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Monday, September 23, 2013

Was Hitler a Christian? JP Holding answers questions.

Was Adolf Hitler a Christian?  The Internet apologist, JP Holding, recently wrote an e-book answering this important and oft-raised question, Hitler's Christianity.  He kindly sent me a copy.  Somewhat to my surprise (JP is not known for gentleness in on-line discussions, nor does this subject naturally lend itself to moderation), I found the book reasonable, fair, and informative.  Holding rebuts the notions that the Nazis were all occultists or atheists, for instance, and admits that Hitler may indeed have thought of himself, in some perverse and convoluted way, as a "Christian." 

But what does that mean?  Did he read his Bible, or tear it to pieces looking for affirmation?  Did he pray to God?  How did orthodox Christianity fare in Nazi Germany?  What did Hitler think of Jesus -- the man who told his followers to "turn the other cheek?" 

JP explained his argument, and answered a bunch of questions that came to mind, even after reading the book, by e-mail. 


Why are you asking whether Adolf Hitler was a Christian?  I've been to lots of churches, and have yet to hear a preacher tell me to put people in concentration camps.  Nor do I find Jesus telling us to invade Poland and the Low Countries.    
 
I looked into this initially because there's a recurring claim by certain Skeptics that Hitler was a Christian. From what I can gather the goal of this is to somehow suggest that Christianity was responsible for Hitler's actions. I'm thinking here of websites like "nobeliefs.com" as well as YouTube personalities like Matt Dillahunty, for example. Once I had an initial look, I realized this was a rather fascinating topic that very few people knew a lot about, so I decided to do some more serious research on it. Hitler's Christianity is the result.

The main reason is, quite simply, that he self-identified as a Christian, and referred to God and Jesus in his writings and speeches, and also quoted the Bible. It's not an exaggeration to say that Hitler's theological language is the primary reason he is identified as a Christian. Other than that, there are a few peripheral arguments, like that the German army wore belt buckles that read, "God with us." But those are less important on the scale.
 
 
Adolf Hitler was one of the great liars of modern times.  Why should we accept his testimony about what he believed, any more than we should kiss a snake on the lips?  Can anyone claim to know what the man really thought about God and Christ?   

When you deal with a liar, you have to ask about things like motive: Did the lie benefit them in any way? In the case of Hitler, there's not much reason for him to lie about having the beliefs associated with Positive Christianity. It was in accord with what he wanted to believe and do on other accounts (e.g., anti-Semitism); it didn't make things any easier on him (in fact, it just made it harder for him to get acceptance by the churches in Germany, especially the Catholic Church), and he never showed any signs of hypocrisy in terms of his Positive Christian beliefs. I'd say it'd be the burden of the doubter to explain why Hitler lied about his beliefs in this instance.

 
What do you mean by "Christian?"  Can't people define words in a variety of legitimate ways?  
 
When I refer to a "Christian" I mean, generally, someone who has formed a covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Now that's a short way of putting it, but one of the issues I discuss in the e-book is how even a simple explanation like that one can become a minefield, precisely because of how people define words. For instance, in that sentence, if a person defines "Jesus Christ" as, "an alien from Mars who came down to Earth to fool a bunch of primitive people by pretending to rise from the dead," then it becomes problematic, to say the least, to call them a "Christian." The problem with calling Hitler a Christian is that Skeptics who argue this want as broad a definition of the word "Christian" as possible, and wish to include under that umbrella even someone like Hitler who had highly deviant beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Bible. But as I also explain, the same kind of stretching of terms could also arguably define someone like Osama bin Laden as a "loyal American patriot."
 
What are the best three reasons for denying this link? 
 
The best three reasons correspond with Hitler's three major deviant beliefs, which were at the heart of what was called "positive Christianity." The first was that the Bible ought to be severely edited. Positive Christians of the Nazi era rejected all of the Old Testament, and enormous chunks of the New Testament. The second was that Jesus was not a Jew, but an Aryan, a member of the Nazi "master race." The third deviant belief was an utter neglect of doctrine. The Positive Christians didn't have aberrant beliefs about things like the Trinity or the atonement -- they simply didn't care about them.
 
