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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
@Noldorin: Hitler was raised Lutheran. Religion was important to him. He did gain the approval of the Catholic pope (the first when he came to power opposed him, but that pope died and was replaced by one which approved - which I supposed the religious see as one of 'His mysterious ways') – otakucode Mar 7 at 14:26
@otakucode: Ah right, I didn't know he was Lutheran. I believe they're quite a minority in Austria (and were at the time indeed), since the vast majority are Roman Catholic. The situation with Pius XI & XII is interested. Both certainly opposed Nazi ideology, and Pius XII although he sought safety for the Catholic church in Germany (why wouldn't he from a political perspective?), became very critical of Hitler & the Naxis when WWII broke out, as far as I know. – Noldorin Mar 9 at 0:44
@otakucode Hitler NEVER was a luteran. – Anixx Oct 19 at 16:01

8 Answers 8

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.


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
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
Going against the Jews is purely against Christian beliefs. In a sense Natzism is a religion and Hitlers book Mein Kampf is the guidebook to that religion. – Dorothy Oct 21 '11 at 22:13
@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

Here is a Wiki page on it:'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
And you think genocide is not justified by the bible? – Jim Thio Feb 9 '12 at 6:21
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
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

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

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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Naziism always claimed an altruistic aim. Just going by what they actually said, they promoted 'mental hygeine' and eugenics which were seen even outside of Nazi Germany as the key to a better life for everyone. Even the US carried out eugenics programs. George Orwell wrote a review of Mein Kampf in which he talks about the fact that Hitler asked people for self sacrifice for the greater good, and that this was more successful than telling people a better life would simply be given to them. – otakucode Mar 7 at 14:34

Mark Weber claims he was baptized Catholic and attended Mass weekly on Sundays until circa 1920, when he didn't want to be seen in a Catholic church. Later on, his viewed changed into deism.

Adolf Hitler believed that the root of Western Civilisation was Christianity. Although the Fuhrer did not believe in a personal God and was not himself a Marian Christian, he believed that the Christian religions had an important part to play in passing on of values and high moral standards of behaviour and thinking to the youth. He was opposed to Judeo-Christianity and in particular to missreadings or additions to the original teachings of Jesus such as the dictum ‘turn the other cheek’ which he saw a a suicidal notion in a world where the Jews acting on the Talmud and Torah, on the instructions of the prophets Isaiah and Joshua, intended to exterminate the Goyim, particularly the white Goyim from the face of the earth to attain the Jew World Order promised by the Jewish god. The Fuhrer was overwhelmingly popular with Christians apart from a small number of Catholics who disagreed with the Fabian eugenics policy which Hitler had adopted from the UK, America, Canada and Australia where it was being carried out at the time. His main opponents though were the globalist Marxist and pro-Zionist clergy; the sort of clergy, like the last anti-Pope; a traitor to Germany, who after the war went on to help destroy Catholicism and Christianity with cultural Marxism, heresy, apostacy, moral corruption, paedophilia, decadence and institutionalized atheism. (source)

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Hitler was not Atheist, Protestant or Catholic. Perhaps in Hitler's early life he may have considered himself a catholic or protestant or even sincerely doubted there was a God and declared to himself an atheist. It is obvious that he was never really a practicing Christian of any denomination and that as far as religion goes he considered Church organizations as political organizations, to be replaced by the Nazi system of belief, just as all other political organizations at the time in Germany.

This answer is informal and just my opinion based on a lot of reading over the years about Hitler and the war.

Hitler was not an atheist, because Hitler believed in his own divinity. Hitler believed that he was chosen by divine providence to save the German race. Hitler's God was to Hitler the only true God. Hitler believed that everything he did was morally correct. He believed that any thought he had was of divine origin. As far as Hitler was concerned, Hitler was infallible because he was the true servant of God. No matter how many people died, no matter how much destruction was wrought at the bequest of Hitler, to Hitler it was all moral because it was of his divine will. In his megalomania he could not distinguish between his will and the will of god, for him it was one in the same. As far as religion was concerned, he was above it, he was the only true representative of god. Nazism was the only true religion, because Hitler was the only person in the world that was perfectly divine and understood God and God's will. The only moment of doubt that Hitler may have had about this is when he was biting the cyanide and pulling the trigger.

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Lots of opinions, very few citations. Difficult to engage with this on a scholarly level. Your opinions are valid, but opinions don't advance historical scholarship. – Mark C. Wallace Oct 19 at 12:46
I will work on it a bit, in the next week or so, I had some citation in mine, but half my books or in the attic. – Jon Oct 21 at 21:51

There is a Wikipedia page which attempts to answer this exact question.

The upshot of the analysis is that Hitler was originally Catholic, but stopped attending mass at age 15.

