Deo Vindice!

Deo vindice!

Gott mitt uns!

Deus vult!

Allahu akhbar!

Informed readers may recognize some or all of the phrases above. In case there are any you’re not familiar with, here’s a quick primer on what each of them means:

Deo vindice” is Latin for “God will defend us” or “God is our vindicator”. It was the motto of the slaveholding Confederate States of America, and was engraved on their official seal. The CSA firmly believed that the Christian God was on their side in the American Civil War, and made repeated proclamations to that effect. The Confederate senator Thomas Semmes, in proposing this motto, took pains to stress that the CSA had “deviated in the most emphatic manner from the spirit that presided over the construction of the Constitution of the United States, which is silent on the subject of the Deity”, and he clearly expected this invocation to bring his side victory.

Gott mitt uns” is, of course, German for “God is with us”, and was a patriotic slogan of the Nazi Party. (Remember this the next time some Christian apologist brings up the disgusting lie that the Nazis were atheistic.) It appeared on the insignia of the Waffen SS – the “brown shirts” – the armed paramilitary wing of the Schutzstaffel, which was the security organization of the Nazi Party itself. According to Karl Wolff, general of the Waffen SS, the organization’s oath of loyalty was based on the model of the Jesuits’ oath of absolute obedience to the Pope.

Deus vult” is Latin for “God wills it”, and was supposedly the cry of the crowd after Pope Urban’s speech in 1095 inaugurating the First Crusade. What would follow were two hundred years of savage religious warfare between Christians and Muslims, in which soldiers on both sides were promised paradise if they died a martyr’s death in combat. The Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099, following which they proceeded to massacre almost all the inhabitants of the city. According to one, probably exaggerated account, the blood of the slain flowed as high as the horses’ bridles. Although they began in the Middle East, the Crusades soon became an excuse for Christians to persecute and slaughter heretical sects in Europe as well.

Allahu akhbar” is Arabic for “God is greatest”, the Muslim profession of faith known as the takbir. Although it’s also used in peaceful contexts, it’s become infamous for its use by Islamists who shout it triumphantly as they slaughter the innocent or give their lives in suicide terrorism. In recent months, it’s appeared in numerous jihadist videos made in Iraq, the rallying cry of those who cut off the heads of captives on camera.

Despite their origins in different languages and cultures, all four of these phrases express basically the same proposition: that God is on our side and will grant us victory over our enemies. Under all four of these mottoes, armies have marched to war, secure in their faith that the Almighty was championing their cause and would permit them to slay their foes with terrible slaughter.

The terrible, destructive consequences of this belief are almost impossible to overstate. I shudder to imagine all the rivers of blood that have been shed by the armies who made these words their banner. If we could look back through history – if we could see how many battlefields these words have reigned over, how many soldiers cried them righteously while plunging their bright weapons into flesh, how many people’s bodies were broken and mangled by fervent believers piously muttering them the whole time – it all seems to blur together, a vast shadow of hatred and horror.

I grant that religion has motivated many acts of love and compassion. Nevertheless, the hate which it can inspire is more vicious and persistent than any other kind. Although there are many causes of war, I know of no others that can last literally for millennia. Over long stretches of time, governments change, national rivalries fade, ethnic groups mingle, and cultural identities become fluid and porous. It is religion and religion alone that allows adherents to persist in a shared identity – and a shared enmity – for centuries on end, with ancient grudges and the memory of old atrocities transmitted faithfully through the generations with undiminished intensity.

In the past few decades, we’ve seen religious warfare erupt all over the world. In Iraq, there’s emerged a swamp of sectarian strife and bloodshed, where armed gangs rule the streets and rival sects clash in a chronic low-level civil war. The power vacuum created by the U.S. occupation reawoke religious rivalries that had long been dormant, but the Iraq quagmire is just the most visible outbreak of a larger conflict simmering across the Muslim world, as Salafist Sunni fanatics wage war on heretical Shi’ites in the name of doctrinal purity and the Shi’ites answer with violence and death squads of their own. In Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Indonesia, and now spreading into Europe, Islamist zealots wage war on the innocent and seek to create a theocracy ruled by terror.

An even older, and still lingering, religious conflict comes from the Christian memory of hatred of the Jews. According to the New Testament, Pontius Pilate wanted to release Jesus, only to be forced to take action by the Jewish crowds who shouted, “Crucify him! His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25). That ancient blood libel has spawned endless parades of prejudice and bigotry over the centuries and has inspired Christians to spill oceans of Jewish blood in retribution for the supposed death of one. It has given rise to pogroms, ghettoes, inquisitions. In medieval Europe, Jews were savagely persecuted and hounded from place to place, accused of bizarre and ludicrous crimes such as driving nails through stolen communion wafers to further torture Christ, or kidnapping Christian children to drain their blood for use in Passover matzoh. Ultimately, these ages of hate culminated in Hitler’s ovens and gas chambers, as the blood libel was born anew to serve the delusions of Nazi racial superiority. After a war that killed millions, anti-Semitism has been driven underground, but it has not vanished.

And even this is not the oldest ongoing religious war. That infamy belongs to the land of Israel/Palestine, where Zionist Jews still believe in the promises of land which God allegedly made to Abraham over four thousand years ago. That seed bears its bitter fruit to this day, as Palestinians and Israelis continue to spill each other’s blood over the divisive issue of who will own the land where both groups stake a claim.

