Dawkins on his "shifting moral zeitgeist"
Hitler wasn't really that evil at all, you see.
Dawkins, Hitler and Stalin
Revised 28/05/07In reading The God Delusion I found Richard Dawkins being highly selective in his defence of Stalin and Hitler.
On page 273 Dawkins states, “There is no doubt that, as a matter of fact, Stalin was an atheist. . . . But there is no evidence that his atheism motivated his brutality.” Is that another way of saying Christianity motivates brutality? There is enough evidence in the Bible from Christianity’s Founder and his apostles that condemns evil in any form – but for now let’s just remind ourselves of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus stretches the principle of goodness from mere acts to thinking evil against someone to being guilty of murder – the thought is as good as the deed (Matthew 5).
It is unfortunate that a scientist of such high standing should be guilty of selective thinking and deliberately abusing the trust of his readers whom he must assume to be biblically illiterate and dependent on him for objectivity and honesty. I suspect that Dawkins got his information on Hitler from the Straight Dope website. After reading Dawkins on Hitler it is certainly familiar reading.
The attempt to tie Hitler to having some Christian faith is most unconvincing. Biblical faith includes trust in the Person of Jesus Christ and obedience to His teaching. Christianity is not being religious, it is not following a belief system or a set of rules, it is an experience with God. As Jesus said in His prayer to His Father in the Gospel of John 17:3, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Dawkins does rightly concede on page 274 that, far from being a good Catholic, “Hitler could scarcely be described as ‘good’ anything.” In trying to argue that Hitler was strongly influenced by his Christian traditions, Dawkins does allow the possibility that Hitler might have been “an opportunistic liar whose words cannot be trusted, in either direction” (p. 276). But then in defence of Hitler, or is it in defence of atheism? – “Hitler didn’t carry out his atrocities single-handed. The terrible deeds themselves were carried out by soldiers and their officers, most of whom were surely Christian (p. 276).”
It is all on the the Straight Dope website, as is the following, “An interesting side note: Two of my sources, both of whom are well-versed in WWII history, said something to the effect that Hitler acted as if he had a messianic complex and perhaps believed himself to essentially be a god or the messiah. As one put it, you could certainly make the argument that he was a firm believer in God, if by ‘God’ you mean ‘Adolf Hitler’.”
Whatever quotes Dawkins pulls out of the magic hat to associate Hitler with Christianity, there can be few but the naïve who would want to affirm that Hitler was a Christian. Hitler had his own Bible, Mein Kampf! “After Hitler's rise to power, the book gained enormous popularity and became the virtual Bible of every Nazi”.
The bottom line for Dawkins is that, “Individual atheists may do evil things but they do not do it in the name of atheism. . . . Religious wars are really fought in the name of religion, and they have been horribly frequent in history” (p.278).
It is true that history has witnessed a politicised Christianity that abandoned its Christian roots, but for Dawkins it is only religion, including Christianity, which can be indicted for evil and still be indicted for being potentially evil. Atheists are exempt! I’ll let Clive James have the last word on that. Science, as well as Hitler and Stalin, don’t get away with it.
The following is from an extract printed in The Times 14 May 07 from his Humanism Will Triumph.
“The future of science, Renan’s cherished avenir de la science, can be assessed from our past, in which it flattened cities and gassed innocent children: whatever we don’t yet know about it, one thing we already know is that it is not necessarily benevolent. . . .”
“It was terrible, that age. Bright, sympathetic young people who now face a time when innocent human beings are killed by the thousand can be excused for thinking that their elders do not care enough, and indeed it is true that complacency tends to creep in as the hair falls out. But their elders grew to maturity in a time when innocent human beings were killed by the million. The full facts about Nazi Germany came out quite quickly, and were more than enough to induce despair. The full facts about the Soviet Union were slower to become generally appreciated, but when they at last were, the despair was compounded.”
“The full facts about Mao’s China left that compounded despair looking like an inadequate response. After Mao, not even Pol Pot came as a surprise. Sadly, he was a cliché.”
“Ours was an age of extermination, an epoch of the abattoir.”