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Hitler: “read my lips, I am a Christian”

January 14, 2015

I recently saw an article shared on the Richard Dawkins website written by Michael Sherlock about the religious convictions of Hitler. He quotes from a number of Hitler’s public speeches and makes the claim that ‘Hitler was a Christian’ and asserts this fact as ‘undeniable’.

There is more to say in response to Sherlock’s article than this post will cover. Yet I the claim that ‘Hitler was a Christian’ is plainly false.

Eric Metaxas in his biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a chapter on Nazi Theology. He summarises Hitler’s position on Christianity very well,

‘One sometimes hears that Hitler was a Christian. He was certainly not, but neither was he openly anti-Christian, as most of his top lieutenants were…He was utterly pragmatic. In public he often made comments that made him sounds pro-church or pro-Christian but there can be no question that he said these things cynically, for political gain. In private, he possessed an unblemished record of statements against Christianity and Christians’ (p. 165)

Hitler recognised that to win power and the people, he needed to win the churches. Hence he made statements publicly to demonstrate his allegiance to Christianity and the churches. Whenever he attacked the churches, his popularity waned. Hence Hitler made statements positive to the church (which he privately despised) in order to win power.

A simple way to demonstrate Hitler’s lack of Christian conviction is to ask, ‘which church did he attend?’ He never regularly attended church, nor Bible study. He was not committed to Jesus, the Bible, nor Christian believers, he was not a ‘devout Christian’. Instead he was committed to political power and the ultimate German State. He was the ultimate politician.

Given that Hitler was a politician, one must be therefore skeptical of what he said in public. One recalls the famous but perhaps foolish words spoken by George Bush Sr back in 1988 when he said ‘read my lips, no new taxes’.

This proved to be a failed promise as Bush both increased existing taxes and introduced new ones in his presidency. It seemed that Bush’s promise of “no new taxes” was a calculated political judgement to win people to further his political ambitions. Some say that his promise of ‘no new taxes’ was significant in him being elected. Hitler’s statements about Christianity were the same. He said what he needed to say to become popular and to win the people and the churches, which bore significant influence in Germany.

Hitler was as committed to Christianity as George Bush Sr. was to tax cuts. Except that at least George Bush was somewhat genuine. Hitler had no intention of supporting the church. In fact he was determined to see it ultimately subservient to the Socialist State and he was determined to change the church’s ideology.

Hitler’s public positive statements about Christianity instead make him more of a hypocrite than a follower of Jesus. Indeed, Jesus had harsher words to say about religious hypocrites than he did to pagans.

 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers! (Matt 7:21-23)

Thus it does beggar belief that modern writers can suggest that Hitler who so fragrantly did not ‘bear fruit in keeping with repentance’ could possibly be a genuine Christian believer.

It is far too simplistic to use some words from Hitler’s public speeches to demonstrate his personal conviction on this topic.

I am very tired of atheists attempting to poison the well of Christianity by erroneously asserting that Hitler was a Christian and attributing a pivotal part of the heinous atrocities committed against the Jewish people in World War II to his “Christianity”.

Hitler was not a Christian.

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17 Comments
  1. Hi Rob,
    I hope you’ve had a good Xmas and NY break.

    I am very tired of atheists attempting to poison the well of Christianity by erroneously asserting that Hitler was a Christian and attributing a pivotal part of the heinous atrocities committed against the Jewish people in World War II to his “Christianity”.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone strongly asserting that Hitler’s holocaust atrocities were carried out ‘in the name of Christianity’. Although, I have seen one meme that includes a quote that says he was ‘carrying out the Lord’s work’ in his efforts against the Jews. But this is more of counter-punch than a reasoned argument.

    That’s because this is an argument that cuts both ways. More often in relation to Hitler, I’ve actually seen Christians attempt to assert that certain 20th Century atrocities were actually a consequence of atheism. These people tend to use the examples of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot to demonstrate their point. The standard counter-argument consists of two parts: 1. Hitler was in fact Catholic, and 2. None of the aforementioned atrocities were actually carried out in the name of atheism. Instead they were clearly motivated by extremist ideologies which, incidentally, have more in common religion than they do with atheism (despite the lack of theistic beliefs of their leaders).

    Now, I am actually inclined to agree with your main point here, which is that Adolf Hitler probably was not motivated by Christian beliefs in pursuit of his anti-Semitic, Aryan ideology. However, I do think it is important that if you want to beat a drum about this, you ought to acknowledge the ridiculous ignorance of the belief that the atrocities of Stalin and various other non-religious despots were motivated by atheism. It is this oft-repeated nonsense that usually triggers the ‘Hitler was a Christian’ response.

    • Thanks for your comments Paul. Nice to hear from you in the new year as well. I hope that you also had a good Xmas and NY.

      Thanks for your thoughtful response. I know I was being a little aggressive in the comments about Hitler (at the point you mention), but that was because I was paraphrasing the original author. It was my attempt at rhetorical irony.

      I think that you raise some good points about Hitler’s religious beliefs. And I used to believe that he was an atheist, but I think it’s far more ambiguous than that.

      You raise an interesting point concerning the separation of religion and atheism. I actual think that the two are not opposites, we can have atheistic religions e.g. Nationalism. I’m thinking of writing a post on that (your comments, as always, would be very welcome).

      In terms of your final point about Stalin. I’ve written about this before (I think they were your first comments on this blog) where I suggested that absence of belief can motivate. No need to rehash those comments now, but I do think that Stalin’s atheism deeply affected his actions.