How can we put an end to the deadly certainty that inspires holy war? One proposed solution, possibly the most famous, is Abraham Lincoln’s oft-quoted aphorism that we should not be concerned with whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God’s side.

However, I’ve never thought this statement was especially profound. What does it even mean? Presumably, if we want to know whether we are on God’s side, we should pray and search the scriptures to find out what God wants. How is that any different from what all the crusaders and jihadists throughout history did? They certainly believed that they were doing what God wanted; many of them quoted scripture and church teaching to that end. If we accept that religious text and tradition can be any kind of reliable guide to God’s will, then we must accept that those sources often do teach violence and warfare.

Another possible solution to this problem is to retreat into mysticism – to proclaim that God is so completely ineffable, so fundamentally unlike us, that we can know nothing about him and thus can never use a claim of his will as a basis for action. And while a few religious scholars have embraced this philosophy, it seems highly doubtful that the majority will ever accept such a hollow and substanceless belief. People believe in God because they want comfort, support, protection – not a distant, unknowable spirit about whom we can say nothing meaningful. And so long as people continue to believe in a personal god with definite desires, that belief will likely be used to justify violence and division.

There’s one final solution that I’ve heard a few times. It is this: we can accept that we’re fallible humans, that we don’t know everything, and that anyone who tries to claim certain and absolute knowledge of God’s will is likely mistaken. And if we can never claim total certainty about God’s will, we can certainly never proclaim that God wants us to slaughter the infidels.

This might be a good solution, except that it flies in the face of the fundamental underlying basis of religion. Throughout recorded history, the spokesmen of faith have taught that belief without evidence, and especially firm and resolute belief without evidence, is a praiseworthy and virtuous character trait. In fact, religion often seems to consider a belief more virtuous in proportion to the amount of evidence against it. This is a perniciously self-sustaining meme, for as the evidence mounts against the scriptural story, it only inspires believers to cling to it all the more tightly.

It seems that as long as belief in God persists, this problem will recur. The hatred which religious partisans have for each other is literally undying. Frankly, I’d leave them to each other and say good riddance, if it weren’t for the fact that the rest of us are caught in between them, and innocent people who did not ask to be part of these battles inevitably end up suffering for their sake.

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.

  • terrence

    to proclaim that God is so completely ineffable…..

    Those who make this “sophisticated” argument seem to forget that in biblical times, He was anything BUT “ineffable,” and more of a mad publicity hound –sending plagues, parting seas, turning wives into salt and staffs into serpents, incarnating hinself, raising the dead, etc, etc -you’d have to have been pretty dense to be an atheist. I’ve never heard a satisfactory explanation of why the deity now has to be “hidden” or “ineffable” — just because it’s 2007?

  • SJL

    How could he have done any of those things if he doesn’t exist?

  • andrea

    I do like the information that even the CSA acknowledged something that many modern Christians can’t seem to get through their heads, that the Constitution of the United States is not based on Christianity.

  • lpetrich

    I think that terrence was commenting hypothetically, using the way that the Biblical God is depicted. Not as some hazy “Ground of Being” or “Condition of Possibility” or distant Aristotelian Prime Mover, but as an active controller and manipulator of the Universe.

    I’m reminded of Sir John Collings Squire’s doggerel about World War I:

    God heard the nations sing and shout
    “Gott strafe England” and “God save the King!”
    God this, God that, and God the other thing —
    “Good God!” said God, “I’ve got my work cut out!”

    Gott strafe England = God punish England in German

  • http://passionateatheist.blogspot.com NoAstronomer

    I always thought the ‘Gott mit uns’ was especially ironic when religious nuts claim that Nazi Germany was an atheistic regime.

    SJL,

    Did what?

  • Vjatcheslav

    I have a small remark: the SS had black shirts, the brownshirts were SA.

  • Damien

    “Deus vult” is Latin for “God wills it”, and was supposedly the cry of the crowd after Pope Urban’s speech in 1095 inaugurating the First Crusade.

    Thank you for putting the “supposedly” in. I still remember a college textbook that left it out; apparently, the authors assumed that even though the peasant masses could barely speak their own version of French, they were perfectly fluent in Classical Latin.

  • Alex Weaver

    How could he have done any of those things if he doesn’t exist?

    Do you understand what the phrase “for the sake of argument” means?

    I still remember a college textbook that left it out; apparently, the authors assumed that even though the peasant masses could barely speak their own version of French, they were perfectly fluent in Classical Latin.

    There’s no indication that the authors thought they understood any Latin beyond that statement, is there? It’s not as though there’s no precedent for people using a few words from another language in speaking to those who mostly know nothing of it and being understood (IE, Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner”).

  • Dave

    Wikipedia (corroboration encouraged) suggests that the Gott mit uns on the shirts bit isn’t necessarily true: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gott_mit_uns

  • OMGF

    Of course god picks sides. I mean, we are talking about an entity that selects which football team he wants to win the Superbowl every year. Of course, the same team doesn’t win every year, so maybe he was with the Nazis and the pope and is with the Muslims now.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    I’ve updated the post with some images of these holy-war slogans in context.

