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Veeery interestink

A reader sent along an interesting quote from Heinrich Himmler, taken from Heinrich Himmler: A Life by Peter Longerich. Since we’ve got another religious idiot claiming the Nazis were atheists, it seemed appropriate to include it here…and since I’m lazy, I’m just going to include everything my correspondent wrote to me.

I am a WWII history buff and I was reading the English translation of Peter Longerich’s biography of Heinrich Himmler. Longerich made the point that Himmler did not like Christianity or the Christian churches even forbidding SS men from having any leadership role in the church. He further made the point that Himmler described himself as a believer in God.

He then noted something that I had not heard before: Longerich quoted a letter that Himmler wrote a pastor in 1937 to the effect that what denomination an SS man chose was his own person business. However, apparently this deference did not extend to non-belief. Atheism, Himmler wrote, “is the only world- or religious view that is not tolerated within the SS.” He further wrote, “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.” (Longerich, Heinrich Himmler, Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 220)

I found that passage interesting in light of the claim that the Nazis were an atheistic system. It clearly rebuts that claim. (As if it needed further rebuttal.) But further, if the Nazi were supposedly atheistic, how is it that the SS — the group that was supposed the vanguard of the Nazi system, the epitome of the Nazi ideal — did not admit atheists in its ranks? One had to be at least a theist. So how, again was the Nazi system atheist??

And of course, for those of you who want to argue that this is merely Heinrich Himmler, we can always turn to good ol’ Adolf Hitler, who was quite clear on the subject of atheism.

We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.

You want to call the Nazi leadership unorthodox, marginally Christian, or representative of a pathological religious extreme, I’ll agree with you; but you don’t get to call them atheist.

Comments

  1. says

    Religion is organized ignorance. By this definition nazism and the cult of the Kims qualifies, but perhaps not every “religious” affiliation.

  2. Zeppelin says

    Now as a German empirical linguist who hasn’t had his breakfast yet, I have to ask:
    Why does the stereotypical German accent that English speakers write turn word-final /-ng/ into /-nk/? German has loads of words that end in a velar nasal (like anything with the common derivational suffix “-ung” on it)!
    In fact, [nk] isn’t even a permissible consonant cluster in German.

    It’s just a bit weird. Did some famous movie nazi do it or something?

  3. theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen says

    @ Vijen

    Religion is organized ignorance … but perhaps not every “religious” affiliation.

    Brainfart … why the “scare quotes”?

  4. McCthulhu, now with Techroline and Retsyn says

    Thread Godwinned in the title piece!

    No great revelation to me that the Nazis didn’t want atheists, the sentiment was probably mutual. If you’re dedicating your life’s philosophy to reason and evidence, anyone looking at the manifestos of the Reich would have turned tail and fled…and then designed nuclear bombs for the allies. Wow! Quelle surprise, that’s what happened.

    PS: Arte Johnson references on FtB…tres cool.

  5. abb3w says

    @3, Zeppelin:

    Why does the stereotypical German accent that English speakers write turn word-final /-ng/ into /-nk/? German has loads of words that end in a velar nasal (like anything with the common derivational suffix “-ung” on it)!

    I was presuming it was a reference to Arte Johnson’s character from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Which would imply that the PZ’s full response to claims about the Nazis being atheists might now be “Veeery interestink… but shtupid.”

  6. says

    Vijen: “Religion is organized ignorance.”

    Religion is organised superstition, a subtle but important distinction, I’d say.

  7. David Marjanović says

    To be absurdly fair, the Hitler quote could be interpreted as amoral faitheism.

    …without context anyway.

    It’s just a bit weird. Did some famous movie nazi do it or something?

    I bet someone heard of the comparatively famous northern German word-final fortition and applied it to letters instead of sounds.

  8. The Dancing Monk says

    We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement

    Why does this remind me of Alain de Botton?

  9. dianne says

    Atheism, Himmler wrote, “is the only world- or religious view that is not tolerated within the SS.”

    Am I the only person who read this and thought, “Huh? What about Judaism?”?

  10. imnotandrei says

    @dianne, #13

    “Huh? What about Judaism?”?

    You’re not the only one who thought that.

    Probably being overly pedantic here, but I think there are two things likely going on, maybe both at tthe same time:

    1) Himmler figured it was so obvious as to not need mentioning, and
    2) Jews were a Race — and a religion only as a subset. So, since no member of the Jewish Race — their capital letters, not mine — would be in the SS, obviously, none of the subset would even have a chance to be tolerated.

    Well — make that a few more —

    3) He was lying through his teeth, or
    4) He was not thinking clearly.

    Any of these will do, I’m sure. But no, you were not alone in thinking that (Ugol’s Law strikes again!)

  11. Zeppelin says

    @abb3w That makes a lot of sense. Thanks!

    @David Marjanović: That’s another thing! I’m just reading a Terry Pratchett novel, and vampire photographer Otto Chriek from Überwald does the -nk thing, and can’t say w, but regular final stops are spelled normally.
    That’s why it was on my mind, actually. Maybe decades of terrible fake accents have just confused people about how Auslautverhärtung works or something :p

    And we do it Down South, too! The “devoicing” just goes lenis->fortis instead of voiced->unvoiced. Though I have the suspicion that in my own variety (Southern Hessian, shtronk High German influence) it’s actually plain unaspirated vs. aspirated these days.

  12. says

    Jehovah’s Witnesses were hardly welcomed by Nazis either.

    I expect that Himmler was thinking in a very broad manner about how world or religious views were allowed. As in, you could be monotheist, polytheist, pantheist, etc. You just couldn’t be non-theist.

    Of course you couldn’t be a religion that was considered to be anti-Nazi. Kind of goes along with Nazism.

    Glen Davidson

  13. daniellavine says

    @Zeppelin:

    Why does the stereotypical German accent that English speakers write turn word-final /-ng/ into /-nk/? German has loads of words that end in a velar nasal (like anything with the common derivational suffix “-ung” on it)!
    In fact, [nk] isn’t even a permissible consonant cluster in German.

    It’s just a bit weird. Did some famous movie nazi do it or something?

    In addition to the answer above, I think this is how the Nazi’s talked on “Hogan’s Heroes.” I suspect that the root cause is Americans being able to distinguish between German movie villains and Russian movie villains since Russians actually do the /-ng/ –> /-nk/ thing.

  14. daniellavine says

    That is, Americans are unable to distinguish between Russian and German movie villains.

  15. anubisprime says

    quoderatdemonstrandum @ 2

    There is a rather more highly placed idiot who compared Atheists to Nazis Ratzinger

    Yes indeedy…over to you Benny ?…give us ya best shot!

    But to be fair every major xian religion plays ‘scary atheists are really Nazis’, it is typical xian framing, they have been doing that behavior for over 2000 years…it is the first tactic they reach for faced with a foe to their delusion.

    Demonize…slander and lie about…all in the name of jeebus of course.

    That religiously infected dumbfucks still parrot this meme is par for the course, they are intellectually challenged after-all and the story sounds so good for their position they simply cannot resist.

    They are just repeating bollix they hear when shooting the breeze around the font after Sunday service from other clones trying to impress the woomeister with their holiness and dedication to the cause.

    And the woomeisters dare not correct their flock…cos any means to an end right?
    Besides a significant majority of woomeisters are only marginally more learned then the sheeple they con…so no help there then!

    And those that are supposedly ‘learned’ lack the integrity or the ‘faith’ to correct the utter nonsense.
    Enter stage left Benny the kiddy fiddler general el supremo…protector and patron saint of Fiddlers-R-Uz inc….a subdivision of ‘jeebus is my sunbeam corp!’

    The irony is that they implicitly frame the Nazis as evil scary inhumane bogymen which undoubtedly they were relatively…they were and are the demons of their dreams made flesh…bit like their impression of atheists.

    Thing is…the Nazis lost the war…they did not win…they lost…so not so scary as to be truly demonic and evil trolls beyond humanity.

    Their analogy fails right there!

    The ninth gate of hell and purgatory remains firmly closed…methinks someone is yelling ‘wolf!’ and wetting themselves because they believe their own publicity!

