Was Adolf Hitler a Christian?

During a recent exchange on Twitter, a number of atheists repeatedly claimed that Adolf Hitler was a Catholic Christian. Beyond the Godwinian implications of that claim, it’s clearly not true.

However, I certainly understand why atheists want it to be true.

The claim that Hitler was a Catholic Christian is lent superficial credibility by the fact that Hitler did claim in his political speeches and writings to be a Christian. One atheist on Twitter referred me to this site, containing many such quotes. I haven’t vetted these quotes from Hitler’s political writings and speeches, but I will stipulate (for the sake of discussion) that Hitler did write and say them.

Clearly, a lot of atheists are more than willing to continue falling for Hitler’s political bilge. It takes monumental gullibility (or maybe just mind-warping antireligious prejudice) to take Hitler’s politicized claims at face value. A little critical thinking is in order.

Responsible, credible historians such as John Toland, Derek Hastings, and Alan Bullock do not give Hitler’s public religious pronouncements any credence. And with good reason, as we shall see.

Hitler was raised by a nominally Catholic father and a devoutly Catholic mother. As a boy, young Adolf attended one year of Catholic education. As an adult, Hitler recalled his early rejection of the Christian faith in one of his “table talk” conversations—private conversations that were taken down verbatim by a stenographer and recorded for history. On October 24, 1941, Hitler said:

The present system of teaching in schools permits the following absurdity: at 10 a.m. the pupils attend a lesson in the catechism, at which the creation of the world is presented to them in accordance with the teachings of the Bible; and at 11 a.m. they attend a lesson in natural science, at which they are taught the theory of evolution. Yet the two doctrines are in complete contradiction. As a child, I suffered from this contradiction, and ran my head against a wall. Often I complained to one or another of my teachers against what I had been taught an hour before — and I remember I drove them to despair.

The Christian religion tries to get out of it by explaining that one must attach a symbolic value to the images of Holy Writ. Any man who made the same claim four hundred years ago would have ended his career at the stake, with an accompaniment of Hosannas.  [Adolf Hitler, Hitler’s Secret Conversations, 1941-1944 (New York: Octagon Books, 1972), 69.]

Hitler’s acquaintances from his boyhood and early adulthood said that he frequently expressed open contempt for Christianity, and some tell the story of how, as a boy, after receiving the Eucharistic host at Mass, he desecrated it by spitting it out and shoving it in his pocket.

Here are the findings of historian Alan Bullock from Hitler: A Study in Tyranny:

Hitler had been brought up as a Catholic and was impressed by the organization and power of the Church. For the Protestant clergy he felt only contempt: ‘They are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them. They have neither any religion they can take seriously nor a great position to defend like Rome.’ It was ‘the great position’ of the Church that he respected; towards its teaching he showed the sharpest hostility. In Hitler’s eyes, Christianity was a religion fit only for slaves; he detested its ethics in particular. Its teaching, he declared, was a rebellion against the natural law of selection by struggle and the survival of the fittest. ‘Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.’ From political considerations he restrained his anti-clericalism, seeing clearly the dangers of strengthening the Church by persecution. Once the war was over, he promised himself, he would root out and destroy the influence of the Christian Churches, but until then he would be circumspect. [Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny: (New York: HarperPerennial, 1991), 219.]

Privately, Hitler rejected and detested Christianity. Publicly, in his speeches and in Mein Kampf, he spoke glowingly and approvingly of Christianity. As a canny politician and master manipulator, he knew what he needed to say in order to achieve and maintain his power—especially in Germany, with its large population of both Catholics and Lutheran Protestants. That’s why Hitler’s public pronouncements and his privately expressed views are so completely at odds.

Historian Derek Hastings, author of Catholicism and the Roots of Naziism, says that it is conceivable that Hitler might have been a believing Catholic as late as his 1924 trial for the failed “Beer Hall Putsch” coup attempt (he wrote Mein Kampf while in prison for that crime). But Hastings goes on to say that “there is little doubt that Hitler was a staunch opponent of Christianity throughout the duration of the Third Reich.” [Derek Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Naziism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 181.]

I could go on but the point is already well made: Those who claim that Adolf Hitler was a devout Catholic Christian can only do so out of ignorance—or out of sheer hypocrisy, antireligious bigotry, and intellectual dishonesty.

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Addendum:

One atheist on Twitter disputes my claim that the Soviet Union committed murder in the name of atheism. Here is some support for that claim:

“Practical atheism, enforced by government action, appeared in Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Inspired by the thought of Marx, the Soviet government, assisted by voluntary organizations such as the League of Militant Atheists, disestablished the Russian Orthodox Church, killed clergy and committed believers, disbanded religious organizations, and destroyed churches and religious buildings.” —Peter N. Stearns, Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World: 1750 to the Present (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 278.

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Michael Reagan: John Brennan—A Warning

In his book The New Reagan Revolution, Michael Reagan warns about John Owen Brennan, the man President Obama has selected to head the Central Intelligence Agency. On pages 283-284, Reagan writes:

“One of the most disturbing of President Obama’s appointments is John O. Brennan, Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. On January 3, 2010, Brennan appeared on CNN’s State of the Union to discuss the Christmas day terror-bomb attempt aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253. On the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight, Nigerian terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to detonate plastic explosives concealed in his underwear, but he was restrained by a Dutch passenger.

“Brennan admitted that ‘the system didn’t work’ . . . [and] added that there was ‘no smoking gun piece of intelligence’ to indicate that Abdulmutallab was plotting an attack. Host Gloria Borger reminded Brennan that the underwear bomber’s own father had repeatedly warned the U.S. embassy in Nigeria that Abdulmutallab was plotting with terrorists. ‘That’s not a needle in a haystack,’ she said. ‘With all due respect, it sounds an awful lot like . . . pre-9/11.’

“Borger is right. Barack Obama has returned us to a pre-9/11 mindset. Someone should remind Brennan that the intelligence community can’t afford to wait for a ‘smoking gun piece of intelligence.’ By the time the gun is smoking, the victims are dead. Brennan needs to understand that his job is to keep the gun from going off.

“On the same show, Borger interviewed former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer. From 1996 to 1999, Scheuer headed the Osama bin Laden unit at the CIA. Borger asked Scheuer to comment on the suicide attack against Forward Operating Base Chapman on December 30, 2009, which killed seven CIA operatives.

“Scheuer replied that the most demoralizing aspect of the attack was that ‘one of the officers who got killed had arranged an operation in 1998 that would have killed or captured Osama bin Laden. And [John] Brennan was instrumental in preventing that operation from occurring. Instead he said the Americans should trust the Saudis to take care of bin Laden. So it’s a painful—it’s a painful death, but more importantly it’s a death that didn’t need to occur had Mr. Clinton, Mr. Brennan, [then-CIA director] George Tenet, and [then-National Security Advisor Sandy] Berger had the courage to try to defend Americans.’

“Now that is a stinging indictment of John Brennan. Scheuer says that John O. Brennan aborted a 1998 plan that would have killed or captured Osama bin Laden. Brennan actually saved Osama bin Laden’s life.

