Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust is a book well worth reading. I’ve read it and I think highly of the book.
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I don’ t have time to write a review right now, but here’s the PW writeup:

Goldhagen’s gripping and shocking landmark study transforms our understanding of the Holocaust. Refuting the widespread notion that those who carried out the genocide of Jews were primarily SS men or Nazi party members, he demonstrates that the perpetrators?those who staffed and oversaw the concentration camps, slave labor camps, genocidal army units, police battalions, ghettos, death marches?were, for the most part, ordinary German men and women: merchants, civil servants, academics, farmers, students, managers, skilled and unskilled workers. Rejecting the conventional view that the killers were slavishly carrying out orders under coercion, Goldhagen, assistant professor of government at Harvard, uses hitherto untapped primary sources, including the testimonies of the perpetrators themselves, to show that they killed Jews willingly, approvingly, even zealously. Hitler’s genocidal program of a “Final Solution” found ready accomplices in these ordinary Germans who, as Goldhagen persuasively argues, had absorbed a virulent, “eliminationist” anti-Semitism, prevalent as far back as the 18th century, which demonized the Jews and called for their expulsion or physical annihilation. Furthermore, his research reveals that a large proportion of the killers were told by their commanders that they could disobey orders to kill, without fear of retribution?yet they slaughtered Jews anyway. By his careful estimate, hundreds of thousands of Germans were directly involved in the mass murder, and millions more knew of the ongoing genocide. Among the 30 photographs are snapshots taken by the murderers of themselves and their victims.

Comments

  1. #1 Arnd
    September 17, 2010

    I am a german and for me this sounds like it could have been that way. The nazi regime was very good at propaganda. It should be a warning for the civilized world that even a well educated first world country can be victim to a radical ideology. The time after world war I was of course a very hard time in germany and people are more likely to follow false prophets in such times.

  2. #2 William O. Romine Jr.
    September 17, 2010

    I wish you would cease calling these people Christians. Like
    the creationists, Hitler’s willing followers were people who
    perverted everything that Christianity stands for.

  3. #3 6EQUJ5
    September 17, 2010

    I’m three-quarters German. I had relatives here in the US who went to German school, read German newspapers, sang German patriotic songs, and joined the Bund, remaining loyal to Germany even after the declaration of war. All those men went into the Army, serving in the Pacific Theater.

    After the collapse of the Third Reich, many of them were still proud of Germany’s accomplishments during the war. It seems to be part of a cultural mindset that can be hard to fathom.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    September 17, 2010

    William, sorry, just being real. The anti-semitism of Europe was largely a Christian phenomenon, and it was going for a long time before the Nazi’s, who were nominally Christian and often more than nominally Christian, put a fine edge on it while the German Church sat by and watched or even participated. For me to ignore that would be dishonest. For you to ignore it would also be dishonest. As an Atheist, I can’t really find a way to be dishonest like that. As a Christian, perhaps you don’t find it so difficult. Just sayin’

  5. #5 daedalus2u
    September 17, 2010

    It was the centuries of Blood Libel against the Jews preached by Christians that set the stage for the Holocaust. Antisemitism was one of the few things that Protestant and Catholic Churches agreed 100% on.

  6. #6 William O. Romine Jr.
    September 17, 2010

    I am not a Christian. I am a Unitarian Universalist who believes that no one religion alone has the sole means of representing truth.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    September 17, 2010

    William… whatever. The point is that the vast majority of Christians that ever existed over the last five centuries were anti- Semitic creationists. You can’t just show up with your small and admirable group of semim-skeptical humanitarian types, call yourself Christian, and make the rest of them go away.

  8. #8 mousedude
    September 17, 2010

    Well, the idea that mass murder is unique to Christians, or any other religious group, or religious people in general (as opposed to Atheists and other skeptics) is absurd.

    Stalin’s Gulags and purges were run by (nominally) atheist communists, who were more than happy to allow millions of their prisoners to die. Maoist China had similarly enthusiastic extermination programs carried out largely by rank and file communist party members. These were not driven by religious extremism, but by anti-religious and anti capitalist extremism. So don’t act as if Atheism is always peaceful. Any ideology carried to an extreme can become deadly.

