Five Religious Views Shared By Adolf Hitler and Thomas Jefferson

 

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When you think of Adolf Hitler, what comes to mind?

For most, the name Hitler conjures thoughts of the Nazi regime that terrorized continental Europe throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

Others will recall Hitler as the visionary engineer of the Nazi-led Holocaust, which led Germany to systematically enslave and murder millions of Jews and other minority groups in an effort to purge the Aryan (white) race of the defiling presence of “impure” and “inferior” races.

But few, if any, living in the 21st century would readily link the historically despised Adolf Hitler with the name of one of America’s most prominent founding fathers: Thomas Jefferson.

After all, Jefferson is considered by many American Protestants to be not just a man of faith and virtue but also an inspired scribe whose pen flowed with divine pronouncements of mankind’s liberty, all while railing against monarchical rule and church authority.

What about you?

When you think of America’s founding father Thomas Jefferson, what comes to mind?

Some might point to his writing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence or his establishment of the University of Virginia.

Others might recall Jefferson as the third President of the United States who helped lead the infant American nation through its early turbulent period.

However, in this article, I want to focus your attention on five important beliefs that both of these men (Adolf Hitler and Thomas Jefferson) shared in common regarding the topics of Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the Christian Church.

As we begin, we do well to recall the words of President Harry Truman as he reminds us that “the only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.”

Let’s begin.


1. Both Adolf Hitler and Thomas Jefferson were born and raised in the Christian faith but grew fiercely hostile to the Christian Church as they grew into adulthood.


Adolf Hitler was baptized as an infant and was confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church at the age of 14. While not a practicing Catholic, Hitler publicly identified with the Christian faith into adulthood through his speeches and particularly in his book, Mein Kampf. However, Hitler's public references to "God" occurred even as he privately drifted away from the orthodox teachings of the Church in preference for something called "Positive Christianity," which denied much of traditional Christian orthodoxy. (Hitler's views on the Christian faith became largely rooted in Nazi Germany's Positive Christianity movement, which the Catholic Church deemed a heresy.) Hitler's Nazi regime sought to overthrow the Roman Catholic Church and unify all Protestant churches around the state-endorsed theology of Positive Christianity.

In 1931, the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Hitler and all Catholic members of his Nazi regime. But it was not until sometime between 1934 and 1937 that Hitler began no longer publicly describing himself as a Catholic.

Hitler's Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, wrote in his diary that Hitler was "a fierce opponent" of the traditional Christian Church, adding that Hitler "hates Christianity, because it has crippled all that is noble in humanity" and because it "had corrupted and infected the entire world of antiquity."

Thomas Jefferson was born and raised in the Church of England though there is no evidence that he was ever confirmed, like Hitler, into the Christian faith. While Jefferson continued to attend church services well into adulthood, his religious beliefs, like Hitler's, strayed far from orthodoxy as he grew older. In a letter to a friend dated June 25, 1819, Jefferson described his religious beliefs this way:

“I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.”

Like Hitler, Jefferson was highly suspicious of the Christian church and viewed it as the enemy of a free people. In a letter to a friend regarding religion, Jefferson wrote: "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government," adding that in "every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty."

If Jefferson was no true friend of Catholic priests, neither was he an advocate of Protestant Calvinism as he denounced the "blasphemous absurdity of the five points of Calvin."

In a letter penned to John Adams, Jefferson wrote:

"His [Calvin's] religion was demonism. If ever man worshiped a false God, he did. The being described in his five points is ... a demon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no God at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin."

Both Catholic and Protestant clergy members in America rightly detected Jefferson's strong aversion to the historic Christian faith and labeled him as an "infidel" and a "howling atheist." Jefferson confirmed their suspicions in a letter written to Benjamin Rush in 1800:

"The clergy ... believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

While many historians and scholars have ultimately classified Jefferson's religious beliefs as a form of Christian deism, his own writings suggest that Jefferson more closely identified with a rational form of Christianity known as Unitarianism. It is no irony that Jefferson's philosophical hero, John Locke, was also a Unitarian. Locke's book, "The Reasonableness of Christianity," lays out a benign and inoffensive form of Christianity that relies less on faith and more upon human reason.

Summary: Both Thomas Jefferson and Adolf Hitler were brought up in the historic Christian faith only to later exchange it for a watered-down version that relied more on human reason than a childlike faith. 


