These quotations are from Hitler’s Table Talk, which is a series of informal, private conversations among Hitler and his closest associates, as recorded by Martin Bormann.
The conversations from which these excerpts are taken occurred from July 1941 to June 1942, mostly late at night or in early morning. While Hitler did make some public overtures to “positive” Christianity during his time leading Germany, he held some different views on the religion behind closed doors.
* * *
I think the man who contemplates the universe with his eyes wide open is the man with the greatest amount of natural piety: not in the religious sense, but in the sense of an intimate harmony with things.
At the end of the last century the progress of science and technics led liberalism astray into proclaiming man’s mastery of nature, and announcing that he would soon have dominion over space. But a simple storm is enough — and everything collapses like a pack of cards!
In any case, we shall learn to become familiar with the laws by which life is governed, and acquaintance with the laws of nature will guide us on the path of progress. As for the ‘why’ of these laws, we shall never know anything about it. A thing is so, and our understanding cannot conceive of other schemes.
Man has discovered in nature the wonderful notion of that almighty being whose law he worships.
Fundamentally in everyone there is the feeling for this almighty, which we call ‘God’ (that is to say, the dominion of natural laws throughout the whole universe). The priests, who have always succeeded in exploiting this feeling, threaten punishments for the man who refuses to accept the creed they impose.
When one provokes in a child a fear of the dark, one awakens in him a feeling of atavistic dread. Thus this child will be ruled all his life by this dread, whereas another child, who has been intelligently brought up, will be free of it.
It is said that every man needs a refuge where he can find consolation and help in unhappiness. I do not believe it! If humanity follows that path, it is solely a matter of tradition and habit. That is a lesson, by the way, that can be drawn from the Bolshevik front. The Russians have no God, and that does not prevent them from being able to face death.
We do not want to educate anyone in atheism.
* * *
The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity. Bolshevism practices a lie of the same nature, when it claims to bring liberty to men, whereas in reality it seeks only to enslave them. In the ancient world, the relations between men and gods were founded on an instinctive respect. It was a world enlightened by the idea of tolerance. Christianity was the first creed in the world to exterminate its adversaries in the name of love. Its keynote is intolerance.
* * *
Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure.
* * *
The Earth continues to go around, whether it’s the man who kills the tiger or the tiger who eats the man. The stronger asserts his will, it’s the law of nature. The world doesn’t change; its laws are eternal.
There are some who say the world is evil, and that they wish to depart from this life. For my part, I like the world! Unless the desire to die is due to a lover’s quarrel, I advise the desperate man to have patience for a year. The consolations will come. But if a human being has any other reason to wish to die than this, then let him die, I’m not stopping him. I merely call attention to the fact that one cannot escape this world entirely. The elements of which our body is made belong to the cycle of nature; and as for our soul, it’s possible that it might return to limbo, until it gets an opportunity to reincarnate itself. But it would vex me if everybody wanted to have done with life.
To make death easier for people, the Church holds out to them the bait of a better world. We, for our part, confine ourselves to asking man to fashion his life worthily. For this, it is sufficient for him to conform to the laws of nature. Let’s seek inspiration in these principles, and in the long run we’ll triumph over religion.
But there will never be any possibility of National Socialism’s setting out to ape religion by establishing a form of worship. Its one ambition must be scientifically to construct a doctrine that is nothing more than a homage to reason.
Our duty is to teach men to see whatever is lovely and truly wonderful in life, and not to become prematurely ill tempered and spiteful. We wish fully to enjoy what is beautiful, to cling to it — and to avoid, as far as possible, anything that might do harm to people like ourselves.
If today you do harm to the Russians, it is so as to avoid giving them the opportunity of doing harm to us.
God does not act differently. He suddenly hurls the masses of humanity on to the Earth, and he leaves it to each one to work out his own salvation. Men dispossess one another, and one perceives that, at the end of it all, it is always the stronger who triumphs. Is that not the most reasonable order of things?
If it were otherwise, nothing good would ever have existed. If we did not respect the laws of nature, imposing our will by the right of the stronger, a day would come when the wild animals would once again devour us — then the insects would eat the wild animals, and finally nothing would exist on Earth but the microbes.
* * *
Trying to take a long view of things, is it conceivable that one could found anything durable on falsehood? When I think of our Folk’s future, I must look further than immediate advantages, even if these advantages were to last three hundred, five hundred years or more. I’m convinced that any pact with the Church can offer only a provisional benefit, for sooner or later the scientific spirit will disclose the harmful character of such a compromise. Thus the State will have based its existence on a foundation that one day will collapse.
