There are only three defensive arguments against any critique of religion:
- Religion is true.
- Religion is useful.
- Atheism is morally and socially corrosive.
The third option has grown increasingly popular, since the first two options are harder to sell. Commonly, this takes the form of linking atheism to other (typically political) beliefs, allowing Christians to assign the label of their current enemy to anyone who questions their faith. This label can assume any form, since the only thing which is truly incompatible with atheism is theism. Typically, this label is that of a detested totalitarian group, usually one which was responsible for the great crimes of the 20th century (e.g., Apartheid, the Holodomor, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, etc.). This practice of “guilt by association” is fallacious at best, and malicious at worst, since atheists disagree among themselves on many issues. The average atheist is no closer to becoming an Adolph Hitler or a Joseph Stalin than a typical Christian is to becoming the next Jim Jones or David Koresh. The wanton rationalization of violence -- the concept of a “just war” was introduced to the Western tradition by St. Augustine, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see how the Christian kings of medieval Europe could have been as terrible as any 20th century tyrant, had they access to assault rifles and tanks instead of pikes and trebuchets -- especially since the Christian kings of 19th century Europe were committed similar horrors on continental scales.
Machiavelli was the first to (indirectly) argue that totalitarianism and atheism were linked, claiming that Christianity's universal love and acceptance would subvert the nationalism required to build powerful states. However, totalitarianism is not exclusive to atheism, because totalitarianism will naturally arise in any system which can make laws which are impossible to obey. The resulting tyranny is even more pronounced when it is enforced by a highly-zealous error-detecting privileged caste. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) was inspired by his childhood experiences at a Christian private school, where it wasn’t possible to know when you had broken the rules.People with authoritarian personalities have greater tendencies towards ethnocentricity, xenophobia, sexual repression, and a love of hierarchy and dogma. Christianity does not turn people into authoritarians or totalitarians, but Christianity caters to the exact wants, needs, and desires of such people; it is an enabler. Nazism and Stalinism took hold in part, because churches had conditioned the population to accept dogmatism.
Hitler and the Nazis were not Atheists
Out of his countless monologues, Hitler never claimed to be an atheist. If anything, the opposite is true, as evidenced by the fact that:
- Although he lamented the Bible's effect on the German people, Hitler never outlawed Christianity, and never renounced the church -- excluding it’s teachings about aiding the infirm, and how Jesus was a non-Aryan Jew.
- Hitler claimed he was subject to “Divine Providence” from “almighty God” as an explanation for surviving his 22 assassination attempts.
- Hitler was a devout child and choirboy, who always attended mass with his mom.
- Hitler’s rallies were inspired by church pageantry and Roman imagery.
- Eva Braun’s aunt was a nun cloistered in a convent which Bormann closed. Upon hearing this, Hitler ordered the convent to be reopened, claiming that such measures did more harm than good.
- The German Army fielded Catholic and Protestant chaplains.
- Proof of Catholic or Protestant church membership was required to join the SS.
- Nazi soldiers had “God is with us” inscribed on their belt buckles. This paraphrased DEU 20:4, when God addressed the Hebrews to fight their Egyptian enemies, to whom God promised an extermination (DEU 20:13).
- Hitler admired Islam, for its military tradition.
- When overzealous Nazis removed the crucifixes from Bavarian schools, Hitler ordered them rehung.
- Hitler thought secular schools were intolerable, because they offered no religious instruction. Hitler viewed faith as the foundation which general moral instruction and character training were built upon.
- As soon as Hitler came to power in 1933, the Catholic Church entered Reichskonkordat, where the church agreed to political neutrality in exchange for its continued independence, and to allow Catholic schools to remain open. As a result:
- The Catholic Church approved of German rearmament in the 1930s, which was contrary to spirit of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and to Christ's message of peace, mildness, and loving one's neighbor.
- The Catholic Church remained silent over:
- The Catholic Church provided its genealogical records to the Nazis, which listed all German Christians (i.e., non-Jews). The Catholic Church only defended Jewish converts and Jews married to Christians by using pontifical secrecy to withhold information.
- The Catholic Church supported, defended, and aided Ante Pavelić’s pro-Nazi Ustachi regime in Croatia.
- The Catholic Church gave absolution to France's collaborationist Vichy regime in 1940.
- The Catholic Church endorsed Operation Barbarossa (i.e., the 1941 Axis invasion of the USSR), because they perceived it as a means of literally combating atheism.
- The Catholic Church was fully aware of the Holocaust, and did nothing to condemn it in private or in public, nor was any priest or bishop ordered to give a condemnation. Even after the Allies discovered and liberated the extermination camps, the Vatican continued supporting what remained of Hitler’s defeated regime.
- Hitler was never publicly excommunicated for his crimes against humanity. According to most versions of Christianity, spending a few of his final moments repenting was all he needed to be saved.