    Not saying that the Nazis were benign overgrown enthusiastic scout masters…but they were not the unbeatable legion of Beelzebub’s hordes that theists pretend they were.

    But they seem to have built a straw-man analogy and do not realize the damn thing is on fire!

    Pointing to a failed politically motivated and spiritually fueled xian dominated bunch of cretins that they think explains atheism in a nutshell is not quite having the devastating affect they had hoped for…except amongst the brain dead of course…but the claim seems to be less and less delivered with gusto…more tired and they got fuck all else to say!

    It would be funny except that some retards actually believe the lies but then again those ‘souls’ are lost causes anyway…let us hope that those cretins never gain power…

    oh crap…to late!

  16. roblee says

    Of course you are correct that the Nazis weren’t atheists, but I think that arguing this point harms an even more fundamental argument; it would not have mattered if they were. Once you spend 15 minutes carefully explaining to a believer that Hitler was not an atheist, they can bring you back to square one all over again by bringing up Stalin, who almost certainly was an atheist. I think that the better tact is to argue that just because someone is an atheist does not mean that their actions are directly attributable to their atheism. Let’s say that Jeffrey Dahmer was a fan of the New York Yankees; it would be ridiculous to suggest, on the basis of that singular data point, that being a fan of the New York Yankees made one more likely to become a serial killer.

  17. gravityisjustatheory says

    dianne
    6 March 2012 at 9:14 am

    Atheism, Himmler wrote, “is the only world- or religious view that is not tolerated within the SS.”

    Am I the only person who read this and thought, “Huh? What about Judaism?”?

    I was looking at Mein Kampf on Wikiquotes, and found this passage that seems to imply that Hitler didn’t think Judaism was a “true” religion:

    Due to his own original special nature, the Jew cannot possess a religious institution, if for no other reason because he lacks idealism in any form, and hence belief in a hereafter is absolutely foreign to him. And a religion in the Aryan sense cannot be imagined which lacks the conviction of survival after death in some form. Indeed, the Talmud is not a book to prepare a man for the hereafter, but only for a practical and profitable life in this world.

    (And no, that doesn’t make much sense. But that’s hardly unusual for Hitler’s ramblings).

    Also, skimming through the other quotes there, it becomes pretty clear that Hitler believed in some sort of God (probably some weird interpretation of teh Christian one), and thought religion was a good thing.
    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Mein_Kampf
    Examples:

    The folkish-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.

    [I think, based on some of the other quotes, that he's refering to race-mixing]

    Catholics and Protestants are fighting with one another … while the enemy of Aryan humanity and all Christendom is laughing up his sleeve.

  18. janine says

    In addition to the answer above, I think this is how the Nazi’s talked on “Hogan’s Heroes.”

    Wrong. The title of this thread was the catchphrase of a character played by Arte Johnson on the show Laugh In in the late Sixties.

    As for the actors on Hogan’s Heros, I would imagine, while played for comic effect, the main characters would be rather realistic. Werner Klemperer (Klink) was German Jewish and John Banner (Schultz) was Austrian. Both were refugees from the Third Reich.

    But all this is way off topic.

  19. janine says

    I think that the better tact is to argue that just because someone is an atheist does not mean that their actions are directly attributable to their atheism. Let’s say that Jeffrey Dahmer was a fan of the New York Yankees; it would be ridiculous to suggest, on the basis of that singular data point, that being a fan of the New York Yankees made one more likely to become a serial killer.

    Why do you think that Richard Dawkins has mockingly blamed the actions of Stalin and Hitler on their mustaches?

  20. ischemgeek says

    Being someone who’s had that very conversation with my mother on numerous occasions until I got sick of trying to break down the wall of her prejudice with my forehead, I have this to say:

    The person in question will usually say, “Well, they were secret athiests!”.

    Then when it’s pointed out that by all accounts that can be found, they were quite religious, the person will say, “Well, they weren’t true Christians!”

    Then after you argue around about morality and religiosity having no relationship, the person will do the rhetorical equivalent of puttin their hads over their ears and saying, “LALALA! I can’t hear you!” by saying they don’t believe it anyway.

    And the next time you talk, they’ll assert that Nazis were athiests again. I gave up because I was sick of it.

  21. janine says

    The person in question will usually say, “Well, they were secret athiests!”.

    Just like Barack Obama is a secret Muslim and/or Marxist.

  22. says

    I meant to bring this up the last time we discussed the “Hitler was an atheist” canard, but has anyone else ever read, or tried to read, Unholy Alliance by Peter Levenda? I got it as a “gift” from the type of person who spells “magick” with a k.

    Levenda’s claim is that the Third Reich were using “magick” to overtake Europe, and the person who gave me the book (an intelligent person with blind spots you could sail a cruise ship through) believes this vehemently. To the contrary, my impression is that certain high-ranking Nazis were just dabbling in the occult, as many bored privileged people did at the time and still do now.

    Anyway, the writing is so overwrought that I couldn’t get through more than 80 pages, all of which were about Levenda’s (unlikely) adventures in the Nazi-ridden jungles of South America. I left a one-star review of it on Amazon, but it got pulled — Levenda himself likes to jump into the negative reviews and argue, so perhaps he was the one who flagged it. /shrug

  23. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    What was also interesting is that even if the NS system itself was atheistic, the vast majority of Germans at the time were practising Christian. No true German/Christian/Nazi??

  24. Woo_Monster says

    Alright, you atheists may have shown that the Nazi’s were not atheistic, but can you prove that Satan wasn’t an atheist? Didn’t think so. Satan’s rebellion from god was undoubtably caused by his atheism.

  25. says

    Levenda’s claim is that the Third Reich were using “magick” to overtake Europe, and the person who gave me the book (an intelligent person with blind spots you could sail a cruise ship through) believes this vehemently. To the contrary, my impression is that certain high-ranking Nazis were just dabbling in the occult, as many bored privileged people did at the time and still do now.

    Nonsense! That the Nazis collaborating with Rasputin brought forth the half-human son of the Horned King of the Underworld from hell in an effort to harness the power of the 8 in 1 serpent of the apocalypse, is well documented!

  26. ChasCPeterson says

    In addition to the answer above, I think this is how the Nazi’s talked on “Hogan’s Heroes.”

    Wrong. The title of this thread was the catchphrase of a character played by Arte Johnson on the show Laugh In in the late Sixties.

    As the Johnson characterization was precisely “the answer above” to which the Hogan’s Heroes hypothesis was offerred “in addition”, it’s not “wrong.”

  27. ChasCPeterson says

    there were closeted Jews in the Nazi party were there not?

    the quote is not about the party, it’s about the SS.

  28. quoderatdemonstrandum says

    Anubisprime @21

    The thing that is most sickening about Ratzinger’s lie is that he was there. He lived through Nazi Germany. He is an educated man. He knows better. And yet, he knowingly, calculatingly, intentionally projects what catholic and protestant christian Nazis did onto atheists.

    I have never blamed Ratzinger for wearing a Nazi uniform. He was 14 years old. I know that not every German participated willingly and he was just a kid. But this lie, this projection, this willingness to demonize atheists with Nazi-ism. It gives me pause.

    The very least that can be said is that no one who has worn a fucking Nazi uniform gets to call anyone else a fucking Nazi.

  29. raven says

    Once you spend 15 minutes carefully explaining to a believer that Hitler was not an atheist, they can bring you back to square one all over again by bringing up Stalin, who almost certainly was an atheist.

    That’s OK. You can point out that Stalin and the atheistic commies cooperated with the west to save the world from the Nazis. The Soviet commies took the large majority of the casulties.

    Plus, xians are responsible for the fall of the Roman empire and all the wars in Europe since then. They frequently fought against and killed other xians. In any listing of body counts, the xians are way, way ahead.

  30. janine says

    It never happened but they so deserved it anyways.

    Why have coherence when all possible objects can be waved away.

  31. Happiestsadist says

    Ing @ #33 FTW.

    Ing @ #41: That seems to be pretty much how they attempt to spin it.

