Saturday, September 18, 2010

abandon pope all ye who enter here

I think we can probably rule out the possibility of the Pope using the platform provided by his visit to Britain to engage in a massively elaborate self-parodic piss-take, as he doesn't seem to possess the self-deprecating humour required (well, he is German, after all). So I think we can judge it to be likely that Poe's Law doesn't apply, though of course one of the central planks of Poe's Law is that you can never tell whether invoking Poe's Law is appropriate or not.

One does wonder after yesterday's speech, though, whether (to nick a phrase from this discussion) some sort of Satire Event Horizon hasn't been crossed whereby parodying the insane ramblings of religious leaders becomes pointless, as it could never be funnier than the real thing. I should say up front that I completely accept that membership of the Hitler Youth was pretty much compulsory when the young Josef Ratzinger was a teenager, and that therefore his having been a member in no way implies he was sympathetic to the regime (equally, it should be said that there were those who took a principled stand and refused to join). But nevertheless he was there at the time, so he ought to know better than most what was going on, and so to make the absurd claim that the Third Reich was an atheist regime creates a bewildering Ouroboros/Möbius strip of self-referential irony that will make your head hurt if you think about it too much, not to mention setting off the Godwin's Law alarm more times than you can shake a stick at. Not content with claiming that the Nazis were atheists, he then goes on to imply that all atheists are Nazis! Nice. Some people have suggested that this was all a devious and deliberate attempt to create an argument that would rumble on for the duration of his visit and keep awkward stuff like the child abuse scandal off the front pages. It's possible I suppose.

Other places have lengthy comment threads refuting the Nazi/atheists thing, notably here and here. Even the Daily Mash article gets the history pretty much correct, which I suppose just illustrates my point above, i.e. it's more sensible and informative than the actual news coverage. A very very brief Bluffer's Guide to the subject follows:
  • Mein Kampf is full of Christian talk and invocation of God to justify Hitler's insane ramblings, as were Hitler's public pronouncements while Chancellor. Interestingly, just to address another canard (the Nazis/Darwin one) the word "Darwin" appears not once in the book.
  • The German Army wore belt-buckles with "Gott Mit Uns" on them as part of their standard uniform throughout World War II.
  • The German people (who did all of the actual killing, let's not forget) were almost to a man either Catholics or Lutherans.
  • The corrosive anti-Semitism that underpinned a lot of the Nazi atrocities can be directly linked to Christianity, and Martin Luther in particular.
  • While it's possible that Hitler only paid lip-service to religious belief, it seems likely that at best he privately believed in a slightly twisted form of Christianity with a bit of paganism and occultism thrown in.
  • It's important to realise that the "Hitler was secretly an atheist" argument doesn't work anyway (even if it were true), as the people doing the actual killing certainly weren't.
  • While we're talking fallacious arguments, the "Hitler was evil so therefore he can't have been a Christian" argument doesn't work either.
  • Finally, even if Hitler had been an atheist, and even if his regime's monstrous crimes had been done specifically in the name of atheism, none of that would have any bearing on the truth claims of either atheism or any religion, Christianity included.
A suitable response to all this nonsense would probably go something like Tim Minchin's Pope song. You can never see Adam Buxton's Trifelge Putinard clip too often, either.

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