2. Both Adolf Hitler and Thomas Jefferson denied that Jesus was God.


Adolf Hitler's view of the Bible and Christianity led him to believe that Jesus was not divine. So too, Hitler denied that Jesus was a Jew and instead viewed Jesus as a heroic "Aryan fighter" against the Jews. Indeed, Hitler's views on Jesus appeared to be less informed by the New Testament and more informed by extrabiblical books about Jesus. For example, Hitler exposes his hatred for Jesus as he praised the polemic tract, Against the Galileans, by the fourth-century heretic, Julian the Apostate. Consider Hitler's own words recorded during a Table Talk monologue on October 21, 1941.

"When one thinks of the opinions held concerning Christianity by our best minds a hundred, two hundred years ago, one is ashamed to realise how little we have since evolved. I didn't know that Julian the Apostate had passed judgment with such clear-sightedness on Christianity and Christians. ... Originally, Christianity was merely an incarnation of Bolshevism the destroyer. Nevertheless, the Galilean, who later was called the Christ, intended something quite different. He must be regarded as a popular leader who took up His position against Jewry.... and it's certain that Jesus was not a Jew. The Jews, by the way, regarded Him as the son of a whore—of a whore and a Roman soldier."

From Hitler's perspective, Jesus "wanted to act against the Jewish world domination" and therefore "Jewry had him crucified." ¹

While Hitler did not consider Jesus to be God, he did have a concept of God, which he referred to as "divine Providence." For example, after surviving an assassination attempt in July 1944, Hitler credited "Providence" with saving his life so as to enable him to continue executing on his vision.

According to Hitler's physician, Dr. Karl Brandt, the Führer viewed himself as a:

"tool of Providence. He was ... consumed by the desire to give the German people everything and to help them out of their distress. He was possessed by the thought that this was his task and that only he could fulfill it." ²

According to BBC historian Laurence Rees:

"his [Hitler's] relationship in public to Christianity — indeed his relationship to religion in general — was opportunistic. There is no evidence that Hitler himself, in his personal life, ever expressed any individual belief in the basic tenets of the Christian church." ³

Rees adds: "The most coherent reading of Mein Kampf" is that Hitler was prepared to believe in an initial creator God, but did "not accept the conventional Christian vision of heaven and hell, nor the survival of an individual 'soul'." 

It is clear from Hitler's own words that he did not conflate this concept of "Providence" with Jesus Christ of the New Testament.

Many scholars now sum up Hitler's religious views as a form of deism.

Thomas Jefferson's view of the Bible and Christianity was surprisingly similar to the views espoused by Adolf Hitler.

Jefferson did not believe Jesus was God made manifest in the flesh, as taught by the historic Christian faith. In fact, Jefferson utterly rejects outright virtually all of the most important Christian doctrines with his own pen for all future generations to see.

For example:

So too, Jefferson denied belief in the Biblical doctrines of original sinatonementregeneration, and election.

While some will point to Jefferson's usage of the terms "Providence" and "Nature's God" in his vast collection of writings to defend his belief in God, it is clear from his low view of Christ that He did not have a risen Jesus in mind when he wrote these words.

For Jefferson, Christ was a good man but not God. And his mother was certainly not a virgin.

Summary: The historical record is clear: Both Thomas Jefferson and Adolf Hitler rejected the idea that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. 


3. Both Adolf Hitler and Thomas Jefferson were hostile to the Christian clergy and viewed traditional Christianity as a religion fit only for mental midgets and slaves.


Adolf Hitler's hostility towards Christian ministers is a well-documented fact. Hitler despised the unity and teachings of the Catholic Church and desired to destroy it. While Hitler frequently denounced clergy members, toppling a unified global body of believers that spanned nearly two millennia would prove difficult. Instead, Hitler took control of Germany's state-run Lutheran church and introduced the ideas of "Positive Christianity."

As one leading biographer puts it:

"In Hitler's eyes, Christianity was a religion fit only for slaves..."

Thomas Jefferson also showed a particular hostility towards the Christian clergy's influence over the minds of men. Like Hitler, Jefferson strongly believed that the Christian clergy had "perverted" the principles of Jesus "into an engine for enslaving mankind."

Both Jefferson and Hitler had decidedly repudiated historic Christianity as it offended their own forms of reason and morality.

Consider Jefferson's dedication to a concept of "rational Christianity" (similar to "Positive Christianity") from an 1821 letter penned by Jefferson to a friend.

"No one sees with greater pleasure than myself the progress of reason in its advances towards rational Christianity. When we shall have done away the incomprehensible jargon of the Trinitarian arithmetic, that three are one, and one is three; when we shall have knocked down the artificial scaffolding, reared to mask from view the simple structure of Jesus; when, in short, we shall have unlearned everything which has been taught since His day, and got back to the pure and simple doctrines He inculcated, we shall then be truly and worthily His disciples; and my opinion is that if nothing had ever been added to what flowed purely from His lips, the whole world would at this day have been Christian... The religion-builders have so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them in mysticisms, fancies and falsehoods, have caricatured them into forms so monstrous and inconceivable, as to shock reasonable thinkers, to revolt them against the whole, and drive them rashly to pronounce its Founder an impostor. Had there never been a commentator, there never would have been an infidel. ... I have little doubt that the whole of our country will soon be rallied to the unity of the Creator, and, I hope, to the pure doctrines of Jesus also.