  32. says

    From Himmler’s diary, written at 19:

    Come what may, I shall always love God, and pray to Him and adhere to the Catholic church and defend it, even if I should be expelled from it.

    And Peter Radfield writes in Himmler: Reichs Fuhrer SS:

    Of course he had found another faith very soon inimical to the Church and had expelled himself, then attacked with all the force he dared, declaiming against priests as the greatest cancer a people could have. Yet like Robespierre, another serious, rather puritanical revolutionary who lived by an inner vision, Himmler always believed in God. It was the institution of the Church he, like Robespierre, sought to destroy because it stood for the existing order and old values incompatible with the new era.

    All from chapter one, page one of Radfield’s book. I didn’t get all that much farther with the book, however; Himmler was one of the most boring and unrelentingly tedious people one could ever read about, right up to the point where he became one of history’s worst mass murderers.

  33. wanstronian says

    “but you don’t get to call them atheist.”

    And even if they had been, there is no logical path from atheism to genocide. Genocide is the exclusive preserve of religious beliefs.

    On which subject, Catholicism was at the time still officially anti-Semitic. And who was it that Hitler targetted? Oh yeah…

  34. raven says

    OT but related as another common lie of fundie xians.

    Priscilla Coleman has made a career of publishing fraudulent papers “proving” that abortion causes all sorts of terrible mental problems.

    If it was anyone but a liar for jesus type xian, they long ago would have been up for tenure review and possible dismissal.

    Abortion-Mental Illness Link Doesn’t Hold Up, Researchers Find
    By Stephanie Pappas | LiveScience.com – 19 mins ago….EmailShare0Print….
    ..A study purporting to find a link between abortions and mental illness does not hold up to scrutiny, according to a new report in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

    The original study, conducted by Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University in Ohio, has been a source of contention since its publication in 2009, when critics pointed out flaws in the statistical analysis.

    “This is not a scholarly difference of opinion; their facts were flatly wrong. This was an abuse of the scientific process to reach conclusions that are not supported by the data,” study researcher Julia Steinberg, an assistant professor in the University of California, San Francisco’s department of psychiatry, said in a statement. “The shifting explanations and misleading statements that they offered over the past two years served to mask their serious methodological errors.”

  35. raven says

    The person in question will usually say, “Well, they were secret athiests!”.

    Your mother can read the minds of people dead for 67 years?

    What a great trick. How far back can she go? I’ve got some questions for Plato.

  36. janine says

    Genocide is the exclusive preserve of religious beliefs.

    Sadly, atheists are just as capable of committing genocide. They just does not need to use the excuse of atheism for their actions.

  37. taki says

    Interesting that it’s the same policy as the Boy Scouts. Doesn’t matter which god you worship, but you have to have one.

  38. yoav says

    The SS banning atheists is proof that they were all atheists just like this moron, who’s name I forgot and can’t be bothered to look up right now, who claim that the nazis sending gay people to the gas chambers is proof that they were all really gay.

  39. gravityisjustatheory says

    dianne
    6 March 2012 at 10:26 am

    @23: So, if I understand correctly, they considered Jews to be atheists?

    That’s what it sounds like (although it’s probably not advisable to try to interpret anything as incoherent as Nazi philosophy from limited Wikiquotes).

    Although I do believe the Romans considered both Jews and Christians to be atheists, as they denied the existance of all the other gods.

  40. mnb0 says

    Another analysis of Nazi racial ideology:

    http://coelsblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/nazi-racial-ideology-was-religious-creationist-and-opposed-to-darwinism/

    Neither was Stalinism an atheist ideology. I refer to Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, the chapter on Augustinus of Hippo.
    This argument is a vicious form of a false dilemma. It says that Hitler and Stalin persecuted religion, hence must be atheistic. In fact Hitler and Stalin persecuted other religions, exactly because national-socialism and Stalinism had religious claims of absolute truth of their own.
    And yes, in both cases Christianity was the main inspiration. Hitler and Stalin perverted it, but it was the main source nonetheless.

  41. Randomfactor says

    And yes, in both cases Christianity was the main inspiration. Hitler and Stalin perverted it, but it was the main source nonetheless.

    It could be argued that Stalin learned his trade in Orthodox seminary.

  42. says

    Zeppelin @#3

    I think PZ was trying to immulate Arte Johnson’s catchphrase from “Laugh-in”, which I recall as “Verrryy interesting”

    Though Himmler and Hitler probably had strong Christian backgrounds (Himmler was raised as a Roman Catholic) they certainly invested a lot in esoterica, with expeditions into India and the far east to prop up the “Aryan” myth.

  43. janine says

    The person whose name you cannot remember is Scott Lively, yoav. He remains active in betting nations to enact laws that murders LGBT people.

    Yes, he is one of the most vile living persons.

  44. left0ver1under says

    dianne #13 -
    Atheism, Himmler wrote, “is the only world- or religious view that is not tolerated within the SS.”

    Am I the only person who read this and thought, “Huh? What about Judaism?”?

    Since Nazism was grounded in the writings of Martin Luther, the founder of protestantism and the reformation, anti-jewish sentiment had gone without saying in Germany for 500 years. The crazy 88s just took it to a new level.

  45. Anri says

    Once you spend 15 minutes carefully explaining to a believer that Hitler was not an atheist, they can bring you back to square one all over again by bringing up Stalin, who almost certainly was an atheist.

    Which allows you to point out that totalitatian dictatorships are bad, regardless of a religious faith basis or not. In other words, religion does not make a bad situation better, (it doesn’t always make it worse – only most times), which is our entire point.

    Faith didn’t stop the Holocaust – neither the faith of the victims nor the faith of the perpretrators. It didn’t because it can’t.

  46. baal says

    Anyone else thought that “rat singer” (AKA the Pied Piper) was a terrible last name for the guy made into a pope? running off with all the children and such.

  47. yoav says

    Atheism, Himmler wrote, “is the only world- or religious view that is not tolerated within the SS.”

    Am I the only person who read this and thought, “Huh? What about Judaism?”?

    While in the case of nazi Germany judaism was clearly a special case there was probably also the implied assumption that christianity is the default state. It’s the same kind of blindness that get american fundies confused when you try to point out that a public prayer to jeebus may make some people feel excluded even if it’s non-denominational since while they can understand that there are various shades of christian many just can’t wrap their mind around the concept of anyone being not a christian at all.

  48. maqui says

    @22: roblee, it’s not a viable option for us to roll over and expose a soft belly to theists. After refuting the nazism/atheism fallacy, we need to move on to the Stalinism/atheism fallacy and deliver a final round of slaughter:

    Let’s play a round of Jeopardy:

    1) Which is the title of the holy book(s), which the members of the cult are expected to regard as the inerrant, eternal truth?
    a) the Holy Babble; b) the Quran; c) the Capital; d) the Simpsons

    2) Questioning, criticizing or denying the inerrancy of the sacred leadership and/or the sacred scriptures is a punishable crime. Attempts to re-interpret the sacred scriptures, in defiance of the interpretations offered by the enlightened leadership, are a crime. Thought crime is punishable by expulsion and/or death. Deviance leads to persecution by
    a) the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith b) the State Political Directorate c) the Grand Ayatollah d) the Simpsons

    3) When they pass away after a long life dedicated to the righteous interpretation and defense of the doctrines of the faith, the most exalted leaders are embalmed and laid out in state, to edify the masses. These defenders of the faith bear the title a) Pontifex Maximus b) Caliphe c) Chairman d) the Simpsons

    4) The virtues of the cult are exemplified by a number of stylites, to whom the inerrant truths were revealed in ancient times. The current leadership has taken on the burden of acting as their earthbound representatives, who humbly provide counsel and guidance to the sheeple in the absence of the founders of the faith. The names of the stylites, praise to them, are:
    a) Peter and Paul b) Karl and Vladimir Ilyich c) Jong Il and Il Sung d) the Simpsons

    5) The sacred scriptures promise an Age of Light, in which all earthly injustice will be eradicated, suppression of the powerless by the powerfull will end, judgment will be passed on the wicked, and summer days of bounty will replace the winters of our misfortune. The dawn of this new golden age is called
    a) the Rapture b) the Dictatorship of the Proletariat c) the CXIX. People’s Congress d) the Simpsons

  49. says

    You want to call the Nazi leadership unorthodox, marginally Christian, or representative of a pathological religious extreme, I’ll agree with you; but you don’t get to call them atheist.

