Atheism and what constitutes a religion

Religion has been observed for thousands of years across all cultures and continents, but what actually is a religion? As usual I will refer to the Oxford dictionary regarding the various definitions of a religion. Firstly, a religion is the belief in, and/or worship of a superhuman power, especially god or gods. Secondly it’s also defined as a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion. Religions differ depending on regions, cultural differences and belief, but most have set rules and standards that must be adhered to; ie praying, dietary guidelines, standards of behaviour that must be strictly followed with devotion. Most religions that worship a god (monotheistic), or several gods or versions of gods (polytheistic) share a worldview that everything is created by, and ruled over by the creator. This is often a deity that has presented a list of moral expectations that has been written down by their representatives and prayer, worship or disciplines that vary on extremes depending on the religion.

Many theists claim that atheism is also a religion because it takes more faith to reject the belief in a god than it takes to embrace the idea of a supernatural, all knowing, all powerful supreme being. Atheism is however in direct contrast to theism, and is either the outright rejection and inability to accept the existence of any god as the empirical evidence just simply isn’t there to warrant it being taken seriously, or simply they don’t believe any gods exist or have ever existed as it’s a ridiculous concept. Many atheists are extremely vocal about their opposition to deity fuelled organised religions, but how can the rejection of gods, and the need to live without religious doctrines, dogma, scripture and lifestyle be classified as a religion? There’s no ideology, worldview or code of conduct. Each atheist is free to live their life as they see fit without any constraints other than the law of the land, but innatism, which is belief that people are born with knowledge, is claimed that theistic innatism is what atheists are in denial about as they know god exists but refuses to admit it. If anything this is a strong argument in favour of atheism not being a religion as they are really Christians living non-Christian lifestyles.

‘Evil men do evil on their own accord. For good men to do evil requires religion.” – H.L. Mencken

Adolf Hitler: atheist or fanatical religious cultist?

This is perhaps one of the most debated topics between theists and atheists seen on social media, and Christians always claim he was an an atheist as no true Christian would perform the atrocities that Hitler, and his devout followers were responsible for, but people who think using logic and rationality know full well that’s far from the truth, and many leaders have killed in the name of their god for political gain. It’s pure ignorance to not acknowledge this. In all fairness, the only person who truly knows what Adolf Hitler’s religious views were are Hitler himself, but he’s dead, so the only option we have is to obtain facts through reliable sources. I’ve written a few articles previously that touched upon Hitler, and the Nazi party’s religious beliefs, and I shall amalgamate them into this article, and add to it.

Adolf Hitler (20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945)

‪Adolphus Hitler was born on April 20, 1889, in Braunau am Inn, an Austrian town beside the Austro-German border. He would ultimately become the chancellor of Germany from 1933, and become the dictator of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NAZI) and was known as Der Führer, but let’s take a step back and start at the beginning. At the time of his birth, Austria was the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and was predominantly German speaking, and the population of Jews was approximately 2,000,000, and tensions were high with the Christian Social Party, who were an antisemitic, Catholic nationalist party, who were considered one of the key influences for Hitler’s Nazism. The vast majority of people in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were Catholic, with Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, Judaism and Islam making up the rest. A small minority were pagans, and barely anyone openly admitted atheism, as it simply wasn’t accepted in society as everyone was expected to adhere to a faith.‬

‪Adolf’s father was born out of wedlock, Alois Schicklgruber, changed his name to Alois Hitler, and Adolf was born from Klara Pölzl,‬ Alois’ third wife. She was deeply devout in her a Catholic religion, and regularly attended church with her children, and on her deathbed in 1907, where she had terminal breast cancer, she concluded that her fate was god’s will. Her death was extremely traumatic and had a lasting impression on her 18 year old son. Hitler tried to get into the Academy of Arts in Vienna due to his dreams of being a painter. One of his most prized and famous paintings was that of Mary and baby Jesus.

Mother Mary with the Holy Child Jesus Christ

He failed the exam and started to paint watercolours of Vienna to earn enough money to move to Munich in 1913. Hitler found himself interested in politics from a young age and paid particular interest to German racist nationalism propagated by politician Georg von Schönerer. It wasn’t until the outbreak of the Great War (World War one) that he found his purpose in life. In 1923 he attempted to seize power in Munich and was jailed. During the imprisonment he started writing his book Mein Kampf (My Struggle).

