FOX News Channel Guest: The Age of Enlightenment and Reason Led to the Holocaust

Anthony Foxx, Mayor of Charlotte and President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Transportation, issued a proclamation declaring yesterday a “Day of Reason“:

So, of course, FOX News Channel was going to talk about it. And who better to talk about it than Anthony Foxx someone from the American Humanist Association the CEO of Concerned Women for America Penny Nance… because that makes sense. She didn’t let FOX News down, either, explaining how the age of reason eventually led us to… well, just watch:

Clearly, we need faith as a component and it’s just silly for us to say otherwise. You know, the Age of Enlightenment and reason led us to moral relativism. And moral relativism is what led us all the way down the dark path to the Holocaust.

Yep. All that enlightenment and reason led to the mass slaughter of Jews… in the mind of one crazy person. She brought up Mao later in the interview, too, because that’s what comes to her mind when she thinks about people who don’t believe in the divinity of her BFF Jesus.

I’m gonna side with Sam Harris on this one: “There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.”

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • guest

    Why even bother commenting on anything FAUX News does or says anymore? Like any other troll, the best way to squash it is to starve it of the one thing it requires for survival, attention. Nothing (new) to see here. Move along.

  • baal

    Am I the only one who thinks moral absolutism is the problem? Even the majority of ‘moral absolutist’ christians gave up on defending slavery.

  • JKPS

    That’s actually what they said about atheists on the video clip.

  • tinker

    Wow, she just spouted a whole list of unrelated things to come up to the Holocaust? Was she dropped on her head as a child? To come to the conclusion that reason is the reason for all of the worlds problems is an act of contortionism not seen in circ du soleil.

  • JKPS

    Literal jaw-dropping moment. I haven’t watched FOX News in a loooooong time and I am completely flabbergasted that this passes for news in any sense of the word.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Well, Martin Luther did say that reason is the enemy of faith, thus setting Christendom back a 1,000 years.

  • Randomfactor

    The Age of Enlightenment led to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

  • Holytape

    In this era of financial insecurity and budget tight, I propose a reasonable device that Fox can use to maximize their profits. Instead of having to bring in a new expert every time one whats to say that something, be it liberalism, environmentalism, Obamacare, Welfare, Air Pollution Control, Clean Water, Public Education, Social Security, Gun Control, The Eisenhower Freeway System, Hollywood, Woman’s studies, LGBT Rights, Gay Marriage, the Americans with Disabilities Act, is going to lead us down the inevitable path to the Holocaust, they should rebut any of this horrible ideas with a continual loop of Glenn Beck shouting the word Hitler.

    What to understand the world through empirical observations? HILTER!
    What to do back ground checks for gun buyers? HILTER!
    What to order a Philly Cheesesteak, with Swiss instead of Cheddar? HITLER!

  • Holytape

    You’re using different meanings of the words ‘absolutism’ and ‘relativism’ than she is. You’re implying that ‘absolutism’ means completely unchanging and everything is black and white, and ‘relativism’ means that morals have to change with the context of the situation, and that they evolve over it. Those definitions are completely wrong. She is using the correct meanings, which are “Absolutism: to agree with her” and “Relativism: to disagree with her.”

  • TiltedHorizon

    “Dark periods of history is what we arrive at when we leave God out of the equation.”

    Regardless of what Hitler believed, he had the support of Germany behind him, all it took for him to convince a prominently Christian country to commit genocide was to repeatedly label it the “Lord’s Work”. God was not out of the equation, god was riding shotgun on this one.

  • Gus Snarp

    It’s like they don’t even know what the enlightenment is…..

    For years now the conservative media have tried to take every idea important to American political liberals, from the moderates to the hard left, and twist it to being a negative, right down to the word liberal. Now they’ve gone so far as to take the intellectual movement that was foundational to the American Revolution and the Constitution and associating it with Hitler and Mao instead of associating it with the free and democratic governments, including ours, that it actually spawned. I’m flabbergasted.

    And they talk about historical revision? This is like the Soviets erasing Trotsky. Maybe if they keep this up the libertarians will abandon them. I mean, you can’t seriously be libertarian and not know that the enlightenment gave birth to basically every idea you hold dear (fortunately along with a bunch of other better ideas too).

  • Kengi

    Yes, Godwinning absolutely everything at the drop of a hat can be annoying, but some situations really do compare to Hitler and Nazis. And let’s face it, ordering swiss instead of cheddar on your Philly cheese steak is one of those situations.

    Learn more during National Philly Cheese Steak Month!

  • A3Kr0n

    Yea! Lunchtime!