    Unfortunately, as always when debating creationists, chem trailers, truthers, birthers, fundies and the like, it won’t change their mind one iota. They always remind me of doc Brown at the end of Back to the Future: “Facts? Where we’re going, we don’t need… facts.”

  50. daniellavine says

    On the fake German /-nk/ thing:

    “Ve believe in nussink,” from The Big Lebowski. Only just remembered the ridiculous “German” accents from that movie.

    @janine: Try reading a little more slowly. I know, I know, it’s going to take you all day to read AND understand, but as Chas makes clear at least some people here are willing to help you out.

    Of course you are correct that the Nazis weren’t atheists, but I think that arguing this point harms an even more fundamental argument; it would not have mattered if they were. Once you spend 15 minutes carefully explaining to a believer that Hitler was not an atheist, they can bring you back to square one all over again by bringing up Stalin, who almost certainly was an atheist.

    No. Theists are willing to lie about anything to demonize and discredit atheism. We cannot let their lies go unchallenged. They will use every opportunity we give them to re-write history.

    It’s especially important to counter this one because it needs to be clear that Nazism was a populist movement using the religiosity of the working class to create divisions between different parts of the population to strengthen the hold of the Nazi party over Germany. It’s important because the same fucking thing is happening in the U.S. (and parts of Europe) right now.

  51. janine says

    SQB, instead of using a fiction character, use a real character.

    “Fact are stupid thinks.”
    Ronald Reagan

    Though in a lot of ways, I continued living in Hollywood movies after he left his acting career.

  52. Dalillama says

    @Zepplin #16
    Otto’s (and the other vampires) accent(s) is supposed to sound like Bela Lugosi’s Hungarian accent, or rather like a bad impersonation of same.

  53. daniellavine says

    @janine:

    Wut? You’re the one who jumped all over me without bothering to take the time to..I dunno, understand who I was talking to or what I was trying to say. You’re the one who needs to go take a flying fuck. Whatever speed you like.

  54. daniellavine says

    @janine:

    And you are the one who insulted my reading ability.

    Yes. For good reason. Apparently you’re still having trouble. Some people just can’t be helped I guess.

  55. ischemgeek says

    @raven

    You see why I hit a point where I just threw up my hands and said, “I give up. I can show you the facts, but I can’t force you to reason.”

    I’ve told her to her face that when she knows the actual religions of historical figures, I’ll listen to her about religion in politics, when she knows that our country is not a pure democracy, I’ll listen to her about Canadian politics (we’re a constitutional monarchy and Westminster-style democratic republic), and when she knows the difference between communism, fascism, socialism and totalitarianism, I’ll listen to her on politics in general (here’s a start: they’re not synonyms).

    She responded by telling me that it was just the liberal university propagandists getting to me. So, yeah. As I said, I can show her the facts, but I can’t force her to reason, and I’m getting mighty sick of showing her the same facts over and over and over again. You can try to beat down a brick wall with your forehead, but all it’ll do is give you a headache.

  56. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Yes. For good reason. Apparently you’re still having trouble. Some people just can’t be helped I guess.

    Maybe if you looked in the mirror, you could help yourself.

  57. daniellavine says

    @Nerd:

    Maybe if you looked in the mirror, you could help yourself.

    Sorry if I’m being mean to your buddy, I just don’t feel like needlessly eating shit today because one of the regulars on Pharyngula decided to hate on me without actually bothering to understand what I said in the first place (or to whom, or why). That’s all. Done now. Ta ta.

  58. dianne says

    Americans are unable to distinguish between Russian and German movie villains.

    Eh, Eastasia, Eurasia, whatever.

  59. janine says

    Funny, all I did was suggest that the two main German character on Hogan’s Heroes had real German accents because one was German and the other Austrian. Funny way to hate.

  60. christophburschka says

    There is a rather more highly placed idiot who compared Atheists to Nazis:

    Ratzinger

    … that? Seriously?

    I wouldn’t normally stoop to pointing out his admittedly unenthusiastic Hitler Youth membership, but he’s absolutely the last person who gets to make up Nazi comparisons.

  61. echidna says

    Atheism was one of the things that got you sent to a concentration camp. Ischemgeek, perhaps your mother might cope with that single fact.

  62. shaundenney says

    Woo-Monster @ 31

    “can you prove that Satan wasn’t an atheist?”

    Well that’s easy, if the Word of God is anything to go by.
    Job 1:6-12
    If Satan was an atheist, he’d hardly rock up with a bunch of angels/sons of god for a face-to-face chinwag with Jehovah.

  63. nacky says

    I’m late to the party, but about the -nk accent thing: I just asked my most local German to say,”I was thinking about doing something.” A feat that was accomplished with no trouble, so I asked him to say it less well and this came out: “I vas tinking about doink zomtink.” Hm, I’ll have to try this with some more Germans.
    I was also wondering about comment Nr. 3, that [nk] isn’t a permissible consonant cluster in German. Er denkt, sein Onkel, sinkend in der Senke neben dem Strunk mit einer Klinke, would disagree. Or did you mean just as a word ending? If you accept consonant clusters as crossing syllable boundaries, then it seems German has [nk], and then there is Stunk and Strunk anyway. Or I am missing some special linguistic meaning.
    Oh well, off to test pronunciation.

  64. David Marjanović says

    And we do it Down South, too! The “devoicing” just goes lenis->fortis instead of voiced->unvoiced. Though I have the suspicion that in my own variety (Southern Hessian, shtronk High German influence) it’s actually plain unaspirated vs. aspirated these days.

    Hesse? That you call “south”? I’m Austrian. :-) Down there, the lenes are already all voiceless under all circumstances*, so devoicing isn’t applicable; and the lenes stay lenes word-finally. I’ve even caught myself voicing word-final lenes when I have a cold; and when I try to pronounce Tag with [k], I hear myself speaking Russian. (Though, of course, I think I’ve heard it here in Berlin where I only arrived a month ago.)

    Fortition could still happen, but doesn’t (even though the fortes, where they still exist, are unaspirated). In fact, in my central Upper Austrian dialect and in Austrian Standard German, /t/ is lenited to /d/ word-finally in most environments!

    * Exception: the Carinthians have interpreted the entire sound system in Slovene terms. Fully voiced lenes, no long consonants, one fewer vowel phoneme. Unfortunately I’ve never paid attention to what they do to word-final lenes.

    Russians actually do the /-ng/ –> /-nk/ thing

    Specifically, they lack [ŋ] completely, so they really say [ng] and [nk] when the need arises. So, “bank” isn’t [baŋk], it’s [bank] – and when that got borrowed by Tatar, a language which has a phonemic /ŋ/, it became [banɯk].

    Similarly, older generations of French speakers pronounce parking (“parking lot”) with [ɲ], as if it ended in -igne.

    Due to his own original special nature, the Jew cannot possess a religious institution, if for no other reason because he lacks idealism in any form, and hence belief in a hereafter is absolutely foreign to him. And a religion in the Aryan sense cannot be imagined which lacks the conviction of survival after death in some form. Indeed, the Talmud is not a book to prepare a man for the hereafter, but only for a practical and profitable life in this world.

    (And no, that doesn’t make much sense. But that’s hardly unusual for Hitler’s ramblings).

    It makes some sense when you take into account that the Jew* was identified with rationalism. Of course, all fascism is antirationalist; it praises action, even – especially – just for the sake of doing something, and despises thought.

    That made it a lot easier to call communism Jewish.

    * The enemy is always singular. He is a monolith. A male monolith of course.

    The folkish-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

    What I just said.

    Catholics and Protestants are fighting with one another … while the enemy of Aryan humanity and all Christendom is laughing up his sleeve.