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    September 17, 2010

    Well, the idea that mass murder is unique to Christians, or any other religious group, or religious people in general (as opposed to Atheists and other skeptics) is absurd.

    Yes, that would be absurd, It hasn’t been proposed by anyone here, but if it was, it would be absurd.

    Stalin’s Gulags and purges were run by (nominally) atheist communists, who were more than happy to allow millions of their prisoners to die. Maoist China… bla bla bla

    You fucking shit. We are talking about the extermination of six million people in gas chambers, and you want to minimize that by bringing up utterly unrelated issues. Do you have any idea how offensive you are being?

  10. #10 mousedude
    September 17, 2010

    Really, you weren’t implying that the religious are especially prone to murderous extremism when you inserted the word (Christian) in the title of this post?
    Really?

    For the record I didn’t actually dispute the idea that Christianity was a motivating factor in the Holocaust, or that Christians at all levels were a part of it. I was trying to broaden the scope of the discussion to include forms of extremism other than religious extremism.

    But let me see if I have this correct: If a mass murder or genocide is less severe than the Holocaust (over 700,000 were killed in stalins “Great Purge”, one of several purges. I mean it’s not six million, but still…pretty unpleasant for the victims nevertheless), and didn’t involve industrial methods of killing (say hypothermia in Siberia rather than gas chambers), or wasn’t racially or ethnically motivated (dissidents aren’t a race), then its “offensive” to discuss or try to make any comparison with the Holocaust.
    Why exactly is that?

  11. #11 Stephanie Z
    September 17, 2010

    Uh, mousedude, are you completely unaware of Benny the Rat’s recent claim of particular virtue accruging to Christians during the Holocaust, or are you just pretending it’s not relevant as context for the information Greg’s presenting here?

  12. #12 mousedude
    September 17, 2010

    No Stephanie, I actually wasn’t aware of that (till now). But Thanks for the heads up. So now I at least know what you’re talking about.

    you are referring to this, right?
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/16/pope-benedict-xvi-atheist-extremism

    I should have posted my comment in the post titled “The German Nazis were Christian and the German Christians were Nazis” in which GL concludes “There were no Atheists involved in any of this. None.”
    Which Is true…for this particular genocide/mass murder. But but not for all of them.

    Geez! I try and spark a little self reflection about the potential for violence among atheists and everyone flips out like I’m some kind of holocaust denier or something!

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    September 17, 2010

    Really, you weren’t implying that the religious are especially prone to murderous extremism when you inserted the word (Christian) in the title of this post?
    Really?

    No. Really.

    For the record I didn’t actually dispute the idea that Christianity was a motivating factor in the Holocaust, or that Christians at all levels were a part of it.

    No, you didn’t. For the record, we are busy talking about the HOlocaust and your arm waving about Stalin is a distraction that looks like an intentional effort to put aside our concerns for the Holocaust/Pope comments. Perhaps you aren’t TRYING to do that but you DID that.

    Why exactly is that?

    Only you are making the comparisons here, and I’m telling you that the comparisons are inappropriate at this time and place.

    It’s like we were talking about some middle school girl who got raped on her way home and you chime in to complain about your favorite prostitutes. (Rough analogy, but it works)

    “There were no Atheists involved in any of this. None.”
    Which Is true…for this particular genocide/mass murder. But…

    You’re doing it again. If I say “3 + 4 = 7″ are you going to say “Yeah, but you’re a poopieface because 3 – 4 is not 7, it’s -1″???

  14. #14 Stephanie Z
    September 17, 2010

    No, mousedude, nobody thinks you’re a Holocaust denier. There’s a distinct possibility that you’re in a bit of denial about the extent to which the Holocaust came out of specific traditions nurtured by the church (and churches after the Reformation), however. Those don’t have a parallel in atheism, and they’re fairly important to understand if we don’t want history repeating.

  15. #15 mousedude
    September 17, 2010

    “It’s like we were talking about some middle school girl who got raped on her way home and you chime in to complain about your favorite prostitutes.”