  • Chengis Khan

    Bible is perhaps the only book that is specifically dogmatic that curiosity and learning is bad. And ironically, every single bible-follower takes advantage of this clause and applies it to others except the self. Most of the critical social issues in judaeo-christian society (and in many others) can be traced to this problem. It is plainly appalling to me to see that there are plenty of people who support religions that aims to make a fool of them.
    Religious freedom – It is time to dismantle the oxymoron.

  • Space Cadet

    Right off the bat she drops this:

    “G K Chesterton said that the doctrine of original sin is the only one which we have 3,500 years of *empirical* evidence to back up.”

    Now, I know the Fox News guy was clearly on her side of things but it’s frustrating when people say things like this and nobody points out that they’re using words for which they don’t know the meaning.

  • Qp83

    I’m not much into history, but wasn’t most europeans christians in the 30′s and 40′s? So regardless of whether Hitler was an evil atheist, wasn’t the people commiting these horrible crimes in his name actually christians?

  • Verimius

    Someone should tell these people the Founding Fathers were gentlemen of the enlightenment.

    And the Holocaust was the culmination of 1,500 years of Christian anti-semitism.

  • Charles Honeycutt

    Yeah. Hitler invoked God, and almost all Germans at the time were Lutherans* or Catholics. The Nazis persecuted atheists and other non-Christians and banned books that in any way refuted God or Jesus, even indirectly.

    And the genocide of Jews was made possible by religious hatred of them that had been nurtured for nineteen hundred years by Christians.

    *Lutherans. Very important. Martin Luther, father of all Christian Protestantism, had a raving hatred of Jews.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Yes, it clearly was not the centuries of catholic church preached antisemitism that lead to the holocaust. Nor was it the punitive nature of the Treaty of Versailles that lead to the depression that gave rise to the NAZI party. It was clearly the Age of Enlightenment. So apparently the Enlightenment can lead to both genocide and constitutions.

  • Charles Honeycutt

    No. They get stronger when they go unchallenged.

  • Houndentenor

    Because there was no antisemitism before the Enlightenment? WTF?

  • Michael W Busch

    It also lead to Maurice Hilleman and Norman Borlaug, and let us kill smallpox (and ideally will let us kill polio and measles).

  • smrnda

    If we’re talking about the persecution of Jews, that has a long history in which the Christian church and its leaders were very involved for a long time before the Enlightenment.

  • chicago dyke

    yes he did. let’s not forget that.

  • chicago dyke

    they get stronger when you pay them. want them to die? cancel you cable.

  • Jasper

    “You know, the Age of Enlightenment and reason led us to moral relativism. And moral relativism is what led us all the way down the dark path to the Holocaust.”

    Yes, clearly we invented the occupation of “Evil Dictator” during the Enlightenment

  • Camorris

    Just like Penny Nance, I too have been to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and came away with tears in my eyes and unable to speak. But I did not draw the same conclusion as she has voiced. Rather than seeing that the enlightenment has led to this atrocity, I saw that the world had not yet reached a degree of enlightenment sufficient to prevent it. If Hitler was truly an atheist as claimed, why would he have been so hateful of the Jews? Seems to me his hate was fostered by Catholic anti-semitism which was rampant in most of western societies at the time ( including America ).

    In Yad Vashem, there is one photograph that has become indelible in my memory. It is of a group of residents formed up ready to be marched off to what on can only assume was a one way trip to an extermination camp. A few paces in front is a German soldier patiently waiting for orders. But what is striking is the looks on the people in the formation behind him. There are men, women and children all mustered in regimental fashion each with a suitcase and with expressions of concern and bewilderment. I think they believe they are about to be relocated to a new community and don’t know what is really about to happen. And the most impressive aspect of the photo to me is the gentleman at the head of the assemblage. He was tall and handsome and looks like an arian that the Germans desired in their race. He was handsome enough to be an American TV news anchor, but I suspect he might have been a physician. I can’t get this image out of my head, nor do I want to.

  • newenglandbob

    Can there be people more ignorant and idiotic than those who work for Faux Noise?

  • Lorena Birk

    My personal favorite is Mao’s misquote. she said “morality comes from the muzzle of a gun” the actual quote was “POLITICAL POWER comes from the muzzle of a gun”…. slight difference there.

  • sunburned

    The stupid, it burns!

    Seriously though…I just don’t understand how they get away with this stuff, you would think that eventually the public would catch on.

  • Rain

    The faux-intellectual lady mangled G.K. Chesterton to the point of incoherence! Who the heck cares what G.K. Chesterton says about it anyway.

  • Randomfactor

    She quotes Chesterton? The guy who also said:

    country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of
    saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk
    or sober.”

    The guy’s actually quite witty–and quite wrong about original sin. His arguments cover not original sin but plain old everyday misbehavior.