    Dave: “Gott Mitt Uns” was always on the SS belt buckles, not on the shirts, as far as I know. Note that the SS was an unofficial branch of the Wehrmacht, which was simply a term used to refer to Germany’s armed forces in total. (Truthfully, the exact details of the Nazi organizational hierarchy aren’t as important as the fact that at least some of them clearly did wear this as their motto).

    Damien: As with most stories from that long ago, historical truth has become fogged. It’s possible that the crowd crying “Deus Vult!” was merely a rhetorical flourish added by some later church historian, rather than a true-to-life description of what took place at the speech. Nevertheless, however it originated, this slogan has become associated with the Crusades, and it more than adequately captures the bloodshed and brutality in the name of God that occurred on both sides during them.

  • hb531

    Bravo. Well done!

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Ebon:

    According to Toland in his monumental biography of Hitler, the Pope [which Paul was it? I forget] referred to the Nazi invasion of Russia [which included such decent folk as Einsatzgruppen death squads] as “high-minded gallantry in the defense of Christian civilization” [!]

    Not only did the vast majority of Nazis regard themselves as Christian, the leader of the largest Christian denomination in the world regarded them as such as well.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Good point thump, but weren’t they not true scotsmen either? heh

  • terrence

    A little tidbit (titbit??) in case there are any Papa fans in our community. Mr. Hemingway once said “All thinking men are atheists,” and also wore the Gott Mitt Uns belt buckle confiscated during his WWII adventures.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Heh, Mr. N, I suppose those outcasts have to hang together, at least insofar as Protestants are concerned.

    Terrence –

    Count one here, because I love his run-on thoughts, especially when I’m taking a long squirt out of the winesack in the dusty square. Oh how I wished it would rain. Why is he my favorite anyway, I wonder. It’s just something I’ll never know, something I’ll never know.

  • http://inthenuts.blogspot.com King Aardvark

    I couldn’t agree more, Ebon. I actually wrote something about the situation myself a while ago when a guy I knew was killed while observing the Israel/Hezbollah conflict for the UN. It’s a shame that religion hinders any sort of permanent resolution and innocent bystanders are continually harmed.

  • MJJP

    There’s no indication that the authors thought they understood any Latin beyond that statement, is there? It’s not as though there’s no precedent for people using a few words from another language in speaking to those who mostly know nothing of it and being understood (IE, Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner”).

    Comment by: Alex Weaver
    ====================
    Still looking to be a contrarian Alex? Most educated generals from the south came from West Point or other established schools in which the study of Latin was as common as English. Knowing and understanding Latin was a distinguishing asset when separating the educated from the uneducated. Up until the civil war the south had an especially strong tradition of military service and education. When the south split many of those attending West Point assumed leadership roles in the confederacy and even though the author made no assumptions that those in the south knew latin and its meanings anyone who knows anything about history could safely assume they did. The fact that used the phrase correctly should have been a hint. Many key words in the military in fact have latin origins.
    navy latin=navis
    captain latin= capitaneus
    private latin=privatus
    sargent latin=servientern
    cavalry latin caballarius
    infantry latin=infanterie

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    In fairness, I believe Alex was referring to the crowd that supposedly cried “Deus Vult!” at Pope Urban’s speech inaugurating the Crusades, not to the Confederate army.

  • Alex Weaver

    In fairness, I’m not sure how there could have been any confusion on that point, after rereading my comment.

  • wfcxbuldozr

    Aight,first off,let me set you straight.
    The South was not the only “Slave holding states” in america. The North waited 3 YEARS before the released theres AFTER the Emancipation Proclamation. The reason the North STARTED that goddamn war was because the south had its own resources, and own way of revenue side of the factories of the north. The south got tired of the Yankee Bullcrap, and decided, “hey,screw yall, we can make our Own Country.” It was Our GOD-GIVEN Right, According to the US. Constitution, and before you go saying, “oh no it was the Slaves! We wanted to free the Slaves! Blah Blah”-STFU! You will STFU Because The South did NOT treat its slaves as Badly as history books and all of the reports say it did. Anytime a Black man or woman was killed, they Usually Deserved it, and guess what again? The KKK Was usually NOT the people to do it. The blacks Killed there own, and the only time anyone was killed was when they were so damn sorry that they wouldnt get out and work or at least try to help. The white people did NOT treat there slaves the way they are told out to be, and the Slave Holders Usually slept with the slaves. So dont try to sell me on that Slave-State Bullshit,ok? Aight,good. Deo Vindice does mean God is Our Vindicator, Because he was, and still is today. Just because we lost then doesnt mean we will lose again. As goes for the Other wars, I dont have Whole family lines and High-Ranking officers such as Captains and Brigadier Generals in it, so Id have no clue.
    Thanks for your time. =D
    Buldozr

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    I’ve approved the previous comment as evidence that there are people who still hold the views discussed in this post. The author is already banned, so you needn’t bother to reply.

  • Alex Weaver

    Aight,first off,let me set you straight.
    [demonstrably contrafactual crapola]

    Evidence, plzthx.

  • NgeliMwenu

    I spotted a small bug: In the German text, ‘mit’ (with) is written with just one t.

  • NightShadeQueen

    Buldozr,

    The South was not the only “Slave holding states” in america. The North waited 3 YEARS before the released theres AFTER the Emancipation Proclamation.