What would that leave -- a tenth of the Bible?  Didn't you say they actually printed their version?  Wouldn't that be rather conspicuous, having this thin tract in the pews in church?  It's hard to believe that really caught on. 
 
About a tenth would be a fair estimate. And yes, their scholarly "apologetics" Institute did indeed produce a Bible. It wasn't as big a seller as Mein Kampf, by any means, but it sold a few tens of thousands of copies,especially among the so-called "German Christians," who were the rank and file adherents to Positive Christianity.
 
What is your sense of how the historical scholarship on Hitler, what you have read of it, breaks on this issue?  
 
Strangely enough, even the best biographers of Hitler, like Kershaw, Toland, and Fest, don't spend a lot of time discussing Hitler's religious beliefs. What little they do say, does tend to affirm that his beliefs were deviant.  Each of them wrote hundreds of pages, and you could have fit what they said about Hitler's religious beliefs on maybe two pages. In terms of specialists on the subject of religion in Nazi Germany, though -- scholars like Bergen, and Stiegmann-Gall, and Heschel -- it's unanimous concerning the deviant nature of Positive Christianity.
 
I get the sense, at some points, that you feel some historians who deal with Hitler's religion are insufficiently sophisticated in the theological understanding they bring to the issue.  What perspective do you bring to that subject?   
 
I have some background in dealing with cults, particularly Mormonism. So I've had some experience in applying theological understanding to deviant systems. 
 
Let me question your use of "cult" and "deviate" here.  New belief systems appear because they "deviate" from earlier systems, whether by reforming those systems for the better, as Christ and Confucius, maybe even Buddha, I think did, or for the worse, as I would say Islam, Communism, Nazism, and yes Mormonism did.  But Joseph Smith was a petty con man compared to Hitler.  I criticize him because his religion was inferior to Christianity, not merely because it was an innovation -- it would probably have been a step up from Mesoamerican religions of human sacrifice.  So I'm a little leery of how you use the word "cult" in this book: it seems more pejorative than anthropologically precise.      
 
I'm sensitive to this point, having dealt with Mormons on how they regard the use of the word "cult," so to be sure on it, I did consult with some experts, including one of the leading countercult apologists in the nation. He agreed that Positive Christianity would have qualified as a cult. In fact one of the comments I made, which he liked, was that if Walter Martin had been around at the time, he would have given Positive Christianity its own chapter in Kingdom of the Cults!
 
In addition, contemporaries of  the movement like Karl Barth termed Positive Christianity a cult. Of course the term can be used pejoratively, but it is anthropologically accurate to apply the term to Positive Christianity.
 
To the best of your knowledge, did Hitler ever speak approvingly of central Christian doctrines like the Incarnation, propitiary sacrifice, or the physical Resurrection of Jesus?
 
To the best of my knowledge, he said nothing about any of those at all. I consulted several major biographies of Hitler, which included doing electronic searches for any terms used with reference to such doctrines. It just wasn't there, and if any critic can find any such comments, I'd like to know about them!
 
You say the Nazis wanted to get rid of the Old Testament, probably Paul (a little unclear on that), and some parts of the gospels.  Secular Humanists like the Jesus Seminar also prefer their favorite gospel stories over Paul, but for reasons Hitler would disapprove: they think Jesus was unusually kind to people on the margins, and "trampled indifferently on the social dividers that enforced segregation," as Jesus Seminar founder Robert Funk put it.  The Nazis were not known for trampling on social dividers or unusual kindness.  How could they read the gospels without either throwing them down in disgust, or repenting?  
 
The Positive Christians themselves were a little unclear on whether they wanted to get rid of Paul! Some did, some didn't. Theologically, the movement was highly chaotic and slapdash. But as far as reading the Gospels goes, there were times when they might resort to arguing that some Gospel verse here or there was interpolated by a Jewish scribe, or something like that. Since their theology was a slapdash affair, they didn't have any problem coming up with ad hoc explanations or reinterpretations. I might also add that they would show kindness within their own ranks, and to those of "approved" racial and social groups.