A survey of his vast collection of writings reveals that Jefferson used many epithets to refer to Christian clergy members, including:

  • Cannibals
  • Mountebanks (swindlers)
  • Charlatans
  • Pious and whining hypocrites
  • Necromancers
  • Pseudo-Christians
  • Mystery mongers

Jefferson's incredible disdain for the Christian clergy, which has been largely ignored by historians, was undoubtedly intensified by the attacks he endured from clergymen for his heretical views during the 1800 U.S. Presidential campaign.

In an 1820 letter to William Short, Jefferson wrote:

"[T]he serious enemies are the priests of the different religious sects, to whose spells on the human mind its improvement is ominous."

Summary: Both Thomas Jefferson and Adolf Hitler believed themselves to be "true" Christians and sought to liberate their respective peoples from the lies and deceptions of the historic Christian faith, as perpetuated by the Christian clergy. 


4. Both Adolf Hitler and Thomas Jefferson believed that the Apostle Paul corrupted the teachings of Jesus.


Adolf Hitler was no fan of the Apostle Paul.

During one of his infamous Table Talks, Hitler reportedly said:

"The decisive falsification of Jesus's doctrine was the work of St. Paul. He gave himself to this work with subtlety and for purposes of personal exploitation. For the Galilean's object was to liberate His country from Jewish oppression. He set Himself against Jewish capitalism, and that's why the Jews liquidated Him. Paul of Tarsus (his name was Saul, before the road to Damascus) was one of those who persecuted Jesus most savagely."

Hitler then adds:

"It's striking to observe that Christian ideas, despite all St. Paul's efforts, had no success in Athens. The philosophy of the Greeks was so much superior to this poverty-stricken rubbish that the Athenians burst out laughing when they listened to the apostle's teaching."

A note from Hitler's diary makes his disdain for the Apostle clear: "Paul falsified his (Jesus) doctrine and undermined ancient Rome."

But it was not just Hitler who believed the Apostle Paul was a deceiver.

Thomas Jefferson believed that the Apostle Paul was an enemy of Jesus and all true Christians.

In an 1820 letter to William Short, Jefferson accuses Jesus' early disciples of "stupidity," "roguery," "ignorance," and "charlatanism."

He then writes:

"Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus."

According to Jefferson, the Apostle Paul intentionally created "falsifications of his (Jesus') doctrines." 

Summary: Both Thomas Jefferson and Adolf Hitler accused the Apostle Paul of being a deceiver and enemy of the "pure" Christian faith. 


5. Both Adolf Hitler and Thomas Jefferson believed the racial superiority of the white race was ordained by God or nature.


Adolf Hitler was greatly inspired by America's extermination of the Native Americans through its "Manifest Destiny" doctrine. Many are surprised to learn that American race law provided a blueprint for Nazi Germany. The overwhelming evidence for this is thoroughly documented in a 2017 book written by Yale Law professor, James Q. Whitman, entitled, Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law. The book reveals the long-hidden connection between American and Nazi racial repression by documenting the American impact on Nazi Germany's anti-Jewish legislation as summed up in the notorious Nuremberg Laws.

According to one scholar:

"The Nazis’ interest in the United States policies and laws regarding American Indians originated with Adolf Hitler himself. In his book Mein Kampf, Hitler discussed U.S. laws and policies and noted that the United States was a racial model for Europe and that it was “the one state” in the world that was creating the kind of racist society that the Nazi regime wanted to establish. In a 1928 speech, Hitler stated that Americans had “gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand, and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage...”

Put simply, the U.S. genocide of Native Americans served as an inspiration for Nazi Germany. (The Nazis even referred to Ukrainian Jews as "Indians".)

So too, Hitler and his Nazi regime admired, closely studied, and adopted much from America's pro-segregation Jim Crow laws in their attempts to suppress Jews. (The Nazis even defended their cruel use of concentration camps by pointing to Britain's use of them in the Second Anglo-Boer War in South Africa where more than 26,000 people, including women and children, were slaughtered.)

Thomas Jefferson, like many of America's early founders and leaders, believed that nature had endowed the white race with a superior civilization.

One of the unfortunate targets of this self-righteousness was the Native American people.