    Two points I would like to make. First of all, due to the poor soil, slavery was never economically viable in the North, so Northern slaves slowly banned slavery way before the Civil War. Second: The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves outside of the Union. In other words, it was a useless document.

    The reason the North STARTED that goddamn war was because the south had its own resources, and own way of revenue side of the factories of the north. The south got tired of the Yankee Bullcrap, and decided, “hey,screw yall, we can make our Own Country.”

    Incorrect. The South left because they thought slavery was a god-given right, and they felt their rights were being tramped. Economically speaking, the North depended on the South and the South depended on the North.

    It was Our GOD-GIVEN Right, According to the US. Constitution, and before you go saying, “oh no it was the Slaves! We wanted to free the Slaves! Blah Blah”-STFU!

    Quite in all honesty, the North didn’t go to war to free the slaves. Instead, it went to war to unite the Union, because otherwise both countries would have fallen. It only claimed it was fighting slavery so England wouldn’t join the south.

    You will STFU Because The South did NOT treat its slaves as Badly as history books and all of the reports say it did.

    Sure, I’ll speak up. (Bet you didn’t know that the ‘s’ can be translated as both “speak” and “shut”.) But in this case, you’re partially right. Most slaveowners didn’t treat their slaves harshly. However, there were slaves that were treated inhumanely.

    Anytime a Black man or woman was killed, they Usually Deserved it, and guess what again?

    I’d have to disagree on this one. The KKK murdered and tortured a lot of innocent people.

    The KKK Was usually NOT the people to do it. The blacks Killed there own, and the only time anyone was killed was when they were so damn sorry that they wouldnt get out and work or at least try to help.

    Give me proof. I spent the last two months studying the Civil War for a contest, and nothing about black people killing their own came up.

    The white people did NOT treat there slaves the way they are told out to be, and the Slave Holders Usually slept with the slaves.

    Er, what did you mean? I accept that most slaves slept in similar buildings/beds as their masters did, but usually not under the same roof.

    So dont try to sell me on that Slave-State Bullshit,ok? Aight,good.

    As long as you don’t try to sell me on the white supremacy BS.

    Deo Vindice does mean God is Our Vindicator, Because he was, and still is today. Just because we lost then doesnt mean we will lose again.

    Funny. Last time I checked, the guys with the bigger guns won. But, then again, if iron chariots could stop god.

  • james wellington

    I just want to say that while an indirect cause of the War of Northern Aggression or the Civil War or the War Between the States was slavery, there were many other reasons, some more direct than others. The direct cause of the war was Federal troops did not withdraw from Fort Sumter, a part of Southern South Carolina, thus, in the minds of Confederate leaders, the South had the right to attack. And rightly so they did. As of that point, the United States had not pulled its troops out of Fort Sumter. The North could have prevented that war if they had done so, but technically they had invaded the sovereign Confederate States.

    This war was not a war over slavery until Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation, and that document, as stated previously, was pointless anyway and Lincoln knew it. The South wasn’t going to listen to something an enemy nation ordered. Lincoln did it as a way to further justify the war. And actually, the South wouldn’t have succeeded if Lincoln did not accept the presidency. So in actuality Lincoln, who ‘would do anything to protect the union’ was the reason the union broke up. Also, the southern states, being a nearly 100% agriculturally based economy and culture, did not feel they were being represented properly in the federal legislature, where many more representatives that had constituents in the industrial north. Tariffs, misrepresentation, slaves, northern aggression, state’s rights, differing economies, etc.

    There’s tons of things, but one thing is for certain, it wasn’t slavery that caused the Civil War. The North portrayed it as that after support abroad was growing for the South’s cause.

    Please never ever, ever, say that slavery was the cause. Don’t ever say that again, any blind, non-biased historian will tell you that slavery was furthest from the minds of the American people (both north and south).

  • lpetrich

    That’s a total rewrite of history. The Southern states’ leaders made a BIG issue out of protection of slavery, even to the extent of antagonizing many Northerners. Look at their speeches — full of defenses of slavery — and what they pushed for, like the Fugitive Slave Act and censorship of anti-slavery writings.

    And when the Northern states would not cooperate, the Southern states seceded.

    The Southern states are the ones who picked the fight, so they have no right to complain.

  • DamienSansBlog

    I wonder if we’re mixing up our ultimate and proximate causes here.

  • Mrnaglfar

    In his “Cornerstone Speech” delivered March 21, 1861, Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens stated that “Our new Government is founded … its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro (sic) is not equal to the white man; that slavery – subordination to the superior race – is his natural and moral condition.

    Just in case there was any question.

  • Alex Weaver

    The North could have prevented that war if they had done so, but technically they had invaded the sovereign Confederate States.

    That would be dependent on the Confederacy’s claims to have excised themselves from the union actually having legal and moral weight, wouldn’t it?

  • Scott

    Great topic, but I noted a couple of minor historical errors with regard to WWII-era Germany. The belt buckle you show is a German Army accoutrement. The enlisted and NCO ranks of the German Army and Navy had this slogan on their buckles, while the German Air Force belt buckle was without slogan. Hitler once quipped, “I have a Christian Army, an Imperial Navy, and a National-Socialist Air Force.” The SS (to include the Waffen SS) slogan was “Mein Ehre heisst Treue”, or My Honor is Loyalty. As previously mentined, SS substituted religion with pagan Norse rituals revolving around racial purity and other nonsense.