After his release he gained support for his promotion of Pan-Germanism, anti-semitism and anti-communism. Hitler was appointed as Chancellor and leader of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei on 30/01/33. He immediately started to create his Nazi Germany with one political party pushing National Socialism (Nazism), promoting antisemitism & anti-communism, and promoted his idea of the Third Reich: Nazi Germany and its regime from 1933-45. The First Reich was the medieval ‘HOLY’ Roman Empire, which lasted until 1806. The Second Reich included the German Empire from 1871-1918. Christianity had an active involvement in the Nazi party, and how, especially in the Catholic Church the involvement went all the way to the top, and even the Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli) never condemned their actions, and met Hitler on several occasions, and signed the Reichskonkordat, which was treaty between the Nazi party, and the Vatican when he was the Cardinal Secretary of State, before he became the Pope.

Nazi Third Reich belt buckle ‘God with us’

Christian apologists use desperate measures to try and make society believe that the Catholic Church wasn’t in bed with the emerging Nazi party, in the 1930s, previous to the events of World War II, but it’s been covered by many historians, and especially in the book ‘Hitler’s Pope’ by John Cornwell. Scholars have researched, and studied Nazi records, and it’s been clarified that the non-religious played next to no part other than victims of the Axis forces. At the time of the rise of the Nazi party, the majority of Germany was of some branch of Christian faith, and most of them were strong supporters of Hitler and his values. The support from Christianity and its churches continued even after Germany started World War II, and the true nature of the cruel dictatorship came to light. The only way that fascism could rise to power, was through support, but why did it gain support in Germany, Italy and other European countries that were predominantly Christian? In Germany 2/3rds were Protestant Christian and the rest Catholic leaving a tiny percentage adhering to paganism.

“We demand the freedom of all religious confessions in the state, insofar as they do not jeopardize the state’s existence or conflict with the manners and moral sentiments of the Germanic race. The Party as such upholds the point of view of a positive Christianity without tying itself confessionally to any one confession. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit at home and abroad and is convinced that a permanent recovery of our people can only be achieved from within on the basis of the common good before individual good.” – Excerpt from the Nazi Party Platform of 1920

Johan Heinrich Ludwig Müller, was a Prussian member of the Nazi party, and was a prominent member of the ‘German Christian’ movement, which was a sect of the German Evangelical Church (Deutsche Evangelische Kirche), where he became Reichsbischof (Reich Bishop). The ‘German Christian’ were associates with Positive Christianity (Positives Christentum) which was a combination of Nazi ideology and Christianity with an obsession with ‘Christ Killers’, who were Jews. They encouraged Christian anti-Semitism which became responsible for the Holocaust, and wish to ‘de-Judaize’ the Bible and refused to accept that Jesus was a Jew and believed that he was the first true Aryan.

‪I have not tolerated an atheist in the ranks of the SS. Every member has a deep faith in God, in what my ancestors called in their language Waralda, the ancient one, the one who is mightier than we are.‬” – Heinrich Himmler Reichsführer SS

In Europe from the start of the 20th century, the Jews were seen as being materialistic, and supporters of modernism, which angered both Catholics and Protestants and enforced anti-semitism, and the Germanic nations began to consider the Jews as a curse. Many agreed with Müller that Jesus was the first true Aryan soldier who was put on earth to cleanse it of Jews, and that the Aryans are the only real humans that are descendants of Adam and Eve. Hitler himself said in several speeches that he was continuing God’s work in his fight against the Jews. The term Untermensch became a common way for the German population to describe the Jews, which means ‘Subhuman’. The anti-semitism in Germany was so strong that they considered the Jews to be children of Satan, and like vermin, they needed to be exterminated. Even as Jews were taken from their homes and taken to Nazi death camps, the support from the common German remained strong. Germanic Aryanism was described as the Volkisch movement, and Joseph Goebbels, who was Hitler’s close friend, and the minister of Propaganda, publicly stated that if the Nazi party had adopted this ideology sooner, then they’d have gained power after Germany’s defeat in World War I.