  • Charles Honeycutt

    If I was the one paying the cable bill, it would be gone in a heartbeat. I’m most of the way of convincing her to go to Netflix… or well, pretty much anything that isn’t that garbage.

  • Gus Snarp

    The original sin quote sounds like he was being witty, certainly not like he’s talking about real evidence.

  • Ders

    Does anyone else think we should just set up parts of the country where we perfectly mimic different epochs in history? For instance, you can go and have your Victorian sensibilities, but they come with Victorian medicine and technology. We can even randomly introduce smallpox or tuberculosis for realistic effect. It’ll be fun.

  • Sue Blue

    When I see and hear dimbulbs like this, I’m embarrassed to be a woman. And that asinine group of empty-headed walking uteri that call themselves “Concerned Women of America, aka “Women Who Want To Be Slaves to Patriarchy Because, Well, We’re Women and That’s How God Made Us” just makes me want to scream. They simply want to send women back to the middle ages with their minds dead and their legs spread (for childbirth).

    I’ve hated this “organization” ever since I saw this:

    Warning: You might want to wash down a couple of Vicodin with some Yukon Jack to dull the pain of the headdesks and facepalms.

  • Roger Bauman

    If anyone can save us from reason, it’s Fox!

  • RobMcCune

    I wonder if the long dead apologist:
    1. Defined ‘sin’ in a quantifiable way.
    2. Provided evidence that it is innate.
    3. Provided evidence that it is innate due to an ancestral diet of magical fruit.

  • RobMcCune

    Their b.s. represents and influences the ‘thinking’ of millions of americans, regardless of whether sane people watch them or not.

  • RobMcCune

    But… but, God descended onto Mt. Vernon to deliver them to George Washington who stored them in the National Arkives of the Covenant.

  • RobMcCune

    Wow, Nance just sputters nonsense throughout the entire clip, it’s word salad with name-drop croutons.

  • rick_povero

    ** Faux Noise and the Big Lies of xian fundies and roman catholics

    Herr Hitler and His Holiness Pius XII were the immediate causes of the Holocaust (in Europe 1938-45) —

    The first by action the latter by inaction. Both shared a hatred of the “Christ killers” — Hitler remained a Catholic lifelong and his blueprint for annihilation of European Jewry, Mein Kampf (My Struggle, 1923) —

    Never got placed on the Catholic Index of Books forbidden to read. For a concise history see Michel Onfray. Atheist Treatise.

  • Gus Snarp

    If Swiss is Hitler, then Cheddar is Stalin. Provolone all the way! Don’t even get me started on spray cheese. That’s like Pol Pot and the whole Kim family rolled into one!

  • Gus Snarp

    Certainly not Fox News viewers. What are the odds that name means anything at all to the average Fox viewer beyond, gosh, what a delightfully old fashioned smarty pants name, and if an old fashioned smarty pants agrees with me, it must be right, the pretty lady said so!

  • Gus Snarp

    Oh god, the plastered on smile, the breathy voice spouting nonsense. And actually using the phrase “Teach the controversy”. It’s horrible, but I cannot look away..

  • RobMcCune

    My guess would be she mangled every quote:

    1 Chesterton: Mangled
    2 Adams: Lies from David Barton
    3 Mao: Mangled

  • RobMcCune

    she said “morality comes from the muzzle of a gun”

    If they ever have her on to talk about the issue of gun control I’m sure she’ll attribute those words to one of the founding fathers.

  • Rev. Ouabache

    Martin Luther was more responsible for the Holocaust than the Age of Enlightenment was thanks to his book “On the Jews and Their Lies”.

  • Kengi

    Huh. I was always taught that Provolone was Mussolini. Maybe I spent too much time in Wisconsin.

    Also, I think you underestimate the evil of spray cheese.

  • Richard Wade

    What an amazing lightweight. She invokes the holocaust and Mao? That’s her best shot? Fox Nooz viewers apparently can’t handle anything more challenging than cliches they’ve already heard many times.

  • JA

    Just isn’t a day at Fox News without some crazy spewing nonsense and invoking Mao or Stalin.

    Seriously, it’s like they’re trying to cover up their own worship of them.

  • Matthew Baker
  • James Buchy

    Wow..just wow. If mental gymnastics were an Olympic event, she would win a diamond encrusted, gold pressed latinum medal.

  • James Buchy

    I happen to LOVE spray cheese. But then, I AM Canadian, so……

  • RowanVT

    My boyfriend is Jewish, so I showed this to him. His response was that even if that was so, the amount of lives saved by the advances in medicine thanks to that time occurring outnumber drastically the number of deaths in the holocaust. The smallpox vaccine alone has save *hundreds of millions* of people.

    Somehow our conversation ended up with some phrasing about the smallpox vaccine being better than no Hitler. And that triggered something that would truly send me to hell if it existed. You know that meme of “still a better love story than Twilight”?