  • Mick

    What then was the slogan for Northern States which held on to slavery during the CW – States like Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri?

    I recommend a book for most of you who are part of the collective historical ignorance group, and that book is called, “When in the Course of Human Events” by Charles Adams. Read it, and educate yourselves.
    “Veritas Vos Liberabit!”

  • Mick

    For the collective historical ignorance of posters like lpetrich and Mrnaglfar and others who have been brainwashed by our Marxist historians, I would make the following statements and quotes. First from Lincoln’s 1858 debate with Stephen Douglas:

    “Mr. Lincoln’s Speech

    (September 18, 1858)

    LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: It will be very difficult for an audience so large as this to hear distinctly what a speaker says, and consequently it is important that as profound silence be preserved as possible.
    While I was at the hotel to-day, an elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favor of producing perfect equality between the negroes and white people. While I had not proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet as the question was asked me, I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes in saying something in regard to it. I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

    I guess if ol’ racist Abe knew that we now have a black President, he would be turning summersaults in his grave and not just turning in it.

    Slavery has existed in both the North and the South for about 80 years prior to the CW. Surprised? Well, you should be.

    There is a lot more that I neither have time to explain, nor the patience to deal with the ignorance of those who have been brainwashed, and think they are dealing from the moral high-ground. Shame on you!!

  • Alex Weaver

    While this is true, Mick, I have to wonder who and what you think you’re rebutting.

  • lpetrich

    It was possible to oppose slavery and think that black people are nothing but losers; Abe Lincoln’s opinions may have been common.

    As to some Union states being allowed to continue having slavery, that was likely a way of keeping them in the Union (“You can have your slaves for a little longer if you support us”).

  • Foxbeard

    Sorry, but the Nazis were definately atheistic, albeit not necessarily being atheists per se. Adolf Hitler’s plan to achieve power specifically involved forming alliances with the powerful institutions of the time, which obviously included the Wehrmacht and (most notably in Bavaria) the Catholic Church. This being the case the Nazis did make some attempts to appeal to the Church and its members, but in no way shape or form did Hitler’s granduer vision for his Greater German Reich include anything involved with the principles of Christanity. In fact, the Catholic Youth League, a sort of Boy Scouts for young German boys, was eliminated to make place for the Hitler Jugend, where German children could instead be indoctrinated with the extremely rascist and nationalistic teachings of the Nazi Party. So to peg the Nazis as Christians is an outright fallacy. Hitler did not necessarily reject Christianity, which some might consider a prerequisite for atheism, rather, he simply ignored it. In short, Hitler was not exactly your poster-boy atheist, but when it came to religious matters, he definately leaned towards atheism nonetheless.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Yeah, Hitler ignored Xianity, which is why he wrote so much about it, and continually claimed that he was doing god’s work. Not to mention that he was feeding off of the deep-seated hatred of the Jews that festered within Xianity throughout Europe. In short, leave the No True Scotsman fallacies behind and stop trying to re-write history.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    If Hitler was a xian he certainly wasn’t an orthodox one and his views on the established church in Germany seemed to be based on expediency at any given time. That being said his views on science and evolution weren’t orthodox either and whatever he actually was theologically, he was not an atheist. He believed in a manifest destiny for himself and Germany which is not a position any atheist “poster-boy” or otherwise would hold.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Sorry, but the Nazis were definately atheistic, albeit not necessarily being atheists per se….So to peg the Nazis as Christians is an outright fallacy….In short, Hitler was not exactly your poster-boy atheist, but when it came to religious matters, he definately leaned towards atheism nonetheless.

    Most Nazis were Christians. Most Germans were Christians. Some, like Boormann, were pagans. Hitler was born a Catholic and never renounced his faith. Additionally, his speeches are littered with reference to “Providence” or “the Lord”, etc. Albert Speer in his Book Inside the Third Reich attests to Hitler’s positive refusal to surrender his religion. And while the Nazis made cynical use of religion on occasion, the fact that the vast majority of Germans bought into this trick says something damning in itself about religion, don’t you think?

    For deeper insight into these matters, see William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Tolan’ds biography Hitler, and Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners [for insight into the religiosity of the "average" German].

  • Brady

    For the record, I’m a Christian, but I have no personal problem with athiests or anyone else for that matter: and I know you’ve all probably heard this before, but, really, many of my best bfriends are members of your camp. I’m really more of a political person, so, I bring hither a comment on Zionism:
    Not all Zionism is, nor has Zionism in the past been, exclusively a matter of faith for the Jewish people. Many, like Einstein (an athiest, I believe), simply think the Jews deserve Israel, a view I’m inclined to agree with. In truth, can anyone think of a more oppressed people throughout history than the Jews? I am a Christian, and many of us are decidedly pro-Israel. However, I don’t believe in justifying political theory (or violence, or bigotry, etc.) on religious views as many other Christians do. Zionism ( by which I mean the belief that Israel rightly belongs to the Jews( may be (and in my experience often is) an entirely secular and political thought, and not necessarily bound up with faith.
    Thank you.