    That enemy isn’t the devil, though. He’s the Jew.

    Levenda’s claim is that the Third Reich were using “magick” to overtake Europe, and the person who gave me the book (an intelligent person with blind spots you could sail a cruise ship through) believes this vehemently. To the contrary, my impression is that certain high-ranking Nazis were just dabbling in the occult, as many bored privileged people did at the time and still do now.

    I’ve read a book by “E. R. Carmin” (the initials are never explained, so it’s probably a pseudonym) the title of which translates as “The Black Empire/Reich”. That book argues, much more realistically, that the Nazi leadership believed in all kinds of occult stuff. Suddenly, it becomes understandable why the army was sent into the Soviet Union laughably underprepared for the winter: “Hitler believed he was allied to fire, and where he arrived, the cold had to go away.” That’s fire as opposed to ice, from the World Ice Theory* and Norse mythology. – Anyway, the book isn’t very well documented from what I remember, and it engages a bit many conspiracy theories at once.

    * Invented by an Austrian engineer. Hello, Salem hypothesis!

    the Nazi-ridden jungles of South America

    LOL!

    Nazis are fucking moronic and insane

    The argument is always The holocaust never happened, was totally awesome, and wasn’t our fault.

    Bingo.

    I was also wondering about comment Nr. 3, that [nk] isn’t a permissible consonant cluster in German. Er denkt [...]

    That’s [ŋk], not [nk]. But I bet the movie Nazis say [ŋk] anyway, because [nk] doesn’t occur in English either!

  65. says

    @85:

    I was going to ask the commenter in 3 the same question regarding [nk], and then it dawned on me: there is no [nk] cluster in German (or in English for that matter), but there is the cluster [ŋk], which in both languages is spelled “nk.” We’re so used to thinking of [ŋk] as equivalent to its spelling in either language, that it’s easy to make this mistake.

  66. says

    This post bookmarked, so I can use the quotes from Himmler and Hitler in my comments on various blogs and newspaper articles (those that have comments) whenever the ‘atheists responsible for even worse shit than religion’ argument raises its ugly head.

    David B

  67. KG says

    I’ve read a book by “E. R. Carmin” (the initials are never explained, so it’s probably a pseudonym) the title of which translates as “The Black Empire/Reich”. That book argues, much more realistically, that the Nazi leadership believed in all kinds of occult stuff. Suddenly, it becomes understandable why the army was sent into the Soviet Union laughably underprepared for the winter: “Hitler believed he was allied to fire, and where he arrived, the cold had to go away.” That’s fire as opposed to ice, from the World Ice Theory* and Norse mythology. – David Marjanovic

    Nah. Hitler just greatly underestimated Soviet capability for resistance – he thought he could defeat the Soviets before winter. Most western analysts made the same mistake. But invading Russia was quite rational, given Hitler’s utter lack of ethical scruples or compassion, and his strategic dilemma in 1941, as it became clear Britain would be kept in the war by American support and he had no means of invading the island, or of cutting that support without the likelihood of bringing the US in directly. Germany had to have a huge part of the resources of the Soviet Union if it was to fight the US, as it was near certain it would have to before long. In particular, it needed to requisition oil, coal and food in quantities which were calculated to lead to 30 million Soviet civilian deaths. The only alternative was to to build a continental alliance with Stalin and Japan and press the attack on Britain’s positions in the middle east – but that would favour the middle power, the Soviet Union, in the long run. On all this see Adam Tooze The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy, which I’ve cited before.

  68. mnb0 says

    KG is right. Nazi-Germany estimated the Red Army in 1941 consisting of roughly 3 million men; actually it was about 6. The amazing thing is that the Wehrmacht almost succeeded in the summer of 1941; it could have captured Moscow half September if Hitler had not preferred to go for Kiev.

  69. apoth says

    great piece. got this long-time lurker to reg for the sole purpose of giving props for a concise, on-point rebuttal to the nazis-were-atheists argument.

    pz youre doing the flying spaghetti monsters work. keep it up. :)

  70. says

    I’m confused an empirical linguist wouldn’t know that /ŋk/ is a reading pronunciation of the “ng” cluster that some German speakers indeed do. I usually associate it with North German speakers (some of whom also don’t drop the schwa before nasals and might even pronounce Dehnungs-h). To me the pronounciation of “ig” with plosive instead of fricative, much more common, also falls into the area of reading pronunciation.

    Here’s a reference on North German pronunciation by

    Mihm, Arend
    2000 Die Rolle der Umgangssprachen seit der Mitte des 20. Jahrhunderts. In: Werner Besch, Anne Betten, Oskar Reichmann und Stefan Sonderegger (Hg), Sprachgeschichte. Ein Handbuch zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und ihrer Erforschung. 2., vollständig neu bearb. und erw. Aufl., 21072137. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter

    Norden: „die geschlossene Aussprache des a-Umlauts [e:] ,Mädchen‘, die späte und geringe Steigung der Diphthonge [ka:εn, ha:cs, lc:εte] ,kein‘, ,Haus‘, ,Leute‘, die Beibehaltung alter Kürzen in Einsilbern ,Zug‘, ,grob‘, ,Rad‘, die Spirantisierung des g im freien und gedeckten Auslaut ,mag‘, ,fliegt‘, Spirans statt labialer Affrikata im Anlaut [fcsten] ,Pfosten‘, Gutturalnasal auslautend mit Verschluß [d=nk] ,Ding‘ und Konsonantenschwund im Auslaut [zin, dc, ma] ,sind‘, ,doch‘, ,mal‘.“ (Mihm 2000: 2113);

    Here’s a thesis on Austrian Standard German saying that 20% of Austrians pronounce “ng” as a plosive. p.103

    Über 80 % der Befragten realisieren die Graphemkombination als Nasal. Die Wahrscheinlichkeit, dass Plosiv gesprochen wird, ist höher, wenn -ig im Auslaut steht als wenn es im Wortinneren vorkommt (Zunge).
    Das Österreichische Beiblatt zum Siebs schließt sich in diesem Punkt den Regelungen des Hauptwerkes Siebs an (vgl. Beiblatt 1957, S. 139). Das Variantenwörterbuch stellt fest, dass geschriebenes im absoluten Wortauslaut häufig als [Nk] gesprochen werde (also mit Plosiv in Zeitung, aber nicht in Jüngling) und dass diese Realisierung in Österreich oftmals üblich sei. Darüber hinaus wäre eine solche österreichtypische Realisierung im übrigen deutschen Sprachgebiet nicht zu finden (Variantenwörterbuch 2004, S. LIX). Luick spricht sich gegen die plosive Aussprache von aus, obwohl sie zum Teil hartnäckig sei, vor allem im Silbenauslaut bei Wörtern wie Jungfrau oder langsam. Jedenfalls solle man, mit Ausnahme in intervokalischer Position, z. B. Kongo, Mangan, Ungarn, bei der standardsprachlichen Realisierung als [N] bleiben (Luick 1932, S. 83f.).

    The author claims that this would be exclusive to Austria, about which she is wrong.

    Canonically, one could say that across morpheme boundaries like in “ankommen” you do get /nk/ (though it would not count as a consonant cluster), but it’s probably realised as /ŋk/ nonetheless.

  71. says

    Note: in the above quotations, the IPA symbols were not showing properly, and I did delete some of them.

    My own point from all of this:

    I’ve heard from German learning Americans that they were taught the /ŋk/ pronunciation to realise when later spending some time in a German speaking country that that indeed was not the way most native speakers would pronounce it.

    However, Zeppelin was wrong (and to a small degree, David M.) in implying that there are no German speakers who would pronounce it /ŋk/. To me this is a feature of the reading pronunciation of Standard German, usually in high register situations. I’ve given two citations describing it for North German and Austrian Standard German.

    However, the Arte Johnson reference given above might very well explain the beginning of the American trope of Germans speaking like that. I remember a Bond villain with an extreme German accent even deliberately over-aspirating the “t” in [bont] (usually final voiceless plosives, especially after nasals, are less aspirated than initial ones).

