By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – November 14, 2016) –The book Hitler’s Religion by Dr. Richard Weikart is like the 1951 playoff series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. In this game, New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thompson hit a three-run homerun in the ninth inning, helping the Giants secure the win from a 4-2 deficit, leading them to the World Series. It’s been dubbed the “shot heard ‘round the world.”
Professor Weikart’s book is a lot like this. There have been many pitches thrown regarding Hitler’s beliefs. Was Hitler a Christian? A Deist? An occultist? An atheist? Most of the batters have struck out, coming short of a convincing argument. Up walks Weikart to the plate. Through astute investigation, a critical eye, keen worldview analysis, and historical documentation, Weikart hits a homerun—a “shot heard around the world”—showing that Hitler was none of the above—and, interestingly, integrating all of the above (at least a distortion of them). For, in essence, Hitler was a pantheist—cherry picking from a variety of worldviews and religions to create his own twisted beliefs that—as the subtitle of the book states—“drove the Third Reich.”
I admire the work of Dr. Richard Weikart for two main reasons. First, I’m a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus—where Weikart is a professor of history (sadly, I never took a class of his, having graduated around the time he arrived at the university). So my respect is based on a common allegiance to a school. But second is the admiration of his scholarship—intelligent, but accessible, discerning and challenging, yet astute and philosophically and historically grounded. In my opinion more people would be greatly enlightened reading his work, particularly From Darwin to Hitler and The Death of Humanity.
So when I received a review copy of his newest book Hitler’s Religion, I read it with deep curiosity. And I wasn’t disappointed. More than just a history book, it’s worldview training, helping the reader understand various philosophies and ideologies prominent in the 19th and 20th centuries. In ten chapters, Weikart provides an assessment of these schools of thought—from Kant to Schopenhauer, from Nietzsche to Wagner and Chamberlain, showing how Hitler was influenced and integrated aspects of the philosophies into his own Nazi ideals, a creation of the Volk—a new, Nordic worldview. And Weikart doesn’t stop with philosophical training, he moves to various religious ideologies—Christianity, the occult, and paganism, showing that Hitler was definitely not Christian (though his early speeches gave it lip service) and Hitler wasn’t an atheist (he clearly believed in a god or “nature”). In all, Weikart leaves no stone unturned in demonstrating that at his core Hitler was promoting a ferocious, Darwinian view of the world—a pseudo-scientific version of the concept of the survival of the fittest, incorporating slanted facets of various beliefs into a devious worldview.
In the final assessment, Weikart states, “In the end, while recognizing that Hitler’s position was somewhat muddled, it seems evident his religion was closest to pantheism. He often deified nature, calling it eternal and all-powerful…Frequently [using] the word ‘nature’ interchangeable with God, Providence, or the Almighty.”
Weikart concludes his evaluation of Hitler’s religion with four summary points. First, Hitler’s “anti-Christianity obviously shaped the persecution of the Christian churches during the Third Reich. Second, his religious hypocrisy helped explain his ability to appeal to a broad constituency. Third, his trust that his God would reward his efforts and willpower, together with his sense of divine mission, imbued him with hope, even in the hopeless circumstances…Finally, and most importantly, his religion did not provide him any transcendent morality…. Hitler followed what he considered the dictates of nature by stealing, killing, and destroying.”
As I told my students and co-workers about the book, I couldn’t help but ponder the ramification of the work, particularly as it relates to the future. Is there something we should learn about Hitler’s demented worldview? How Hitler derived something horrible from philosophical hubris? And though Weikart doesn’t address the future head on (he is, after all, a historian), I think there is something we should learn from Hitler’s alteration and re-creation of worldviews. And this is it: without clear training and analysis of proper science, theology, and philosophy—a check and balance of power and intellectual leadership, humanity could be on the brink of another Hitler—a promised Fuhrer—leader or guide.
In short, we need attending people to be assessing people, able to critically think through, evaluate, and react to worldviews when not in accordance with truth (and by truth I mean that which is upheld by the Judeo-Christian worldview, the “two books” of the Bible and nature—properly understood). And it begins with worldview training—what it is that people believe, teach, and act upon. For in the end, ideas have consequences. And Weikart clearly communicates what a worldview gone wayward and awry looks like—just contemplate Hitler and you’ll see.
So though Weikart hits a homerun with Hitler’s Religion, his findings are more than World Series playoffs; they are world serious problems, issues that need to be addressed cogently, confidently, and consistently. And Weikart suggests (though not the bulk of the book) the way to move around the bases: firmly rooted in the historic Judeo-Christian worldview that helped shape our Western civilization, one that supports and sustains life. For as Weikart writes, “Ultimately, however, he [Hitler] perished, because his God could not give him life.”
Photo captions: 1) Dr. Richard Weikart. 2) Adolph Hitler. 3) Nazism and the Church. Brian Nixon.
About the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA) and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon.
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