  • Rick

    I love it when atheists, who are the shining examples for us all in the use of unadulterated logic, fall into something as elementary as the Post Hoc fallacy. Or when the atheists claim, ‘Although there have been many causes for war, I know of no others that can last literally for millennia.’ Citations or examples, please? The longest Crusade lasted five years, and the historical lumping together of the Crusades into a homogenous group amount to 200 years; while this is quite a lengthy war, the Hundred Years War between France and Britain lasted, well, a little over a hundred years, not counting the turmoil and skirmishes before and subsequent. But you must mean, according to your quote, the skirmishes and lingering hatred that last for millennia. By this, are you referring to the same sorts of hatreds that have taken place (and are taking place) for thousands of years between ethnic groups, for no apparent religious reasons whatsoever? The Jews and Canaanites have been at each others’ throats for thousands of years – with religion being present, of course, but with the ethnic hatred swapping religions (Baalism, Islam, etc.) several times. The Gauls and Romans warred with one another (and hated each others’ guts) for hundreds of years.

    Furthermore, I can cite many persons who went clinically insane or destroyed themselves and others in flagrant ways while their life flew the banner of atheism (hugging horses, shooting their classmates, etc.), or point to the brutality implicit in a proposed construct of Darwinian atheism – BUT that wouldn’t prove anything in the least, because correspondence doesn’t mean causality. Post hoc. Atheists of all people should know this. To make those claims would be just as ridiculous as saying that, because Hitler made religion a centrepiece to his regime, religion was the driving cause behind his regime. Even if Hitler perceived this to be the cause behind his regime (which I think is quite an historical overstatement, convenient for atheists to make, considering all the hyper-modern, post-Enlightenment, Darwinian models that Hitler incorporated into his regime), it does not logically follow that a religion is the cause itself. I could believe that atheism allows (or tells) me to shoot handicapped people, but that wouldn’t prove that atheism is the actual cause; I myself am the actual cause, and my actions and context of the actions would show that I shot handicapped people. Perhaps atheism was the cause, but even if a hundred people performed similar actions to mine, that wouldn’t prove atheism was the cause; perhaps delusional people expression their delusions through whatever potent channel is at hand. This is Logic 101; I thought we all understood this crap.

    Finally, it’s amazing to me how many logical considerations are conveniently ignored in this essay. It certainly couldn’t be the case that humans may, in fact, have a fetish for violence, toward which they employ anything in arm’s length. It couldn’t be that religion – whether true or false in itself – just so happens to be something particularly ripe for the picking in power struggles. Let’s just point to human beings – who have, for most of their history, been religious beings – and point out how religion coincides with some of the most heinous actions in history.

    I like the closer on this one: I’d just let those religious nuts have at it, if it weren’t for all the innocents in the middle. We should write a ballade or make a musical for all the noble atheists of the world, pious as they are.

  • Alex Weaver

    It couldn’t be that religion – whether true or false in itself – just so happens to be something particularly ripe for the picking in power struggles.

    It could be. In fact, it’s exactly like that.

    …do you not see this as a problem?

  • Alex Weaver

    Eh, I’m feeling hungry.

    I love it when atheists, who are the shining examples for us all in the use of unadulterated logic, fall into something as elementary as the Post Hoc fallacy.

    I love it when people snottily berate others for failing to employ logic and then demonstrate a tiresome blockheadedness with regards to the actual meaning of the fallacies they cite. What is argued here does not fall into this category because supporting arguments for the conclusion that religion was a critical contributing factor to the events listed are referred to here and explored in greater depth elsewhere on the site (no, I’m not going to do your research for you). Your opening leads me to believe that you’re either arguing in bad faith or under the impression that the logic behind the elucidation of the “Post Hoc fallacy” [sic] implies that the occurrence of event A before event B DISPROVES the proposition that event A may have contributed to event B.

    …just to check: you don’t actually think that, do you?

    Or when the atheists claim, ‘Although there have been many causes for war, I know of no others that can last literally for millennia.’ Citations or examples, please? The longest Crusade lasted five years, and the historical lumping together of the Crusades into a homogenous group amount to 200 years; while this is quite a lengthy war, the Hundred Years War between France and Britain lasted, well, a little over a hundred years, not counting the turmoil and skirmishes before and subsequent because, if counted, they undermine my argument.

    Fixed it for you. …Protestants and Catholics have only recently mostly stopped killing each other in Northern Ireland, to name one example. The Franco-German thing that was largely responsible for creating the conditions that lead to World War I was originally rooted in large part in the Protestant-Catholic religious wars.

    But you must mean, according to your quote, the skirmishes and lingering hatred that last for millennia. By this, are you referring to the same sorts of hatreds that have taken place (and are taking place) for thousands of years between ethnic groups, for no apparent religious reasons whatsoever? The Jews and Canaanites have been at each others’ throats for thousands of years – with religion being present, of course, but with the ethnic hatred swapping religions (Baalism, Islam, etc.) several times.

    Right. The disinclination of the ancient Israelites, the various Muslim empires, and modern militants of both faiths to tolerate their neighbors (with whom their major difference is in choice of religion) and leave them in peace clearly has no religious underpinnings. Nope, nothing obviously religious about warfare inspired by a desire to drive “infidels” and “idolators” out of the “holy land”/”promised land.” Good point, here.

