Pope links atheism with Nazi Germany and lack of virtue

The Pope makes two scandalous comments in his opening speech in Britain: firstly, his attempt to blame atheism for the crimes of Nazi Germany, and secondly his inference that, if you do not want God or religion in public life, you also do not want virtue in public life.

On the first point, Hitler regularly proclaimed his belief in a god as justification for dehumanising Jews, as is clear from a cursory reading of Mein Kampf. This does not, of course, mean that religion, any more than atheism, is to blame for Nazi Germany.

If the Pope wants to find modern examples in Britain of people dehumanising other people, he might ask his colleague, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, why he said last year on BBC Radio that atheists are not fully human.

On the second point, the Pope talks of “the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life” and links these very different concepts as if they were a single package.

God is a concept that exists in people’s minds. Everybody should have the right to freedom of religion and from religion, and the only way to protect all of these rights is for the State to stay neutral on such issues. And it is scandalous to imply that, if you do not want God or religion in public life, you also do not want virtue in public life.

Religious States promote religion. Atheist States promote atheism. Atheist Ireland wants a secular State, which promotes neither. We want a secular State for a pluralist people, where citizens behave ethically and the State does not take sides on religious issues.


“POPE BENEDICT XVI in Portugal” by Catholic Church (England and Wales) is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Michael Nugent


  1. Avatar
    migo September 16, 2010

    Interesting position for a former member of the Hitler Youth.

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    David O'Driscoll September 16, 2010

    Historically, there is more of a link between Catholicism and Nazi Germany than anything else… Hitler was, after all, Roman Catholic, and was *never* excommunicated for his crimes.

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    Anonymous September 16, 2010

    Infuriating little bigot. If atheists are forced to take on Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot as one of our own then the religious get every believing murderer and rapist that ever lived, whether they committed their crimes in the name of faith or not. So they can have not only the Taleban, Vlad the Impaler, Saddam Husein and James Kopp but they can have every almost every other psycho as well. Oh, they can keep Hitler too, he wasn’t one of ‘ours’.

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    roberto September 17, 2010

    I think the Pope has not the right to accuse atheists of being Hitler’s supporters, having the example of Pius XII.

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    Adam M September 17, 2010

    The Hitler Youth comment is a little bit unfair given how much choice he probably had in the matter as a child in wartime Germany. But as a grown man (worse, in a capacity as a visiting head of state) there’s no excuse for equating a rational outlook on the nature of existance with one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. Not only is it extremely offensive today, it’s also an insult to the victims of Nazi Germany to bandy the term about so lightly.

    It’s a shocking twist of history though:

    “Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live.

    “I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives.

    “As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a ‘reductive vision of the person and his destiny’

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    Gearoid Dullaghan September 17, 2010

    Are the Holy Father’s comments a spiteful and vengeful attack on outspoken UK atheists, or is he seriously this lacking in insight?

    Either way, I find these comments very disturbing – even by the usual Vatican ‘standards’ they seem very cynical and mean (at best).

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    bipedalhumanoid September 18, 2010

    “Are the Holy Father’s comments a spiteful and vengeful attack on outspoken UK atheists, or is he seriously this lacking in insight?”

    The man grew up in Nazi Germany. He knows damn well that what he is saying is a blatant lie.

    I’d be willing to bet it all comes down to psychological projection.

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    Stonyground September 19, 2010

    It remains to be seen whether this blatant lie serves his purpose of demonising atheists or whether it blows up in his face. It all rests upon the behaviour of the UK media over the next week or two. Across the internet these remarks have been ripped to shreds but the mainstream media has, so far, been embarrassingly sycophantic in their coverage of his holy vileness.

    Time will tell.

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    Alan September 20, 2010

    Why a secular state and not an atheist state?

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    Adam M September 21, 2010

    An atheist state would leave no room for freedom of religion for those who want it, a secular state simply does not promote or deny any religion.

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    abucs May 22, 2011

    I think there is easily demonstratable links bewteen Neitsche, Engels, Marx, Darwin, Wagner and Hitler’s National Socialist Workers Party.

    All of the genocidal maniacs of the 20th century called themselves Socialists and they all got their ideas from the atheism of Neitsche, Marx and Engels.

    The project of Atheism is well discredited.