I can’t help it to write this post. I resisted several times and I even have a complete rant hidden as post someplace that addresses this issue, but I decided against posting it.
But now it happened again!
“What is the issue?,” you might ask.
It is the use of the “Gott mit uns” argument.
The “Gott mit uns” argument usually pops up in discussions between atheists and theists. It is an extension of Godwin’s law: the longer a discussion on the internet last, the higher the chance that Hitler or Nazis will be mentioned. And Hitler is a hot button.
The argument comes down to this: and the Germans(or the German army) under Hitler used “Gott mit uns” on their belt buckles(which means that he supported Christianity or was a Christian, but certainly not an atheist) In an slightly less charged discussion it might also mean: for any argument you have that he is an atheist(and therefore by association atheists are evil) we have an argument that he is a Christian(and therefore by association they are evil).
I have heard Matt Dillahunty use this example twice(once in his debate with Father Jacobse and once on the ACA podcast) and now I hear it repeated by Jacquelyn Glenn(1).
I think they usually have good arguments, but I would like people to stop using this argument because it speaks of a lack of knowledge of history of Germany, Hitler and the Second world war and therefore illustrates a lack of insight. And here is the reason why.
“Gott mit uns’ was a slogan displayed on the buckle of the privates and soldiers of the regular German army( and not on that of the SS for instance, who used: Meine Ehre heisst treue: my honor is loyalty). The slogan was used by the Germans under the Empire(1870-1918), during the Weimar Republic(1918-1934) and even by Prussia before the German unification. In other words, it wasn’t implemented as part of a conscious decision by Hitler but part of a tradition of the German and Prussian army(2)
Now you might say, by not removing it, he supported it, but this speaks of a lack of knowledge of German history. For one when Hitler went on his program of rearmament in 1933 he needed the German army to make it happen. In addition Hitler came to power through a series of power deals, most specifically with the conservatives which were well linked with the German army, industry and with the churches. In addition, Hitler did not attain full dictatorial powers until after after the burning of the Reichstag, the death of von Hindenburg, the president of Germany and one of the leading exponents of the Germany army, and the elimination of the SA. And those who are informed about the German army, know Hitler did not acquire full nominal control of the German army until the removal of von Blomberg in 1938(3).
We basically have no idea what Hitler’s vision was on the buckle. You could claim he supported Christianity because of it, but you could equally state that he was against it because the SS had a different slogan. Against the latter views speaks for that the SS slogan was not introduced by Hitler, but by Himmler and the SS had nothing to do with the army, even though the waffen-ss became a rival of the army during the war.
I hope that the above will convince people to be cautious when using the argument that the belt buckles of the German soldiers say anything about Hitler’s religious convictions. It is a small point, but it makes me cringe every time when I hear people refer to it as if it is a proof in one way or another.