    Or maybe its like we’re talking about a girl who got raped on her way home and you feel the need to gloat that the rapist was Christian, and that no atheists were involved in this rape. It implies that atheists are somehow above such things. (Perhaps you aren’t TRYING to do that but you DID that) If I were to point out examples of similar crimes committed by atheists, how am I minimizing the significance of the original crime?

    look, I don’t dispute your original post, or the idea that most (or all) Nazis were Christians, or that most German Christians (including “Benny the Rat”) were Nazis or sympathizers, or that the “Benny” is a despicable revisionist. I’m just trying to get you to admit the possibility that atheists can be a liiiiitle self righteous about our own moral virtue when it comes to history.

    I hope that we, as skeptics, can at least engage in that level of introspection without name calling.

  16. #16 Greg Laden
    September 17, 2010

    “It implies that atheists are somehow above such things. (Perhaps you aren’t TRYING to do that but you DID”

    No, I wasn’t and I didn’t.

    “‘m just trying to get you to admit the possibility that atheists can be a liiiiitle self righteous about our own moral virtue when it comes to history.

    I hope that we, as skeptics, can at least engage in that level of introspection without name calling.”

    Oh, you’re a skeptic now?

    Look, you misunderstood my point. I would hope that you can just admit that and we can move on with our Pope bashing. This conversation about distractions is still a distraction.

    Have you read the book that is subject of the post? You should, if you haven’t. Very interesting.

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    September 17, 2010

    Mouse, I feel I should point this out:

    When one speaks of the holocaust, this often leads to holocaust deniers bringing up Stalin. I assumed incorrectly that this is what you were doing. Sorry about that.

  18. #18 stripey_cat
    September 17, 2010

    Something I’ve never seen mentioned in the context of communist atheism is the reason commies were down on religion in the first place: not particularly because of any commitment to atheism per se (so far as I’m aware – I’m about two millenia out of my comfort zone for political thought here!), but because of the potential for religion to be used as a tool of social repression.

  19. #19 Pierce R. Butler
    September 17, 2010

    stripey_cat @ # 18: … I’m about two millenia out of my comfort zone for political thought here…

    What are the big topics of 4010?

  20. #20 hoary puccoon
    September 18, 2010

    mousedude @15:
    “I don’t dispute your original post, or the idea that most (or all) Nazis were Christians, or that most German Christians (including “Benny the Rat”) were Nazis or sympathizers, or that the “Benny” is a despicable revisionist. I’m just trying to get you to admit the possibility that atheists can be a liiiiitle self righteous about our own moral virtue when it comes to history.”

    Oh, well, then, you’re so very correct. The Christian Nazis murdered millions of innocent people and Ratzinger is using Hitler’s own Big Lie technique to scapegoat yet another group of innocent non-Christians for the crime. But, gee, the atheists are being “a liiiiitle self righteous.” Well, gosh, I guess that’s just as evil as MURDERING SIX MILLION PEOPLE IN COLD BLOOD AND THEN SCAPEGOATING INNOCENT PEOPLE FOR THE CRIME.

    Try to understand this, Mousedude. People are not supposed to be murdered for being “a liiiiitle self righteous.” People are not supposed to be scapegoated for crimes they didn’t commit because they’re “a liiiiitle self righteous.” Ratzinger is scapegoating innocent people on the basis of their views on religion. He is, in the process, denying the responsibility of his own organization. And you don’t think that’s “a liiiiitle self righteous?”

    Ratzinger has done something really, really immoral. Now. This very week. People of every religious view should protest that, and protest it now. When some atheist apologist with the Pope’s power is scapegoating Christians for Stalin’s crimes, I’ll stand by you to protest the atheist revisionism. But not this week. Not when Ratzinger’s lies are making the daily papers. Not now.

  21. #21 Anonymous
    September 18, 2010

    I’m an atheist who is way uncomfortable with the confrontational way you’re making this point, and I was about to leave a comment saying that maybe some people don’t think of the Nazis as Christians because of the way FDR framed the conflict – there are quite a few speeches/chats etc. where he talks about the war as “religion versus godlessness” and describes the Nazis as wanting to spread “pagan religion all over the world- a plan by which the Holy Bible and the Cross of Mercy would be displaced by Mein Kampf and the swastika.” Admittedly, the Pope should know better, but Roosevelt should have known better, too.