Nazism, as you point out, picks what it likes of Christianity and leaves the rest.  Isn't it true that everyone emphasizes certain parts of the Bible -- Romans for Martin Luther, the Beatitudes for Francis of Assisi?  
 
Emphasis can and does indeed differ, and do so legitimately, but there can be an enormous difference between emphasis on one hand, and deletion or modification on the other. The Positive Christians were much more radical in their bowdlerization of Christianity, beyond what could be properly called a differing emphasis.

 Speaking of Luther, what do you make of Hector Avalos' claim that the Holocaust accomplished what Luther advocated towards the Jews?  He writes:
 
"Luther's murderous seven-point plan, which is nearly identical to that of Nazism, proves beyond a doubt that Darwinism certainly was not 'necessary' to achieve a Nazi vision (see chart below). Nazism, indeed, was very much at home in a long tradition of Christian anti-Judaism."
 
I purposely did not deal with Luther and medieval anti-Semitism because I did consider doing so for the e-book, and quickly found that it was complex enough to deserve a much deeper treatment than I could give it at the time. I also didn't deal with any claimed connections between Nazism and Darwinism, for the same reason. So any comments I make on Luther would not have any authority.
 
Is it not likely that even if Hitler was not a Christian in "our sense," or the sense of any sane reader of the Bible, Nazism was historically influenced by an anti-Semitic streak that traces through the Reformation and Medieval Church to early Christianity, with plausible origins in panegyrics against "the Jews" in some of those passages you "explain away?" 
 
There's absolutely no doubt that there was influence of this sort from the medieval era. I didn't research this particular aspect in depth, but it is, however, worth pointing out that while the anti-Semitism of the medieval age was motivated on religious grounds, Nazi anti-Semitism was rooted in racial factors. That didn't stop them from using the religious aspects of anti-Semitism, of course, but for the Nazis, Jewishness as a race was what was central. This is shown by the fact that their prejudices were also extended to Jews who converted to Christianity.
 
In terms of origins in Biblical references to "the Jews," that would also require some depth research I didn't do for this project, but I think it's fair to say that we'd be able to trace a line of post-Biblical misinterpretations rather easily.  After all, deviant beliefs sprang up even in the first century while Paul was around, otherwise he wouldn't have had to write a single epistle!
 
Why do you suppose God would allow such ambiguous phrasing in his Word, if He knew what people would do with it?  
 
My answer to questions like that has always been that the phrasing isn't the least bit ambiguous -- people just need to handle the text more responsibly, and not use the Biblical texts to justify what it is they have decided they want to be true. By way of analogy, none of what I offered in Hitler's Christianity was hidden in some far off corner. Any Skeptic or other critic could have found the same resources I did.  As I see it, blaming God for "ambiguous phrasing" reflects a poor sense of responsibility on the part of a reader.
 
What would you say to a Jew who reads your book and says (apologies to the Jewish Dad in Independence Day), "So many sects of Christian -- racist Southern Baptist Christians, Orthodox Christians with their pogroms, Medieval Christians and their inquisition, and now your Positive Christians who gassed my people in the furnace.  What do I care if all these Christians are all heretics?  How come your Jesus can't find a few real Christians to follow him, already?  And you're some other kind of Christian, I suppose?"  
 
I've had answers like that, although from atheists rather than Jews, and what that tells me is that the person really isn't interested in the truth of the matter. Phrases like "what do I care" seem to me to be the same as saying, "All right, you've shown that I was wrong about Hitler being a Christian, but I want to remain angry about it, so now solve all these other issues for me, too." It's an example of what I like to call "hurling the elephant" and the assumption is that you can't provide answers to all these other issues (like pogroms and the Inquisition), and so they can remain dissatisfied.
Anders Breivik
 
One contemporary European who came to mind, while reading your book, was the Norwegian nationalist and mass-murderer, Anders Brevik.  Brevik also saw himself as a "Christian" in some cultural sense, believing himself to be fighting for Norwegian tradition against secular leftists and invading Islamists, though he was agnostic about God.  In fact, reading sociologist Phil Zuckerman, that sort of "cultural Christianity" seems quite common in Scandinavia today.  Is that how we should understand the furor with the mustache?  
 