An educated man retains the sense of the mysteries of nature and bows before the unknowable. An uneducated man, on the other hand, runs the risk of going over to atheism (which is a return to the state of the animal) as soon as he perceives that the State, in sheer opportunism, is making use of false ideas in the matter of religion, whilst in other fields it bases everything on pure science.
That’s why I’ve always kept the Party aloof from religious questions. I’ve thus prevented my Catholic and Protestant supporters from forming groups against one another, and inadvertently knocking each other out with the bible and the sprinkler. So we never became involved with these churches’ forms of worship. And if that has momentarily made my task a little more difficult, at least I’ve never run the risk of carrying grist to my opponents’ mill. The help we would have provisionally obtained from a concordat [with the churches] would have quickly become a burden on us. In any case, the main thing is to be clever in this matter and not to look for a struggle where it can be avoided.
Being weighed down by a superstitious past, men are afraid of things that can’t, or can’t yet, be explained — that is to say, of the unknown. If anyone has needs of a metaphysical nature, I can’t satisfy them with the Party’s Program. Time will go by until the moment when science can answer all the questions.
So it’s not opportune to hurl ourselves now into a struggle with the churches. The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death. A slow death has something comforting about it. The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science. Religion will have to make more and more concessions. Gradually the myths crumble. All that’s left is to prove that in nature there is no frontier between the organic and the inorganic. When understanding of the universe has become widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity.
Originally, religion was merely a prop for human communities. It was a means, not an end in itself. It’s only gradually that it became transformed in this direction, with the object of maintaining the rule of the priests, who can live only to the detriment of society collectively.
The instructions of a hygienic nature that most religions gave, contributed to the foundation of organized communities. The precepts ordering people to wash, to avoid certain drinks, to fast at appointed dates, to take exercise, to rise with the sun, to climb to the top of the minaret — all these were obligations invented by intelligent people. The exhortation to fight courageously is also self-explanatory. Observe, by the way, that, as a corollary, the Moslem was promised a paradise peopled with sensual girls, where wine flowed in streams — a real earthly paradise. The Christians, on the other hand, declare themselves satisfied if after their death they are allowed to sing hallelujahs! All these elements contributed to form human communities. It is to these private customs that Folks owe their present characters.
Christianity, of course, has reached the peak of absurdity in this respect. And that’s why one day its structure will collapse. Science has already impregnated humanity. Consequently, the more Christianity clings to its dogmas, the quicker it will decline.
But one must continue to pay attention to another aspect of the problem. It’s possible to satisfy the needs of the inner life by an intimate communion with nature, or by knowledge of the past. Only a minority, however, at the present stage of the mind’s development, can feel the respect inspired by the unknown, and thus satisfy the metaphysical needs of the soul. The average human being has the same needs, but can satisfy them only by elementary means. That’s particularly true of women, as also of peasants who impotently watch the destruction of their crops. The person whose life tends to simplification is thirsty for belief, and he dimly clings to it with all his strength.
Nobody has the right to deprive simple people of their childish certainties until they’ve acquired others that are more reasonable. Indeed, it’s most important that the higher belief should be well established in them before the lower belief has been removed. We must finally achieve this. But it would serve no purpose to replace an old belief by a new one that would merely fill the place left vacant by its predecessor.
It seems to me that nothing would be more foolish than to reestablish the worship of Wotan. Our old mythology had ceased to be viable when Christianity implanted itself. Nothing dies unless it is moribund. At that period the ancient world was divided between the systems of philosophy and the worship of idols. It’s not desirable that the whole of humanity should be stultified — and the only way of getting rid of Christianity is to allow it to die little by little.
A Movement like ours mustn’t let itself be drawn into metaphysical digressions. It must stick to the spirit of exact science. It’s not the Party’s function to be a counterfeit for religion.
If, in the course of a thousand or two thousand years, science arrives at the necessity of renewing its points of view, that will not mean that science is a liar. Science cannot lie, for it’s always striving, according to the momentary state of knowledge, to deduce what is true. When it makes a mistake, it does so in good faith. It’s Christianity that’s the liar. It’s in perpetual conflict with itself.
One may ask whether the disappearance of Christianity would entail the disappearance of belief in God. That’s not to be desired. The notion of divinity gives most men the opportunity to concretize the feeling they have of supernatural realities. Why should we destroy this wonderful power they have of incarnating the feeling for the divine that is within them?