  72. says

    and indeed I was confused myself here:

    I’m confused an empirical linguist wouldn’t know that /ŋk/ is a reading pronunciation of the “ng” cluster

    “ng” digraph of course.

    Actually I’d like to display angle brackets as that’s the way to represent graphemes. Recently I saw someone do just that. How do you do that?

  73. says

    The fact that the rhetoric of Hitler, Himmler and others was imbued with notions of divine providence is, to me, one of the strongest arguments that fuzzy non-orthodox theology isn’t necessarily any better or safer than orthodox theology (neither are atheistic dogmas like Stalinism, for that matter). Depending on the political climate, any and all of these can be powerful additions to a megalomaniac’s arsenal.

  74. TimKO,,.,, says

    It still amazes me that xtians love to lie. Maybe it’s not consciously lying as much as creating a fantasy world for them to live in. One in which nazis were atheist, in which some of us (gay) are evil, in which sex is bad though they all secretly enjoy it, in which the signs of climate change can be safely ignored; in which blacks are merely tolerated; in which voting for the Bush deficit was a-OK because the deficit was only on paper unless the next president is DEM. In which the goalposts can be moved without conscience; in which science is a matter of faith and not evidence. Etc, etc.

    Pffft – nazis were atheist – what an ignorant, lying, rewrite of history
    nobeliefs.com/mementoes.htm

  75. says

    Wikipedia:

    Members of the SS could be of any religion but atheists were not allowed. In 1937, Himmler wrote in a letter to a pastor that an SS man’s religious denomination was his own person choice. Himmler wrote, “Atheism is the only world-view or religious view that is not tolerated within the SS.” He further wrote, “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.” [12] Himmler resented the fact that Christianity or the Christian churches could forbid SS men from having any leadership role in the church. [13]

  76. ikesolem says

    Hmmm… the best rebuttal to that claim would probably be “Hitler’s Pope” by John Cornwell.

    The evidence was explosive. It showed for the first time that Pacelli was patently, and by the proof of his own words, anti-Jewish. It revealed that he had helped Hitler to power and at the same time undermined potential Catholic resistance in Germany. It showed that he had implicitly denied and trivialized the Holocaust, despite having reliable knowledge of its true extent. And, worse, that he was a hypocrite, for after the war he had retrospectively taken undue credit for speaking out boldly against the Nazi persecution of the Jews.

    The whole business revolved around the use of religious belief as a tool for the authoritarian consolidation of power, which is a role that religion (in cahoots with the state) has played time and time again in human history:

    Meanwhile, he [Pius XII] had formed a close relationship with an individual named Ludwig Kaas. Kaas was a representative of the solidly Catholic German Center Party, one of the largest and most powerful democratic parties in Germany. Though it was unusual for a full-time politician, he was also a Roman Catholic priest. . . . . Kaas was a profound believer in the benefits of a Reich Concordat, seeing a parallel between papal absolutism and the Führer-Prinzip, the Fascist leadership principle.

  77. SomebodyOutThere says

    Vijen:

    You still got that magic bone you took from your guru’s funeral pyre?

  78. McCthulhu, now with Techroline and Retsyn says

    Only because it’s been mentioned half a dozen times already and everyone else is making with the “Ich habe keine idee!”

    Arte Johnson and Peter Sellers find the idea of Nazi atheists as interestink, but shtoopidt:

  79. says

    Is “ich habe keine Idee” a quote? because in German one would say “ich habe keine Ahnung” or “Ich habe keinen blassen Schimmer”

    /nitpick

  80. raven says

    Hmmm… the best rebuttal to that claim would probably be “Hitler’s Pope” by John Cornwell.

    True.

    The Catholic church helped Hitler consolidate power a lot for their own ends.

    1. They sold out the powerful anti-Nazi Catholic parties to get Germany to sign an agreement favorable to the Catholic church in Germany. The Reichskonkordat. Oddly enough, this agreement is still in place in Germany.

    2. Pope Pius XII really didn’t do much of anything to stop the Holocaust even though they knew about it and probably could have. Pacelli, the Pope then, probably was mildly antisemitic but it wasn’t necessarily that. He just didn’t care a whole lot what happened to the Jews but he cared a lot about the Catholic church.

    3. I’ve read Cornwell’s book recently. He is BTW, a Catholic historian. There was a surprising level of anti-Nazi, anti-Hitler, and anti-Holocaust sentiment in Germany even up until the end. Much of it came from the Catholics which made up 1/2 of the Reich after the Anchloss. None of it was very effective because the Catholic heirarchy sold them out in the interests of the church. This is happening today again. There is a huge gulf between the heirarchy and the members. The heirarchy cares about the Catholic church, not Catholic people.

  81. says

    SQB, instead of using a fiction character, use a real character.

    “Fact are stupid thinks.”
    Ronald Reagan

    While I don’t like Reagan either, that is quote mining. The full quote was, as far as I can see

    Facts are stupid things — stubborn things, I should say.

    (source, via the Pft! of all quotes)

    …where ‘stupid things’ referred to facts that were unfavourable to the Democrats. It was a play on a John Adams quote he used in that speech, “facts are stubborn things”.

  82. says

    raven,

    I’ve heard some people, including atheist posters on Pharyngula, that the book is quite biased. Will reserve judgement though until I’ve read it myself. (Catholics also can get quite critical of Catholicism)

    The Reichskonkordat. Oddly enough, this agreement is still in place in Germany.

    Nothing odd about it. West Germany saw itself as successor state, thus all debts and obligations were assumed by it. Only racist and otherwise anti-democratic laws were appealed, but many laws continued to be in force, including

    - the 1937 electricity monopoly law
    - anti-gay laws (though they were first enacted during the Empire)
    - and the Konkordat. To be sure though, the Vatican has also been signing Konkordate with individual states, safeguarding its interests (states have jurisdiction in education matters)

    Much of it came from the Catholics which made up 1/2 of the Reich after the Anchloss.

    Anschluss

    I don’t think Austria matters that much here. Compared to the population of Germany, the number of Austrians doesn’t make for much (nowadays it’d be 80m:8m, don’t know the 1938 figures). The most famous Catholic resisting the Nazis was the Bishop of Münster, the Count of Galen.

  83. theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen says

    @ alejb

    atheistic dogmas like Stalinism

    I think you will notice on closer inspection, and even a trivial amount of reading up on the subject, that Stalin adopted the structures and form of religion (he was brought up in the church) and simply removed the GAWD element. To him it was the was the ideal framework for implementing oppression.

    Having got you that far, I leave you to consider that the one element he did removed from his replication of Teh Church ™ is the one element that is completely make-believe and redundant.

  84. says

    Stalin adopted the structures and form of religion (he was brought up in the church)

    He even went to the seminary, but finally dropped out. But it certainly gave him a very thorough understanding on how religion worked.

  85. paulhands says

    @ Zeppelin (#3)

    >>
    In fact, [nk] isn’t even a permissible consonant cluster in German.
    <<

    Ich denke, "nk" ist OK, in deutscher Sprache.
    …….^………….

    Not too good a start.

  86. KG says

    I’ve heard some people, including atheist posters on Pharyngula, that the book is quite biased. Will reserve judgement though until I’ve read it myself. – pelamun

    Same here, but it’s not as if the RCC’s collusion with the Nazis (before, during and after WWII) was an aberration: the Vatican routinely sided with fascist and other far right movements and regimes throughout the inter-war period. Hitler drew heavily on a strand of South German Catholic nationalism in his early political career*, notably for its virulent antisemitisim, although after the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 he reoriented the NSDAP to appeal more to Lutherans.

    *Derek Hastings Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism.

  87. says

    KG,

    certainly, I don’t dispute that. But still, I like my historians as objective as possible, sine ira et studio as they say…

  88. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    raven 104

    There is a huge gulf between the heirarchy and the members. The heirarchy cares about the Catholic church, not Catholic people.

    This attitude on the part of the hierarchy hasn’t changed in centuries.

  89. John Morales says

    [OT]

    pelamun,

    Actually I’d like to display angle brackets as that’s the way to represent graphemes.

