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Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Was Hitler a Christian? No!

Was Hitler a Christian?  No!

          This is an article I hadn’t planned on writing.  It actually stems from a discussion I had on Twitter recently.  I responded to an atheist’s post claiming that Adolph Hitler was a Catholic and that the Church was complicit in the Holocaust.  Most people know that Hitler’s views stemmed from his fascination with Charles Darwin and Friedrich Nietzsche, and had nothing to do with Christianity.  However, after I stated as much, the young man who wrote the original message became quite agitated.
          Now, Twitter is a medium that has some useful purposes, but intellectual discussion is not one of them.  It simply can’t be done 144 characters at a time.  So I offered to speak with the young man via email, but he didn't seem interested.  I intended to drop the matter when I received a message from another atheist, who didn’t claim Hitler was a Christian, but denied his association with social Darwinism.  So I decided to write an article on the issue, and in the future I can just offer the link with another invitation to discuss over email, if the incident should happen again.
          So, was Hitler a Christian?  Most people with even a rudimentary knowledge of Christianity would laugh at the idea.  Certainly there is nothing in Scripture or the Catechism that would relate to Hitlerism, except to condemn it.  Then why do some atheist propaganda Web sites make such a preposterous claim?
          There are two main reasons.  First, Hitler’s mother was a Catholic, and was actually quite devout.  His father was baptized a Catholic but would be characterized as either a skeptic or an atheist, depending on your source.  Unfortunately, young Adolph did not follow in his mother’s religious footsteps and rejected his Catholicism at a young age, actually becoming quite disgusted by it.  There is the only piece of actual truth to the claim: by virtue of baptism, Hitler was a Catholic, but like so many others, he did not continue in the Faith.  (Joseph Stalin, at one point, for example, was an Orthodox seminary student.  He became one of the most violently blood-thirsty atheists of all time.)
          The other “evidence” for Hitler’s supposed Christianity comes from references he made in speeches and writings that cast Christianity in a positive light, and even as an influence on him.  This is where the atheist thinks he’s got us trapped on this issue.  It’s right there, in the historical record.
          However, the atheist who makes this claim is only betraying his lack of knowledge on this issue.  Perhaps he’s seen a couple of Web sites or read “Hitler’s Pope” or some such nonsense.  But a comprehensive look at Hitler’s actions and statements gives clear evidence as to why he would occasionally speak or write favorably about Christianity, and it is not personal belief.
          In Mein Kampf Hitler speaks of his struggle as that rarest of statesmen (as he saw himself), the political philosopher who was also the practical politician – the philosopher-king.  His sick philosophy is rooted in Darwin and Nietzsche, but as the practical politician, he needs a way to make his vision a reality.  That is where Christianity comes in, as a valuable political tool.
          Germany, of course, was a Christian nation, mostly Lutheran with pockets of Catholicism.  But among the elite a Darwinian materialism had taken hold, and was spreading through the universities.  For Hitler’s vision to be realized, he would need countless men willing to die for his cause.  Well, people do not die for materialism.  What’s the point?  But they will die for something they believe with a religious fervor.
          Hitler did not try to convince the German people they were living out their Christianity by slaughtering Jews, but he had to tap into a religious fervor and direct that toward his vision of a master race that would be free of the undesirables that are at the root of all social problems, according to his thinking.  He also must have known that, like the United States today, though religiosity may not be where it should, people are unlikely to accept a ruler without some faith.
          You see, Hitler was also a student of Niccolo Machiavelli when it came to politics.  Machiavelli had counseled rulers, in The Prince, to appear to be religious, even though truthfully they be atheists, and to use religion to advance their political goals.  As proof of Hitler’s knowledge and devotion to this thinking, consider his own words:
“This human world of ours would be inconceivable without the practical existence of a religious belief.  The great masses of a nation are not composed of philosophers.  For the masses of people especially, faith is absolutely the only basis of a moral outlook on life.  The various substitutes that have been offered have not shown any results that might warrant us in thinking that they might usefully replace the existing denominations…Until such a substitute [for religion] be available only fools and criminals would think of abolishing the existing religion (emphasis added)."  (Main Kampf, Volume One, Chapter 10)
          Also, consider the fact that Jews were not the only people slaughtered by the Nazis.  Many types of people were killed, especially Catholics.  Our third son is named after the Catholic priest St. Maximilian Kolbe, who died in Auschwitz.  Catholics of all types were in the sites of Hitler and the Nazi regime.
          Why, then, this desperation among some atheists to portray Hitler as a Catholic?  For my simple comments I was branded both an idiot and a liar by my Twitter adversary.  Responses such as those, of course, only betray that our opponent has no really rational argument.  But they also reveal a desperation to hold onto the fantasy, to such a degree that irrational anger will be directed at anyone who questions it.  (We, of course, must be sure never to respond in kind.  If we are speaking as Christians, we must act as Christians, speaking the Truth in charity.)
          The answer, I think, is in who really influenced Adolph Hitler.  I actually never called Hitler an atheist.  His involvement in the occult would make it difficult for me to do so.  However, as previously mentioned, Hitler took the “morality” of Nietzsche, magnified it, and then applied it to social Darwinism.
          This is an “inconvenient truth” for some atheists.  The connection between Hitler and Darwin is undeniable (though Darwin himself would not have approved of what Hitler did.  He went to great lengths to try and give some reason for compassion.)  Darwin, of course, is the father of eugenics.  He said in The Descent of Man, “With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated…We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick…Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind…excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”
          Evil enough, but Hitler decided, borrowing from the “moral philosophy” of Nietzsche (see Beyond Good and Evil), that the right thing to do would be to speed up the process of eugenics not by controlling who can breed, but by exterminating the undesirables:
          “I perceived very clearly that the end of all social activity must never be merely sentimental charity, which is ridiculous and useless, but it must rather be a means to find a way of eliminating the fundamental deficiencies which necessarily bring about the degradation of the individual…” (Mein Kampf, Volume One, Chapter 2)
          How about this prediction from Darwin: “At some future period, not very distant by measure of centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.” (The Descent of Man, Chapter 6)
          Hitler again: “By recognizing that they are different, the volkisch concept separates mankind into races of superior and inferior quality.  On the basis of this recognition it feels bound, in conformity with the eternal Will that dominates the universe, to postulate the victory of the better and stronger, and the subordination of the inferior and weaker.”(Mein Kampf, Volume Two, Chapter 1)
          What do you think, does it sound more like Darwin or Christ?
          Finally, it should be noted that the claim that Adolph Hitler was a Catholic, even if it were true, would not discredit Christianity.  Hitler may not have been a Christian, but history has plenty of scoundrels who have been.  The difference is this: when these people did their nefarious deeds, they were acting in a manner inconsistent with their Christianity.  You don’t need to take my word for it.  Look in the Catechism; it tells you exactly what the Church teaches.  However, it would be hard to make an argument that Hitler was acting in a manner fundamentally inconsistent with social Darwinism.
          And yet, the atheists that wrote these messages on Twitter clearly condemn what Hitler did, and it’s good that they do.  In fact, the very fact that they find the Holocaust repulsive is a proof of the existence of God.  If we really were mere assortments of atoms who have evolved in a totally unguided manner, there would be no basis for objective morality, and the most we could say about the Holocaust is that we find it distasteful.  By their very moral indignation, these atheists testify to the existence of God.