The man who lives in communion with nature necessarily finds himself in opposition to the Churches. And that’s why they’re heading for ruin — for science is bound to win.
I especially wouldn’t want our Movement to acquire a religious character and institute a form of worship. It would be appalling for me, and I would wish I’d never lived, if I were to end up in the skin of a Buddha!
If at this moment we were to eliminate the religions by force, the people would unanimously beseech us for a new form of worship. You can imagine our District Leaders giving up their pranks to play at being saints! As for our Minister For Religion, according to his own co-religionists, God himself would turn away from his family!
I envisage the future, therefore, as follows: First of all, to each man his private creed. Superstition shall not lose its rights. The Party is sheltered from the danger of competing with the religions. These latter must simply be forbidden from interfering in future with temporal matters. From the tenderest age, education will be imparted in such a way that each child will know all that is important to the maintenance of the State. As for the men close to me, who, like me, have escaped from the clutches of dogma, I’ve no reason to fear that the Church will get its hooks on them.
We’ll see to it that the churches cannot spread abroad teachings in conflict with the interests of the State. We shall continue to preach the doctrine of National Socialism, and the young will no longer be taught anything but the truth.
* * *
On the whole Earth there’s no being, no substance, and probably no human institution that doesn’t end by growing old. But it’s in the logic of things that every human institution should be convinced of its everlastingness — unless it already carries the seed of its downfall. The hardest steel grows weary. Just as it is certain that one day the Earth will disappear, so it is certain that the works of men will be overthrown.
All these manifestations are cyclical. Religion is in perpetual conflict with the spirit of free research. The Church’s opposition to science was sometimes so violent that it struck off sparks. The Church, with a clear awareness of her interests, has made a strategic retreat, with the result that science has lost some of its aggressiveness.
The present system of teaching in schools permits the following absurdity: at 10 a.m. the pupils attend a lesson on the catechism, at which the creation of the world is presented to them in accordance with the teachings of the Bible; and at 11 a.m. they attend a lesson in natural science, at which they are taught the theory of evolution. Yet the two doctrines are in complete contradiction! As a child, I suffered from this contradiction, and ran my head against a wall. Often I complained to one or another of my teachers against what I had been taught an hour before — and I remember that I drove them to despair.
The Christian religion tries to get out of it by explaining that one must attach a symbolic value to the images of Holy Writ. Any man who made the same claim four hundred years ago would have ended his career at the stake, with an accompaniment of Hosannas. By joining in the game of tolerance, religion has won back ground by comparison with bygone centuries.
Religion draws all the profit that can be drawn from the fact that science postulates the search for, and not the certain knowledge of, the truth. Let’s compare science to a ladder. On every rung, one beholds a wider landscape. But science does not claim to know the essence of things. When science finds that it has to revise one or another notion that it had believed to be definitive, at once religion gloats and declares: We told you so! To say that is to forget that it’s in the nature of science to behave itself thus. For if it decided to assume a dogmatic air, it would itself become a church.
When one says that God provokes the lightning, that’s true in a sense; but what is certain is that God does not direct the thunderbolt, as the Church claims. The Church’s explanation of natural phenomena is an abuse, for the Church has ulterior interests. True piety is the characteristic of the being who is aware of his weakness and ignorance. Whoever sees God only in an oak or in a tabernacle, instead of seeing Him everywhere, is not truly pious. He remains attached to appearances — and when the sky thunders and the lightning strikes, he trembles simply from fear of being struck as a punishment for the sin he’s just committed.
* * *
I know nothing of the Other World, and I have the honesty to admit it. Other people know more about it than I do, and I’m incapable of proving that they’re mistaken. I don’t dream of imposing my philosophy on a village girl. Although religion does not aim at seeking for the truth, it is a kind of philosophy which can satisfy simple minds, and that does no harm to anyone. Everything is finally a matter of the feeling man has of his own impotence. In itself, this philosophy has nothing pernicious about it. The essential thing, really, is that man should know that salvation consists in the effort that each person makes to understand Providence and accept the laws of nature.
Since all violent upheavals are a calamity, I would prefer the adaptation to be made without shocks. What could be longest left undisturbed are women’s convents. The sense of the inner life brings people great enrichment. What we must do, then, is to extract from religions the poison they contain. In this respect, great progress has been made during recent centuries.