From what I know of Brevik, that would be a fair analysis. I do point out that one can readily and justiably still call Hitler a Christian in terms of anthropological categories, which is much the same thing.
 
What does that mean, "anthropological categories?" 
 
I found that "Christian" was broadly used in two senses. One was a historical and theological sense, which concerned itself with how closely a given person adhered to the beliefs articulated by the first century movement founded by Jesus. The other sense was anthropological, in which any movement that recognized Jesus as a founding figure, even if deviating from the historical and theological beliefs of that first century movement, was deemed "Christian." The anthropological category would include movements otherwise deemed cultic or heretical, like the Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses. The category recognizes a sort of social evolution as its basis for creating a category, rather than theology or history.
 
What are the chances that American Christianity may be twisted in some such shape?  Any contemporary movements that concern you? 
 
We have a few fringe groups like Westboro Baptist that would be as severely twisted as Positive Christianity. Then we have a fair number of teachers like Joel Osteen, who, while not "twisted" as such, do neglect some of the more important aspects of discipleship. What concerns me most about American Christianity in general is what  Thomas Bergler has called the "juvenilization" of American Christianity. In a sense, American Christianity isn't "developed" enough to get as dangerous as Positive Christianity!
 
What do you mean by that?  It sounds like what made Positive Christianity dangerous was not well-developed theological reflection -- the thinking sounds ad hoc and half-hearted, frankly -- but the seductive pull of a particularly ill-tempered Zeitgeist. 
 
"Ad hoc" would indeed be a good way to put it, and is quite similar to the language used by some of the scholars like Bergen to describe Positive Christianity. The point of the movement was really to justify certain presuppositions inherent in German hypernationalism -- so it's not surprising that it was indifferent to establishing an objective doctrinal foundation.
 
How about on a personal level?  We "apologists," and I think we're in the same boat on this, spend a lot of time arguing against people whose arguments, and sometimes persons, do not always seem to appear in a favorable light.  Does "positive Christianity" flash any warning lights for us about "hating the sin and loving the sinner" or "speaking the truth in love?"

In the most general terms, perhaps. But more poignant for me was the fact that Positive Christianity even had its own "Institute" staffed by Nazi scholars, which engaged in what amounted to apologetics for Positive Christianity. For the apologist, that should be a warning that arguments alone won't typically lead people down the right path. I know a few who claim to have become Christians because of arguments, but we can see by this example that argument also led some people deeper into the Nazi's heretical variations.
 
 
What most surprised you, in researching for this book?  
 
The very fact that there was, in fact, a separate cultic deviation such as Positive Christianity. I knew Hitler's beliefs were deviant in some way, but I never realized to what extent, until I did this research.

Did it give you a headache, reading so much about a psychopath?  

Ha, not at all. Most of the biographers and scholars whose works I read handled their material in a careful and sensitive way. I suppose they may have ended up with headaches, though.

21 comments:

Nick said...

Good interview David! He'll be on my show later on as well to talk about this book.

David B Marshall said...

Thanks. Give me a link later, and I'll work it in.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Enjoyed the interview. But the questions don't end there. There's all sorts of messy areas of history, theology, biography, including the human tendency to join movements, such that it does not appear like this cosmos was conceived in order to create the maximum number of souls who would choose the right God, right savior, right theology [sic] to paraphrase something William Lane Craig recently stated.

To start with, wasn't it some naive Christian apologists who began lumping Hitler in with Stalin and Mao as an "atheist?" Then some atheists responded that Hitler was some sort of "Christian" or at least not an atheist?

Nazism began in a Catholic German city that already had a Jew-hating past. Derek Hastings, author of Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National Socialism (Oxford, 2009), examined the years after World War I--when National Socialism first emerged--to reveal its close early ties with Catholicism. Although an antagonistic relationship between the Catholic Church and Hitler's regime developed later during the Third Reich, the early Nazi movement was born in Munich, a city whose population was overwhelmingly Catholic. Focusing on Munich and the surrounding area, Hastings shows how Catholics played a central and hitherto overlooked role in the Nazi movement before the 1923 Beerhall Putsch. He examines the activism of individual Catholic writers, university students, and priests and the striking Catholic-oriented appeals and imagery formulated by the movement. He then discusses why the Nazis embarked on a different path following the party's reconstitution in early 1925, ultimately taking on an increasingly anti-Catholic and anti-Christian identity.