“What does Christianity mean today? National Socialism is a religion. All we lack is a religious genius capable of uprooting outmoded religious practices and putting new ones in their place. We lack traditions and ritual. One day soon National Socialism will be the religion of all Germans. My Party is my church, and I believe I serve the Lord best if I do his will, and liberate my oppressed people from the fetters of slavery. That is my gospel.” – Joseph Goebbels Nazi Propagandist

The Nazi party gained much support from the German nationals because they were scared of democracy which brought secularism, and with Communism also spreading around Europe, fascism was Germany’s defence against its influence. Many of the high ranking Nazis were born into Catholic households, were baptised and attended churches regularly. Adolf Hitler went to school at a Monastery, and found the power the priests had to be intoxicating, and according to some scholars he even considered priesthood before his interest in politics began. In 1933 he gave a speech to the Reichstag where he said that ‘Christianity was the “foundation” for German values’, which received a standing ovation. Obviously the Nazi party used propaganda, and perhaps some of Hitler’s speeches were designed to touch the hearts of the listeners, but it cannot be denied that the 60,000,000 inhabitants of Germany, as a majority supported Hitler and the Nazi party. Germany became a socialist, nationalist state, and the people who lived there couldn’t have been prouder of that fact. To be fair, if any dissent towards the Nazi party came to light, the Nazi secret police, the Gestapo were quick to respond, and often the consequences weren’t favourable, and this led to fear being one of the reasons the church stayed in line, but even despite this, many top theologians continued to openly support the ideology of the Nazi party.

“Secular schools can never be tolerated because such a school has no religious instruction and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith . . . We need believing people.” – Adolf Hitler

The youth of Germany as a whole supported the Nazi regime, and the majority of university lecturers, and theologians promoted Nazi ideology to the students. The German population wished for Germany to rise to a strong nation again, after their decline after the Great War (World War I), and by allowing Hitler to rise to power, in the mind’s of the voters, this would become a reality. Franz von Papen, who became chancellor of Germany in 1932, was born into an aristocratic Roman Catholic family, and he remained devout his entire life. Due to little support from the Reichstag, Papen had no option but to resign, and helped convince the German president, Paul von Hindenburg, to appoint Hitler as the new German chancellor in 1933.

‪”God gave the savior to the German people. We have faith, deep and unshakeable faith, that he [Hitler] was sent to us by God to save Germany.” – Hermann Göring Geheime Staatspolizei‬

‪”We demand freedom for all religious faiths in the state, insofar as they do not endanger its existence or offend the moral and ethical sense of the Germanic race. The party as such represents the point of view of a positive Christianity without binding itself to any one particular confession. It fights against the Jewish materialist spirit within and without, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our folk can only come about from within on the principle” – Point 24 of the ‪National Socialist German Workers’ Party‬

Even after the war ended, many religious leaders refused to take accountability for their support of the Nazi brutality, and openly encouraging the Nazi uprising, and some never, ever showed remorse or acknowledged their guilt. It’s true that as the war effort continued, and more atrocities and brutality occurred, the churches’ support declined, but the damage had already been done by then. Religious leaders, politicians and the general public as a majority supported Hitler’s rise to power, and accepted his totalitarian dictatorship, and the brutality of the Nazi party, the Schutzstaffel (SS), and the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo). Whether a large number of them regretted their allegiance is probable, but not forgivable. Christianity allowed, and supported the rise of the Nazi party, and are complicit in the butchering of Jews. Apologists insist that Germany, and the Nazi party were predominantly atheist, and this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Religious groups looked to the regime to rid Germany of non-theism, and the traditionalists despised leftist, liberal and secularist ideologies.

Church bell in Herxheim am Berg ‪”Everything for the Fatherland — Adolf Hitler.”‬

In 1933 there was a vote by the Protestants, and two thirds of them were in favour of the churches combining into one ‘German Christian’ sect, and Müller was chosen to lead them, and history states that the racial Nazi ideology that we are all aware of was implemented into the Christian faith of Germany. Christianity clearly had no concerns with racism, and Christianity forced non-Aryans out of representing the churches and attending them. It can’t be disputed that Hitler’s religious methods and beliefs were unorthodox, but because they don’t comply with your traditional Christian methods, doesn’t mean that his beliefs are to be refuted and replaced with atheism.

Mother’s Cross of Honour

‪”The Führer is deeply religious, though completely anti-Christian. He views Christianity as a symptom of decay. Rightly so. It is a branch of the Jewish race. This can be seen in the similarity of their religious rites. Both (Judaism and Christianity) have no point of contact to the animal element, and thus, in the end they will be destroyed. The Führer is a convinced vegetarian on principle.‬” – Joseph Goebbels

Adolf Hitler became increasingly critical of standard Christianity, but he was also extremely critical of atheism, something that many of the Nazi party sympathised with. In all seriousness, Hitler behaved like a White supremacist, right wing, megalomania fuelled, narcissistic cult leader, who wanted to create his own religion that was founded on Christianity, but with the Jewish elements removed and replaced with Aryan. After the attempted assassination attempt in 1944, he publicly declared that he survived because of divine providence, which was god intervening so he could continue to pursue his work. So to conclude, the evidence suggests that not only was Hitler not an atheist, but he was also not a Christian, but he believed in god enough to believe he was doing god’s work.