    Use HTML entities, thus:
    &lt; for < and &gt; for >

  90. echidna says

    I’ve always understood “Ich habe keine Idee” to refer to not having any more ideas about something, as opposed to “keine Ahnung”, which was no understanding of what’s going on.

    Warning: my German is more a dated Austrian than modern German.

  91. says

    echidna,

    it first strikes me as an Anglicism.

    If you’re referring to about something specific, like “no idea what I should get as a present for my friend” then it would work, I suppose. But it must be an idea to do something, something concrete.

    Referring to the source of a meme, I would submit Ahnung would be better here.

  92. concernedjoe says

    As I think #67 maqui eloquently says in essence: organized religions are defined by their characteristics not their principles.

    I have that notion – that religion is anything that has some palpable degree of these characteristics:

    * organized around almost immutable regulations, dogma, and doctrine,

    * real or imagined hierarchy of wisdom and Truth (note capital) givers (people and things written by people),

    * imbues this hierarchy with incredible power of some sort over members,

    * demands faith, allegiance, and obedience from members,

    * has mechanisms and means to enforce its will over members and others

    Non-religion always notable lack the first (immutable regulations/dogma/doctrine) and the second (Truth givers). Non-religion lacks the others to varying but significant degrees.

    Religions have principles. So do non-religions.

    But religions enshrine their principles in things that are not living and breathing (or are not supposed to be) like the Bible or the Koran, or works of Lenin, Marx, Mao, etc. Religious things change only under extreme duress or over much time.

    Non-religions may have somewhat “final-say” things (like constitutions or by-laws) but these things are purposely allowed to live and breathe (that is change as needs and ideas develop – they are purposely changeable).

    Principles that speak to matters of a divinity may subset some organization in secular, non-theist, and/or theist.

    Stalinism was a brand of Communism (note capital) – a religion. So was Nazism.

    What the right-wing in the USA – a right-wing mostly fueled by RWA tendencies and people – want to do is change the CHARACTER of the USA into a religious construct. The principle of god is just a principle that helps them justify some of their arguments. But the important underlying objective is to achieve the characteristics of religion as I stated earlier.

    That is the world in which RWA’s are must comfortable. And also that is the world in which RWA leaders are most powerful and privileged. Playing the god card is very effective for getting to the secular fascist religion they (the intellectuals and leaders) envision. But it is just a means to an end for them – atheists or theists.

  93. McCthulhu, now with Techroline and Retsyn says

    Pelamun: The ‘Ich habe keine idee’ line is actually a quote. It’s from the German language textbook I used in high school. While we got to say ‘Tag Thomas!’ and ‘Tag Uwe!’ a lot (they were the ‘heroes’ of the first chapters of the text), we were warned beforehand that the language purists actually residing in Germany would recognize our usage and idioms as peculiar, dated or foreign (as in people who have been gone a long time – like decades – but think they still have fluency). No one is ever fluent unless they get to live the language. I just got to read it, and not much of it as I only took two semesters just to get enough credits.

    I freely admit to being completely second language-challenged. I got F’s in the early grades in French and low 50%’s in the 2 German high school classes. Children that have watched two episodes of Dora or Ni Hao Kailan are more talented at other languages than I.

    I did actually use the ‘idee’ line once with some German tourists who were asking directions in Newport Beach, California. Upon hearing me use a couple of German words they began a sequence of conversation utterly alien to me. I just shook my head and uttered the phrase. They laughed and apologized for making an assumption. I hope they found the chocolate banana place despite me.

  94. says

    McCthulhu,

    I don’t think this is about linguistic purism. A textbook should teach speech that sounds natural, and not stilted. Unfortunately many textbooks are quite boring and dry, and use outdated terminology. They’ve been trying to come up with better, more exciting textbooks, perhaps even using multimedia technology.

    I don’t know about Austrian Standard German, but for German Standard German the difference between Ich habe keine Idee and Ich habe keine Ahnung is more or less there. Here’s a discussion of it

    http://dict.leo.org/forum/viewGeneraldiscussion.php?idForum=4&idThread=893083&lang=de&lp=ende

    Newport Beach: that’s where I went to the first time I was in the US. I rented a car with a friend in Irvine and we ate at the Spaghetti Factory. Had I known LA was sooo close, I’d even have tried to venture out further, but we just went back to Irvine after that…

  95. ikesolem says

    Note that the attempt to define Nazis as atheists is part of Catholic Church propaganda. You can bet that efforts to smear and discredit Cornwell as “non-objective” are right in line with that effort. As is the effort to respin Pius XII as a “saint”:

    If Pius XII were to be named a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, more than the restoration of his reputation would result. His policy of silence about Nazi atrocities would be justified. He would be credited with the secret rescue of Jews that was carried out by many individual Catholics across Europe. (We Remember honors Pius XII for what he “did personally or through his representatives to save hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives.”) By extension, Hitler’s hatred of Jews would be defined as rooted in “neo-pagan” atheism, not in Christianity.

    That’s from 1999 – so the bit about ‘Nazi atheists’ has been part of Catholic propaganda for years.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1999/10/the-holocaust-and-the-catholic-church/5061/

    <a href="Instead of a portrait of a man worthy of sainthood, Cornwell lays out the story of a narcissistic, power-hungry manipulator who was prepared to lie, to appease, and to collaborate in order to accomplish his ecclesiastical purpose—which was not to save lives or even to protect the Catholic Church but, more narrowly, to protect and advance the power of the papacy. Pacelli's personal history, his character, and his obsession with Vatican prerogatives combined at the crucial hour to make him "the ideal Pope for Hitler's unspeakable plan," Cornwell writes. "He was Hitler's pawn. He was Hitler's Pope."

    The business of creating saints is pretty ridiculous in any case, but the whole issue does highlight the trouble with religious organizations very nicely. Hypocritical, immoral, dishonest and power-mad.

  96. gravityisjustatheory says

    theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen
    7 March 2012 at 3:38 am

    @ alejb

    atheistic dogmas like Stalinism

    I think you will notice on closer inspection, and even a trivial amount of reading up on the subject, that Stalin adopted the structures and form of religion (he was brought up in the church) and simply removed the GAWD element. To him it was the was the ideal framework for implementing oppression.

    Although to be fair, atheism does mean “without (belief in) god(s)”, not “without bullshit quasi-religious dogma”.

  97. says

    @theophontes

    I think you will notice on closer inspection, and even a trivial amount of reading up on the subject, that Stalin adopted the structures and form of religion (he was brought up in the church) and simply removed the GAWD element. To him it was the was the ideal framework for implementing oppression.

    I’ve been reading Montefiore’s Young Stalin, so I’m quite familiar with the issues you mention. :-) Sure, Stalin learned a lot about oppression from the likes of the overbearing Black Spot at the Tiflis seminary. The point I was making is that the most dangerous aspects of authoritarian leadership don’t depend on the particulars of the rulers’ belief system — orthodox, theist, atheist, whatever. Cultivation of a belief in a “higher purpose” is a powerful tool for justifying atrocities, and that purpose is not limited to orthodox religion.

  98. says

    @gravityisjustatheory

    Although to be fair, atheism does mean “without (belief in) god(s)”, not “without bullshit quasi-religious dogma”.

    Exactly, which is why it’s so important to be a skeptic first and an atheist second.

  99. NitricAcid says

    When I took German at university, I was taught that the “ch” sound in “Ich” was a sound peculiar to German, and was very similar to one found in the Scottish “loch”. I worked very hard to master that “back-of-the-throat-hissing” sound that the German professors taught us.

    Then I went to Germany, and -everyone- I met (Wessies, Ossies, and Bavarians) pronounced “Ich” exactly as an anglophone would say “ish”.

  100. echidna says

    echidna, it first strikes me as an Anglicism.

    The Tyrolean dialect had (pre-Hitler) a fair bit of French influence, but not English. I’ve heard elderly relatives use the construction “keine idee [mehr]” all my life (including recently), and their exposure to English is minimal.

    I agree that “keine Ahnung” is the better choice in this meme; I only disagree that “keine idee” is necessarily an Anglicanism.