    The Gauls and Romans warred with one another (and hated each others’ guts) for hundreds of years.

    Religious and quasi-religious doctrine was a major motivator of the Roman Empire’s military expansion, as I understand it.

    Furthermore, I can cite many persons who went clinically insane or destroyed themselves and others in flagrant ways while their life flew the banner of atheism (hugging horses

    Assuming you don’t mean this in a fashion analogous to “tree huggers,” what’s wrong with being affectionate to animals?

    shooting their classmates, etc.)

    Citation needed. I’m aware of one sorta-incident and a bunch that apologists have twisted, misrepresented, and outright lied about to try to make them look that way.

    or point to the brutality implicit in a proposed construct of Darwinian atheism

    Assuming you’re referring to a proposed social and philosophical system: proposed by who, other than apologists as a strawman?

    BUT that wouldn’t prove anything in the least, because correspondence doesn’t mean causality.

    So why mention it?

    Atheists of all people should know this. To make those claims would be just as ridiculous as saying that, because Hitler made religion a centrepiece to his regime, religion was the driving cause behind his regime.

    Even if Hitler perceived this to be the cause behind his regime (which I think is quite an historical overstatement, convenient for atheists to make, considering all the hyper-modern, post-Enlightenment, Darwinian models that Hitler incorporated into his regime)

    And those models would be? I’m aware of this claim being made repeatedly by dishonest apologists but I’ve never seen it substantiated and have in fact seen it refuted by actual examinations of the statements and writings of the people involved.

    , it does not logically follow that a religion is the cause itself.

    This sounds suspiciously like a strawman. Please rephrase it in a fashion that is unambiguously consistent with having actually read and comprehended the OP.

    I could believe that atheism allows (or tells) me to shoot handicapped people, but that wouldn’t prove that atheism is the actual cause

    There’s no logical reason to infer from the nonexistence of a deity that handicapped people should be killed, whereas the desirability of military conquest of ideological opponents follows straightforwardly from the notion that one’s group is in the possession of infallible truth and has been specially chosen by god to rule the (area/country/planet) and eliminate his enemies.

    I myself am the actual cause, and my actions and context of the actions would show that I shot handicapped people.

    You ARE making a strawman argument. Glad we’re on the same page with that, now.

    Perhaps atheism was the cause, but even if a hundred people performed similar actions to mine, that wouldn’t prove atheism was the cause; perhaps delusional people expression [sic] their delusions through whatever potent channel is at hand.

    Perhaps. And perhaps some channels are more potent for channeling certain kinds of delusions. And perhaps religion is one of those channels and “God is on our side and those other guys are his enemies” is one of those delusions.

    This is Logic 101; I thought we all understood this crap.

    Apparently not.

    [Dealt with the closest thing to a functional group in the next paragraph already]

    I like the closer on this one: I’d just let those religious nuts have at it, if it weren’t for all the innocents in the middle. We should write a ballade or make a musical for all the noble atheists of the world, pious as they are.

    I know all these words and I still can’t extract a coherent point from this sentence.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Rick,

    The only thing I wish Alex had touched on more in his efficient treatment of your post is this: Your argument that Hitler relied on “Darwinism” is false. He relied on a “theory” called “Social Darwinism” (by people who had no understanding of the limits of science), which applied some principles of EbNS to cultures in a completely unscientific way. In no way was this “Darwinism” — whatever that is.

    Either you didn’t know this, and thus are shown to be willing to argue from ignorance; or you did know this, and are indeed arguing in bad faith, as Alex suspected.

  • Broggly

    Alex: I think the “Hugging Horses” thing is a reference to Nietzsche, who hugged a horse to stop it from being beaten to death, then collapsed. This was the start of his mental breakdown. Standing up to an angry man with a whip must be a big strain on the system.
    I don’t see how we atheists are inherently more physically brave and compassionate than christians (Dostoevsky for one shows admirable opposition to animal cruelty in Crime and Punishment, although he was a bit of a freethinker before the mock execution), but thank you for the compliment Rick!
    (wow, look at those dates. Way to be a necromancer, me.)

  • Thumpalumpacus

    This is the zombie thread.

  • Caiphen

    One thing that I have to say about religious intolerance. When I was a christian one thing that I said just after our meeting in Halifax Canada to now a long term Jewish friend. ‘It was you people who killed Jesus.’ I now shudder at my then religiously inspired antisemetism. She’s now one the best friends I have.

    I’m thankful I’m now an atheist, it’s the only rational stance to take.

  • Pete Black

    While religion may, or may not, have been the driving force behind Hitler’s war machine, it was certainly a primary consideration. In 1932, of 420 banks in the city of Berlin, 412 were owned by Jews. (I’m not going to do your research for you) The German state was in financial turmoil, trying to recover from the devastation of WWI. Hitler took advantage of this situation by painting Jews as the cause of all of his nation’s problems, thereby making them the scapegoat to be sacrificed for the greater good.
    He was very charismatic, a speaker unparalleled in 20th century Germany, and he used this ability to the utmost. Whether or not he claimed to be a christian, his actions clearly bore witness to the evil in his heart. Countless atrocities have been committed in the name of God – does that make religion wrong? Of course not! Anyone can claim to be anything, but actions always speak louder than words. Hitler was merely an opportunistic madman.

  • Kevin C.

