The Pope arrived in Britain today, held out his “hand of friendship” and called on all the British people to remember:
Your forefathers’ respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christians alike.So far, so respectable [snip]
My problem is with what the Pope then went on to say:
In our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many … As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny” ...Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate.The implicit argument here is very bad, but not only that: it is deeply offensive to atheists. [snip]
The Pope’s smear campaign starts out disastrously by rewriting history in an attempt to link Nazism with atheism. Though the Nazis did not like organized religion interfering in their political machinations, they generally thought of atheism as intertwined with Marxism, and thus opposed it vociferously. (The real regime that “wished to eradicate God from society”, the Soviet Union, lost over 20 million people fighting the Nazis.) Adolf Hitler was a Catholic who expressed his Christian faith and used it to justify his actions in numerous speeches and writings, Christianity was part of the Nazi party platform, and having banned the major atheist organization in 1933, Hitler declared: “We have .. undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.”Does it occur to the Pope that many of the Jews killed in the Holocaust were highly assimilated secularists, and that many of their descendants today are atheists and agnostics? Clearly he needs to fire his public relations team. And then somebody needs to fire him.
So not only is the Pope wrong to suggest that the Nazis’ crimes stemmed from their atheism, he is wrong to suggest that the Nazis in general were atheists in the first place. They may not have been “Christians” in every sense of the term. But many of them certainly believed in God. [snip]