Hitler, Joshua, Genocide and God

Nobody (almost nobody) likes Adolf Hitler. Christians say he was an atheist, atheists say he was a Christian, Jews say he was a mass murderer. But we can get at his beliefs in two ways: through his actions, and through his words.

First, he was a human. As a species humans are territorial and resource-possessive. We’ve been walking out of Africa in waves for the past 100,000 years, staking a claim to the empty places we like, pushing out the inhabitants of a previous wave, defending our turf against the next wave. We use our gods as moral justification for murder, and we glorify our massacres as historic victories.

Genocidal massacres involve killing men, women and children

The Jews took over the Promised Land of Canaan in this way, with Moses telling them that God said to kill every man, woman, child, animal and tree in the targeted cities in order “that they not pollute you with their evil ways” (Deuteronomy 20: 16-18). With these cities the soldiers weren’t even allowed to abduct the virgins, they had to kill everything.

God intervened to help Moses’ successor Joshua in the conquest, sending hailstones to kill half the enemy one time, and another time stopping the sun in the sky so Joshua could finish off the enemy before dark. (It’s surprisingly hard to find corroborating evidence from other cultures, of the spinning Earth suddenly stopping, and the oceans slopping all over the land as a result, and so on.)

And so the Jews wiped out the people there and took Palestine for themselves.

Christians, Jews and atheists… who claims that this was good?

Hitler’s actions were no worse than Moses’ or Joshua’s, and for the same reason. Genocide for the sake of ethnically uncontested control of territory and resources, and for racial purity.

Christians, Jews and atheists… who claims that this was good?

“But wait,” a Christian may say, “that was acceptable in the time before Christ, but it changed with the dispensation of the New Testament. It isn’t acceptable today.”

No way, Christian! Jesus didn’t intend any changes to the Mosaic Law: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5: 17-18) Any subsequent changes are the work of Paul, not Jesus.

“No, no, wait, wait,” says the religious person. “Moses and Joshua were following the mysterious commands of God for some greater hidden purpose, which Hitler wasn’t.”

You can follow a more detailed discussion of that in a different blog here, and it brings us to the second way of looking at Hitler’s beliefs: his words. Here are 19 Christian quotations from Mein Kampf, from his speeches, and even this one:

“The Catholic Church should not deceive herself: if National Socialism does not succeed in defeating Bolshevism, then Church and Christianity in Europe too are finished. Bolshevism is the mortal enemy of the Church as much as of Fascism. …Man cannot exist without belief in God. The soldier who for three and four days lies under intense bombardment needs a religious prop.”  – Adolf Hitler in conversation with Roman Catholic Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber of Bavaria, November 4, 1936

In sum, Hitler was one of those Christians who wants his Christianity free of Jews. And if his actions were evil, so too were those of Moses, Joshua and God.

So don’t blame atheism for Hitler and the Holocaust. Blame Moses and God… or blame the species we call “humanity”.

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4 comments on “Hitler, Joshua, Genocide and God

  1. Larry says:

    Great take on this. Hitler was a person and clearly no ‘group’ he belonged to seemed to cause his views, but there is no right for anybody to put him in the group of ‘atheism’. Everything he said supported him doing it for religious reasons. Of course, I would rather leave beliefs out of it when discussing genocide…

  2. Very nice. I like your summary and conclusion. Thanks for the link back. I was only taking aim at objective morality (WLC really irritates me with his assertions)

  3. Wild says:

    There was no genocide of canaanites by the isealites and neither Joshua nor Mose existed. All the events which according to the authors of Exodus, Joshua, Judges and so on took place in 1200 BC never happened but are theological fictions invented 500 years later by a religious elite under the rule of the king Josias.

    “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

    You are interpreting this verses in the same way fundamentalists do, believing naively that Jesus referred to the old testament as it has been defined by the reformation. This is typical of ex-fundamentalists who lost their faith and became angry atheists.
    It is not clear at all that Jesus sanctioned all events contained in the written jewish tradition of his days, in fact, with respect to his dispute with the pharisees and other religious leaders, we know it was certainly not the case.
    And for most christians and jews, the events described in the Joshua and pseudo-conquest books described particular historical events, and not general moral principles to be applied in every situation, as the are stated in the ten commandments. It is extremely likely that at the time of Jesus, the “law” did not include such commandments.

    Moreover, it is necessary to make a difference between the “law”, which merely asserts what’s good and evil and the punishment of not disboyeing the law.

    The Jesus of the Bible certainly made that difference, for he told the adulterous woman that her behaviour was a sin, but he refused to apply the punishment of the mosaic law, telling the eligious folks that they are as guilty as this woman.

    So, like Richard Dawkins, I believe Jesus brought a clear improvement to the jewish religious faith of his day..

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