    To be on the defense of non-extremist religious people, the North didn’t think they were contradicting the will of God when they fought the twisted South.
    Although a larger portion of the Bible would probably side with the racism that Southern extremists portrayed in their actions, the Northerners were able to pick and choose the best parts to fit their goals.

  • heliobates

    I can cite many persons who went clinically insane or destroyed themselves and others in flagrant ways while their life flew the banner of atheism (hugging horses, shooting their classmates, etc.),

    So, now atheism causes syphilis?

    Don’t you think your examples should support the points that you’re making, when you’re attempting to upbraid someone else for not supporting his argument correctly?

  • heliobates

    Oops. Rick is arguing the exact opposite point, and I didn’t read closely enough.

    Sorry all, nothing to see here. Move along.

  • Marcus

    What the hay, I’ll give my two cents. Civil war; secession was legal, even Lincoln said so, as well as other major political thinkers leading up to that poin in history. So…that's that. Difference between commoners shouting Latin and JFK's Berlin speech should be obvious. One man vs. multitudes; lived in times of mass education vs. times of mass illiteracy; Latin was language of the educated and powerful, not the peasantry. As far as thinking people goes, a peasant mass shouting what was a closely guarded language of the clerical and ruling class should be treated with great skepticism. As for the Nazis, obviously God wasn't on their side. That ends that argument. Stop simplifying history for the sake of cheap points. It's not simple, and it never will be. Have a wonderful day.

  • http://bluebell024.wordpress.com/ Zacharias

    I am relieved that it didn’t take more than a few seconds of time to null down the obvious here. The daylight atheist or maybe just yourself would defend your faith by misleading judgment upon the history of a pro-Christian nation like the C.S.A. You are clearly abusive about not so much an advisory but rather just a people that disagreed with your feelings. God forbid!
    “Motto of the Slave holding Confederate States of America”? Based on how governments usually retell failed revolutions like that of the Southern states its easy to see how England would refer to the states in the revolution as slave holding states if we’d lost the War for Independence or War of 1812. Like yourself the victors in the War Between the Confederate and United States did not share the values with the vanquished foe.
    On one hand the South saw itself as free. On the other hand the North didn’t agree.
    On one hand the South engraved “Deo Vindice” into its brief national heart. Brigadier General Lewis Armisted swore “Trust in God and fear nothing,” before being fatally wounded leading a Virginia brigade in Pickett’s Charge July 3, 1863. A regiment of volunteers from Louisiana carried the design of the first national flag of the Confederacy with a battle cry stiched into the fabric by their ladies. “Trust in God. Fear Nothing!” On the other hand you believe that every act of beauty, courage, freedom, or love is from an event that is actually as illusive to you as God is, the big bang.
    Whether you win a war over a people that wanted independence from you and yours’ or just have a different faith there begins, sadly unsurprisingly, self righteous contempt. It is as predictable a fact as obvious are the true reasons for your alternative history.
    You vindictively and falsely compared the history of Germany with the history of South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, and the southern part of New Mexico and Arizona. Of coarse! It happens to matter that during the War Between the Confederate and United States Lincoln and his government resembled Nazis and Hitler better than any other example of the period. This observation is obliged by the evidence of the type of war of invasion and blockade by the people of the Northern states and the unsettling power Lincoln made for himself while leading it all. Just as Poland, France, and the USSR was invaded by Adolph so too was Virginia, South Carolina, or Georgia by Lincoln’s yankees. And when you study the obscene rule that Abraham used with his presidency against the office of the past you’ll find a more accurate view of what is compared with what in history! Lastly, you are sickly wrong for comparing the ancestors of the hundreds of thousands of Southerners that fought Hitler in World War 2 to that particular dictator.
    Appealing to your faith by attempting to diminish the true history of a place and people of an opposing one reflects as poorly on you as it does dishonorably on your values or lack of them.
    Deo Vindice! This is the clearest truth of all.

  • Andrew T.

    I’ve noticed that this thread has a unfailing tendency to wring neo-Confederate sympathizers out of the woodwork every few months. Given that the Confederacy was a Christian theocracy, I’m glad Zacharias has enough integrity to admit just that.

    I would also suggest he check his facts with this piece, since the site author wrote it specifically for him.

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

    I’m confused. Zacharias is attacking Ebon for talking about how the Southern states evoked god as justification and claimed god was on their side, and then explicitly states that Ebon is correct about it. I think that qualifies as an own goal.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    I’ve noticed that this thread has a unfailing tendency to wring neo-Confederate sympathizers out of the woodwork every few months.

    In this case, it may be related to the 150th anniversary of the South’s attempted secession, which has probably left slavery’s modern advocates feeling a bit bolder than usual. I’m also amused to note that in all of Zacharias’ angry sputtering, he never manages to identify any statement of fact in my post that he actually disagrees with.

  • AParr

    It’s always grand to see the know-it-alls, who forget that Lincoln only attempted to free slaves in the Southern States not the four border, slave-holding states of the Union. And Grant’s wife must have freed her slaves after everyone else just for “safe-keeping”

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

    And that has what to do with the OP and how does it affect the arguments contained herein? I love when people start off chasitizing others for being know-it-alls and then post completely irrelevant crap to show how much they know.

  • someguy

    Nice opinion piece.