    Hiter: Still better than smallpox. My boyfriend approves. I find it hilarious AND feel like a terrible person at the same time.

  • DougI

    So Hitler follows through with Martin Luther’s ideas on how the Jews should be persecuted and it’s the fault of the enlightenment? Well, it’s Fox News, we shouldn’t expect anything enlightening coming from that propaganda network.

  • Kengi

    Really, James, you should keep your sick and twisted lifestyle choices to yourself. There are children who read this site. Think of the children!

  • James Buchy

    We need to teach the controversy, damn you all!!! Spray cheese is the chosen cheese!!!!

  • Kengi

    But there is no controversy amongst chefs. It’s only a controversy in the marketing world. You can legally teach about spray cheese in a marketing class, but not in a cooking class.

  • phantomreader42

    Well, Faux Noise hates both of those any time they find them inconvenient (which is most of the time). Basically they like the latter half of the Second Amendment (but only when applied to white people), and think the rest of the Constitution is a CommieMuslimSatanistAtheist plot set up by George Soros via time travel. As for the DoI, they forget all but one of the words in it.

  • Camorris

    You can sell/persuade anything to somebody. There certainly seems to be a lot of somebodys.

  • Camorris

    Thanks for the book suggestion.

  • cipher

    I thought the Holocaust was a delayed reaction to the Jews rejecting Jesus.

    I can’t keep up any more.

  • Carpinions

    These people are beyond offensive, and in this case, the bigotry and abortion zealotry that binds a group like CWFA is the furthest thing from consideration. Conservatives have taken to making Hitler comparisons at the drop of a hat. Doesn’t matter the subject, doesn’t matter the scale; if there’s an opportunity to try and rob the megaphone by screaming “Hitler!”, they’ll take it. And guaranteed, if a group denouncing this woman’s remarks demanded an apology, she’d double down and label the offended as Nazi stooges. Or, at best, we’d get the “sorry if I offended…”

    These people are not only stupid about the history of their own religion and holy book, they’re stupid about things nobody has an excuse to be stupid about.

    On a side note, I must ask: Between the two networks, which one really does maintain a higher level of intellectual discussion here? MSNBC or Faux? Daily I can get Faux clips with people leaping into absurdity with abandon, over anything that can be twisted into a right-wing talking point. The incessant talk (that is not walked) about (the rightwing version of) “freedom”, “liberty”, “civil rights”, blah blah blah. It all turns into “socialism”, “communism”, “Nazis”, “baby murderers”, etc. Does MSNBC do this from the opposite direction to anything like the same degree? The MSNBC segments I’ve seen of late would lead me to say no.

  • Spuddie

    “Gott Mit Uns” and all of that. =)

  • Spuddie

    In all fairness using Swiss on a Philly Cheesesteak is a major moral failing on the same scale as ordering genocide. =)

  • SeekerLancer

    If you don’t like modern civilization Fox, you can just leave.

  • Darcy Jackson


  • Darcy Jackson

    I love that phrase “Teach the controversy”. What a load.

  • kaydenpat

    Everything President Obama does, in the mind of Faux Noise, will lead to the next Holocaust, doncha know?

  • kaydenpat

    But don’t people like her rail against any kind of gun control? She should be loving Mao’s quote.

  • kaydenpat

    It’s propaganda for the Rightwingers. Not anything close to being news.

  • kaydenpat

    In the movie “Amen”, the Catholic Church was aware of the atrocities committed by the Nazis but said nothing against them.

  • Sue Blue

    Got rid of DirectTV years ago, and haven’t missed it at all. I feel smarter now.

  • mountainguy

    Has anyone read Adorno’s “The dialectic of enlightment”? Apparently he and Honkheimer stated something in the lines of Enlightment not being able to get rid of the irrationalism that lead to fascism and nazism, or something like that. Anyway, not the fact-less idiocies sputed by Penny Nance

  • RobMcCune

    Sure, it’s obvious that the enlightenment did not make society completely rational. However, the rise of modern nation states which occurred during the enlightenment, and not because of it, contributed far more to the rise of fascism.

  • Randay

    St. Augustine warned against studying natural sciences and mathematics because you might learn something that would keep you out of the City of God. Your post reminds me of Nietzsche’s “The AntiChrist”(or The AntiChristian).

    “Because sickness belongs to the essence of Christianity, the typical
    Christian condition, ‘belief,’ has to be a form of sickness. Every
    straightforward, honest, scientific road to knowledge has to be repudiated by the Church as a forbidden road. Even doubt is a sin.”

    Christianity, in its opposition to reality, is “…mortally hostile to the ‘wisdom of this world,’ which means science.” — from Wiki. The entire article on the book is worth reading.