You’ve seen this argument before, you’ve heard it, it is almost as far as being cliche, really.
“Hitler was Christian (or Catholic, your choice, really) and he killed Jews, therefore Christianity something something killing Jews is bad, m’kay?”
How about this one?
“Stalin was atheist and he killed lots of Russians, therefore atheist something something killing Russians is bad, m’kay?”
This isn’t a fair argument, for either side, but I understand where it comes from. While watching my favorite people in the whole world (Creation Today) they often speak about the “Atheist World View.” I know I’ve mentioned it before, but while watching some unrelated propaganda it occurred to me just how vehemently Christians will deny that Hitler was a Christian. It’s odd to me, because I am comfortable enough in my own belief system to be like “Yeah, Stalin was an atheist, not gonna deny it. But he was also an asshole.” (In my head, I use much stronger language to describe how despicable that man was.) In the same token, I would not find it in any way out of place if they said “Yeah, Hitler was Christian, but I don’t see why that matters. He was an evil man who was off his rocker.” (Again, language for the sake of keeping my PG-13 rating.)
It was only while thinking about the “Atheist World View” that it occurred to me why it is so important to so many people to deny that Hitler was a Christian, really. They form the foundation of their thought around the idea of Religion, and their interpretation of Religion, to the point where I am sure it actually does form the basis for every (or nearly every) decision they make. This is not to say all Christians do, but those that say “No, Hitler wasn’t Christian! HE WASN’T HE WASN’T HE WASN’T!!!!!! NYAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” Well, they probably do use religion as the baseline for all things.
But here’s the thing. Hitler did not use any mainstream interpretation of Christianity, so say it proudly, “Hitler called himself a Christian, but I think we can all agree he was batshit insane.” (Sorry about the language. I think I still qualify for PG-13).
Now we come to the “Stalin was atheist and that is why he was Communist,” or equal drivel. Look, again, we can all agree that Stalin was huge on anti-theism (certainly a word that needs its own category, outside of general atheism) and “Stalin Brand Communism: If you’ve got soup, you didn’t get it from us.”
To say “Atheist World View” to describe people who do not believe in God is, to take a page out of Hitchens, about as helpful as saying “I am an a-tennis-ist, because I don’t play tennis. And all of my decisions are guided by the fact that I don’t play tennis.”
No, I am afraid that is not how non-belief works. I am comfortable saying that some of what Stalin did was colored by his anti-theistic leanings, but non-belief does not color world views. Anti-belief, sure, whatever, you can have that one, but to take another quote, from Dawkins this time, “I am also an a-faerie-ist.” Being an a-faerie-ist has just as much sway and pull on my decisions as does my nontheism, in that it doesn’t. What colors my beliefs is empathy for others, my desire for happiness, and my desire that all people have an equal chance at happiness at some point in their lives.
So yes, Stalin was an atheist. But he was also batshit crazy (Do I get to say sh… I mean poo twice, and still get to be PG-13?). I think the fact that he was crazy had a lot more bearing on the Five Year Plan than did his atheism.
So to give a short recap, because I was rambling like a corpse come back from the dead (or was that shambling? Shit. Wait!! Poo!!! I meant poo!!!).
Was Hitler Christian? In practice no, but given everything he wrote and said, history is very clear on the fact that Hitler himself thought he was Christian.
Does that matter? Nope. Because he was crazy, completely independent of religion.
Was Stalin atheist? Yup.
Does that matter? Nope. Because he was crazy, completely independent of atheism.
Is there a point to this article? I hope there is. I hope you realize you can be Christian, but also a bad person, just as easily as (I feel) I can be nontheist and also a good person. Two sides of the same coin, and all I ask is that we, on some level, understand each other.