I and a friend who I would describe as a somewhat pallid deist (almost an atheist) have been enjoying a sporadic dialogue by e-mail over the last couple of years.
He recently said something that one often hears in such discussions that I think needs to be explored.
In response to his point that the history of Christianity was littered with the "insanity" of the "murders of millions upon millions" of people, I said that:
"I don't wish to minimize the abuses and horrors that stain the history of the Church but "millions and millions" is a gross exaggeration of the historical record. I think you'd be hard put to document that number. It's not an exaggeration, however, to note that that number accurately reflects the fruit of state atheism in the twentieth century, so one might well ask when the 'insanity' of atheism is ever going to end."
My friend replied with this:
"Fifty to sixty million people died during WWII started by Hitler. Hitler was not an atheist; in fact he was a Christian who believed himself to be some kind of a Messiah on a mission to kill all the Jews."
Now, in fact this is true, if at all, only in the most tenuous sense. Hitler was in fact a deist. His God was the laws of the universe. He used Christian churches, but he despised Christianity and believed that it was incompatible with National Socialism.
You can read about his religious views in his own words here. The link is to excerpts from Hitler's Table Talk, informal discussions written down for posterity for the most part by Martin Bormann between July 1941 and June 1942. Here are a few of Hitler's thoughts Bormann recorded:
Man has discovered in nature the wonderful notion of that almighty being whose law he worships.
Fundamentally in everyone there is the feeling for this almighty, which we call 'God' (that is to say, the dominion of natural laws throughout the whole universe).
The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity.
Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure.
So it's not opportune to hurl ourselves now into a struggle with the churches. The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death. A slow death has something comforting about it. The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science. Religion will have to make more and more concessions. Gradually the myths crumble. All that's left is to prove that in nature there is no frontier between the organic and the inorganic. When understanding of the universe has become widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity.
[T]he only way of getting rid of Christianity is to allow it to die little by little.
And so on. There's much more at the link. These are not the words of a Christian nor of a theist. They are the words of a man who set nature as his god and who was so situated that he was able to carry out the logic of his beliefs. They resulted in the holocaust.RLC