Again and again the faithful claims that Adolf Hitler was an atheist. This is debunked time and time again, but this claim still frequently pops up in debates with Christians. Let us look at the facts.
Adolf Hitler was born in 1889 in a Catholic home in Braunau am Inn in Austria. He was baptized in the local church and considered himself a Catholic as an adult. He frequently referred to god and Christianity in his many speeches and writings.
In a speech in April 1922 he says:
"My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only 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 against the Jewish poison. Today, 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. And when I look on my people I see them work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only for their wages wretchedness and misery. When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people are plundered and exploited."
In a speech in 1933:
"To do justice to God and our own conscience, we have turned once more to the German Volk." In another the same year “"We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out."
In the spring of 1933 Hitler outlawed atheistic and freethinking groups in Germany (New York Times, May 14, 1933). The German Freethinkers League had at that time around 500000 members.
Hitler feared atheism because he saw atheism as promoting weakness and rootlessness among the people. Early on he became convinced that religion could be useful as a political tool, since a religious people usually respect the state and leaders authority. Many Christians regarded the Weimar Republic as godless, secular, and materialistic, betraying all of Germany's traditional values and religious beliefs. Christians saw the social fabric of their community unraveling and the Nazis promised to restore order by attacking godlessness, homosexuality, abortion, liberalism, prostitution, pornography, obscenity, etc. Not very dissimilar to the Catholic Church’s own program actually. A majority of the German Christians supported Hitler and the national socialist movement, and considered him as a gift from God to the German people. The Nazi party hated both communism and traditional socialism and saw these as “atheistic and Jewish ideologies” which threatened the whole German and Christian civilization.
How religious Hitler actually was deep within, no one knows. From his writing and speeches it is clear he present himself as an obvious catholic. There is no indication that Hitler or other high ranking Nazis endorsed religion as a political ploy to accommodate the people. Probably no more than those of today’s political parties who emphasize “traditional Christian family-values” and rely heavily on support from religious voters. Private remarks about religion and Christianity were in line with their public remarks, which indicate that they actually held these believes themselves. The few Nazis who endorsed paganism or were freethinkers, did not make a secret about it, but had no support from the Party.
It is also a fact that Darwin’s book “On the origin of the Species” and any other books supporting evolution were put on the Nazi list of banned books. Maybe not a complete surprise when we see what Hitler wrote in “Mein Kampf” (1925/27): "The most marvelous proof of the superiority of Man, which puts man ahead of the animals, is the fact that he understands that there must be a Creator."[…] "For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties." "The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will [always] retain the character of a tiger."
From his book ""Tischgespräche": “From where do we get the right to believe, that from the very beginning Man was not what he is today? Looking at Nature tells us, that in the realm of plants and animals changes and developments happen. But nowhere inside a kind shows such a development as the breadth of the jump, as Man must supposedly have made, if he has developed from an ape-like state to what he is today." It is quite obvious that Hitler was no campaigner for evolution by natural selection when it comes to Mankind; he comes more forward as a current day rightwing creationist.
In reality Hitler prescribed to a belief called Eugenics, which is breeding for a superior (Aryan) race. Eugenics is the almost exact opposite of evolution where the larger and more dynamic the gene pool, the better. Eugenics is dog and cattle breeding used on humans. To breed to favor preferable traits by lessen genetic diversity to create a superior “race”.
February 1.th in 1933 he said in Berlin: "The National Government will regard it as it’s first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and co-operation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life."
From a speech held 26. of April 1933: "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith." School prayer was also mandatory under the Nazi regime?
Was the Nazi ideology an atheistic ideology?
The Party Program of the NSDAP (Nazi party) stated: "We demand freedom for all religious confessions in the state, insofar as they do not endanger its existence or conflict with the customs and moral sentiments of the Germanic race. The party as such represents the standpoint of a positive Christianity, without owing itself to a particular confession...."
Positive Christianity adhered to basic orthodox doctrines and asserted that Christianity must make a practical, positive difference in people's lives.
Hitler was never excommunicated by the Catholic Church, never renounced Catholicism himself, and remained a Catholic in good standing until the time of his death in 1945. Furthermore, he gave regular and explicit credit to Martin Luther for the genesis of his own anti-Semitic ideology. (Martin Luther’s poisonous pamphlet “About the Jews and their lies” was reprinted in huge numbers several times and actively used by the Nazis in their propaganda.)
The german bishops never once protested against Hitler or his system in the course of his 12 years long reign. Cardinal and chairman in the German Bishop-conference, Adolf Bertram, ensured the 10th of April 1942 that the “highly esteemed Mr. Fuhrer and Reichs-chancellor Adolf Hitler” that the german bishops prayed for further victorious progress for the burning war. Hitler’s attack on Soviet the german bishops called “God’s holy will”. The Pope never raised a finger against Hitler; on the contrary, just after Hitler came to power in 1933, the pope Pius XI signed a concordat which gave the German National socialism its first international recognition and legality.
It should also be mentioned that many of the lower clergy both in Germany and in the german occupied countries, protested against the Nazism, and many took part in the local resistance movements. Towards the end of the war, when it became clear that the Nazis would lose, many of the higher ranking German clergy’s opinions suddenly shifted, at least publicly. When the war ended, many of the same bishops who in two decades had urged their followers to co-operate and pledge alliance to “der Fuhrer”, now ensured the English and Americans that they always had been against Nazism.
The actions of Hitler and the Nazis were as "Christian" as those of people during the Crusades or the Inquisition. Germany saw itself as a fundamentally Christian nation and millions of Christians enthusiastically endorsed Hitler and the Nazi Party, seeing both as embodiments of German and Christian ideals.
Next time someone claims that Hitler was an atheist; ask them to check up the facts first.