“The völkisch-minded man, in particular, has the sacred duty, each in his own denomination, of making people stop just talking superficially of God’s will, and actually fulfill God’s will, and not let God’s word be desecrated. For God’s will gave men their form, their essence and their abilities. Anyone who destroys His work is declaring war on the Lord’s creation, the divine will.” – Adolf Hitler

Does religion affect intelligence?

I have seen this claim floating around social media for some time now, so I thought I’d address it. There have been a number of studies done by psychiatrists to suggest that as a whole, religious people score lower on intelligence quotient (IQ) tests, but with that said, there are some extremely intelligent religious people. The problem that religious people have regarding IQ tests is their lack of logic and reason, as they accept dogma and rely on intuition, and blindly believe everything is God’s plan so there’s no need to question it. But does performing poorly on an IQ test accurately ascertain intelligence levels, or are religious people wired up differently? If that person was to break free of the shackles of their faith, would they think differently and apply critical thinking more often?

In an article published in the Frontiers of psychology the results of an online survey was published where a 30 minute test was issued to atheists, agnostics and theists, and theists scored the lowest, and the scientists running the study suggested that religious people lacked cognitive skills. Below is an excerpt briefly explaining the concept of general intelligence, but I highly suggest that you visit the article it comes from, and it can be found here.

“General intelligence refers to the ability to reason, deductively or inductively, think abstractly, use analogies, synthesize information, and apply it to new domains.”

Religious people rely on instinct, and often instead of seeking the truth, they wear blinkers and focus on their Biblical, Torah, or Qur’an narratives, and if anything conflicts with their religious texts then the majority dismiss it, and a perfect example of this is creationism, especially young Earth. There are religious people that have the ability to rise above instinct and apply cognitive skills, but they are usually in relation to some form of science ie: ‘Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Francis Bacon, Emmanuel Kant and Georges Lemaître‘. Whilst they were all highly religious, they were able to separate their personal religious beliefs from their scientific studies, but they are exceptions.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” – Galileo Galilei

It’s naturally human to be curious and to question, and intellectually curious, and not relying purely on instinct. Some may argue that religion has no effect on intelligence, but I’m afraid it does, and I apologise to anyone religious that’s reading this. People who are considered smart, aren’t gullible, they use reason, logic and apply rationality to a problem, and use critical thinking skills and scepticism and require evidence before reaching a conclusion. Many religious people don’t apply these methods and instead adopt faith and belief. And whilst this may be comforting to be at one with their god, they are missing out on a world of possibilities. Take evolution as an example. There are many areas where evidence is in abundance, natural selection can be easily proven with bacteria and antibiotics, there have been early human remains found that suggest we have changed to adapt to our surroundings, but religious people think their god made everything, and some are so blindly adamant that there’s no room to question the possibility that they may be wrong. This is partly through brainwashing and their family and society are to blame, but being so susceptible to supernatural stories instead of understanding the reality we are in is sheer lunacy and incredibly ignorant.

“In classical Greece and Rome, it was widely remarked that “fools” tended to be religious, while the “wise” were often skeptics.” – Live Science

Is religion a sign of lower intelligence or is it the inability to open your mind to possibilities? Why build a church where people can pray to heal the sick, when hospitals are needed where professional doctors are trained to repair what praying can’t affect. Does a sailor pray for the wind to change, or does he learn to sail? Imagine being at a sporting event and the two teams both have religious people praying for victory. One team wins comfortably and their supporters are confident that god heard their prayers and helped their team win, but does that mean that he favoured their team over the other?

Take religious belief in morality. Their god’s words on what’s moral and what isn’t just so happens to conveniently match what they think, so instead of thinking for themselves and using empathy, reason and compassion they are just copying what their god allegedly thinks. If their holy book said that it was morally sound to kill kittens on Monday at 3pm, they would happily slaughter kittens as it’s their god’s will. But that’s going too far I hear you cry, but read the Torah, there’s plenty of reference to sacrifice. Oh, and god wants your money, kids!

“Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires.” – Sigmund Freud