Much hay has been spread on the Internet over the question of whether Adolf Hitler, oft-blurted as synonymous with evil, was an Atheist or a Christian. Partisans of each view claim to glean snippets of evidence from Hitler's speeches and writings, presenting such points as a supposed slam against the views themselves. Naturally, Hitler was most likely one of the two (he was obviously not Jewish, nor was he any sort of Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim or pandeist, though some have speculated that he secretly held to some nonspecific Nordic type of belief system). But the truth is, it doesn't matter what Hitler's personal beliefs were; Hitler was the leader of a nation, a position that required the acquiescence -- nay, the very complicity -- of the people.

It was the German people, undoubtedly and resolutely a Christian people, who allowed Hitler into power and followed him into war and genocide. And it was the language of religion, the appeal to the God of the Bible, the prejudices entwined in the Christianity of the people that Hitler played upon to succeed in his vilification of the Jewish people, and to make possible their near extermination.

A larger point must be made that neither Christianity nor Atheism (nor almost any other religious position) can be cast with blame for the murderous leanings of particular political leaders; but there can be no doubt that such desires can only be aided by the existence in the populations led of a slavish devotion to religious principles capable of being turned to the justification of oppression and persecution. History bears out the point that painting nonbelievers or minority group members as a threat is just made that much easier by the existence of literature of myth easily read as condemnatory towards those people.

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A fellow noder has pitched a slew of interesting points on this topic. First, that Hitler was opposed by 70% of the electorate in his most successful election bid; second, that even the most successful campaign focused on the economy instead of on the Jews; third, that Hitler had come into power on a phony "peace" ticket; fourth, that the number of Germans directly involved in the genocide was only about 100,000 out of a 60,000,000 population; fifth, that the Nazis took great pains to conceal the holocaust and instead pretend that the Jews were being "resettled," and it was illegal to inquire about the fate of the Jews; and sixth that the complicity of the population is less than that of other genocides such as the US genocide against Native Americans.

All valid points, but I think these also stretch the length of blame. Even if the German people were in the dark about the holocaust, they were surely aware of the laws passed (or continued) under cover of a Christian nation that made Jews second class citizens, barred them from certain professions and exercise of certain rights, vilified them, and permitted their "resettlement" even. And even if Hitler came to power without broad popular support, a purportedly Christian nation enabled a man known for his antisemitism to rise to that level, which would be like the US people accepting a coup which put David Duke in the White House. The 100,000 actively involved members of the population were themselves still almost assuredly virtually all avowed and believing Christians. As were those in the US who practiced genocide against the Indians.

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