  2. No need to rehash those comments now…
    Then why re-assert the point? 🙂

    …but I do think that Stalin’s atheism deeply affected his actions.
    Presumably in the same way your lack of belief in Vishnu deeply affects your own.

    • Well my lack of belief in Vishnu does affect my beliefs – I eat meat!!

      The article is here: https://atheistforum.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/absence-of-belief-can-motivate/

      • OK, so it is because you don’t believe in Vishnu, that you’re inclined to eat meat?
        It wouldn’t have anything to do with, say, the way you were brought up, or that you like you taste of meat…?

      • OK, so it is because you don’t believe in Vishnu, that you’re inclined to eat meat?
        It wouldn’t have anything to do with, say, the way you were brought up, or that you like the taste of meat…?

      • Sure, those things are a part of it. But not believing in Vishnu is also part of it. Because if I did believe in Vishnu, then I wouldn’t eat meat. I suppose it’s the same reason you don’t go to church every Sunday (I assume). Your lack of belief motivates you to do something different on Sundays.

  3. …not believing in Vishnu is also part of it….
    Right, so just as you are thinking (or not thinking) about your lack-of-belief in Vishnu, it gives you the idea about tucking into a medium-rare sirloin…
    If you say so.

    Your lack of belief motivates you to do something different on Sundays…
    We’ve been through this before. I can’t actually relate to your concept of lack-of-belief as a motivator.
    So no, it doesn’t, Rob. I’m motivated to do various things on a Sunday because I like to do those things, or because they’re household chores that I know I must finish. I’m motivated by the sense of satisfaction I’ll get by doing those things (or in the case of mowing the lawn, actually having it completed).
    The lack of belief in the lawn mowing faerie, as well as a god, is incidental. Neither of these things, nor countless other non-thoughts, are the motivators of my actions.

  4. Hitler did not invent anti-semitism. It already existed and he exploited it. Why was it so prevalent and why was Hitler able to tap into it so easily? It had a lot to do with it’s having been fostered by Christianity. I don’t suggest that it was all due to Christianity but the seeds of anti-Semitism were present in Christianity and after the early Christian church broke away from its Jewish roots, the roots were actively encouraged to spread.
    Hitler used the existing Christian prejudice against Jews to bolster his power and popularity. It doesn’t matter much whether he was a Christian or not. It is unlikely that Nazi anti-Semitism would have been as enthusiastically adopted as it was if it had not been for the underlying Christian history.

    Just a few of the articles on this point:

    http://archive.adl.org/education/holocaust/holocaust_history.html

    http://www.southerninstitute.info/holocaust_education/ds1.html

    http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/27646/anti-Semitism

    • Thanks for the comment Frances and I’m sorry for the delay. Hmmm, not sure what to say. It’s a little unrelated to my post and not really a field of expertise of mine. But I’m not going to deny that there has been anti-Semitic statements made by believers. Luther said some scathing things.

      My response is not to judge a movement solely on its adherents. There are many complex factors leading to anti-Semitism. I would certainly rebuke anyone (including Luther) claiming to make anti-Semitic statements as it has no place in Christian thought or practice. For a start, Jesus was a Jew!!! There is also a key theological theme of the New Testament of ‘All one in Christ’, there is no division between Jew or Gentile. I am very disappointed by ‘believers’ who are anti-Semitic and I’m not entirely clear of all of the reasons for that.

      (It makes me wish I did a certain essay in 2nd year theological college which asked why Luther was so aggressively anti-Semitic.)

      So anyway, I’d suggest that Hitler tapped into an existing ‘prejudice’ against Jews.

      I hope you’re going well.

  5. Sorry, poorly phrased. After early Christianity broke away from its Jewish roots “the seeds were cultivated”

  6. Steven Carr permalink

    Hitler was a Christian. Christians of the time counted him as Christians. He paid his church tax.

    But still, if you want to claim that the only way for genocidal dictators to get their program of genocide approved of is to claim to be Christian…..

    • As I said in the post, I’ll believe he was a real Christian if you tell me which church he went to regularly. Thanks

      • Steven Carr permalink

        I see. So you have to go to church to be a Christian?

        I guess that rules out all those Christian hermits. Unbelievers , one and all.

        I can tell you which church Hitler paid his church tax to, if that’s any help.

        But why are we asking such questions? I’m not qualified to say if Hitler was a Catholic. Only the Catholic church can answer that question. And it says ‘yes, Hitler was a Catholic.’

      • No, you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian. BUT it is an indication of spiritual conviction. Hitler wasn’t a hermit. What would demonstrate to you that Hitler wasn’t a true believer?

  7. Steven Carr permalink

    One leather-bound tome — with WORTE CHRISTI, or “Words of Christ,” embossed in gold on the cover — was well worn, the silky, supple leather peeling upward in gentle curls along the edges. Human hands had obviously spent a lot of time with this book. The inside cover bore a dedication:

    “To our beloved Führer with gratitude and profound respect, Clara von Behl, born von Jansen von den Osten. Christmas 1935.”

  8. Steven Carr permalink

    What else was in Hitler’s personal library?

    Also included were a German translation of E. Stanley Jones’s 1931 best seller, The Christ of the Mount; and a 500-page work on the life and teachings of Jesus, published in 1935 under the title The Son: The Evangelical Sources and Pronouncements of Jesus of Nazareth in Their Original Form and With the Jewish Influences.

    How many Christians have 500 page books on the life and teachings of Jesus?

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