Interestingly, both Hitler and George Washington spoke about "providence" directing matters or leading them and/or their mission.

Makes one ponder what psychological forces drive people to both lead and join mass movements, be they fascist, communist, Christian or Islamic. It certainly seems that people are susceptible to joining movements of a wide variety, from small cults to large political or religious movements. On that topic, Hoffer's insights are worth pondering: http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2012/01/eric-hoffer-quotations-on-similar.html

And, WHO voted Hitler into office? I looked at two books year ago on that topic. Hitler was running against several candidates and gained an equal percentage of votes as other candidates from city-dwellers, but more votes than the rest in towns, villages and the countryside--and I assume such folks were more conservative in their religious views. So maybe conservative Christians played a decisive role in voting a "strong conservative" like Hitler into office? Nice to know Christian made the right choice.

Of course everyone rationalizes their interpretations of history. It's a fun game. But does anyone really see "providence" clearly at work in history? Hitler's rise made the U.S. align itself with Stalin, helped arm communist Russia, and led to Russia gaining German scientists and the bomb and half of Europe. Providence at work? I dunno.

I also read that an American company, IBM, sold Hitler machines which he used to keep track of the Jews, their names, locations, and other data, and to keep the railroads running to the concentration camps on time. See IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation-Expanded Edition by
Edwin Black. Providence?

Edward T. Babinski said...

There's also a fascinating documentary, "Confessions of a German Soldier," about Dietrich Karsten, who started out a young seminarian (whose professor, Karl Barth, did not adore Naziism), during the time when Germans voted Hitler into power due to the expectation that Hitler would bring a renewed spirituality and strength to the country. Dietrich spoke out against the Nazis but could not find a job as a priest in the Confessional Church since the Nazis were keeping an eye on its ministers and putting up roadblocks to their employment. Dietrich finally volunteered for an army chaplaincy but was refused. Still he had signed up and was now assigned as a reservist in the armed forces, and then the Nazis allowed him to work as a chaplain in a beautiful area of Germany. But since he was a reservist they later called him up to serve as an infantryman, but he was assigned to local garrison duty where he became restless (he liked being active and never could remain at rest for long apparently) and arranged himself to be transferred to a front line unit, and helped with the invasion of France! He found he enjoyed being a soldier, and even won an iron cross on the battlefield in France for his leading role in taking out a French machine gun position to secure a crossing over the Loire river. (His armed services job also enabled him to send money back home to support his family). His letters from France at that time are filled with boyish excitement over the battle, seeing the enemy run, bullets whizzing over his head. [I am summarizing the portions of his letters that I read in a History Today article.] He died after having served on both the western front when France was invaded, and the eastern front, defending Germany against the Russians. Dietrich left over 300 letters that chronicle the decade he spent from seminarian to soldier.

A brief selection from his letters...

'[Naziism is] one form of bolshevism wanting to defeat another form of bolshevism [communism]... I wonder if dear God uses this war as another means to have one brigand punished by another, one wrong with another wrong. I believe that.' [Unfortunately, Bolshevism was not crushed by Hitler, which was something Deitrich did not live long enough to see, since he died as the Russians advanced on Eastern Europe and Germany. Interestingly, the pope chose to make concords with Hitler and not excommunicate him, probably for fear of bolshevism. However the pope did excommunicate a prominent general of Hitler's, was it Martin Boorman? Apparently the crime was getting a divorce. That pope.]

The article in History Today about Deitrich added, "On the one side were the 'German Christians' with their new Nazi version of Christianity; on the other side, there were those... who opposed the religious policies of Adolf Hitler, considered themselves true Christians, and tried to protect their faith by founding the Confessional Church... This did not mean the Confessional Church were hostile to the Nazis or the wider policies of National Socialism; many would have been content if the Nazis had simply stopped interfering with their Church."
--History Today (Dec. 2007), and article about Dietrich and the 300 letters he left behind, dating from 1932-1942

Edward T. Babinski said...

