Archive for December, 2007

An Open Letter to “Father” Jonathan Morris

December 12, 2007

Jonathan Morris-

I have to say, I am a bit tired of your – and the Pope’s, in his recent encyclical – classification of Hitler as an atheist.

First of all, Stalin and Mao, as well and Marx himself, were certainly atheists. I would not go as far as to say that Stalin and Mao are in any way representative of atheism (since atheism, in itself, espouses no doctrine) or even Marxism, but I will grant that they were atheists, that they did commit atrocities. You’re right that this fact should not be pushed aside by atheists, and I myself find it troubling. It shows that atheism, in itself, is not a cure-all for irrationality, and it shows that atheism should not be the central focus of the so-called “New Atheism.” I would suggest that, Mirroring the multitude of theistic religions, there are a number of non-theistic “religious ideaologies” ranging from benign new-age spiritualism, to dangerous personality cults and non-theistic millennial belief structures, like Marxism. It is clear from reading their books that authors like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or Christopher Hitchens do not espouse a thoughtless atheism. The atheism they profess is not a profession at all. It is simply the rational result of scientific skepticism. Scientific skepticism requires that all beliefs and prejudices be rigorously scrutinized. Proper beliefs are those based on evidence; beliefs that do not withstands scrutiny are either discarded or placed in limbo until new evidence is available. Very few people are entirely immune to prejudices, but scientific skepticism, as a system is. It is the only cure for for violent irrationality, religious or secular. This is why Christopher Hitchens is so fond of saying that it would be impossible to find a totalitarian state based on the precepts of people like Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, or Spinoza. Regardless, to many observers, it may seem that the central point of the “New Atheist” movement is the promotion of atheism. The existence of monsters like Stalin and Mao suggests to me that the “New-Atheists” should attempt to focus more on the promotion of reason, evidence, and scientific skepticism.

Now on to Hitler. Hitler murdered several million people, and certainly his blight on history raises many questions about human nature, about what it takes for a person to have so little regard for human life. That being true, his world view is of interest to everybody. It would be interesting to know what made Hitler tick, what aspects of his life drove him to do what he did. Since we can’t posthumously psychoanalyze the man, most of this will always be a mystery. Barring actual quotations, any serious attempt to draw lines of causality between any aspect of his world view and his is actions futile. So even if Hitler were an atheist, there would be no reason to think this had any bearing on his decision to do what he did – unless he explicitly said so. At any rate, there is no evidence to suggest that Hitler was even an atheist and thus no evidence to suggest that his atheism led him to commit atrocities. The only evidence we have of Hitler’s anti-Christian sentiment comes from one source called Table Talk. In it, Hitler is alleged to have said things like “Christianity is an invention of sick brains” and “The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death.” These quotes do not suggest atheism and, while they seem to be anti-Christian, the rest of Table Talk suggests that by “Christianity” Hitler meant the Catholic Church, as evidenced here:

Originally, Christianity was merely an incarnation of Bolshevism the destroyer. Nevertheless, the Galilean, who later was called Christ, intended something quite different. He must be regarded as a popular leader who took up His position against Jewry. Galilee was a colony where the Romans had probably installed Gallic legionaries, and it’s certain that Jesus was not a Jew. The Jews, by the way, regarded Him as the son of a whore– of a whore and a Roman soldier. The decisive falsification of Jesus’s doctrine was the work of St. Paul. He gave himself to this work with subtlety and for purposes of personal exploitation. For the Galiean’s object was to liberate His country from Jewish oppression. He set Himself against Jewish capitalism, and that’s why the Jews liquidated Him. -Hitler [Table-Talk, p. 76]

You and the Catholic Church may wish to equate all opposing viewpoints with “heresy” and “atheism,” a tradition that may be as old as the church itself, but wishing does not make it so. Non-Christian does not equal atheist, nor does Non-Catholic. As it turns out, while Hitler remained recognized as a Roman Catholic throughout his life, his actual belief system seems to have been some sort of synthesis of racist Aryan nationalism and, in very broad terms, Christianity. Even in Table Talk, the book used to “prove” Hitler was an atheist, Hitler expresses a form of Christianity, and an admiration for a fellow anti-Semite, Martin Luther. As the previous passage suggests, He contrasts Catholicism, which he sees as being related to Judaism and Bolshevism, with his conception of “true” Christianity, saying “Christ was an Aryan, and St. Paul used his doctrine to mobilise the criminal underworld and thus organise a proto-Bolsevism.” He continues, saying “Luther had the merit of rising against the Pope and the organisation of the Church. It was the first of the great revolutions. And thanks to his translation of the Bible, Luther replaced our dialects by the great German language!” This may not be the Christianity that you subscribe to, but Christ was certainly a central figure for Hitler.

In Table Talks, Hitler even denounces atheism:

“We don’t want to educate anyone in atheism.” Table-Talk [p. 6]

“An uneducated man, on the other hand, runs the risk of going over to atheism (which is a return to the state of the animal)…” Table-Talk [p. 59]

I must reiterate that this is the source that apologists always refer to when attempting to prove that Hitler was an atheist. Outside of Table Talk, we see much of the same – though, without the explicit anti-catholic proclamations. The Nazis espoused a sort of non-denominational Christianity termed “Positive Christianity,” and Hitler styled his public image as a sort of vigilante for Christ. In Mein Kampf he writes, “”The folkish minded man, in particular, has the sacred duty, each in his own denomination, of making people stop just talking superficially of God’s will, and actually fulfill God’s will, and not let God’s words be desecrated.” He expresses this sentiment again:

“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

and again:

“My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.”

So please, get your facts straight. Hitler was not an atheist and he certainly was not a scientific skeptic. He was a true believer, just like Osama Bin Laden, the pope, and, at least in that regard, yourself. His irrational beliefs in nationalism, in racialism, and in his position as a fighter for god were, if not the cause, enablers that he used to justify his vile actions.

In reason,

Sean Bernhoft