    But I just read the comments, and… dude. Did you just compare the victims of Stalin and Mao to prostitutes? In the course of accusing someone else of having no perspective? Want to rethink how well that rough analogy works, or at least explain it to me so that I can see where you’re coming from with that?

  22. #22 Chris Crawford
    September 18, 2010

    Hitler’s Willing Executions has the most horrific photograph I have ever seen: a German soldier using a rifle to murder a woman holding a baby. He’s just a few feet away from her; they’re both standing up and she’s looking away.

    However, Goldhagen’s book was broadly attacked for poor scholarship. There was a followup book, which I can’t locate in my library, that pretty much tore Goldhagen’s book to shreds. The fact is that lots and lots of Germans were disgusted by the murders of Jews. Yes, anti-Semitism was rife in Germany, but a sense of basic decency was also widespread, and many Germans thought that the Nazis were sending the Jews to new colonies in Russia. The very fact that Hitler and the Nazis felt the need to hide the Holocaust from the German people, and the shock that many Germans felt upon learning the truth, strongly suggests that the German people were not united in support of the extermination of the Jews.

  23. #23 daedalus2u
    September 18, 2010

    hoary puccoon, call it what it is, a Blood Libel. Blood Libel against atheists for genocide they never committed is no different than Blood Libel against the Jews for the ritual sacrifice of Christians to use their blood in religious rituals that no Jew ever did.

    The Catholic Church spent centuries preaching the Blood Libel against the Jews to foster Antisemitism and foster hatred against the Jews. Just a few months ago the Catholic Church compared Antisemitism and the Blood Libel against the Jews to the bad press the Catholic Church has been getting over the media publication of the fact that many Catholic Priests raped children and then the abuse was covered up and the perpetrators allowed to rape more and more children. Rather ironic isn’t it?

    That is what the Pope is doing now, making up lies against atheists to foster hatred against atheists. Isn’t it rather transparent what he is doing? It is just like the tea baggers putting a Hitler mustache on Obama. Doubly ironic because the Pope was actually there, and actually knew Nazis.

    Chris, maybe the German people were not united in supporting the extermination of the Jews. Certainly the Catholic Church knew it was going on. Certainly at least some of those Catholic Germans told their confessor what they were doing. Certainly the higher ups in the Catholic Church knew.

    I would expect that there are a lot more records of Christians being involved in the Holocaust than there are records of atheists. Why does the Pope mention atheists and not Christians? A pretty transparent smoke screen if you ask me.

  24. #24 Scotlyn
    September 19, 2010

    Hitler’s genocidal program of a “Final Solution” found ready accomplices in these ordinary Germans who, as Goldhagen persuasively argues, had absorbed a virulent, “eliminationist” anti-Semitism, prevalent as far back as the 18th century, which demonized the Jews and called for their expulsion or physical annihilation.

    Surely this is the key to the “moral” of the story – its universal take home message. The genocide carried out in the Holocaust originated in a process of demonisation of a group of human beings. And that is why demonisation of any group of human beings is dangerous – and sometimes the start of a slippery slope. I agree with the point that the Pope is “demonising” atheists and trying to make of us a scapegoat for the world – which also arises from making comparisons, by the way.

    Comparisons may be distracting, but they may also be a useful learning tool and lead to a better understanding of the nature of the beast. Hannah Arendt, in her many writings on the nature of totalitarianism was not in the least afraid to make comparisons between Hitler’s Nazi Germany (which she had personally experienced), Stalin’s Communist Soviet Union, and Mao’s Maoist China.

  25. #25 hoary puccoon
    September 19, 2010

    Anonymous @21: “I just read the comments, and… dude. Did you just compare the victims of Stalin and Mao to prostitutes?”