* * *
When I was younger, I thought it was necessary to set about matters with dynamite. I’ve since realized that there’s room for a little subtlety. The rotten branch falls of itself. The final state must be: in St. Peter’s Chair, a senile officiant; facing him, a few sinister old women, as gaga and as poor in spirit as anyone could wish. The young and healthy are on our side. Against a Church that identifies itself with the State, as in England, I have nothing to say. But, even so, it’s impossible eternally to hold humanity in bondage with lies. After all, it was only between the sixth and eighth centuries that Christianity was imposed on our Folks by princes who had an alliance of interests with the shavelings. Our Folks had previously succeeded in living all right without this religion. I have six Divisions of SS composed of men absolutely indifferent in matters of religion. It doesn’t prevent them from going to their deaths with serenity in their souls.
* * *
What is this God who takes pleasure only in seeing men grovel before him? Try to picture to yourselves the meaning of the following, quite simple story: God creates the conditions for sin. Later on he succeeds, with the help of the Devil, in causing man to sin. Then he employs a virgin to bring into the world a son who, by his death, will redeem humanity!
I can imagine people being enthusiastic about the paradise of Mohammed, but as for the insipid paradise of the Christians! In your lifetime, you used to hear the music of Richard Wagner. After your death, it will be nothing but hallelujahs, the waving of palms, children of an age for the feeding bottle, and hoary old men. The man of the isles pays homage to the forces of nature. But Christianity is an invention of sick brains: one could imagine nothing more senseless, nor any more indecent way of turning the idea of the Godhead into a mockery. A nigger with his taboos is crushingly superior to the human being who seriously believes in transubstantiation.
I begin to lose all respect for humanity when I think that some people on our side, ministers or generals, are capable of believing that we cannot triumph without the blessing of the Church. Such a notion is excusable in little children who have learned nothing else.
For thirty years [i.e. 1618-1648] the Germans tore each other to pieces simply in order to know whether or not they should take communion in both kinds. There’s nothing lower than religious notions like that. From that point of view, one can envy the Japanese. They have a religion which is very simple and brings them into contact with nature. They’ve succeeded even in taking Christianity and turning it into a religion that’s less shocking to the intellect.
By what would you have me replace the Christians’ picture of the Beyond? What comes naturally to mankind is the sense of eternity, and that sense is at the bottom of every man. The soul and the mind migrate, just as the body returns to nature. Thus life is eternally reborn from life. As for the ‘why’ of all that, I feel no need to rack my brains on the subject. The soul is unplumbable.
If there is a God, at the same time as he gives man life he gives him intelligence. By regulating my life according to the understanding that is granted me, I may be mistaken, but I act in good faith.
* * *
Man judges everything in relation to himself. What is bigger than himself is big, what is smaller is small. Only one thing is certain, that one is part of the spectacle. Everyone finds his own role. Joy exists for everybody. I dream of a state of affairs in which every man would know that he lives and dies for the preservation of the species. It’s our duty to encourage that idea: let the man who distinguishes himself in the service of the species be thought worthy of the highest honors.
* * *
What a happy inspiration, to have kept the clergy out of the Party! On the 21st March, 1933, at Potsdam, the question was raised: with the Church, or without the Church? I conquered the State despite the malediction pronounced on us by both creeds. On that day, we went directly to the tomb of the kings whilst the others were visiting religious services. Supposing that at that period I’d made a pact with the Churches, I’d today be sharing the lot of The Duce. By nature The Duce is a freethinker, but he decided to choose the path of concessions. For my part, in his place I’d have taken the path of revolution. I’d have entered the Vatican and thrown everybody out — reserving the right to apologize later: ‘Excuse me, it was a mistake!’ But the result would have been, they’d have been outside!
When all is said, we have no reason to wish that the Italians and Spaniards should free themselves from the drug of Christianity. Let’s be the only Folk who are immunized against the disease.
* * *
Kerrl, with the noblest of intentions, wanted to attempt a synthesis between National Socialism and Christianity. I don’t believe the thing’s possible, and I see the obstacle in Christianity itself.
I think I could have come to an understanding with the popes of the Renaissance. Obviously, their Christianity was a danger on the practical level — and, on the propaganda level, it continued to be a lie.
But a pope, even a criminal one, who protects great artists and spreads beauty around him, is nevertheless more sympathetic to me than the protestant minister who drinks from the poisoned spring.
Pure Christianity — the Christianity of the catacombs — is concerned with translating the Christian doctrine into facts. It leads quite simply to the annihilation of mankind. It is merely whole hearted Bolshevism, under a tinsel of metaphysics.