- The Catholic Church set up a network of "ratlines" to smuggle Nazi war criminals (e.g., Eichmann, Mengele) out of post-war Europe. The Vatican used its fascist-granted nation-state status to issue travel visas to Nazi fugitives, and used Europe's monasteries as an “underground railroad” for former Nazi dignitaries and officials.
- The Catholic clergy who worked on behalf of Hitler’s regime were never reprimanded for their involvement, and their promotions within the church’s hierarchy went unimpeded.
- The Catholic Church continues to refuse to acknowledged their involvement with the Nazis, despite valid historical evidence to the contrary. Although the Vatican Secret Archives were opened to scholars, up until March 2020 the Vatican forbade access to all its documents from 1939 onwards to mask their crimes of complacency.
Stalin Did not Repress Christianity
Although the USSR was “officially atheist” because of its commitment to Marxist dogma, the term “atheistic communism” has always been a misnomer, since Jesus never endorsed any particular economic system. If anything, the opposite is true; the founder of capitalist thought (Adam Smith) and its most vocal defender (Ayn Rand) were non-believers. Atheism seems linked to communism because Christian doctrine has been twisted and all-but-rewritten to place the practice of unrestricted capitalism before the needs of people and their communities. Income taxes are now denounced as “idolatry,” and property tax as “theft,” and inheritance (estate) taxes are anti-Christian for bewildering ways which have been inadequately explained to the authors of this site. (Our requests for better explanations invariably result in angrier, verbatim restatements.)
While early Soviet leaders were militantly anti-religious, this was reversed when under Stalin’s orders -- the USSR officially supported the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). On September 8, 1943 -- with Stalin’s permission -- Metropolitan Sergius was elected Patriarch of the ROC, thus normalizing Soviet-ROC relations. Stalin, and his successors up to and including the current Russian regime, recognized the ROC kept the people in line, and this was what enabled the czars to maintain power for so long. Additionally:
- Priests were allowed in the Soviet encampments during the sieges of Stalingrad and Leningrad.
- The icon of Our Lady of Kazan was carried in a procession on the streets of Leningrad.
If anything, Christians keep the "atheistic communism" narrative alive to distract its capitalist parishioners from Christianity's numerous commonalities with the communists:
- Both claim all answers are found in revered books which are fanatically accepted without critical analysis (e.g., The Bible; Das Kapital, The “Little Red Book”). Rejecting these books results in savage persecution.
- Both worship “saviors” (e.g., Jesus; Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, et. al.)
- Both exalt the philosophers defending their systems (e.g., Augustine, Aquinas; Marx, Lenin)
- Both believe in the physically impossible (e.g., miracles, transubstantiation; the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”)
- Both rationalize their actions via citing abstractions (e.g., “the word of God”; “the will of the people”).
- Both will use direct force and institutionalized force (i.e., legislation) to impose their beliefs upon others.
- Both have vendettas against the teaching of Darwinian evolution (e.g., creationism; Lysenkoism).
- Both routinely falsified their history.
- Any progress and/or improvements were only made in response to their enemies (e.g. Council of Trent, Vatican II; glasnost, perestroika).
- Both are ideological systems which demand followers to ignore their numerous flaws and shortcomings, all of which were caused by their system's lack of error detection and self-correction mechanisms.
Modern Christians are harder to rally with Red Scares, since the Soviet Union is fading from living memory -- everyone under age 29 has lived in a Soviet-free world. Still, there are some stragglers, holdouts, and John Birchers who persist.
- P. Boghossian, A Manual for Creating Atheists (Pitchstone Publishing, 2013).
- C. Hedges, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (Free Press, 2008).
- G. H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God (Prometheus Books, 2016).
- G. P. Harrison, 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian (Prometheus Books, 2013).
- M. Onfrey, In Defense of Atheism: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (Penguin Canada, 2008).
- H. Cox, The Secular City: Secularization and Urbanization in Theological Perspective (Princeton University Press, 2013).
- C. Hitchens, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (Twelve, 2009).
- D. Carlin, The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America (Sophia Institute Press, 2003).
- B. Russell, edited by P. Edwards, Why I Am Not a Christian (Touchstone, 1967).
- H. Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (Zondervan, 1974).
- K. Blaker, The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America (New Boston Books, 2003).
- D. I. Kertzer, What the Vatican’s Secret Archives Are About to Reveal [Online] https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/what-vaticans-secret-archives-are-about-reveal/607261/. [Accessed 23 MAY 2020].
- J. H. Westerhoff, Will Our Children Have Faith? (Morehouse Publishing, 2012).
- D. Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Freedom from Religion Foundation, 1992).
- V. J. Stenger, The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason (Oxford Prometheus Books, 2009).
- S. C. Hitchcock, Disbelief 101: A Young Person's Guide to Atheism (See Sharp Press, 2009).