    I wasn’t crazy about that simile either. But I think I understand where Greg’s coming from. Mousedude seems to be throwing a completely unrelated issue into the discussion just to gum up the works. The message I got from his comments was that we shouldn’t be criticizing the Pope for blaming atheists for crimes committed by Christians. Because, after all, atheists have done SOME bad things.

    Part of the reason Hitler got so far is that people, including in the US, wouldn’t speak out, didn’t care. I know this for a fact. My (Christian) grandparents went to Germany in 1938 to try to help Jews get out of the country. My grandfather testified before a US Senate committee, telling them how bad it was, advising the senators to give European Jews refugee status so they could get into America without having a lot of immigration barriers. He got nowhere. And Hitler got the message that Americans wouldn’t care if he killed off every Jew on the planet, and, in fact, might come in on Germany’s side.

    Now Ratzinger is using one of the same tactics Hitler did. Of course, he’s not advocating killing off all atheists, or even forcing them to go to church. But shrugging it off and letting it slide because, after all, nobody’s perfect, is just asking for escalation of the demonization tactic. The time to protest is now, when it’s not too bad.

  26. #26 Anonymous (from 21)
    September 19, 2010

    Hoary, first of all, my true respect for and gratitude to your grandparents – America’s refusal of many Jewish refugees is deeply shameful, and I was shocked when I first read about it. You should be proud your family spoke up.

    But honestly, the more carefully I look at it, the less the Pope’s words are sounding like “Blood Libel” on atheists. This is the offending quote, right? “Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society.”

    I’ll be honest, I don’t have a great grasp of 20th century history – but I’ve been poking around Wikipedia, and that doesn’t seem like a totally off-base reading of an aspect of WWII; things like “Positive Christianity” (with its elimination of the Old Testament and deemphasizing of the miraculous) and the German Faith Movement (which looks like weird anti-Christian, pro-Hitler paganism) suggest that FDR’s “religion versus godlessness” statements and Churchill’s “Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization” had at least some small basis in fact. Which necessarily means that the Pope’s recent comments do, too.

    I’ve only just read the wiki articles on these things, so I may have an utterly warped view of them, to be fair. And I agree that you can make the point that most Nazis were Christian, not atheist, without bringing up Stalinist purges. But while the Pope’s comments (“the Nazis were dedicated to atheism!”) seem like a teaspoon of vintage craziness to me,

    Inserted by GTL:

    The following quote “the folks in the Gulags…” is attributed by ‘anonymous’ to the author of this blog incorrectly. The commenter has utterly, and I strongly suspect, willfully (for no other reason than lack of anything of interest to say on his own) manufactured an opinion and claims it to be held by the blog owner. That happens all the time and is offensive and annoying. But in this case, Anonymous has placed a specific offensive and absurd statement that was never said by anyone in quotes and attributed it to the blog owner. Such attribution to any commenter or reader on this site, not just the author, is highly offensive and requires a full and clear retraction. Until such time “anonymous” is banned from further commenting on this blog. The decision by me to ban “anonymous” is utterly arbitrary as all such decisions made by me are, but it is clearly justified, and the apology needs to be of the highest quality, including groveling. You may resume reading the comment.

    End of insertion

    Greg’s comments (“the folks in the Gulags were asking for it!”) sound like a brand-new boatload of batshit insane. As I said, though, I’d consider myself comparatively pretty ignorant of 20th cent. history, so I’m really interested in why Greg felt like that was a reasonable, if rough, analogy to make – I think I’d probably learn something by hearing his explanation.

  27. #27 Chris Crawford
    September 19, 2010

    Anonymous, I’ve read a good deal of 20th century history, and I can assert that the Pope’s statements regarding the aims of the Nazis are unquestionably false. They sought power, not atheism. Pursuing an atheist agenda would have alienated the great majority of Germans who were devout Christians. Hitler’s speeches from the 30s have plenty of references to God, family values, good Christian Germans (as opposed to evil Jewish aliens), and so forth. Ironically enough, the closest example in modern America I can offer is Glen Beck. There truly are some scary parallels between the oratorical styles of both of these men. Hitler was a Catholic and made no bones about it. Furthermore, some Nazi propaganda referred to the “Godless Communists”, so this shtick isn’t new.