* * *
Man has been given his brain to think with. But if he has the misfortune to make use of it, he finds a swarm of black bugs [i.e. priests] on his heels. The mind is doomed to the auto-da-fé.
The observatory I’ll have built at Linz, on the Pöstlingberg, I can see it in my mind … In future, thousands of excursionists will make a pilgrimage there every Sunday. They’ll thus have access to the greatness of our universe. The pediment will bear this motto: ‘The heavens proclaim the glory of the everlasting.’ It will be our way of giving men a religious spirit, of teaching them humility — but without the priests.
Man seizes hold, here and there, of a few scraps of truth, but he couldn’t rule nature. He must know that, on the contrary, he is dependent on Creation. And this attitude leads further than the superstitions maintained by the Church. Christianity is the worst of the regressions that mankind can ever have undergone, and it’s the Jew who, thanks to this diabolic invention, has thrown him back 15 centuries. The only thing that would be still worse would be victory for the Jew through Bolshevism. If Bolshevism triumphed, mankind would lose the gift of laughter and joy. It would become merely a shapeless mass, doomed to grayness and despair.
The priests of antiquity were closer to nature, and they sought modestly for the meaning of things. Instead of that, Christianity promulgates its inconsistent dogmas and imposes them by force. Such a religion carries within it intolerance and persecution. It’s the bloodiest conceivable …
For Ptolemy, the Earth was the center of the world. That changed with Copernicus. Today we know that our solar system is merely a solar system amongst many others. What could we do better than allow the greatest possible number of people like us to become aware of these marvels?
In any case, we can be grateful to Providence, which causes us to live today rather than 300 years ago. At every street corner, in those days, there was a blazing stake. What a debt we owe to the men who had the courage — the first to do so — to rebel against lies and intolerance. The admirable thing is that amongst them were Jesuit Fathers.
In their fight against the Church, the Russians are purely negative. We, on the other hand, should practise the cult of the heroes who enabled humanity to pull itself out of the rut of error. Kepler lived at Linz, and that’s why I chose Linz as the place for our observatory. His mother was accused of witchcraft and was tortured several times by the Inquisition.
To open the eyes of simple people, there’s no better method of instruction than the picture. Put a small telescope in a village, and you destroy a world of superstitions. One must destroy the priest’s argument that science is changeable because faith does not change, since, when presented in this form, the statement is dishonest.
* * *
The book that contains the reflections of the Emperor Julian should be circulated in millions. What wonderful intelligence! What discernment, all the wisdom of antiquity! It’s extraordinary!
* * *
It is a great pity that this tendency towards religious thought can find no better outlet than the Jewish pettifoggery of the Old Testament, for a religious Folk who, in the solitude of winter, continually seek ultimate light on their religious problems with the assistance of the Bible, must eventually become spiritually deformed. The wretched Folk strive to extract truths from these Jewish chicaneries, where in fact no truths exist. As a result they become embedded in some rut of thought or other and, unless they possess an exceptionally commonsense mind, degenerate into religious maniacs.
It is deplorable that the Bible should have been translated into German, and that the whole of the German Folk should have thus become exposed to the whole of this Jewish mumbo jumbo. So long as the wisdom, particularly of the Old Testament, remained exclusively in the Latin of the Church, there was little danger that sensible people would become the victims of illusions as the result of studying the Bible. But since the Bible became common property, a whole heap of people have found opened to them lines of religious thought which — particularly in conjunction with the German characteristic of persistent and somewhat melancholy meditation — as often as not turned them into religious maniacs. When one recollects further that the Catholic Church has elevated to the status of Saints a whole number of madmen, one realizes why movements such as that of the Flagellants came inevitably into existence in the Middle Ages in Germany.
* * *
The Ten Commandments are a code of living to which there’s no refutation. These precepts correspond to irrefragable needs of the human soul; they’re inspired by the best religious spirit; and the Churches here support themselves on a solid foundation.
* * *
Is there a single religion that can exist without a dogma? No, for in that case it would belong to the order of science. Science cannot explain why natural objects are what they are. And that’s where religion comes in, with its comforting certainties. When incarnated in the Churches, religion always finds itself in opposition to life. So the Churches would be heading for disaster, and they know it, if they didn’t cling to a rigid truth.
What is contrary to the visible truth must change or disappear — that’s the law of life.
* * *
Research must remain free and unfettered by any State restriction. The facts which it establishes represent Truth, and Truth is never evil.
* * *
I shall never believe that what is founded on lies can endure for ever. I believe in Truth. I’m sure that, in the long run, Truth must be victorious.