Nazism is popularly thought of as an ideology underpinned by atheism, but a closer look at Hitler’s speeches and writings show a somewhat ambiguous outlook on religion. Although few historians claim that Hitler was a Christian, there’s no unanimous consensus regarding his exact religious beliefs, or lack thereof. However, as historian Samuel Koehnewrites in an article for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, there are three main schools of thought:
Paganism was strangely intertwined with the völkisch populist movement that swept across late 19th- and early 20th-century Germany. The groups that arose out of this movement differed in their emphasis on race and nationalism, but many expressed a desire to revive arcane pagan traditions and customs among the volk — the “people ” — as Koehne notes:
In a 1920 speech, Hitler, who was raised in the Catholic Church, said that Aryans had built “cults of light” wherever they settled throughout history. While Hitler might have identified with the fervor of the völkisch movement, it’s unlikely he believed in the metaphysical validity of its paganistic aspects. He seemed more concerned with the utility of religious belief, as Koehne writes:
Hitler’s views on the utility of religion are clear in remarks he’d often make in private, according to Albert Speer, a close associate of the Führer. In Speer’s “Inside the Third Reich” he quotes Hitler as saying:
…and also in his Mein Kampf:
However, Mein Kampf also shows a bizarrely racialized interpretation of Christianity:
Hitler’s interpretation of the gospels resulted in something dubbed “positive Christianity,” which made its way into Article 24 of the 1920 Nazi Party Platform:
Hitler frequently mentioned “natural laws” when he spoke of religion, depicting the world as one governed by social Darwinism, as seen in this excerpt from “Hitler’s Table Talk“:
In the same monologue, Hitler firmly denounces the ethos of Christianity.
For these reasons, some have concluded that Hitler was a deist, as Koehne writes:
It’s ultimately impossible to know exactly what Hitler’s religious beliefs were. But what seems certain is that Hitler had absolute faith in two things: hyper-nationalism and himself.