  28. #28 Anonymous (from 21 & 26)
    September 19, 2010

    Thanks for responding, Chris; I appreciate your putting some of the weirder pagan and anti-traditional-Christianity Nazi spin-offs (which it seems like are what the Pope/FDR/Churchill interpretation of Nazism are referring to?) into the context of Nazism’s much larger dependence on appealing to traditional Christianity. As I said, the Pope’s comments seem like craziness to me– it just looks like that particular craziness isn’t new and it’s not coming from nowhere. Your point that “They sought power, not atheism” seems like the perfect response to that craziness, and incidentally also the perfect response to any mention of Stalin or Mao.

    Which is why I’m so uncomfortable with the tone of Greg’s comments here. There’s no need for atheists to be super-defensive about supposed Nazi atheism or even Stalinist or Maoist varieties of atheism– we’ve got the truth on our side. Sure, I don’t want my friends and family who are religious to get the impression that as an atheist, I am down with slaughtering Jews, which seems to be the impression that many commenters on this post are fearful that the Pope’s comments will lead to. I also don’t want them to believe that as an atheist, I think it’s easy for Christians to be dishonest, that as Christians, they’re responsible for European anti-semitism and the gas chambers, or that I think, hey, the deaths during the Great Leap Forward weren’t a big deal, those guys deserved it; and Greg’s comments here could easily give them the impression that those things are typical atheist beliefs.

  29. #29 daedalus2u
    September 19, 2010

    Anon, the Jews had truth on their side too.

    No devout Jew ever used the blood of any Christian for any Jewish religious ritual. Blood is always non-kosher. Human flesh is always non-kosher. Jewish priests are forbidden to be in the same room as a corpse. Jews have never had a tradition of torture or human sacrifice, unlike the Catholic tradition of the Inquisition. The Blood Libel against the Jews was a pure fabrication. It had no basis in fact, it was pure fantasy made up to instill or justify hatred.

    So why did the Blood Libel against the Jews persist for centuries? Because self-proclaimed religious leaders who knew or should have known it was a lie kept repeating it and saying it was true.

    In the 1960’s, I was told the Blood Libel against the Jews by a Catholic boy who thought it was the truth. He didn’t think it up himself, he was told it in the Catholic school that he went to.

    If the Pope wants to pretend that he is the spiritual leader of a billion people, then he has to be held accountable when he lies and demonizes people. Of course he doesn’t want to be held accountable. Power never wants to be held accountable. That was the whole problem with priests raping children. No accountability for lies and cover ups.

    We do the Pope and Catholics no favors by allowing them to get away with lying.

  30. #30 Stephanie Z
    September 19, 2010

    And no, that wasn’t the only part of the speech about atheists. There was also, “As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society…” Plus there is the fact that both of these quotes are presented as contrasts with the actions of Christians.

  31. #31 Joshua Zelinsky
    September 19, 2010

    Anonymous @22,

    You’re uncomfortable with Greg being confrontational when it is response to the Pope claiming that atheists are responsible of the Holocaust? Can you explain that logic because I don’t follow it *at all.*

  32. #32 Joshua Zelinsky
    September 19, 2010

    daedalus2u,

    Minor nitpick, the kashrut status of human flesh is complicated. It isn’t necessarily non-kosher. That’s because humans aren’t classified as animals under halachah and the things that make an animal unkosher would not apply to a person (according to some opinions). There’s a section in the Talmud where they discuss this, and the Rabbis decide this is ridiculous so they make a Rabbinic injunction against eating human flesh. But this does have a minor practical ramification: Generally if something is unkosher according to the Torah then it can contaminate vessels. So for example, a hot knife in pork becomes unkosher and would transmit its status to other foods it touches even if the knife is rinsed off first. But, in general, things which are only unkosher due to Rabbinic injunction do not necessarily contaminate vessels. Thus, if one for example had a hot knife and was using it cut something and one cut one’s self accidentally, it may not be the case that the knife has become unkosher.

