Does loving dogs make you a genocidal monster?
Ok, that may sound like a stupid question, but let me refer you to the picture above. Hitler loved his dog, and he was responsible for the Holocaust. Surely, according to this logic, I’ve made a powerful case against owning canines.
If you think I’ve gone insane, rest assured I’m only trying to prove a point. There’s an article on Proud Atheist that tries to debunk the claim Christians make about Hitler’s personal religious beliefs, therefore encouraging me to write my thoughts on the matter. I’ve usually avoided this subject in the past, mostly because it’s spurious reasoning. However, it’s one of those old arguments that doesn’t go away, no matter what anyone has to say about it. It deserves to be discussed, and more specifically, to be put to rest.
If you want to know why Christians love telling people Hitler was an atheist, it is because he was one to some degree. I know there are a lot of examples in his book and speeches about him making reference to God, but the reason isn’t that he personally believed in a higher power; merely that he understood the appeal of it. He thought, as Karl Marx did, that religion was the opiate of the people.
Hitler’s beliefs were pragmatic to say the least. He identified more with Islam than Christianity, which he felt was meek and shapeless. In other words, Hitler favored ideologies and belief more suited for his own purpose, or what some would call ‘politically convenient’. It’s why he allied himself with the Catholic church in an attempt to eliminate Jews from society.
The Church likes to think we’ve all forgotten about Christian complacency in the light of the Holocaust simply because Pope John Paul II later apologized for what happened. His hollow words were of little comfort for the millions dead, many of them the direct result of the church’s involvement (or lack thereof).
The Nazis have come to symbolize evil in this world, and it’s not without merit. They were not, however, an atheistic organization in any sense. Hitler took great care to mask his non belief specifically because he knew support for his monstrous initiatives would derive from the largely religious German population. And because antisemitism had such a long history in Europe, it was easy to shape their mistrust of the Jews into outright genocide.
Still, the specter of Hitler haunts the world, and his ghostly image is often distorted to suit the needs of history’s revisionists. Rather than admit to their participation in the Holocaust, Christians want to put all the blame on Hitler, as if he single-handledly killed every Jew. His atheism, they believe, must have been the cause of his evil. Well, Hitler also loved his dog, but you don’t hear a lot of canine lovers being compared to him, do you? Obviously we understand the weakness in trying making a link between loving dogs and being a murderous psycho. Why is atheism any different? How does not believing in God suddenly lead a person to aberrant behavior?
The real problem is Christians haven’t put much effort into understanding our position as atheists. They believe the rejection of a metaphysical god somehow erases all moral impetus from a person. It is this lack of empathy I find frightening, because it is specifically our ability as humans to empathize with others that is our real moral compass, not some ancient manuscript. It’s why the best way to entice a population to act outside of their normal moral framework is to first dehumanize the enemy, thus rendering empathy impossible. If there’s a lesson to be learned from the tragedy of genocide, it’s once a population begins to see other people as less human, less moral, and less righteous than themselves, the consequences are indeed dire.
So next time you hear a Christian tell you Hitler was an atheist, simply tell him/her he was also a dog lover, painter, and budding architect. Surely those must have counted for some of his evil as well, no?