Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National Socialism

Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National SocialismCatholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National Socialism by Derek Hastings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OMG I finally finished the book…the last bit seemed like a bit of a slog and I thought I’d never finish but the last 40% of the book was all footnotes. I figured this book would be a slow read because it focuses like a laser on Munich from 1900-1935. The volume of footnotes speaks to the extensive research by the author, who details myriad players in the area at the time: Adolf Hitler, priests, pastors, and what seemed like hundreds of other völkisch leaders and participants along with the general sentiment of the time.

“in contrast to the NSDAP which, unlike secular non-Marxist parties, served as the most uncompromising defender of the Christian faith”

In times like we live in today when Know-Nothings paint Hitler as a leftist, Nazism as anti-religious or exclusively anti-Christian, and revisionist hacks proposing the Nazis were homosexuals, and on-and-on, it’s always preferable to read something rooted in harsh reality. I’m a history buff and often a student of totalitarianism, fascism, and the like, because history repeats. I’m also an atheist so admittedly some of the reasons I chose to read this book were scurrilous. But I was surprised to find the eventual climax to be very even-handed. I even finished the book thinking Nazi-related critiques of Pope Benedict XVI were unfounded and that the Catholic church by-and-large did repudiate the Nazi movement (more so than their fellow Christian Protestants). So while I did not find what I was expecting, I did find a very detailed review of the Christian (and anti-Christian) influences in Bavaria and Munich specifically in the early formative years of the NSDAP, and that was worth the read.

A few excerpts:

“the fact that such an elaborate völkisch-eugenics model was already laid out among Reform Catholic nationalists in Munich in 1914 is significant”

“to accelerate and radicalize anti-Semitic and anti-Marxist attitudes among Munich’s overwhelmingly Catholic population. The perceived linkages between Bolshevism, atheism, and the Jews”

“the most pressing threat being the issue that so consumed Faulhaber and others, the Jewish-socialist separation of church and state and the impending removal of mandatory religious instruction from Bavarian schools.”

“This speech is significant on at least two levels. First, it pledges Hitler’s personal devotion to his “Lord and Savior” in no uncertain terms and embodies the type of activist warrior Christianity that the Nazi movement would utilize to great effect over the course of the following year”

“In a well-publicized speech to the Ortsgruppe Augsburg on 13 June 1923, Haeuser emphasized the virtues of warrior Christianity, proclaiming, “We need men of action. If only there were more men like Hitler… who would put the words of Christ into practice: ‘I have not come to bring peace, but rather the sword.’”

“Once held up as paragons of the Nazi spirit of Positive Christianity, Catholic students were now forced to strip themselves of their overt Catholic identities in order to comply with the imperatives of the Third Reich.”

“It is possible, indeed necessary, to deplore the tragic and errant nature of inquisitorial zeal in thirteenth-century southern France while also recognizing its problematic, yet nonetheless real, contextual Christian legitimacy”

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It’s Difficult to Debate Most Conservatives

I love to talk politics and religion and other contentious topics with people. It’s entertaining, enlightening, and should be an essential element of a functioning democracy. With Facebook and Twitter and the like more opportunities present themselves, which should be great, except some people seem to treat social media like email: forward political messages around to an echo chamber and nothing results except reinforcement of these dubious ideas. I find when I engage with these posts on Twitter or Facebook, it often leads to trouble. Even good friends in the family threaten unfriending #shun as a punishment for disagreeing, rather than offer counterarguments. You know, like being “social”. Interacting, and as a result perhaps even growing and learning.

I’m prompted to write this because I just checked a similar posting’s activity. I see another Friend had taken up the cause, posting well-reasoned and factual rebuttals to the original post. The commenter is even a respected educator using perfectly acceptable language (and spelling and sentence structure #bonus) to explain the opposing point-of-view. And, being a closer friend or family member, the commenter could weave the poster’s other oft-trumpeted beliefs into a more comprehensive narrative, to help explicate a more nuanced and reasoned position.

In response to this eloquence, the poster replied with a few new, easily countered bumper sticker remarks. As expected these counterpoints were quickly answered in a polite manner, along with helpful links and analogies attempting to keep focus on the larger topics and shared values. The poster follows this additional reason with (essentially) “BUT GOD!” and the meaningless “we’ll have to agree to disagree”. So, responding not by gathering more facts, resolving cognitive dissonance with improved arguments, or (gasp) perhaps even modifying opinions. Those would be good choices. Opportunities for positive response abound. But the most likely course of action is to ignore, change topic, withdraw, block, unfriend. And then these kinds of things cause trouble at holiday gatherings, create rifts and keep family members from talking, but most importantly, they stop people from being smart and informed parties in our larger cooperative system.

After one more halfhearted closing statement from the commenter, a new commenter chimed in, simply indicating agreement with the original poster. Because, of course. Why would this person enhance the debate with counterarguments? They shouldn’t have to, because in these minds beliefs count the same as facts. To some everything has two sides, both equally valid, with truthfulness and merit decided only by sincerity of belief and not empirical knowledge or well-constructed reason.

It’s difficult to debate conservatives – especially religious conservatives – primarily because they deal in belief and lack facts and information, but also empathy and the skills to effectively communicate their prescribed ideas. Worst of all they demonstrate an alarming lack of critical thinking. Lazy baseless beliefs that are clung to by the nearly illiterate masses without any evidence and then enacted into legislation is the bane of our great democracy and I applaud those who attempt to fight it. Even if it can seem pointless.