  33. #33 Anonymous (still the same one)
    September 19, 2010

    Daedalus, the story from your childhood is horrifying– it’s just unreal to me that a baseless, venomous lie from the medieval era (which, according to wiki, was actually opposed by several medieval popes!) was still floating around in the 1960’s. I can definitely see how that experience would make you less inclined to take the Pope’s words about atheism lightly.

    But it’s old Allied propaganda, not a new smear. Doing a Google Books search, I can find a reference to “Nazism and similar godless political systems” in a 1981 New Scientist article written by Donald Gould, whose charming 2002 obituary praises him as one of the prime creators of the genre science criticism. I don’t think that means we need to demand that all science writers face up to their colleague’s “blood libel” against atheists and denounce him. And maybe I’m naive, but I don’t see the Pope’s comments as likely to inspire ordinary folks to indulge in mob violence against atheists the way blood libel against Jews led to truly horrific violence against them; I think the comparison’s a pretty big stretch. I don’t think my Catholic co-workers are likely to beat me up, let alone set fire to my apartment, kill my family, or run me out of town out of fear that I will start setting up concentration camps like my “fellow atheists, the Nazis” because of the Pope’s “blood libel” against atheists.

    Still, again, it’s certainly worth pointing out that the Pope’s wrong about the Nazis being atheists. Some of the rhetoric in these comments is just way too inflammatory for my tastes. But I am still interested Greg’s explanation for the “prostitutes” thing.

    ***
    Sorry, guys I was busy typing this comment when I saw your responses.

    Stephanie, you’re right, that quote is more troubling because it’s too vague and near-meaningless to be countered with fact. I’m still not convinced it rises to the level of “blood libel”, though.

    And Joshua, of course I hold someone who’s demonstrated some rationality to a higher standard of discourse :). If Greg’s going to speak “as an atheist,” that reflects on me. Whatever nonsense the Pope spouts isn’t going to be laid at my doorstep.

  34. #34 Joshua Zelinsky
    September 19, 2010

    Anonymous, so you don’t see a distinction between making egregiously false statements and being “confrontational”?

  35. #35 Anonymous (still me, guys)
    September 19, 2010

    Joseph, yes, there’s a distinction. Lies should be countered with the truth, and I appreciate that Greg and so many others here have countered the Pope’s lies. Someone being unneccessarily confrontational in the name of a group I belong to should be countered by my saying, “Hey, I think you’re being too confrontational here, and this is why [insert reason here]. Your tone isn’t representative of everyone in this group.” Which is what I’ve tried to do.

  36. #36 Anonymous (yet again)
    September 19, 2010

    Joshua, not Joseph. I am so sorry. Never try to type to two people at the same time.

  37. #37 Greg Laden
    September 19, 2010

    Anon
    I’m an atheist who is way uncomfortable with the confrontational way you’re making this point,

    Comfort was not even close to my objective. I was very much looking for discomfort. So far so good.

    But I just read the comments, and… dude. Did you just compare the victims of Stalin and Mao to prostitutes? In the course of accusing someone else of having no perspective?

    No, dude, I did not. The usefulness of an analogy is almost always because it takes a particular form totally out of its context in order to examine it better. My statement was analogy, not a comparison. Such a comparison would be absurd. Dude.

    I think the point you are missing here is that the comparison is totally off kilter. And that is my point. Mousedude looked like he was waving the monkey as a means of distraction.

  38. #38 Joshua Zelinsky
    September 19, 2010

    Ok. I criticized Greg for his post that was primarily just the picture, but your remarks comes across as simple tone trolling. If stating outright facts is too confrontational to get people to listen then those people are so far gone you might as well give up on them.

  39. #39 Greg Laden
    September 19, 2010

    Anon:

    Greg’s comments (“the folks in the Gulags were asking for it!”) sound like a brand-new boatload of batshit insane.

    Anon, you need to be more careful. You just stated that I explicitly made the comment, and you even put it in quotes, that the folks in the gulags were asking for it. I never said that, never said anything like that, never implied anything like that, never thought any thing like that.