FRITZ STERN EXPLAINS THE RISE OF HITLER
Fritz Stern, a refugee from Nazi Germany who was awarded the Leo Baeck Medal, mentioned the following in his acceptance speech covered by the New York Times:

There was a longing in Europe for fascism before the name was ever invented... There was a longing for a new authoritarianism with some kind of religious orientation and above all a greater communal belongingness...

Hitler was a brilliant populist manipulator who insisted and probably believed that Providence had chosen him as Germany’s savior, that he was the instrument of Providence, a leader who was charged with executing a divine mission. God had been drafted into national politics before, but Hitler’s success in fusing racial dogma with a Germanic Christianity was an immensely powerful element in his electoral campaigns. Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics, but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured his success, notably in Protestant areas. German moderates and German elites underestimated Hitler, assuming that most people would not succumb to his Manichean unreason; they didn’t think that his hatred and mendacity could be taken seriously. They were proven wrong.

People were enthralled by the Nazis’ cunning transposition of politics into carefully staged pageantry, into flag-waving martial mass. At solemn moments, the National Socialists would shift from the pseudo-religious invocation of Providence to traditional Christian forms: In his first radio address to the German people, twenty-four hours after coming to power, Hitler declared, “The National Government will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built up. They regard Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of national life.”

Let me cite one example of the acknowledged appeal of unreason. Carl Friedrich von Weizsaecker, Nobel-laureate in physics and a philosopher, wrote to me in the mid-1980s saying that he had never believed in Nazi ideology but that he had been tempted by the movement, which seemed to him then like “the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”

The Nazis didn’t realize that they were part of an historic process in which resentment against a disenchanted secular world found deliverance in the ecstatic escape of unreason. German elites proved susceptible to this mystical brew of pseudo-religion and disguised interest. The Christian churches most readily fell into line as well, though with some heroic exceptions.

David B Marshall said...

I think, Ed, it would be a good idea to let people respond first, and not block the reader with too long a series of posts, especially lengthy quoted texts. So I've deleted that last long quotation. That will make dialogue a little easier, if anyone wants to take you up on your comments, as I may later. Appropriate links are fine.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Thanks for leaving up the three posts! As I said, there's plenty to ponder.

But after looking at such questions I would hope you would ask whether the cosmos clearly appears to be a neat, tidy "theologically systematic" place to live. Instead, history is messy. Testimonies are messy (which is probably why JP simply discounts them, including his own and any detail concerning what he read prior to converting to Christianity).

I also hope both you and JP can see the irony in this statement from the interview:

"...people just need to handle the text more responsibly, and not use the Biblical texts to justify what it is they have decided they want to be true."

The irony is how many biblical scholars from conservative to moderate, liberal, secular, Jewish, etc., might say the same thing.

And speaking of handling the text more responsibly, i.e., reading it with ancient eyes rather than misreading it with modern eyes, JP needs to catch up on his ancient Near Eastern studies and fess up to the fact that it's not "fundamentalist atheists" who espouse the view that the authors of the Bible most probably viewed the cosmos as flat and the raqia as firm. John Walton, interviewed on Deeper Waters, said as much, so why doesn't JP create a video showing John Walton cow-towing to fundie atheists? Walton went even further I believe, and mentioned a few additional things that the ancient Hebrews believed that we don't believe today.

I suppose JP doesn't want to give up on his default position of young-earth creationism. Not yet. He's too busy studying whether or not Hitler was a Christian.

David B Marshall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David B Marshall said...

Well, Ed, you're kind of all over the board, there. The one point I think I'll respond to is about who voted for Hitler. My high school Russian teacher, who was from Berlin, explained it this way. They had an effectual choice between the Communists and the Nazis. They knew what the Communists were like, so they went with the Nazis. Maybe there's a little self-justification there, but of course she was too young to vote -- not too young to get shot at when the Russians came.

But I'm having a hard time figuring you out. You post all over the place, usually challenging what some Christian or other is saying, reading all kinds of stuff, and editing a book about ex-converts. But you don't seem to be an atheist. To cut to the chase, what motivates you? What do you know to be true? What keeps your boat sailing towards the sunrise?

