Posts Tagged “atrocities”

Over the last few years it’s become common for theists to make outrageous and inaccurate claims about atheism. These are almost always made out of ignorance. The latest example — reported by Germany’s Der Spiegel — is no exception:

In an Eastern sermon that has drawn widespread criticism, the Catholic bishop of Augsburg has linked the crimes committed under Nazi and Communist regimes to atheism. Atheist groups have reacted with fury and accuse the cleric of rewriting history.

A Catholic German bishop has come under fire for his remarks condemning atheists. In a sermon given on Easter Sunday, the bishop of Augsburg, Walter Mixa, warned of rising atheism in Germany. “Wherever God is denied or fought against, there people and their dignity will soon be denied and held in disregard,” he said in the sermon. He also said that “a society without God is hell on earth” and quoted the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky: “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”

Most controversially, he linked the Nazi and Communist crimes to atheism. “In the last century, the godless regimes of Nazism and Communism, with their penal camps, their secret police and their mass murder, proved in a terrible way the inhumanity of atheism in practice.” Christians and the Church were always the subject of “special persecution” under these systems, he said.

This keeps coming up so let’s set the record straight: The atrocities of the Third Reich and communist regimes happened because they were vicious, totalitarian governments which viewed certain people as inconvenient and therefore expendable.

As for blaming atheism for the Holocaust, Bishop Mixa is not one to talk. The Holocaust was the product of many centuries of anti-Semitism in central Europe, and the source of that anti-Semitism was — you guessed it! — Christianity!

That’s right, Christianity, not atheism, caused the Holocaust. Christians have been railing against Jews almost since Christianity began in the middle of the 1st century CE. There is no way this long tradition of hatred for Jews played no role in the Holocaust. None.

That the Third Reich was an atheist regime, is denied by the Concordat of 1933, the equivalent of a treaty between the Third Reich and the Vatican, which defined a role for Catholicism within Germany. The Vatican would not have been able to sign such an agreement with an “atheist” state. The effect of this Concordat was that the then-young Third Reich was legitimized around the world. In other words, the Catholic Church itself helped “enable” Hitler and and his cronies. For a Catholic bishop to blame the Nazis’ actions on atheism, is hypocritical, since it minimizes the Church’s involvement in the formation of the Third Reich.

As for the communist regimes being atheist, they were … but this is not because they were atheist-evangelists. The reason, rather, was that they suppressed religion in order to control the people more effectively. Thus, the reason that Josef Stalin and Pol Pot ordered mass slaughters was not to advance the cause of atheism, but to enhance their own power; that both were atheists played no role on those decisions.

On the other hand, let’s have ourselves a little look at Christianity and the violence it sparked, through history. Perhaps most significantly we have events such as the Inquisitions and the Crusades. Neither of these would have taken place as they did, if not for the existence of Christianity, and for those who championed it. The Inquisitions were all about promoting “orthodox” or “proper” Christianity, in the face of heresy. Had there been no interest in forcing heretics to become orthodox, there would have been no Inquisitions.

Much the same is true of the Crusades; had there been no Christianity, there would have been no concept of a “Holy Land” which had to be rescued from the Saracens by armed Christians. It is true that, without Christianity as a motivator, the Byzantine Empire might still have called upon western European forces for assistance … but this assistance would have been a true military alliance, would have resulted in a much more conventional military operation, it would have taken place much closer to Byzantine borders than far away in Jerusalem, and there would not have been thousands of completely-unarmed civilians who blundered into a war zone out of religious fervor and were slaughtered. In other words, the entire enterprise would have been vastly different, more limited in scope, and without the mindless zeal of some Crusaders.

It’s time for religionists like Bishop Mixa to finally confess the sins of their religion, be honest with people about them, and stop blaming atheists for things they did not do, while their own religion has a closet stuffed full of skeletons just clamoring to get out. It’s the height of hypocrisy to blame other factions for what one’s own faction has done. But Christians aren’t strangers to hypocrisy, even though Jesus himself explicitly, clearly, and unambiguously forbid all of his followers ever to be hypocritical. (Why do so many Christians refuse to obey Jesus? I don’t understand.)

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