In my first post on this blog I wrote a lengthy piece analysing Nazi theology and racial ideology, showing that it was religious, creationist and opposed to Darwinian evolution. Since that piece is somewhat long I thought I’d produce a succinct ‘sound bite’ version of Hitler’s views on religion and atheism. Repeating this is unfortunately necessary, since, as exemplified by Pope Ratzinger, Christians all too often tell the lie that Hitler was an ‘atheist’, a claim arrived at by Christian logic: “the Nazis were nasty; atheists are nasty; therefore the Nazis were atheists”. Despite this claim, repeated so often that even some atheists think it must be true, Hitler despised atheism almost as much as Herr Ratzinger does.
“Hence this song [The German anthem] also constitutes a pledge to the Almighty, to His will and to His work: for man has not created this Volk, but God, that God who stands above us all. He formed this Volk, and it has become what it should according to God’s will, and according to our will, it shall remain, nevermore to fade!” (Hitler, speech, July 31, 1937, Essential Hitler, p161)
“Besides that, I believe one thing: there is a Lord God! And this Lord God creates the peoples.” (Hitler, speech, February 24, 1940, Essential Hitler, p499)
by Coel Hellier
- Nazi racial ideology was creationist. Hitler considered that the different human races had been created separately. The Aryan race was the “master” race, created as “God’s highest handiwork”, the other races (Jewish, Black, Slav, etc) were literally “sub-human”. The races had been created by God in their current form (humans had not evolved from other animals).
- Nazi ideology pointed to both artificial and natural selection as a mechanism preserving the health of a species by weeding out the weaker and less able. This struggle for existence countered a natural tendency for things to decay. To the Nazis this mechanism preserved species in their original (God created) form. They did not consider that natural selection operating over long periods of time caused species to evolve; they regarded the species as fixed.
- Hitler considered that allowing interbreeding between the separately created races would destroy the Aryan race, and thus be a sin against God. He considered it a high imperative to preserve the Aryan race in its primordial excellence. In Mein Kampf he advocated that Jews should be celibate to prevent such interbreeding. Later he developed a “final solution” to this “problem”.
- Nazi ideologues strongly opposed most Darwinian concepts; they rejected macro-evolution, they rejected the common origin of the different human races, they rejected human evolution from animals. They rejected such doctrines which they saw as depriving man of his soul. They banned Darwin’s works and called his theories an “English sickness”.
- Hitler saw the Christian churches as having been corrupted by Jews, starting with Paul. He regarded Jesus as an Aryan, and wanted to restore what he saw as the original message of Jesus. The Nazis formed their own church, the “German Christians”, and their own theological institutes, promoting the idea of Jesus as an Aryan. Hitler despised atheism and had “stamped it out” on taking power with the disbanding of the German Freethinker’s League.
- The German people during the Third Reich were overwhelmingly Christian, with among the highest church-attendance rates in Europe. In a 1939 Census 94% declared themselves Christian. Nearly all of those involved in the Holocaust regarded themselves as Christian; the Auschwitz SS self-labelled as Catholic (42.6%), Protestant (36.5%) or Gottgläubig (20.1%; the word means God-believer or devout, and was the term favoured by the “German Christians”); not one was recorded as “without faith” (atheist). Indeed Himmler declared that: “I have never tolerated an atheist in the ranks of the SS. Every member has a deep faith in God”.
- Since the war many in the largely-Christian victorious West have conducted a misinformation campaign trying to exonerate religion of any blame for the Nazis, and instead place the blame on atheists and Darwinian ideology. The truth is the opposite. Yet, the misinformation campaign has been sufficiently sucessful that many people still believe it. Creationists, particularly, are still trying to promote this disinformation.
2: Nazi Racial Theory (de Gobineau)
3: Houston Stewart Chamberlain
4: Hans Günther
5: Hitler and Mein Kampf
6: Creationist denial
7: Religion in the Third Reich
8: Christian Denial
Among those who dislike Darwin’s explanation of human beings as the product of evolution a common accusation is that Darwinian thinking has led to horrors such as the Nazi holocaust. For example the American religious commentator Ann Coulter writes: “From Marx to Hitler, the men responsible for the greatest mass murders of the twentieth century were avid Darwinists” (which is wrong on all the others, not just Hitler). So widespread is the claim that even many who accept that Darwinian evolution has been established as true, well beyond any reasonable doubt, also believe that Darwinian ideas were misused to justify Nazi atrocities. For example the British political commentator Andrew Marr writes that Darwinism was “used to justify … the Nazi holocaust”.
Are these claims correct? Remarkably, for a claim so widely accepted, no they aren’t. Indeed, the Nazi ideology underpinning the extermination of the Jews was opposed to and incompatible with Darwinism, instead being a religious and creationist doctrine.