  101. says

    The Nazis considered Judaism not to be a real, manly religion with an afterlife for celebrating real, manly, heroic deeds. Hitler explained that the Jewish tradition of teaching people^h^h^h^h^h men how to live a moral life while they were still on earth meant that their religion was inferior. (As quoted above).

    The Wikipedia article on the SS has the information from this thread, under “Origins.”

  102. says

    NitricAcid,

    When I took German at university, I was taught that the “ch” sound in “Ich” was a sound peculiar to German, and was very similar to one found in the Scottish “loch”. I worked very hard to master that “back-of-the-throat-hissing” sound that the German professors taught us.

    Then I went to Germany, and -everyone- I met (Wessies, Ossies, and Bavarians) pronounced “Ich” exactly as an anglophone would say “ish”

    You’re mistaken, <ich> is not pronounced “ish” [ɪʃ] in German. Indeed it is pronounced [ɪç]

    That you were taught that the ch-sound was peculiar to German is of course wrong too, as dorsal fricatives are quite common across the world but that just shows the Eurocentric mindset of your teachers.
    And also they were wrong, a sound like [ç] can be produced by some English speakers at the beginning of words like “huge”.

    the <ch> digraph is usually pronounced three ways:

    - [ç] after front vowels, i.e. /i/, /ɪ/, /e/, /ɛ/, /y/, /ʏ/, /œ/, /ø/ (disregarding length difference for the sake of simplicity)
    - [x] after /u/, /ʊ/ and /o/
    - [χ] after /a/ and /ɔ/. This is the Scottish “Loch” sound.

    [x] and [χ] are often conflated, and as they are much closer to each other, are collectively known as Ach-Laut in German. [ç] is known as Ich-Laut.

    Echidna,

    The Tyrolean dialect had (pre-Hitler) a fair bit of French influence, but not English. I’ve heard elderly relatives use the construction “keine idee [mehr]” all my life (including recently), and their exposure to English is minimal.

    I agree that “keine Ahnung” is the better choice in this meme; I only disagree that “keine idee” is necessarily an Anglicanism.

    In Standard German, it can be regarded as an Anglicism if it is used where “keine Idee” originally would not apply. As I said, both “keine Idee” and “keine Ahnung” are used, but they have different meanings.

    Of course I can’t speak to Tyrolean. But you seemed to indicate that they did say “keine Ahnung” as well. If so, then I’d check if they make the distinction I referred to as well or not..

  103. theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen says

    @ gravity

    alejb‘s comment: “atheistic dogmas like Stalinism” simply does not scan. Atheism does not compel anyone in the fashion of a religious (or authoritarian) dogma. (Everyone is an atheist, we are just atheist-minus-one.)

    The impulse was not atheism per se but a rather crude and cruel form of authoritarianism. The repressive structure of the catholic church grew out of their religious impulse. Stalin merely removed the superfluous (and in reality always ineffective) element: GAWD.

    The structure in question could not inculcate (calcify?) around the simple lack of a belief in gods. This is not as straightforward as you seem to imply, and we certainly cannot say Atheism was the cause. (Stalin simply stole the structure from the church.)

    @ alejb

    Cultivation of a belief in a “higher purpose” is a powerful tool for justifying atrocities, and that purpose is not limited to orthodox religion.

    Ok, that is clearer :)

    (I got the impression that “atheism is dogma!” from your initial post. I cannot find it now, but there has been quite an in depth comparison done between the working details of Catholicism and Stalinism. There is no shortage of one-to-one mappings between the elements of the two. )

  104. quoderatdemonstrandum says

    theophontes @ 131

    (Stalin simply stole the structure from the church.)

    You mean just like Alain de Bottom wants us to do?

  105. says

    @theophontes

    “atheistic dogmas like Stalinism” simply does not scan. Atheism does not compel anyone in the fashion of a religious (or authoritarian) dogma.

    In my reckoning, an “atheistic dogma” is any doctrine that is strongly linked to atheism, even if its main principles don’t logically spring in any way from atheism. Stalinism was not founded on atheism per se, but there was a strong and oppressive anti-religious thrust in Stalin’s philosophy and policy. So, I think the label applies, though perhaps it was a bit misleading. Atheism isn’t necessarily dogma, but atheists certainly aren’t free of susceptibility to it!

    @quoderatdemonstrandum

    theophontes @ 131

    (Stalin simply stole the structure from the church.)

    You mean just like Alain de Bottom wants us to do?

    Yeah, cloaking atheism in religion’s clothes just doesn’t sound like a good idea… replace critical thinking with ritual and you have a recipe for disaster, with or without a belief in gods.

  106. theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen says

    @ alejb

    there was a strong and oppressive anti-religious thrust in Stalin’s philosophy and policy.

    There is a strong and oppressive anti-religious thrust in all religious philosophy and policy. (Bear in mind that each religion does not believe in the others faith. If they did, we would not see the sectarian strife we have seen for 2000 years. (There are exceptions of convenence… for example when goddists club together to fuck up society as a whole.)

    I need hardly bring up all the examples of how this works. (We at least have the perspective that there actually are no gods. We see the authoritarian bullshit for what it is.) In Stalin’s case, Stalin’s ideas were the religion (he would only be “atheist” to the extent that he wanted to erase the religious competition.)

    @ QED

    (Stalin simply stole the structure from the church.)

    You mean just like Alain de Bottom wants us to do?

    Yeah. I think The Bottom has a very clueless, wishy-washy idea about what religions are all about. At least Stalin was not that naive and understood perfectly what the business of religion really is.

    @ alejb

    replace critical thinking with ritual and you have a recipe for disaster

    In terms of the current conversation.

    In reality we are very reliant on little rituals to avoid haveing to critically analyse everything we do. Imagine if Charlie’s dad (of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” fame) had to critically consider every cap he screwed on a toothpaste tube. Ritual can have very positive aspects. (I do not really have much problem with the ritual/meditative aspects of religion … even if I suggest Tai Chi might be better for one’s health.)

  107. says

    @theophontes

    In Stalin’s case, Stalin’s ideas were the religion (he would only be “atheist” to the extent that he wanted to erase the religious competition.)

    No, he was atheist to the extent that he didn’t believe in any gods. However, I think we agree that his sociopolitical convictions were in many ways indistinguishable from a religion.

    In reality we are very reliant on little rituals to avoid haveing to critically analyse everything we do. Imagine if Charlie’s dad (of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” fame) had to critically consider every cap he screwed on a toothpaste tube. Ritual can have very positive aspects. (I do not really have much problem with the ritual/meditative aspects of religion … even if I suggest Tai Chi might be better for one’s health.)

    Sure, rituals in certain contexts can promote efficiency and mental health. They can also unify groups of people and (on the flipside) galvanize them against other groups. When your beliefs are bound up in emotionally fulfilling communal rites, it becomes harder to view those beliefs with intellectual honesty. It took me years away from church before I had the gall to directly challenge the validity of Christianity. If a group of atheists adopted a similar tack, I’d steer a wide path around them.

  108. pj says

    dorsal fricatives are quite common across the world but that just shows the Eurocentric mindset of your teachers

    Not even Eurocentric. Swedish does have dorsal fricatives.

  109. says

    I did mean non-sibilant fricatives here. Probably Anglo-centric would have been a better word, as several Dutch and several Slavic languages have non-sibilant dorsal fricatives.

    On the other hand Swedish /ɧ/ is pretty unique.

  110. theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen says

    @ alejb

    No, he was atheist to the extent that he didn’t believe in any gods.

    Sorry, I was being sloppy there (again). By the “scare quotes” I meant to say the application/expression of his atheism.

    Other than a hatred of competition (here gods), the relevance is not more than his mustache. He did have a mustache and he was, as you indicate, an atheist.

    If a group of atheists adopted a similar tack, I’d steer a wide path around them.

    Indeed, if it dumbs one down in any situation where one should be critical or skeptical.

    (In Tai Chi one is actually mindful of what one is doing. But not more or less than one needs to be. With practice, the exercises become second nature.)