“Scheuer went on to say that the Clinton Administration passed up at least ten opportunities to kill or capture Osama bin Laden. As a result, we got to see what a ‘smoking gun piece of intelligence’ looks like. It looks like the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.”

Michael Reagan, The New Reagan Revolution (New York: Thomas Dunne, 2011), 283-284.

C. S. Lewis on the Real Meaning of “Progress” and Being “Progressive”

“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
—C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Some Thoughts on Taxation and Enslavement

“All the fiery rhetoric of the Founders was directed at a ‘tyrant’ who taxed his subjects at a rate of about 3 percent. Today, we in ‘the land of the free’ are taxed at about 50 percent when you add federal, state, and local taxes. What kind of government would do this? A dictatorship would.” —Doug Newman, Christian libertarian blogger

“It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one tenth part.” —Benjamin Franklin

“The average American family head will be forced to do twenty years’ labor to pay taxes in his or her lifetime.” —James Bovard, Lost Rights

“Taxes consume half the family budget. Medieval serfs only gave a third to the lord of the manor. Serfs were slaves; what does that make us?” —Anonymous

“Taxation of earnings from labor is on a par with forced labor. Seizing the results of someone’s labor is equivalent to seizing hours from him and directing him to carry on various activities.” —Robert Nozick, Harvard philosopher

“In levying taxes and in shearing sheep, it is well to stop when you get down to the skin.” —Austin O’Malley

“Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.” —Robert A. Heinlein

“The man who produces while others dispose of his product is a slave.” —Ayn Rand

Whoops, Wrong Again, Professor Dawkins

Last night (Friday, November 2), I tweeted the following:

@RichardDawkins says Mormons are too stupid to be president. Is David Harold Bailey too stupid to be rocket scientist? http://www.wnd.com/2012/10/richard-dawkins-anti-mormon-self-delusion/

(Bailey is a mathematician and computer scientist with a B.S. from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Stanford. He was a NASA computer scientist for fourteen years, and currently works at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.)

I hardly expected a response from Professor Dawkins himself, so I was surprised when Professor Dawkins tweeted back:

@AnswersAuthor I doubt he believed in the charlatan Joseph Smith’s magic hat, or that Native Americans are Jews.

Well, I’m not a Mormon and I’m no expert on LDS doctrine. I don’t know anything about a magic hat or Jewish Native Americans—so for now, I’ll have to take Professor Dawkins’ word that these are tenets of LDS faith.

But so what? If Mitt Romney is mentally unfit to be president simply because he’s a devout Mormon, then Kevin Rollins was mentally unfit to be CEO of Dell Computers; Jon Huntsman, Sr., was mentally unfit to be a plastics entrepreneur and philanthropist; J. Willard Marriott and J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., were mentally unfit to run the Marriott hotel empire; David Neeleman was mentally unfit to run JetBlue, David Harold Bailey was too stupid to be a NASA scientist, and on and on.

Since these devout Mormons were all highly intelligent, high-achieving individuals, that would seem to obliterate Professor Dawkins’ argument. I have never heard Professor Dawkins ever offer a single scrap of evidence that Mitt Romney made crazy, irrational policy decisions as governor of Massachusetts or CEO of the Olympics. If there were such evidence to present, I trust Professor Dawkins would have eagerly presented it.

It’s obvious to me that Professor Dawkins’ argument against Governor Romney is specious and irrational, based on atheistic prejudice, not fact and reason. The evidence for high-achieving, successful Mormons flatly and definitively contradicts Richard Dawkins attacks on Governor Romney. So I tweeted back:

@RichardDawkins Mitt’s Mormon beliefs haven’t prevented him from balancing budgets. Obama’s Keynesian beliefs are killing the economy. #Fact

After sending that tweet, a thought hit me: Professor Dawkins had offered a testable, falsifiable hypothesis. He had said that, in his opinion, it was highly unlikely that mathematician and NASA computer scientist David Harold Bailey seriously believed in Mormon doctrines, which Dawkins characterized as belief in “the charlatan Joseph Smith’s magic hat, or that Native Americans are Jews.”

So I decided to google it—and in 0.39 seconds I had my answer. I immediately tweeted a second reply to Professor Dawkins:

@RichardDawkins Whoops, Prof, you’re wrong again. David H Bailey has a website harmonizing science & LDS theology: http://www.sciencemeetsreligion.org/ 

As of this writing, I’ve received no reply.

I guiltily confess I felt a bit gleeful when I composed that tweet. But it is so much fun to be right.

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For a more thorough discussion of Professor Dawkins anti-Mormon views see my blog piece, “Does Atheism Make You Stupid?” or the related commentary piece at World Net Daily.

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
—George Orwell

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UPDATE, Monday, November 5:

On November 3, Richard Dawkins tweeted, “Bishop Romney really IS Mormon in the full batshit doolally sense.” The eminent professor apparently thinks all he has to do is mock Mormon belief and it somehow proves that Mitt Romney is crazy. But Professor Dawkins hasn’t proven anything.

The only way to prove Dawkins’ thesis is to go over Romney’s record as governor and CEO of the Olympics, and unearth some crazy “batshit” Mormon-induced decisions and policies Romney initiated. If no such decisions and policies can be found, Dawkins’ claim cannot be substantiated.

The mere fact that Mitt Romney holds a religious view that Richard Dawkins deems to be “batshit” and “doolally” proves nothing. The government at all levels is populated by religious believers of all kinds, and all of those believers embrace doctrines Dawkins considers “batshit.” Yet these government leaders somehow manage to function quite effectively nonetheless.

Professor Dawkins needs to show that the religious views of Mitt Romney have actually, demonstrably prompted disordered behavior. He has never offered a scintilla of evidence to support such a claim. And if there is no evidence to that effect, then those religious ideas must be deemed harmless, even if they seem like “batshit” to the esteemed professor.

Fact is, one could easily make the case that Mormon values of hard work, honesty, humility, personal responsibility, and so forth actually make Romney more qualified as a leader than a non-Mormon. You will never see a devout Mormon on welfare, for example. Why is that? It’s because Mormons believe in self-reliance and in taking care of their own.

Whatever Professor Dawkins may think of “magic hats,” much of what is admirable about Mitt Romney appears to come from his Mormon moral and ethical principles. You can’t just say a person has a religion you think is “batshit,” and therefore he’s unfit for office. You must provide evidence that those beliefs have made him dysfunctional as a leader. Absent such evidence, Professor Dawkins is only spouting anti-Mormon bigotry.

Frankly, the only dysfunctional behavior I observe is that of the hysterical biology prof who tosses around terms like “batshit” and “doolally.” It is sad to witness Professor Dawkins’ intellectual meltdown.

Does Atheism Make You Stupid?

“If there is any consistent enemy of science,
it is not religion, but irrationalism.”

Stephen Jay Gould

Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion, fancies himself to be “bright.” In a 2012 interview with Playboy magazine, the interviewer asked, “Is there a better word for a nonbeliever than atheist?”

“The word ‘bright’ was suggested by a California couple,” Dawkins replied. “I think it’s rather a good word, though most of my atheist friends think it suggests religious people are ‘dims.’ I say, ‘What’s wrong with that?’ [laughs]”1

(For more information on the Brights movement founded by Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell, see the Wikipedia entry on the Brights movement.) 

(See also Professor Dawkins’ own article on the Brights movement at Edge.org.)

Richard Dawkins, a British subject, is so pleased with himself and his self-proclaimed “brightness” that he feels emboldened to speak out on the American election, calling Mitt Romney a “massively gullible fool” whom no thinking person should vote for, based purely on the fact that Romney subscribes to the Mormon faith. Reporter Raf Sanchez of Britain’s London Telegraph explained Richard Dawkins’ views on Romney:

“No matter how much you agree with Romney’s economic policy, can you really vote for such a massively gullible fool?” asked Prof Dawkins during an outburst on Twitter that lasted several hours.

The Oxford academic focused his criticism on the Church’s belief that its founder, Joseph Smith, was visited by an angel in 1820s New York, who guided him to a set of golden plates buried in a hill.

Smith claimed to have translated runes engraved on the plates, and compiled them into the Book of Mormon. The text describes how Jesus Christ appeared in the United States after the Crucifixion and how Adam and Eve went to the site of present-day Missouri after being expelled from the Garden of Eden. . . . “Could you really vote for a man who thinks the Garden of Eden was in Missouri?” he said.2

(Read the entire report at the Telegraph website.)

Let’s consider Dawkins’ central question: “No matter how much you agree with Romney’s economic policy, can you really vote for such a massively gullible fool?”

Well, any truly informed, thoughtful, rational person would have to answer YES. We Americans have been presented with a binary choice, Obama or Romney. And voting for Barack Obama is simply not a rational option for any informed, thinking individual.

President Obama has produced a four-year record of abject failure. There were 2.7 million long-term unemployed when he took office; there are 5 million today. Middle class income has fallen almost $4,000 under Obama, from $54,962 to $51,002. Gasoline prices have more than doubled under Obama, from $1.85 a gallon to $3.86. Home values have dropped 11 percent, health insurance costs have risen 23 percent, college tuition rates have risen 25 percent, the number of Americans in poverty has risen from 39.8 million to 46.2 million, up 6.4 million. We’ve gone from 32 million to 47 million people on food stamps under Obama—up 46 percent. The consumer price index has increased 9.1 percent. The federal debt has soared from $10.6 trillion to $16 trillion, a 51 percent increase. And the United States has dropped from first to seventh place in global competitiveness. That is the most massive record of failure since the Great Depression.

There’s a reason why Barack Obama has failed so spectacularly. He believes in a superstition that is infinitely more pernicious and destructive to our society than any Mormon doctrine. Barack Obama is a Keynesian, and history has shown that Keynesianomics has never worked, not once, in the entire history of mankind. And logic tells us why it cannot work: the core idea of Keynesianomics is the economic equivalent of trying to raise the level of a swimming pool by bailing water out of one end and pouring it into the other.

Only the private sector can create wealth. Government can print money, but money isn’t wealth, and government cannot create wealth. So when the government tries to “stimulate” the economy through government spending, it is only injecting money it has already taken out of the economy through taxing and borrowing. That’s bailing water out of one end of the pool and pouring it into the other—and that’s why the massive Obama stimulus package, the biggest Keynesian stimulus experiment in the history of mankind, failed utterly. It did not increase the net amount of wealth in the economy.

(For a historical lesson in why Keynesianomics has not and cannot ever work, read “The Kennedy-Reagan Truth vs. the Obama Delusion” by this author.)

The superstitious economic fantasies of Barack Obama are destroying the American economy, harming generations of Americans, plunging the American republic into an unrecoverable tailspin of debt, and threatening the global economy with meltdown. The massively gullible fool in this race is President Obama, who clings to a false religion of redistribution and “trickle-down government.”

I’m not a Mormon and I do not believe in Mormon doctrines. But history shows that Mormon people are clearly able to engage in rational, productive, socially responsible activities.

Some of the greatest business minds of our times have been Latter-Day Saints, including former Dell CEO Kevin Rollins, plastics entrepreneur and philanthropist Jon Huntsman, Sr., hotel executives J. Willard Marriott and J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., and JetBlue founder David Neeleman. Journalist Jack Anderson and motivational writer Stephen R. Covey were Mormons. Celebrated science fiction novelist Orson Scott Card is a Mormon, as is Ken Jennings, who won a record 74 straight matches on TVs Jeopardy quiz show.

Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television, was a devout Mormon. World-renowned cardio-thoracic surgeon Russell Marion Nelson is Mormon. Howard Tracy Hall, the inventor of synthetic diamonds, and Robert B. Ingebretsen, a pioneer developer of digital sound and robotics, were Mormons.

NASA computer scientist David Harold Bailey and NASA astronaut Don Leslie Lind are both Mormons. So was theoretical chemist Henry Eyring; he probably would have won the Nobel Prize for his transition state theory of chemical reactions if not for Dawkins-style anti-Mormon bias at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

So I ask you, Professor Dawkins, are all of these people “massively gullible fools” who ought to be disqualified simply because of their religion? Personally, I would trust a Mormon over a Keynesian any day of the week.

Professor Dawkins, there is much that I admire about your work. I have read and enjoyed your writings, especially The Selfish Gene. I even have a few nice things to say about your massively flawed screed The God Delusion. I love your invention of the concept of the meme, and I use it all the time.

But when it comes to economics and politics, I’m sorry, sir, but you are not “bright” at all. Your atheism has blinded you to facts and reason. It has made you stupid. It has even made you (to purloin a phrase) a massively gullible fool.

Notes

1. Chip Rowe, “Playboy Interview with Richard Dawkins,” Playboy, August 20, 2012, http://richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2012/8/20/playboy-interview-with-richard-dawkins#.UE-E8FGri9K.

2. Raf Sanchez, “US Election 2012: Richard Dawkins calls Mitt Romney ‘Gullible Fool’ over Mormon faith,” The Telegraph, September 9, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/us-election/9532199/US-election-2012-Richard-Dawkins-calls-Mitt-Romney-gullible-fool-over-Mormon-faith.html.

The Kennedy-Reagan Truth vs. the Obama Delusion

In his book The New Reagan Revolution, Michael Reagan examined six great economic crossroads of the 20th and 21st centuries. These six critical junctures in the history of the United States serve as economic laboratories to test two contrasting economic theories. One theory consistently produced economic expansion and sustained growth. The other theory invariably produced failure and misery. Here are Michael Reagan findings:

1. The “Forgotten Depression” of January 1920. During the last year of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, the economy nosedived. GNP fell 17 percent; unemployment soared from 4 to almost 12 percent. This was the “Forgotten Depression” of 1920. Wilson’s successor, Warren G. Harding, came into office and immediately cut tax rates for all income brackets, slashed federal spending, and balanced the budget. Long before the world ever heard of Ronald Reagan, Harding practiced “Reaganomics.”

“President Harding applied the principles of Reaganomics,” Michael Reagan observed, “even though Ronald Reagan was at that time a nine-year-old boy living in Dixon, Illinois. Harding was not following an economic theory. He was following common sense. He treated the federal budget as you would treat the family budget: When times are tough, cut spending and stay out of debt. Harding also treated his fellow citizens with commonsense compassion: If folks are going through tough times, government should ease their burden and cut their taxes.”

The Harding recovery was astonishingly rapid, beginning just half a year into his presidency. Unemployment fell to 6.7 percent by 1922, and to 2.4 percent by 1923. Harding’s successor, Calvin Coolidge, maintained Harding’s program of low tax rates, balanced budgets, and limited government. The Harding-Coolidge era of prosperity became known as “the Roaring Twenties”—a time of soaring prosperity, stable prices, and boundless optimism.

Obvious conclusion based on the evidence: Reaganomics works.

2. The Great Depression. Coolidge was succeeded by Herbert Hoover. In the eighth month of Hoover’s presidency, the stock market crashed—the infamous Crash of 1929. Many factors led to the Great Depression, but the Crash was the precipitating event. Hoover had failed to learn the lessons of the Harding-Coolidge years, so he responded by raising taxes (hiking the top marginal rate from 25 to 63 percent), imposing protectionism (the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act), and boosting government spending by 47 percent, driving America deep into debt. Hoover’s actions worsened the Depression. A defeated Herbert Hoover bequeathed a ruined economy to Franklin Delano Roosevelt

FDR took office at a time when 25 percent of the nation’s workforce was unemployed. He, too, ignored the lessons of the “Forgotten Depression,” and doubled down on Hoover’s failed tax-and-spend policies, applying the economic theory known as Keynesianism (after British economist John Maynard Keynes). The Keynes-FDR approach involved deficit spending, soak-the-rich tax policies, and big-government make-work programs (the New Deal). FDR and a compliant Congress hiked personal and corporate income tax rates, estate taxes, and excise taxes.

Michael Reagan wrote, “From 1937 to 1939, the stock market lost almost half its value, car sales fell by one-third, and business failures increased by one-half. From 1932 to 1939, the U.S. racked up more debt than in all the preceding 150 years of America’s existence. By early 1939, as the Great Depression was in its tenth year, unemployment again climbed past the 20 percent mark.”

Many Americans credit FDR with “getting America through the Depression.” In reality, FDR’s policies prolonged the Depression. In a time of catastrophic unemployment, Roosevelt made it prohibitively expensive to hire people, making a terrible human tragedy even worse. While thousands of U.S banks failed under FDR’s policies, across the border in Canada, not one bank failed—because Canadian banks were not hamstrung by FDR’s foolish over-regulation. In FDR’s Folly, historian Jim Powell questions the disturbing FDR legacy:

Why did New Dealers make it more expensive for employers to hire people? Why did FDR’s Justice Department file some 150 lawsuits threatening big employers? Why did New Deal policies discourage private investment without which private employment was unlikely to revive? Why so many policies to push up the cost of living? Why did New Dealers destroy food while people went hungry? To what extent did New Deal labor laws penalize blacks? Why did New Dealers break up the strongest banks? . . . Why didn’t New Deal public works projects bring about a recovery? Why was so much New Deal relief spending channeled away from the poorest people?

In May 1939, a demoralized and defeated Henry Morgenthau, FDR’s treasury secretary, told the House Ways and Means Committee, “We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. . . . I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. . . . After eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot!”

Many people mistakenly believe that World War II lifted America out of the Great Depression. Not true. What WWII did was take 12 million men out of the workforce and send them into war, which ended unemployment. But all the other signs of a damaged economy remained during the war: low stock prices, depressed private investment, and depressed consumer demand.

Roosevelt and his successor, Harry Truman, had a post-war plan to impose an even bigger Second New Deal after the war. Fortunately, Congress refused, and chose instead to cut taxes and cut spending—the same commonsense “Reaganomics” approach that had produced prosperity during the 1920s. The result: a post-war economic boom from the late 1940s through the 1950s. Had FDR and Truman gotten their way, the country would have slipped right back into recession if not a second Great Depression.

Obvious conclusion based on the evidence: Keynesianomics fails, prolonging economic hardship and misery, while Reaganomics works again.

3. The Recession of 1960 and 1961. When John F. Kennedy came into office, he faced a jobless figure of 7.1 percent. Wanting the economy to keep up with the growing workforce, JFK addressed the Economic Club of New York in December 1962 and proposed a bold notion: “It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now. . . . The purpose of cutting taxes now is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus.”

Those are the words of John F. Kennedy—and he was preaching Reaganomics. Kennedy was assassinated less than a year later, but his successor, Lyndon Johnson, lobbied hard for the JFK tax cuts, and he signed them into law in 1964. As a result of JFK’s Reaganesque economic plan, the economy experienced a dramatic 5 percent expansion and personal income increased by 7 percent. Gross national product grew from $628 billion to $672 billion, corporate profits by an explosive 21 percent, auto production rose by 22 percent, steel production grew by 6 percent, and unemployment plummeted to 4.2 percent—an eight-year low. The Kennedy-Johnson tax rate cuts produced a sustained economic expansion for nearly a decade.

Obvious conclusion based on the evidence: Reaganomics works again.

4. The Recession of the 1970s. This recession began in November 1973 under Nixon and ended (technically) in March 1975 under Gerald Ford—a 16-month recession. According to the graphs and charts of the economists, real GDP was on the rise by the spring of 1975, yet unemployment and inflation remained painfully high throughout rest of the 1970s. Americans continue to suffer joblessness amid spiraling prices after the recession officially ended.

In 1976, Ronald Reagan narrowly lost the primary race against Gerald Ford. Reagan was convinced that he knew how to solve the long and painful recession of the 1970s, but he was forced to watch from the sidelines as Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter—two befuddled, clueless Keynesians!—battled each other for the White House. On October 8, 1976, at the height of the presidential race between Carter and Ford, Reagan outlined the principles of Reaganomics in a syndicated newspaper column entitled “Tax Cuts and Increased Revenue.” He wrote:

Warren Harding did it. John Kennedy did it. But Jimmy Carter and President Ford aren’t talking about it. The ‘it’ that Harding and Kennedy had in common was to cut the income tax. In both cases, federal revenues went up instead of down. . . . Since the idea worked under both Democratic and Republican administrations before, who’s to say it couldn’t work again?”

Reagan had majored in economics at Eureka College and had spent years studying the great free market economists such as Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations), Friedrich Hayek (The Road to Serfdom), and Milton Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom). While Reagan’s opponents ignorantly wrote him off as an “amiable dunce,” it is clear that Reagan correctly and insightfully diagnosed the ailing economy of the 1970s. Unfortunately, Reagan would have to wait more than four years for the opportunity to put his prescription into practice.

Obvious conclusion based on the evidence: Keynesianism fails again.

5. The Jimmy Carter Stagflation Recession of 1980. After Jimmy Carter was inaugurated in January 1977, he inflicted the failed FDR-style Keynesian approach on the country—an approach which says the federal government can spend its way to prosperity. The result of Carter’s policies was an economic disaster called “stagflation”—slow economic growth coupled with the misery of rampant inflation and high unemployment.

By the 1980 election, America under Carter was in a full-blown recession. The American people had suffered years of double-digit interest rates, double-digit inflation, and double-digit unemployment, plus blocks-long lines at the gas station. Ronald Reagan defeated Carter in a landslide. Newsweek observed: “When Ronald Reagan steps into the White House . . . he will inherit the most dangerous economic crisis since Franklin Roosevelt took office 48 years ago.”

Reagan moved confidently and quickly to slash tax rates and domestic spending. Under his leadership, the top marginal tax rate dropped from 70 percent to 28 percent. Michael Reagan described the results:

Tax cuts generated 4 million jobs in 1983 alone and 16 million jobs over the course of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Unemployment among African-Americans dropped dramatically, from 19.5 percent in 1983 to 11.4 percent in 1989. . . .

The inflation rate fell from 13.5 percent in 1980 . . . to 3.2 percent in 1983. . . .

The Reagan tax cuts nearly doubled federal revenue. After his 25 percent across-the-board tax rate cuts went into effect, receipts from both individual and corporate income taxes rose dramatically. According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, revenue from individual income taxes went from $244.1 billion in 1980 to $445.7 billion in 1989, an increase of over 82 percent. Revenue from corporate income taxes went from $64.6 billion to $103.3 billion, a 60 percent jump.

This was the fulfillment of the “paradoxical truth” that John F. Kennedy spoke of in his 1962 speech: “Cutting taxes now . . . can bring a budget surplus.” Both JFK and Ronald Reagan predicted that lower tax rates would generate more revenue. This “paradoxical truth” worked exactly as predicted.

At a White House press conference in 1981, President Reagan took reporters to school, explaining that the principles of Reaganomics have been known for centuries. Lower tax rates invariably bring more money into the treasury, he explained, “because of the almost instant stimulant to the economy.” This principle, Reagan added, “goes back at least, I know, as far as the fourteenth century, when a Moslem philosopher named Ibn Khaldun said, ‘In the beginning of the dynasty, great tax revenues were gained from small assessments. At the end of the dynasty, small tax revenues were gained from large assessments.'”

The principles of Reaganomics have been proved true—and Keynesian theory has been exposed as a fraud once more.

6. The Obama Recession. To be fair, what I call “The Obama Recession” actually began under George W. Bush, triggered by the collapse of the housing bubble. I think it’s fair to call it The Obama Recession because, when Barack Obama took office, he threw $814 billion of stimulus money at the recession (plus billions more in corporate bailouts, “Cash for Clunkers,” Solyndra-style green energy boondoggles, and other prime-the-pump schemes). He promised to jump-start the economy and hold unemployment below 8 percent. This was weapons-grade Keynesianism, practiced on a scale never before witnessed in human history. After spending so much money on the “cure,” Obama now owns that recession.

If Keynesian theory works at all, the Obama stimulus plan should have completely turned the economy around. But the stimulus plan—officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—not only failed to make a splash, it didn’t make a ripple. Even after the government pumped nearly a trillion dollars of borrowed money into the economy, unemployment nudged up toward the 10 percent mark. Today, unemployment is officially below 9 percent—but the actual jobless rate is much higher.

In 2010, the Population Reference Bureau calculated the workforce to be at just over 157 million people. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are 131 million jobs in America. That would leave 26 million people jobless—or about 16 percent of the total workforce. But it gets worse: Many of those jobs are just part-time jobs, and many people hold two or more of those jobs, so the actual jobless number is certainly far higher than 16 percent—maybe 20 percent or higher.

Obvious conclusion based on the evidence: Keynesianomics fails catastrophically.

Unfortunately, the high priests of the Keynesian religion refuse to see the light. President Obama clings to his delusional Keynesian faith, insisting that all we have to do is throw more money at the economy with another stimulus bill! That is economic insanity. Former Reagan aide Peter Ferrara wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

The fallacies of Keynesian economics were exposed decades ago by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. Keynesian thinking was then discredited in practice in the 1970s, when the Keynesians could neither explain nor cure the double-digit inflation, interest rates, and unemployment that resulted from their policies. Ronald Reagan’s decision to dump Keynesianism in favor of supply-side policies—which emphasize incentives for investment — produced a 25-year economic boom. That boom ended as the Bush administration abandoned every component of Reaganomics one by one, culminating in Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s throwback Keynesian stimulus in early 2008.

Mr. Obama showed up in early 2009 with the dismissive certitude that none of this history ever happened, and suddenly national economic policy was back in the 1930s. Instead of the change voters thought they were getting, Mr. Obama quintupled down on Mr. Bush’s 2008 Keynesianism.

Keynesian theory is every bit as superstitious as believing in astrology or a flat Earth or the good-luck powers of a rabbit’s foot. The facts of history are beyond dispute. The old Keynesian superstition has failed every time it was tried. But Keynesian fundamentalists like Barack Obama continue to live in a state of denial.

We know what works. Nearly a century of economic history proves it. Now we need a president and a Congress with the common sense to apply the lessons of history to the economic crisis of today.

An Unmitigated Disaster for America

The SCOTUS decision on Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster for America. Here’s why:

1. IT INVENTS A NEW, EXPANDED DEFINITION OF THE POWER TO TAX. Roberts firewalled the expansion of the Commerce Clause, but redefined a mandate as a “tax.” Now the Left no longer needs the Commerce Clause to do anything it wants. Leftist social engineers can run (and ruin) our lives via the Tax Clause.

The constitutional power to tax has never before been used to control private behavior, only to fund functions of government. Roberts INVENTED a huge new cudgel that the government can use to oppress and bully the people. Government WILL use it against us in ways we do not now imagine.

Libertarian attorney Jacob Hornberger rightly a called the Constitution “a barbed-wire entanglement designed to interfere with, restrict, and impede government officials in the exercise of political power.” That is the Founding Fathers’ view. By contrast, Roberts took it upon himself to EXPAND federal power in a previously unheard-of direction.

John Yoo of the U.C. Berkeley School of Law has a great Wall Street Journal piece called “Chief Justice Roberts and His Apologists.” Here’s an excerpt:

Justice Roberts’s opinion provides a constitutional road map for architects of the next great expansion of the welfare state. Congress may not be able to directly force us to buy electric cars, eat organic kale, or replace oil heaters with solar panels. But if it enforces the mandates with a financial penalty then suddenly, thanks to Justice Roberts’s tortured reasoning . . . the mandate is transformed into a constitutional exercise of Congress’s power to tax. . . . Justice Roberts may have sacrificed the Constitution’s last remaining limits on federal power for . . . a little peace and quiet from attacks during a presidential election year.

2. REPEAL AND REPLACE IS A LONG SHOT. A friend of mine confidently told me, “No worries. We’ll win the election, and Obamacare will be repealed and replaced by the next administration.”

First, I’m not confident Mitt Romney will win. He has a limitless capacity for unforced campaign errors.

Second, even if he wins, it’s unlikely Obamacare will be dismantled. No government program, once established, has ever been dismantled in the history of the republic. Ronald Reagan couldn’t fulfill his promise to dismantle the Dept. of Education, even though it had been established just a year earlier by Jimmy Carter. The forces against repeal will be brutal. I don’t think Romney and Boehner really believe they will “repeal and replace” Obamacare, but it does make great election-year rhetoric.

Our best chance of dismantling this unconstitutional, oppressive socialist scheme was in the Supreme Court. Now that chance is gone.

3. ROBERTS’ RATIONALIZATION TWISTS THE CONSTITUTION. Some apologists for Chief Justice Roberts suggest that he crafted this tortured decision in order to safeguard the reputation and stature of SCOTUS. If so, then he protected SCOTUS at the expense of the nation and the Constitution. The best way to safeguard SCOTUS is to safeguard the Constitution. By concocting a transparently phony rationale that a mandate is a tax, Roberts got friendly media coverage, but did violence to the Constitution. If Roberts crafted this rationale in order to improve the reputation of SCOTUS, he’s lost his perspective on why SCOTUS exists.

4. WE CAN’T RELY ON ANTI-TAX SENTIMENT. Some have suggested that if people don’t like being taxed to pay for Obamacare, they can simply vote to change Congress.

Problem: We’ve reached the tipping point where anti-tax sentiment in America is a minority position. Most Americans pay no income taxes, and have every reason and incentive to vote increased taxes on those who do pay. Voters won’t vote to change Congress if they like getting freebies from the government at the expense of fellow taxpayers.

What about people who can’t pay the Obamacare mandate “tax”? The rest of us will pay it for them. The middle class will get soaked, as usual.

5. THE FOUR DISSENTERS ON THE COURT MAKE A COMPELLING CASE THAT THIS IS A DISASTROUS DECISION. Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito wrote:

To say that the Individual Mandate merely imposes a tax is not to interpret the statute but to rewrite it. Judicial tax-writing is particularly troubling. . . . The Constitution requires tax increases to originate in the House of Representatives . . . the legislative body most accountable to the people. . . . We have no doubt that Congress knew precisely what it was doing when it rejected an earlier version of this legislation that imposed a tax instead of a requirement-with-penalty. . . . Imposing a tax through judicial legislation inverts the constitutional scheme, and places the power to tax in the branch of government least accountable to the citizenry.

The devastating logic of the dissenters trumps the slippery reasoning of Chief Justice Roberts. This decision is a complete disaster, and I have very little confidence it can ever be undone.

Darwin’s Holocaust? (Part 3 of 3)

Go to Part 1.

Continued from Part 2.

Christopher Hitchens wrote a book called God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. As the title suggests, Hitchens blamed much of the evil in the world on religion. (For more insight into Hitchens’ views and where his thinking went wrong, see Lament for an Atheist—Part I and Lament for an Atheist—Part II. See also the video at Christopher Hitchens Makes a Startling Admission.)

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins makes a similar case in The God Delusion. And it’s true that many atrocities, savageries, and cruelties have been committed in the name of religion: The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the persecution of Galileo, the execution of Giordano Bruno, the Albigensian Crusade, Martin Luther’s rabidly anti-Semitic treatise On the Jews and Their Lies, the Salem Witch Trials, the 1066 Granada Massacre and other pogroms, the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland, the Lebanese Civil War, the Israel-Palestinian problem, Jonestown, India versus Pakistan, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jihad, 9/11, and on and on.

But does religion really poison everything? Well, it depends on how you define “religion.”

If, by “religions,” we mean the tribalistic societies that organize themselves around certain beliefs, rules, rituals, and traditions, and that often defend their beliefs through figurative or literal “holy wars,” then yes, I agree, that sort of religion has a distinctly poisonous history. (And by tribalism, I mean any social structure — including a religion or denomination — that prizes cultural conformity within the group and practices hostility toward those outside the group.)

But if, by “religion,” we mean a commitment to live according to the teachings of, say, the Sermon on the Mount — teachings that cut across the grain of our tribal instincts by commanding us to love our enemies, forgive those who sin against us, and pray for those who persecute us — then Christopher Hitchens was simply wrong. That kind of rational, selfless religion has never poisoned anything. In fact, in The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins writes: “Jesus, if he existed … was surely one of the great ethical innovators of history. The Sermon on the Mount is way ahead of its time. His ‘turn the other cheek’ anticipated Gandhi and Martin Luther King by two thousand years.”24

The Sermon on the Mount is the sort of religion that even Richard Dawkins can endorse. The compassionate, forgiving, anti-tribalist Christianity of the Sermon on the Mount really does exist, and is often found right alongside the corrupt, institutional religiosity that Jesus of Nazareth confronted and condemned throughout the gospel accounts.

Jesus seemed to know in advance that some of his so-called “followers” would corrupt and betray his message. He predicted that a day would come when many supposed “Christians” would say to him, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” And he said his reply to them would be blunt: “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”25

Hypatia, a woman  of Alexandria in Roman Egypt, was one of the leading scholars of the classical age. She was famed as a mathematician, astronomer, and public speaker, and she taught at the Great Library of Alexandria. Unfortunately for Hypatia, she also threatened the political power of Cyril, the corrupt Christian archbishop of Alexandria. In AD 415, Cyril sent his aide, known as Peter the Reader, to recruit a mob of monks to assassinate Hypatia. The monks ambushed her in her chariot, stripped her naked, dragged her through the streets to the Caesareum church, where they killed her, defiling their own house of worship with her murder. They tore her to pieces, then burned the body parts outside of the city. The stated rationale for Hypatia’s grisly murder was that “she beguiled many people through Satanic wiles” — but the true motive was Cyril’s lust for power.26 No doubt, Jesus would say to Cyril, Peter the Reader, and the murderous monks, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

The Crusaders swept through Europe and into the Holy Land, slaughtered Jews and Muslims, pillaged and burned entire villages, raped women and put infants to the sword. They exhibited the heads of their slain enemies on stakes. Wild tales of miracles circulated among the Crusaders, bolstering their morale as they committed horrific atrocities under the banner of the cross. It’s no wonder that radical Muslims to this day identify all Christians as “Crusaders.”

Tomás de Torquemada was the first Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition in the fifteenth century. Known as “the hammer of heretics,” Torquemada “enthusiastically supported the use of torture during interrogations,”27 and reportedly sent at least 2,000 supposed “heretics” to be burned at the stake. Yet if you compare Torquemada’s “enthusiastic” actions with the teachings of Jesus, you have to wonder: Who is the true heretic — Torquemada’s victims, or Torquemada himself?

Corrupt, tribalist, institutional religion is rife with human evil. To all those who torture, kill, rape, molest, seduce, and steal under the cloak of religion, the one who preached the Sermon on the Mount undoubtedly says, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

But the religion of the Sermon on the Mount, the religion endorsed by Richard Dawkins, is another thing altogether. That religion has produced some of the finest achievements of our civilization.

Take, for example, our healthcare system. Compassionate religion has blessed the world with the creation of hospitals. In the Middle Ages, religious orders of monks and nuns ran the first hospitals in Europe. In medieval France, a hospital was called a hôtel-Dieu, a hotel of God.

Or, consider how religion has promoted education. Priests and monks preserved civilization and learning through the Dark Ages. The church also invented institutions of higher learning. In medieval times, writes historian Lowrie J. Daly, “there were no great state-supported educational systems, nor even solitary schools. Practically speaking, the Church was the only institution in Europe that showed consistent interest in the preservation and cultivation of knowledge.”28

The first university in the world was at Bologna, Italy, founded around AD 1088 or earlier; next was Oxford, founded around 1096; the University of Salamanca, Spain, founded circa 1130; the University of Paris, circa 1150; and Cambridge, circa 1209. We don’t know the exact date any of these great universities were founded because they all had modest, unheralded beginnings as cathedral schools, taught by clerics.

Religion practically invented science as we know it. Medieval church clerics studied empirical phenomena and catalogued their findings. The study of science came naturally to the religious mind, because the early clerics believed that a rational God had created a orderly world that could be comprehended by human reason. Here are a few of those early clergy-scientists:

• Thierry of Chartres (died c. 1150) wrote and taught at a cathedral school at Chartes, France. In his Hexaemeron, he proposed a cosmology with similarities to the Big Bang and features of cosmic evolution.

• Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175-1253) was the Bishop of Lincoln and an Oxford scholar credited as the first mathematician and physicist of the Medieval era. Science historian Alistair Crombie called him “the real founder of the tradition of scientific thought in medieval Oxford.”29

• Albertus Magnus (c. 1200-1280) was a German Dominican friar who advocated the teaching of reason and science in the church. He catalogued thousands of insights and observations in logic, medicine, chemistry, and astronomy.

• Roger Bacon (c. 1214-1294) was a Franciscan friar known as Doctor Mirabilis (“wonderful teacher”) because he advocated the study of nature through the empirical method.

• Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) advocated “natural theology” and “natural law,” rooted in reason as well as biblical revelation.

• French priest Jean Buridan (c. 1300-c. 1358) was one of the world’s earliest true physicists, recording observations that led to a modern understanding of inertia and momentum. In De Caelo et Mundo, he proposed an early version of the Copernican model of the cosmos — 200 years before Copernicus.

As the Middle Ages gave way to the Renaissance, great scientific minds continued to seek out the laws by which a rational God had designed an orderly universe. Johannes Kepler envisioned God as the Great Mathematician, and he went on to systematize the laws of planetary motion that bear his name. Michael Faraday saw God as the Great Physicist, who laid down laws for Faraday to discover in the fields of electricity and electromagnetism. Isaac Newton saw God as the Cosmic Engineer, and his faith in a rational God drove him to discover the laws of gravitation, motion, and mechanics.

As Paul Davies observes, “The very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way.”30 Faith in a rational God and a well-ordered creation brought modern science into existence.

And then there’s the field of social justice — and particularly the abolition of slavery. While it’s true that many slaveholders rationalized their cruel trade from the Bible, it’s also true that religion founded on the Sermon on the Mount helped bring slavery to an end. The slave trade in England was abolished largely due to the efforts of a prominent evangelical, William Wilberforce. The American abolition movement was led by the Quakers and such evangelicals as Charles Finney.

So Hitchens’ blanket statement that “religion poisons everything” couldn’t be more wrong. The Crusades and the Inquisition and the pogroms weren’t caused by the Sermon on the Mount or anything else said by Jesus of Nazareth — just as Charles Darwin was not the instigator of the Holocaust or the Holodomor.

Theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson explains the seeming paradox that, down through the centuries, religion has inspired human beings to commit acts of both incredible evil and amazing good. He writes:

We have seen terrible wars and terrible persecutions conducted in the name of religion. We have also seen large numbers of people inspired by religion to lives of heroic virtue, bringing education and medical care to the poor, helping to abolish slavery and spread peace among nations. Religion amplifies the good and evil tendencies of individual souls.31

When evil people want to do evil things — when they want to commit acts of murder, genocide, sadism, oppression, theft, or terror — they will grab any rationale to make their evil seem “good.” If it weren’t some twisted pretense of religion or a pseudo-scientific rationale, it would have been some other excuse. But the evil would have happened in any case.

There is no evil in the words of Jesus. There is no evil in the theory of evolution. The evil is in people — in human nature itself.

That’s what poisons everything.

Notes:

This is an excerpt from God and Soul: The Truth and the Proof by Jim Denney, copyright 2012, available as an ebook at Amazon.com. For permission to quote from this excerpt, contact the author in care of this blogsite.

24. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 283.

25. Matthew 7:22-23, Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

26. Sandy Donovan, Hypatia: Mathematician, Inventor, and Philosopher (Minneapolis: Compass Point, 2008), 75.

27. Michael C. Thomsett, The Inquisition: A History (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010), 158.

28. Lowrie John Daly, The Medieval University, 1200-1400 (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1961), 4.

29. Alistair Cameron Crombie, The History of Science from Augustine to Galileo (Mineola, NY: Dover, 1995), 27.

30. Paul Davies, “Taking Science on Faith,” New York Times, November 24, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/24/opinion/24davies.html?_r=3.

31. Frankenberry, 379.

Darwin’s Holocaust? (Part 2 of 3)

Continued from Part 1.

As early as 1939, philosopher Judah Rumney wrote about Darwin’s influence on both Hitler and Mussolini. In an article called “Biology and War,” which Rumney wrote shortly before Germany’s September 1939 invasion of Poland (and the start of World War II), he noted that the German and Italian dictators were both influenced by the philosophy of social Darwinism:

Both Mussolini and Hitler avow their adherence to this philosophy of war. Hitler in Mein Kampf argues that the world must be ruled according to the natural law of the survival of the fittest: “In constant war mankind has become great — in eternal peace it must perish.”12

Rumney added that Hitler saw war, first, as a “biological necessity,” part of a Darwinian “struggle for existence,” and second, as a means of natural selection, in which the weak and inferior would perish and the strong and superior would be selected for survival. Rumney went on to say that Darwin’s biological theories “are mistakenly applied to social phenomena [by Hitler and other social Darwinists], and animal evolution is equated with social evolution. This dubious procedure is sustained furthermore … by false assumptions and misrepresentations of Darwin’s ideas.”13

One such misrepresentation of Darwin’s ideas is the Hitlerian interpretation of natural selection as a struggle for existence by eliminating all neighbors, competitors, and “inferiors” — the essence of the Nazi “final solution.” Even before the Holocaust began, Rumney saw where Hitler’s misapplication of Darwinian evolution was headed. He wrote:

In biology [natural selection] refers to a struggle for life between organisms consequent on a change in the environment, or a too rapid increase in their numbers which impels each organism to strive forward at the expense of its neighbors. To Darwin this struggle was primarily a process of adaptation which may or may not involve elimination. The term struggle he used in a metaphorical sense, but to the biologists of war [i.e., Hitler and other militant social Darwinists], the struggle for life is a struggle against life; it means elimination, fighting, bloodshed. They ignore the fact that animals do not generally eat or attack those of their own species.14

One evolutionary scientist, Sir Arthur Keith (1866-1955), was horrified to see Hitler pervert Darwin’s theory into a weapon of mass destruction. Shortly after the end of World War II, Keith wrote, “The German Führer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution.” Hitler failed, Keith concluded, not because the theory of evolution is false, but because Hitler misunderstood evolutionary theory and misapplied it in the realm of power and politics.15

Hannah Arendt agreed that a perversion of Darwinism was at the heart of Hitler’s crimes against humanity. She wrote, “Underlying the Nazis’ belief in race laws as the expression of the law of nature in man is Darwin’s idea of man as the product of a natural development which does not necessarily stop with the present species of human beings.”16

The most convincing evidence of the influence of social Darwinism in Nazi Germany comes from the Wannsee Conference, a meeting of senior Nazi officials in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee in January 1942. The meeting was called to inform top Nazi officials of how the “final solution to the Jewish question” would be carried out. Minutes of the meeting were taken by Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust. That document, which became known as “Eichmann’s Protocol,” includes this statement (note the phrase I’ve italicized):

In pursuance of the final solution, special administrative and executive measures will apply to the conscription of Jews for labor in the eastern territories. Large labor gangs of those fit to work will be formed, with the sexes separated, which will be directed to those areas for road construction and undoubtedly a large part of them will fall out through natural elimination. Those who remain alive — and they will certainly be those with the greatest powers of endurance — will be treated accordingly. If released they would, being a natural selection of the fittest, form a new cell from which the Jewish race could again develop.17

Evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) recalled his dismay when he read that statement and discovered that the essential mechanism of Darwinian evolution had been twisted into a rationale for Nazi genocide. Gould wrote:

I can rattle off lists of such misuses [of evolutionary theory], collectively called “social Darwinism.” … But until the fiftieth anniversary of the Wannsee Conference piqued my curiosity and led me to read Eichmann’s Protocol for the first time, I had not known about the absolute ultimate in all conceivable misappropriation — and the discovery hit me as a sudden, visceral haymaker, especially since I had steeled myself to supposed unshockability before reading the document. Natürliche Auslese is the standard German translation of Darwin’s “natural selection.” To think that the key phrase of my professional world lies so perversely violated in the very heart of the chief operative paragraph of the most evil document ever written!18

It’s clear that Hitler and the Nazis viewed war, conquest, and genocide as a biological necessity, as a means of evolutionary struggle and natural selection. Hitler absorbed biological Darwinism at the very least from his early education, and also through such secondary sources as German Darwinian biologist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919). As Stephen Jay Gould wrote:

Haeckel’s greatest influence was, ultimately, in another tragic direction — National Socialism. His evolutionary racism; his call to the German people for racial purity and unflinching devotion to a “just” state; his belief that harsh, inexorable laws of evolution ruled human civilization and nature alike, conferring upon favored races the right to dominate others; the irrational mysticism that had always stood in strange communion with his grave words about objective science — all contributed to the rise of Nazism. The Monist League that [Haeckel] founded and led … made a comfortable transition to active support for Hitler.19

Hitler also absorbed the social Darwinist militarism of Prussian General Friedrich von Bernhardi (1849-1930). In Germany and the Next War (1911), Bernhardi advocates ruthless German aggression and expansionism, while rationalizing slaughter and conquest in the name of “natural law” and “the law of struggle.” As anthropologist Ashley Montagu notes, Bernhardi invokes “such Darwinian notions as ‘the struggle for existence,’ ‘natural selection,’ and ‘survival of the fittest.'”20 Bernhardi adapted Darwinian natural selection to the realm of conflict between nations, claiming that “struggle is a creator” (that is, a creative force) because “it eliminates” nations and cultures that are weak and inferior. Bernhardi wrote:

Struggle is, therefore, a universal law of Nature, and the instinct of self-preservation which leads to struggle is acknowledged to be a natural condition of existence.

Strong, healthy, and flourishing nations increase in numbers. … They require a continual expansion of their frontiers, they require new territory for the accommodation of their surplus population. … The right of conquest is universally acknowledged. … The instinct of self-preservation leads inevitably to war, and the conquest of foreign soil. It is not the possessor, but the victor, who then has the right.21

These words, drenched in social Darwinism, helped to propel the German Wehrmacht into Poland, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

I can understand Professor Richards’ eagerness to delink Darwin from Hitler and the Holocaust, but the good professor has arrived at the wrong answer. We have to follow the evidence where it leads. Hitler was without question a social and biological Darwinian who rationalized Naziism on grounds of natural selection and biological necessity.

We also have to acknowledge that Darwin himself was a racist. The full title of his 1859 book was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or, the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. In his 1882 follow-up, The Descent of Man, Darwin predicted, “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.”22 Candidly, I consider some of Darwin’s opinions of certain races to be unprintable.

At the same time, I want to make clear that while Darwin predicted the extermination of “the savage races,” he didn’t advocate their extermination. Darwin was a racist who divided humanity into “higher” and “lower” races, and he believed that natural selection would eliminate the “lower” races.

Darwin was not himself a social Darwinist and didn’t advocate applying his biological theories to social, political, and economic settings. He opposed slavery, and was appalled that some people misapplied his theories, using them as a rationale for social injustice. In The Descent of Man, he wrote that it is our “instinct of sympathy” that truly elevates us as human beings, and if we lose our ability to sympathize with the weak, the helpless, and the suffering, the result will be a “deterioration in the noblest part of our nature.”23

But Darwin’s views were used by others as a rationale for war and mass murder. Does this mean that Darwin bears moral responsibility for the crimes of Hitler? Does Hitler’s genocidal misapplication of a biological theory undermine the validity of that theory? Absolutely not.

As a scientific theory, evolution has been highly successful and well-verified — just as the reality of the Cosmic Designer is well-verified by the anthropic principle. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection rises or falls on its own scientific merits, regardless of how it was later twisted and misused by the social Darwinists, by Hitler and the Nazis, by Karl Marx and the Communists, or by the Columbine killers.

And the same principle applies to religion.

To be concluded in Part 3. 

Notes:

This is an excerpt from God and Soul: The Truth and the Proof by Jim Denney, copyright 2012, available as an ebook at Amazon.com. For permission to quote from this excerpt, contact the author in care of this blogsite.

12. Judah Rumney, “Biology and War,” Journal of Social Philosophy, Volume 4, Number 4, 1939, 329.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid., emphasis added.

15. Arthur Keith, Evolution and Ethics (New York: G.. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1947), 230.

16. Arendt, 161.

17. Helmut Krausnick and Martin Broszat, Anatomy of the SS State (London: Paladin, 1970), 101; emphasis added.

18. Stephen Jay Gould, Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History (New York: Harmony, 1996), 315.

19. Stephen Jay Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977), 78.

20. Ashley Montagu, Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race (New York: Columbia University Press, 1945), 157.

21. Friedrich Von Bernhardi, translated by Allen H. Powles, Germany And The Next War (Deutschland und der Nächste Krieg, Berlin: J. G. Cotta, 1912), http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/11352/pg11352.html.

22. Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 2nd edition (London: John Murray, 1882), 156.

23. Darwin, 134.