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Hitler is often cited as an example of an evil atheist (along with Stalin and Mao). But there are several quotes from him that seem to indicate he believed in the Christian God - and even used this to justify his policies.

So what were Hitler's actual religious beliefs, as far as History is concerned? Is there any evidence that supports the claim that he was an atheist?

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I think they're quite confusing, to say the least. He was raised non-strictly as Christian (Catholic even?) but seemed to lean towards neo-Germanic paganism at some times. At other time, he refuted paganism and reasserted Christian beliefs. –  Noldorin Oct 20 '11 at 20:46
    
I would not be surprised if it turned out that Hitler had Buddhist leanings (I'm favorable to Buddhism, but not to Hitler: this is just a conclusion from some evidence surrounding other Nazi figures.) –  Drux Jan 22 '13 at 0:36
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4 Answers 4

Hitler was atheist, church was only an instrument for him. 62% of the Germans were Protestants and 32% were Catholics, so it was important to work together with the church, which might seem to be impossible, because Christianity is based on altruism and national socialism definetely not. But as always Hitler had some good working propaganda stuff going on...

For the Protestants there was a the "Glaubensbewegung Deutsche Christen"(religious movement of German christians)[Protestants] initiated by the NSDAP to get more influence on the church. Most protestants voted for them, because they promise to reunite the churches to one (there have been28 regional churches). But the Nazis also had some strong enemies in the Protestantic church: the confessing church

The Catholics didn't accept the Nazis first, not till Hitler promised to let them keep their intitutional rights. Then they started working together officially, but many critics have been chased.

Text by the German Historical Museum(only German)

Kirchenkampf- Hitlers attitude toward the churches in Germany

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This is a very hard question to answer, and it's a hard question to even define!

You would have to decide what is a religious belief and what isn't (where do religion and politics overlap?). Hitler was big on racial supremecy (obviosly). Is that a religion? etc. Can one person have 2 (or more) religions?

You also have to decide what religions are called what. "Christian" is such a broad ambiguous term. It's common for there to be 2 religions, that would call themselves "Christian" and denouce the other as not Christian. Hence one person could say "Of course Hitler was Christian" and someone else can say "Of course Hitler wasn't Christian!". In order to answer this question, you would have to answer other questions like: Are Roman Catholics "Christian"? Are Anglicans "Christian"? Are Eastern Orthodox "Christian"?

This debate is futher muddy by combining the (well deserved) hatred of Hitler and what he did, and what Nazism stands for, with religion. Atheist Lobby Groups will say "Religion is bad, look Hitler was Christian" and Christian Lobby Groups will say "Atheism is bad, look Hitler was atheist!". If someone has a strong belief (either pro- one religion or anti a religion), they do not want to associate their grouping with Hitler. So many people will not approach this rationally and empirically, and will look for evidence to support the outcome they want to be true.

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You make some good points. –  Dorothy Apr 16 '12 at 16:03
    
Then there is a point that non trinitarian and the nude baptism practitioners are not "true" christians. By that definition one could argue that no terrorists are true muslims. –  Jim Thio May 6 '13 at 23:25
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Here is a Wiki page on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler's_religious_views

Below is a paragraph from the article above:

Persecution of the Christian Churches

In 1999 attorney Julie Seltzer Mandel, while researching documents for the "Nuremberg Project", discovered 150 bound volumes collected by Gen. William Donovan as part of his work on documenting Nazi war crimes. Donovan was a senior member of the U.S. prosecution team and had compiled large amounts of evidence that the Nazis persecuted Christian Churches. In a 108-page outline titled "The Nazi Master Plan" Office of Strategic Services investigators argued that the Nazi regime had a plan to minimize the influence of the Christian churches through a campaign of systematic persecutions. "Important leaders of the National Socialist party would have liked to meet this situation [of church influence] by complete extirpation of Christianity and the substitution of a purely racial religion," said the report. According to Annex 4 of The Nazi Master Plan, the best evidence came from "the systematic nature of the persecution itself." The document further stated that "direct evidence" of this plan could possibly be obtained by examining the "directives of the Reich Propaganda Ministry" or by "questioning of Nazi newspapermen and local and regional propagandists". According to the outline, the Nazis understood, even before they came to power, that they needed to neutralize the Christian churches. The report stated, "the destruction of Christianity was explicitly recognized as a purpose of the National Socialist movement" from the start but "considerations of expediency made it impossible, however, for the National Socialist movement to adopt this radical anti-Christian policy officially." Historian Alan Bullock agrees that it was Hitler's intention to wait until the war was over to destroy the influence of Christianity. The O.S.S. outline suggests that the plan to persecute the Churches was conceived by Hitler and an inner circle before the Nazis even came to power, however editor Richard Bonney stated this conjecture was an "interesting, but undocumented, assertion." Some moves were made to reduce Christianity's presence in German traditions, such as replacing Christian elements in Christmas carols with pagan references. In the political relations dealing with religion Hitler readily adopted a strategy "that suited his immediate political purposes".

