3

I ran across the following question on main:

https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1821/hitlers-religion

On one hand, the question is formally a skeptical question, on the other how can one prove that Hitler was a Christian or an Atheist?

He did write that he was a Christian - however his actions were certainly contrary to the Christian religion. Both are conflicting evidence and thus, probably, not very useful evidence.

As such I suppose that that question to be closed as off topic or subjective and argumentative:

Skeptics - Stack Exchange is for skeptics, rationalists, free thinkers, or anyone who questions pseudoscience. Skeptics is about applying skepticism — it's for researching the evidence behind the claims you hear or read. It is not for philosophical discussions about skepticism itself.

Should we allow questions that don't have a reasonable way of investigating the claim?

  • 1
    Relevant XKCD – Sklivvz Apr 5 '11 at 22:26
  • 1
    In the grand scheme of things, I think it's totally the wrong question to be asking as far as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc. are concerned. For each person claiming he was catholic or christian, you will find another claiming that he was atheist or agnostic. I think the bigger question should be; does it matter what his belief system was? Did he kill in the name of catholicism, christianity, atheism, or agnosticism? Or did he kill people for nationalism or some other motivation? But since this is a meta discussion, I will leave that as my opinion only. :) – Larian LeQuella Apr 6 '11 at 1:19
4

He did write that he was a Christian - however his actions were certainly contrary to the Christian religion.

Which makes this perfect fodder for endless philosophical arguments. Which, as you note, is not what Skeptics is intended to host.

Forget Hitler for a moment. What's my religion? Prove it. Without using anything I've said (because I might be lying) or done (because I might be a hypocrite). What a silly game, eh?

"Did Hitler refer to himself as Christian in his public writings?" - that's a question that can be objectively answered. Or "Did he call himself an atheist ... ?", if you prefer it that way. Any question on this topic is going to attract noise and controversy, regardless of how much concrete historical evidence can be provided - why make this a battleground for questions that can't be resolved?

  • 2
    The same logic can apply to many questions on skeptics. Did we go to the moon? Well, there is overwhelming evidence we went there but it could just be a well-executed cover up! However, I do agree the question can be improved. I think that "Did Hitler self-identify as a Christian?" would be a better question. – Borror0 Apr 5 '11 at 23:50
  • @Borror0: I'd call you a glutton for punishment, but... you're a mod on Skeptics.SE, so that'd be stating the obvious. ;-) Looking forward to seeing a better question... – Shog9 Apr 6 '11 at 0:02
  • So it's possible Obama is a Muslim? – Andrew Grimm Apr 6 '11 at 5:08
  • Your religion is certainly related to StackExchange and unicorns. – Sklivvz Mar 2 '12 at 1:19
5

Of course we should. As I said before,

In fact, thorough answers explaining the debate and why there is uncertainty make great answers. We are a site dedicated to seeking the truth. As such, there are many times where the answer will be "we don't know." It's unavoidable.

The question about Hitler's religion (or lack of thereof) will be a test for the moderators and the community, but if we remain skeptical and maintain our high quality standards, all should be fine.

It's not subjective. It can be analyzed, and there are wrong answers.

  • 3
    +1. Since the question itself asks, "Is there strong evidence to support either side?" instead of simply "Was Hitler Christian?" I think it's worthy of Skeptics. – StriplingWarrior Apr 5 '11 at 23:57
3

I’m not sure if Hitler’s religion can be investigated skeptically … and even if one could, he clearly made directly contradictory statements in different contexts.

Ultimately, I for one don’t think that it matters.

But other people do think that it matters and use this to make vitriolic arguments. People (ahem Glenn Beck ahem) claim that Hitler committed his atrocities because he was atheist, and use this example to justify their claims that an atheist society cannot function. Their claims can, and should, be investigated skeptically. And that entails dealing with statements Hitler has made about the faith he holds.

He did write that he was a Christian - however his actions were certainly contrary to the Christian religion.

No true Scotsman … that’s a fallacy. And furthermore it’s highly debatable: after all, was witch hunt un-Christian? And didn’t the Jews kill Christ? This isn’t a skeptical argument, it’s an argument about doctrine.

2

I don't see how.

What if Hitler told the Christians and Atheists things each wanted to hear from their leader?

What if Hitler went in one building or another on Sunday, or Saturday, or whatever?

Does this prove he was one or the other? No.

I could argue Hitler is a Mormon.

But you know what, I'd rather not.

You might look for baptismal certificates... authentic speeches or letters he wrote... but I suspect this is going to be such a mine-field of bologna that not even Mussolini could have had produced. And people probably aren't going to argue it that way... but wait a bit to see this degenerate before killing it.

0

I guess it is an interesting question, but I agree it is unclear. There are 4 possibilities I see for a serious answer:

  • Did he present himself as religious?
  • Did he gave himself evidence, in a diary for example (I know, there isn't, but for example - think private post), that this was just mockery?
  • Did the religious organization in question treat him as an member?
  • Did he show typical behavior of a said member of his church.

The endless discussion might be made by discussing the real scottsman question, yes, but for the questions above, you could or could not find prove or disprove:

  • There are millions of articles in newspapers of that time, radio broadcasts, movies (Wochenschau) how he presented himself.
  • I don't know for number 2
  • For the catholic church, if you get baptized, you stay baptized. You may only get excommunicated, but this does not mean the end of your being-a-Christ. For details, see Wikipedia on Excommunication If he wasn't Excommunicated, but a paper of baptism exists, the organization threated him as a member - objectively.
  • In Germany, people pay church taxes which are controlled by the government (and controlled them until Dec. 1 1941, source: wikipedia (DE), no engl. version available . To remind you, Hitler was in full power since 1933. So there should have been documents from the tax authority, and maybe in documents of the church, whether Hitler paid church taxes. This would be an objective data point.
  • One day before their suicide, Eva Braun and Hitler married. AFAIK it was a marriage without church - but I only know of their marriage from hearsay, film and wikipedia. In the film, it isn't a religious ceremony. But again: a church would have it in their books, so it could be proven - hard: disproven. But here we enter the area of real scottmanship.
  • I don't know, whether a biography has investigated more about religious or irreligious behavior. If so, it can be looked, what the source of the claims is, and you would have to decide, how you interpret it.

Conclusion: The question could be threated in different ways. Some of them would be, in principal, open to objective prove. Whether the prove can be made, or can't, because of missing documents, is another question, which to answer beforehand rules the whole purpose of the side senseless, wrestling.

0

He did write that he was a Christian - however his actions were certainly contrary to the Christian religion

How is this different from any other Christian (or religious person) in todays day and age? If you ask any member of the leaders in the US Religious Right about their faith, they will absolutely proclaim they are Christian, however the actions they display in the halls of Congress would seem to indicate they are not. Cut off aid for the poor, not treat the sick, etc.? I thought their jesus godfigure said to DO those things.

Or as Colbert observed:

Picture from Missionaries of the Sacred Heart

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .