Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's Always the Nazis. I Hate Nazis.

Those of us who are atheists are familiar with how ‘Godwin’s Law‘ allows Christian fundamentalists and other imbecilic religious people to link us to Adolph Hitler in some of the most amusing ways, but mostly because they’re too stupid to realize Hitler was (and still is, according to the Catholic Church) a rather zealous Christian whose entire campaign to wipe out the Jews and those pesky homosexuals was based almost entirely on Christian doctrine.
--Al Stefanelli, atheist blogger
I used to think that Jerry Coyne penned the dumbest anti-Christian blog screeds. But I think that distinction now rests in the capable hands of Al Stefanelli. The torch has been passed. Although it takes a certain evil genius to pull a Godwin (the mother of all Godwins, in fact) while ridiculing people for pulling Godwins. Well played, Al, well played. I have blogged about Nazism and Christianity several times. I hate to do it again, but it's the topic that never dies. Here is a rehash.

The Godwinners on atheist sites often argue this way:
  1. Those Nazis who claim to be Christian (as Hitler did) are therefore Christian. All it takes is the claim. And any modern Christian who argues that Hitler was not a true Christian is guilty of the "True Scotsman" fallacy.
  2. As a corollary it is sometimes argued that Stalin was a Christian, because he attended a seminary. And if that doesn’t count, then surely he was the deity of the religion Stalinism. But no matter what, he was not an atheist. Impossible. But I digress.
Point one is specious. One can co-opt the teachings of anything (evolution, Christianity, Islam, Heavy-Metal Rock) to justify heinous acts. Even if you insist that Hitler claiming to be a Christian makes him just as much of a Christian as, say, Thomas Aquinas, there is a little bit of history you'll have to explain to support your contention. Rutgers University (that hotbed of fundamentalist Christianity) has a "Nuremberg" project where they are investigating Nazi documents. One major part of the Nazi Master plan, it turns out, was "The Persecution of the Christian Churches." You can find some of this here

The editor of the project, Julie Mandel, quoted in the Phildelphia Inquirer, Jan. 9, 2002:
A lot of people will say, 'I didn’t realize that they were trying to convert Christians to a Nazi philosophy.' … They wanted to eliminate the Jews altogether, but they were also looking to eliminate Christianity.
And from a 1945 OSS report: Important leaders of the National Socialist party would have liked to meet this situation [church influence] by complete extirpation of Christianity and the substitution of a purely racial religion Source: Christianity Today blog 01.09.2002

Yeah them Nazis, they sure were true Christians. Because they said so, and we have to take them at their word. Al Stefanelli insists.


  1. How does one determine who is a true Christian?

  2. Beingitself,

    One cannot. You can only make (as instructed in scripture) a good faith effort to decide on whom you will regard as a Christian a la Matthew 7:16. But this will not be infallible.

  3. Thanks for the attempt at an answer. I am not so silly as to expect an infallible method.

    Let me try again.

    How does one determine whom to regard as a Christian? The passage provided is too vague to be useful.

  4. BeingItself,

    It is not too vague. Someone who speaks against a minimal circle of orthodoxy, or someone over years who displays no good works, or someone who refuses to acknowledge correction and promotes their sin as acceptable--these are three possibilities. Someone like Bishop Spong, who denies the deity of Christ, is an example of of the first type. He is far outside even a minimal (say, based on the historic creeds) circle of orthodoxy. Someone like Fred Phelps who violates the second great commandment and the primary one describing how we are to treat one another is an example of the second type: a life without good works. And an adulterer who refuses counsel to stop and argues that "god wants me to be happy" is an example of the third.

    I have or would cease regarding all three as Christians.

    Of course I could be wrong.

    And furthermore I would not be offended if they ceased to regard me as a Christian.

  5. That's all rather arbitrary. I'm disappointed.

  6. Sorry there is no checklist. Of course, you didn't really ask the question in good faith, did you?

  7. I asked the question for the purpose of showing you the vacuousness of the OP. You have no reliable means of determining who is a true Christian, yet you criticize others for the same failing.

    I do agree with your second point. Stalin was an atheist. Atheists frequently commit the No True Scotsman fallacy when claiming he wasn't.

  8. No you asked the question because you naively believe it to be a "gotcha" question. I said from the beginning there is no "reliable" method because we cannot see into the heart. Yet we are supposed to do our best to make a judgement--erring on the side of caution.

    Just look in scripture at the church at Corinth. Paul ordered a man to be excommunicated because he continued to sleep with his step-mother. Even Paul could not say for certain whether the man was a Christian--he could only say that--after attempts to get him to repent--it was time to stop regarding the man as a Christian.

    That is the precedent we are to follow, as best we can. If we make mistakes, so be it.

  9. You continue to make my point for me. Thanks!

    And no, you did not from the beginning acknowledge that there is no reliable way of determining who is a true Christian. Rather, you ridiculed an atheist for calling Hitler a Christian. And now you admit that Hitler may in fact have been a true Christian.

    Pot meet kettle.

    I'll stay out of this hopeless internecine branding dispute. I take no side when the witch doctor argues with the astrologer.

    Have a nice day.

  10. Beingitself,

    "And no, you did not from the beginning acknowledge that there is no reliable way of determining who is a true Christian."

    My very first comment in response to your "gotcha" question was:

    One cannot [determine who is or is not a Christian].

    So you are wrong. Again. I acknowledged from the beginning that it cannot be done with any certainty.

    And the ridicule of the atheist was consistent. Just as I cannot reliably say who is or is not a Christian, the atheist cannot say the Hitler is a Christian merely because he claimed the title at one time or co-opted Christianity for his purposes. The Nazis also, at times, co-opted Evolutionary theory. Furthermore I provided, in the OP, evidence that the Nazis had a plan to persecute the church. That would be a fairly persuasive sign of someone not being a Christian.

    I am glad you are bowing out. I see how you argue here and on another blog--you are really a lightweight. If you are in high-school or younger then I apologize--your argumentation then makes sense. If not, I hope you stay away as promised.