The official position of the Nazi party (and therefore of its Fuhrer) was constructive Christianity, meaning that all Christian religions were tolerated. In practice, the party persecuted church leaders if they criticized the regime at all. So, while toleration was the official policy, any sort of divisive behavior in the name of religion was heavily punished.

Personally, Hitler exhibited the behavior of an agnostic, never attending church services, and never expressing any belief either in public or in private as to the existence of a power higher than man. Towards those who had faith, he was antagonistic and suspicious; often expressing the view in private that religious faith was contradictory to party progress. This behavior was consistent with and typical of socialist/communist leaders and thinkers of the time.

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Stalin tried to wipe the churches out, Hitler successfully brought them onside. As for social democrats elsewhere, many of them were practising Christians, some were atheists, none of them tried to wipe out religion. Those things are not consistent with each other. – Ne Mo Oct 20 at 9:47

What were his religious beliefs? It's an important question, but less important than it has been portrayed sometimes.

Historically, this question has been infected by the No True Scotsman fallacy so common to discussions of religion. Christianity is good, and Hitler was not good, so Hitler wasn't a Christian. Even though Hitler said he was Christian, this is not true because he is a Nazi, and therefore not good, and therefore not a Christian (there's good reason to think Hitler's professions of Christianity were insincere, but we'll get to that later). You can see the same pattern of thinking among Marxist-Leninists: Bolshevism is good, Stalin was not good, therefore Stalin was not a Bolshevik. And Islam is good, and ISIS is not good, therefore ISIS is not Islamic. And so on.

Buddhism is good, and the Buddhist mobs attacking Muslims in Sri Lanka are not good, therefore they are not Buddhists. Hinduism is good, and the Gujarat pogroms by Hindus were not good, therefore the perpetrators were not Hindus. And so forth.

I will confine my answer to Hitler's stated beliefs and self-identification, rather than saying whether he was a 'true Christian', because per Wittgenstein, universal terms like Christian can only have family resemblances not a single defining characteristic. Of course (some) Christians believe there is a single internally coherent and true version of Christianity (theirs), and all other interpretations are heresy. However I am not a Christian, so thankfully I don't have to pretend that there is one true interpretation, so I won't.

The other leg to understanding his beliefs is Hitler's actions. How did he behave towards Christians and other religious groups, and what were his future plans?

I know I'm making you wait a long time for the answer, but stick with me, because this is important. I said above that Hitler's religious beliefs are not as important as people think they were. Hitler is not the same thing as Nazi Germany. If Hitler was not a Christian, this does not mean that Christianity came out of the war with clean hands. People make a big fuss out of Bonhoffer and Niemoller these days, but the uncomfortable fact is that most Germans, and therefore most Lutherans and a good chunk of Catholics, supported Hitler partly because he portrayed his war as a war against Bolshevist atheism, and inflamed their long-standing antisemitism.

To the extent that these people were complicit in the crimes of the Nazi state, they did not see a contradiction between those crimes and being Christians. This may mean they were 'not true Christians', but what use is the concept of 'true Christians' if most people who think they are Christians are just confused? Equally, what use is the idea of 'true Communism' if all of the Communist regimes in history have not been 'true Communists'?

Now we've got that out the way, as I said we'll take a direct look at Hitler. First there's his public statements. They are pretty unambiguous: Christianity is good, atheism is bad. He said some rude things about Catholicism, but anti-atheism was the main thrust of his arguments. This wiki page cites quite a few of them; it was part of his attempt to discredit his Social Democrat and Communist rivals. All this worked, and he got the support of German Christians: the vast majority of those in his party were practising Christians. Note that per the above paragraph I am not making some essentialist claim that theoretical 'true Christians' supported him, I'm saying that practical Christians, who lived, breathed, and physically existed supported him.

Many atheists were executed; not necessarily communists, just anyone who had vocally supported some party other than the Nazis. A small minority of Catholics and an even smaller minority of Protestants interpreted their religion as incompatible with the Nazis' rule, and were also executed. These people are very famous (and boasted about) so I won't go into detail, except to say there is nothing contradictory in persecuting Christians and atheists. Remember, the first Christians were executed by the Romans for being atheists, in the sense that they denied the existence of the Roman gods. And as we'll see below, Hitler had his own gods.

Hitler's private statements were less friendly to Christianity. He viewed it as a religion of weakness, and planned to extinguish it after the war was over. However, it is not accurate to characterise him as a secret atheist. He believed in some kind of divine presence, which was guiding the German race to master the world.

That's how he saw himself, anyway. In practical terms he never had a solid grip on reality, and after a couple of successful annexations he went totally off the rails; he believed that he was God. Both his statements and actions back that up. Unlike many of his Nazi colleagues, he really had no interest in neo-paganism and did nothing to encourage it.

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