These native tribes, who had inhabited North America long before the first European arrived, saw their populations devastated, displaced, and destroyed by the belief of European settlers that they now held property rights to any part of the country they wanted.

Besides, Jefferson was convinced that the native American tribes had plenty of land "to spare."

In a letter to a friend and colleague, Jefferson made his bloodlust clear regarding the original inhabitants of America:

“This unfortunate race, whom we had been taking so much pains to save and to civilize, have by their unexpected desertion and ferocious barbarities justified extermination and now await our decision on their fate.”

In an earlier letter, Jefferson wrote of his intentions toward America's native population centers:

“If ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the Mississippi… in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy them all.”

The same year he penned the Declaration of Independence (1776), Jefferson was also calling for the removal of Native Americans from their homelands in the name of industry and commerce. As President, Jefferson was the first to propose the forced removal of Native Americans.

Like Hitler, Jefferson sought a way to "exterminate" an entire people group he deemed as "merciless savages."

Jefferson claimed that the forcible removal of these human beings from their homelands against their will was the only way to ensure their survival. ⁶

Jefferson was also a chattel slaveholder while writing the Declaration and calling for the forced removal of Native Americans.

Like Hitler, Jefferson shared his opinion of the "inferior" negro race in a book entitled Notes on the State of Virginia. (Admittedly not as catchy as Mein Kampf.)

Here are a few of Thomas Jefferson's "observations" about his negro slaves:

First, despite working from dawn to dusk, Jefferson opines that black slaves seem to "require less sleep" than whites.

"They (negroes) seem to require less sleep. A black after hard labour through the day, will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first dawn of the morning."

In his book, Jefferson is clear on one thing: Blacks are "inferior" in reason to whites and could probably never hope to comprehend advanced mathematics.

"Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid;"

Jefferson explains that emotional pain is not as negative for blacks as it is for whites due to their lack of reason.

"Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection."

Jefferson compares the sleep patterns of blacks to those of animals.

"To this must be ascribed their disposition to sleep when abstracted from their diversions, and unemployed in labour. An animal whose body is at rest, and who does not reflect, must be disposed to sleep of course."

Jefferson berates the "dull" imagination of black slaves.

"and that in imagination they (negroes) are dull, tasteless, and anomalous."

Jefferson doubts blacks could ever create meaningful art.

"But never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never see even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture."

After listing many various reasons, Jefferson concludes:

"I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind."

Like Hitler, Jefferson believed that the white race was superior.

While lauded for his "divine" penmanship in the Declaration, Jefferson denied the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" to the 600 chattel slaves who served his every whim at his plantation until the day he died in 1826.

Ironically, no U.S. President ever owned more human beings than Thomas Jefferson.


Conclusion


While living in different eras, countries, and cultures, Thomas Jefferson and Adolf Hitler shared many similar spiritual beliefs after being raised in churches professing the historic Christian faith.  The historical record is available to anyone who wants to investigate this topic further.

The purpose of this article is to invigorate critical thinking within the American church regarding the man, Thomas Jefferson.

Despite denying it with the writing of his own hand, some modern Christians insist that Thomas Jefferson was a Christian just like them. From my research, nothing could be further than the truth.

My sincere hope is that this research would encourage those American pastors and church leaders who uncritically celebrate Jefferson's "Nature's God" to take another look at history.

Even a cursory reading of the writings of America's leading founding fathers (men like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine) on the topic of Jesus Christ and the Bible will reveal an unsettling hostility that far too many modern Christians appear willing to forgive and forget.

This is ironic for in their haste to ignore the antichrist roots of men like Thomas Jefferson, they condemn the fruit they now bear.

Sometimes the truth is not what it seems.

What do you think?

Let us know if you have a question or a comment in our comments section below


 References:

    1. Friedländer, Saul (2009). Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1933–1945. New York: HarperCollins, p. 61
    2. Schramm, Percy Ernst (1978) "The Anatomy of a Dictator" in Hitler: The Man and the Military Leader. Detwiler, Donald S., ed. Malabar, Florida: Robert E. Kreiger Publishing Company. pp.88-91. ISBN 0-89874-962-X; originally published as the introduction to Picker, Henry (1963) Hitlers Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquarter ("Hitler's Table Talk")
    3. Laurence Rees; The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler; Ebury Press; 2012; p. 135.
    4. Midday 21 October 1941; pp. 76-77. Entry made by Martin Bormann personally, according to Werner Jochmann.
    5. Friedländer, Saul (2009). Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1933–1945. New York: HarperCollins, p. 61
    6. Jennifer McClinton-Temple, Alan R. Velie (2007). "Encyclopedia of American Indian literature". Infobase Publishing. p.295. ISBN 0816056560

 


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