G.A.P. said...

The lengths everyone goes to in order to show how evil the "other" is. Most atheists on the Internet claim both Hitler and Stalin were Christians; most Christians call them both atheists. It's rare to find someone who knows the truth about both. (Sometimes Muslims do, but they also tend to claim that Islam has a clean history.). All people want to carve history into a beautiful image of themselves.

I've kept an obscure blog for four years now that has gotten only a few thousand views. There is one article I wrote last year that accounts for almost a quarter of those views: "Harris and Klebold on Religion". Claims about the religious affiliation and beliefs of the Columbine High shooters range from "militant atheists" (by conservatives) to "Christian terrorists" (by liberals--Tavis Smiley claimed this on P.B.S.). It was so silly that a school shooting so devoid of ideological motives is attached to religion in the minds of so many based on the mistaken testimony of a student in the library of the high school attributing words to the wrong people. (I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.).

So I set the record straight on my blog by collecting every one of Harris and Klebold's recorded thoughts about religion--they were both secular, but their dislike of religion had nothing to do with the massacre. And the article gets views almost every day. Search terms are commonly "eric harris religion" as well as more loaded search terms like "eric harris was catholic" and "dylan klebold atheist", apparently by people looking for dirt to throw into silly Internet religion conversations.

It probably makes people feel good when there is one less similarity between them and some awful human being. I don't really think either Hitler or Stalin should ever be brought into any discussion about the question of God's existence--unless it involves the problem of evil, of course.

Anyway, good, honest discussion--you're among the few of all people with the ability to look at your own group critically.

Domics said...

I can not understand what Positive Christianity (and so Hitler) thought about the divinity of Christ.

David B Marshall said...

GAP: Very interesting comments, I appreciate your sharing the results of your fascinating little experiment. I had wondered about those brats in Colorado, myself.

You may be giving me too much credit, though. I am a protagonist in these debates -- as is JP -- and in many of my other blogs here, and in books like The Truth Behind the New Atheism, I do argue for the social utility of Christianity. I agree with the atheist Sam Harris that "ideas have consequences," and it is important to try to figure out what those consequences are. But life is very, very complicated, and human beings are really unfair about these things, as you say, so I think we could all stand a stiff dose of the medicine you're offering.

David B Marshall said...

Domics: My impression from the book is, they had no interest in the subject. Could have used more concrete analysis on such points.

Arizona Atheist said...

This book sounds interesting. Judging from the premise and the interview it sounds like Holding has written a book that is one long logical fallacy: No True Scotsman. Just because Holding and other Christians don't believe in his form of Christianity doesn't make him any less of a Christian.

I am genuinely interested in reading his arguments, though. Is the book in paperback or does it only come in the e-book version? I hate e-books. I enjoy holding actual books. I guess I'm just old fashioned like that.

David B Marshall said...

Ken: This atheist obsession with the Scottish people (especially David Hume) amazes me. But I'm glad we agree on something -- real books.

Arizona Atheist said...

Interesting. Obsession refers to a “compulsive” idea or action. I don't believe I've seen atheists “compulsively” cite Hume or the No True Scotsman Fallacy; only when it is appropriate, and I think it's certainly appropriate in this case. But I'm certainly interested in reading the book. I'm assuming it's only in e-book format. Maybe I'll have to break down and buy just this one.

Jamie Robertson said...

AA - the book is only available on Kindle, but Holding does explore the "No True Scotsman" issue specifically.

Domics said...

I can tell this: if Hitler is a Christian then Raelians are atheists.
http://www.raelpress.org/news.php?item.223.1

David B Marshall said...

I have seen both compulsions, repeatedly. And of course it is not appropriate to assume that a book makes a fallacious argument, and does nothing else, before reading it -- in fact, that is a genuine instance of the general type that NTS is supposed to fit into, called "begging the question" or petitio principia.

Arizona Atheist said...

Holding gave his overall argument in the interview so there is no fallacy. I've since read the book and my suspensions have been confirmed. I'm writing a response as I type.

Arizona Atheist said...

*suspicions. Silly auto correct....