Also in the wiki article:

In 1985 the Austrian author Wilfried Daim published a photograph of an alleged document signed by Hitler in 1943, which proposed the:

"Immediate and unconditional abolition of all religions after the final victory ('Endsieg') not only for the territory of Greater Germany but also for all released, occupied and annexed countries ..., proclaiming at the same time Hitler as the new messiah.

The reason there is ambiguity is because Hitler made himself appear like he supported Christian beliefs and at the same time he was moving farther away from them. If he immediately opposed Christianity he likely would never have risen to the power that he did so quickly.

If you know Christian beliefs you know that Hitler did not have Christian beliefs, no matter what he said. Actions speak louder then words.

In a sense Nazism is a religion and Hitler's book Mein Kampf is the guidebook to that religion.

Two good resources to finding out his beliefs are:

  • Mein Kampf by Hitler himself
  • The Bible (King James Version is good)

If you read them I'm sure you will find that his beliefs are nowhere near Christianity.

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Welcome to the site. An upvote to get you started. –  Tom Au Oct 22 '11 at 22:48
    
If you know Christine beliefs you know that Hitler did not have Christine beliefs, no matter what he said. Actions speak loader then words. -- Hmm.... The muslims also make the same claim about the terrorists. Not saying that I disagree, but this is very very very open to interpretation. –  Jim Thio Nov 21 '11 at 11:12
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Ah. But look at the book the Muslims follow. The Quran. The terrorists are following it very well. You have to look at the books they claim to follow. It make things clear. –  Dorothy Dec 9 '11 at 17:38
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Basically it's pretty good. However, is Hitler the only leaders that try to manipulate religions like this? Isn't all do? Another topic of the question. –  Jim Thio Feb 10 '12 at 3:04
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The Wikipedia article has changed quite a bit since this answer was posted. That's one reason relying on it can be problematic. –  mmyers Feb 10 '12 at 6:28
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That's an interesting question. There is a book by Michael Hesemann, a German historian, in which he is interpreting Hitlers religion (that is actually the title of the book) like this:

Hitlers plans where going towards a "German pseudo-religion". Hitler got his first ideas from the "Ostara"-magazine, that was published between 1903 to 1931 and propagated Aryan and antisemitic theories.

The publisher, an Austrian named Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels, wanted to get his followers to convert to Protestantism, but most of the Austrian population was strictly catholic at this time, so he failed.

So Hitler, not wanting to share the fate of Liebenfels, had to keep an catholic facade. He needed the church (catholic and protestant) to get a chance to achieve his goals. Hitler found his idol in Richard Wagner. In his beliefs, Jesus Christ was Aryan, but was affected and influenced by the Jews and therefore his teachings were distorted.

Hitlers target was actually to destroy Christianity to make way for his German religion, but considering the percentage of German Christians, this was not possible, so Hitler started with the Jewish population.

Nonetheless there have been assaults on catholic churches and priests too.

According to Hesemann, the destruction of Christianity in the Third Reich would have been Hitlers plan after the "Endsieg".

So, personally, I can't say if that is the truth, but it seems reasonable in some factors, but I want to close with a quote from Hitler, spoken in 1941:

Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.

Source:

Michael Hesemann - Hitlers Religion

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I think that Hesemann is overinterpreting things. Sure, Hitler's approach towards religion was ambivalent. But I don't think that it was the result of some larger plan. While there was Nazi ideology and also attempts to make Christianity fit in (like proving that Jesus was Aryan), I would need solid proof to believe that Hitler was planning to replace Christianity by his own religion. –  Wladimir Palant Oct 21 '11 at 5:56
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Without a discussion of what Hitler meaned with the term Christianity the quote is useless. What's the German original? What's the context? –  Christian Oct 21 '11 at 16:52
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@Dorothy Going against the Jews was a strong Christian sentiment for centuries. It was even part of the Catholic lithurgy until the second half of the XXth century. –  quant_dev Oct 22 '11 at 14:05
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Hate to say it, but I have to agree with Hitler on this one: "Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure." –  Orion Oct 26 '11 at 20:16
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Self sacrifice unselfishness is the stupid path to failure that most christians are told to embrace. –  Jim Thio May 6 '13 at 23:24
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