overview of the Communist persecution of the religious.

  • Sean

    Atheists were amongst the first to protest Hitler’s policies while the majority of Christians were following Hitler like hypnotised sheep.

    When Hitler gained power, he had freethought organisations banned and launched campaigns to stamp out ‘godlessness’.

    In 1933, Hitler declared “We have undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.”

    Point 24 of the German version of the constitution stood in defence of ‘Positive Christianity’

    ’24. We demand liberty for all religious denominations in the State, so far as they are not a danger to it and do not militate against the morality and moral sense of the German race. The Party, as such, stands for positive Christianity,…

    Today, priests and Christians also criticise the Church and other Christians – Hitler also on occasion criticised the leaders of his religion – It must be noted that the vast majority of Hitler’s texts (at least 99%) were in favor of Christianity and God belief – not against.

    Hitler detested the conflict between the Catholics and Protestants. This can be clearly seen in his book Mein Kampf. Here Hitler shows his racist, anti-Semitic views which were ingrained in Christian Europe (and elsewhere) at the time. He even blames the Jews for the conflict between Protestants and Catholics.

    “In any case the Jew reached his desired goal: Catholics and Protestants wage a merry war with one another, and the mortal enemy of Aryan humanity and all Christendom laughs up his sleeve.”

    “Systematically these black parasites of the nation defile our inexperienced young blond girls and thereby destroy something which can no longer be replaced in this world. Both, yes, both Christian denominations look on indifferently at this desecration and destruction of a noble and unique living creature, given to the earth by God’s grace.” – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf.

    Hitler also mentions that ‘true Christianity’ is alien to the Jew, and writes about the great founder of Christianity (Jesus). He goes on to show his disdain towards atheistic Jewish parties, and the Christians who debase themselves and the faith.

    “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 to 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.

    “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.” – Adolf Hitler

    Excellent article here showing the mistranslated and bogus quotes made by apologists.
    http://ffrf.org/fttoday/2002/nov02/carrier.php

    Photo of Hitler’s 10ft Christian cross at his private retreat (odd behavior for an atheist). Check out the Church photos and Hitler’s paintings of Mary and Jesus.
    http://www.nobeliefs.com/mementoes.htm
    http://www.nobeliefs.com/nazis.htm

    Most of his policies and claims were identical to the claims made by Christian fanatics (usually those heading the Church) today.

    He was anti-secularism, as the quote shows below:

    “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”

    He was anti-homosexuality.

    Abortion was also strictly monitored – he opposed an individuals right to abortion and was against contraception. Women who had needless abortions were sent to hard labour camps.

    Almost everything the Nazis did was identical to earlier Christians.

    Christians in 692 were forbidden to visit Jewish doctors and associate with the Jews.

    The Nazis also forbade Christians(98% of the German populace identified as Christian according to a 1939 census) to visit Jewish doctors.

    1555-9 In Papal Bull Cum nimis absurdum, Pope Paul IV writes: “It appears utterly absurd and impermissible that the Jews, whom God has condemned to eternal slavery for their guilt, should enjoy our Christian love.” He renews anti-Jewish legislation and installs a locked nightly ghetto in Rome. The Bull forces Jewish males to wear a yellow hat, females – yellow kerchief.

    Jews were forced to live in walled of ghettoes from 1555 to the late 19th century by order of the many Popes. They were restricted to life in the ghetto through to the end of Pope Pius IX papacy(1846-1878). They were banned from working in most professions. In a speech in 1871 he called the Jews of Rome “dogs” and said: “of these dogs, there are too many of them at present in Rome, and we hear them howling in the streets, and they are disturbing us in all places.”

    Just over half a century later, Germany and its allies (Rome/Italy – the most Christianised country in Europe) were once again forcing Jews to wear the badge, and once again forcing Jews to life in the ghettoes.

    “..far from any ideology of classes, firmly believing that the eternal values of a nation are its best sons and daughters, who, regardless of birth and rank, just as God gave them to us, must be educated and employed.” – Adolf Hitler, February 24, 1945

    Hitler was most definitely theist and a Christian.

  • René Spirlet

    I think that this discussion is pointless . Wether bloodiest tyrants are or not believers is of no importance at all .
    Religious people kill IN THE NAME of one god . God himself ( hmmm … ) orders the enemies of the religion to be slaughtered .
    How in the world could an atheist do that ? Nobody can order Stalin or Pol Pot to kill , imprison, torture or anything : there is actually nobody .
    Undisputably, there are atheist tyrants, atheist killers . But there is nobody who could give them

  • Laura Tas

    This discussion is NOT pointless: it is further evidence needed to fight the Religious Right and others who want to keep people enslaved by religion by demonizing Atheism. It is important to point out that Hitler used religion to further his goals. Why would you say it is pointless?

  • S. Cohen

    Anyone who believes Hitler had any Christian Principle is sadly deluded.
    He used his so called “Christian” beliefs as a front to justify his murderous intent,not only towards the Jews but against others. Hitler frequently practised Paganisms such as consulting fortune tellers and Spiritulists. The Book of Deuteronomy CH 18 Verse 10 is quite clear on these practises,they are “Detestable to the lord.” If Hitler hated Jews,think on this:
    Jesus’ mother,Mary was a Jew, The first Christians where all Jews,all the disciples where Jews, Jesus frequently preached in the Synagogue and said
    “Whatever you do unto the least of my bretheren,you do unto me.”

  • S. Cohen

    Correction: Rhino- 4th January 2007.
    The Nazi’s did not invent consentration camps. The British used them first durng the Boer war years earlier.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Considering how often he spoke about doing the lord’s work and how he tapped into the Xian hatred of Jews, I would say that you are pretty far off track here.

    If Hitler hated Jews,think on this:
    Jesus’ mother,Mary was a Jew, The first Christians where all Jews,all the disciples where Jews, Jesus frequently preached in the Synagogue and said
    “Whatever you do unto the least of my bretheren,you do unto me.”

    There must have been very few “True Xians” around then, considering how reviled the Jews were. I suggest you look up “host desecration” to educate yourself a little bit on this subject.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    S. Cohen:

    You apparently missed my point upthread, so I’ll reiterate it:

    Even if Hitler was not a Christian, the fact that he successfully used the religion to hoodwink the overwhelmingly Christian German nation to murder 11 million people is indicative of the dangers posed by religion.

    Of course, there are many independent sources providing evidence for Hitler’s faith, as has also been pointed out, which you also have ignored.


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