    You are now banned from commenting on this blog until I get a nice, clear, uncompromising and unequivocal apology from you. You don’t NEED to apologize, but you will if you want to comment further on this blog. There will be no discussion or arguments here. You’re gone, and if you have a shred of moral sense you’ll retract your statement and apologize.

    Furthermore, if you do comment on this blog again, it won’t be as anonymous. You’ve ruined that privilege for yourself.

  40. #40 Anonymous (yep)
    September 19, 2010

    Greg, thanks for clearing up that you didn’t intend to compare the mass-murdered to prostitutes. That’s pretty much what I hoped to hear. The post itself isn’t too confrontational for my taste, it’s a couple of the comments Greg has left.

    “As an Atheist, I can’t really find a way to be dishonest like that. As a Christian, perhaps you don’t find it so difficult. Just sayin'” isn’t a statement of fact, it’s an insinuation that Christians in general are hunky-dory with lying, and yes, I genuinely think that insinuation is too confrontational for me to be comfortable. If making other atheists uncomfortable was Greg’s aim, yes, he succeeded there, but I hope it’s not tone-trolling for me to stand up and say that that’s not the way I see things. I’m not a regular commenter, so I can see how my sudden appearance and lack of a full name (I know full disclosure would give me more credibility, sorry, I’m a little shy) makes me look like I’m just out to stir up controversy. If it helps, I do promise that I’m sincere.

    I don’t want to parse the distinction between analogies and comparisons, but as long as we’re agreed that “Such a comparison would be absurd,” you’re making sense to me.

    And I think we can all agree that your garden variety modern Christian shouldn’t have to shoulder the weight of responsibility for centuries of European anti-semitism and its horrific apex in Germany. Right? I don’t think my evangelical Mom’s responsible for Hitler. Let’s just concentrate on gently getting her to see the beautiful explanatory power of the theory of evolution.

  41. #41 Charlotte
    September 19, 2010

    Anonymous, you, with your Gulags, are an idiot. Laden was making the statement that Mousedude was making a distracting and incorrect, inappropriate comparison. You have confused and conflated who is saying what and made yourself look rather the fool in doing so.

  42. #42 Greg Laden
    September 19, 2010

    Anon, no, we can not agree on that at all. Your garden variety Christian needs to do more to shoulder the responsibility of Christianity and what it has been involved with. My attempts to link Germany, Christians, Nazi’s and the Holocaust in this discussion have been intentional and for that specific purpose. Try talking to or reading from Germans of various ages who lived through WW II in Germany or who came of age later. Germany as a nation an German as a culture and most Germans (or at least many) have done a remarkable job balancing the simple fact that they or their immediate ancestors did really really bad shit and that this is something rejected and abhorred today. I’m very impressed by that. I am utterly unimpressed by Christians saying “Oh, those really weren’t Christians” when any shit hits the fan, from the Holocaust to the fact that every single Belgian church seems to have child abusing priests (if reports are accurate) to the links between Christianity and terrorism. Unimpressed. Unimpressed, and not interested in that kind of appeasement.

    At the same time, I have no problem with you complaining about my tone. You are tone trolling, but the fact is that I am being quite intentionally confrontational here, for a reason, I’m comfortable with it, it is good that I’m doing it (in my opinoni) and I fully recognize that not everyone is going to like it. You’ll get over it a lot more easily than those who died or lost loved ones in the Holocaust that the current pope is using for his own personal reasons.

    But, you not liking my tone has little to do with me setting my tone. And, I’m still waiting for that apology.

  43. #43 Greg Laden
    September 20, 2010

    Anonymous has contacted me privately with a very nice and thoughtful, and appropriately groveling but not too groveling (one must get that just right!) email, and we totally understand each other.

    I just want to say the following to Anon, but here in the comment thread so that everyone sees, because I think it is generally relevant.

    The full motivation for my posting on this topic is much closer to what concerned Anon to begin with, and I have not blogged about it, but intend to: Grandma Sadie and the others. Sadie, a wonderful person whom I love dearly, who is nearly a century old but looks, seriously, not one day over 70, is a Catholic who is in only mild denial that some of her relatives (including certain inlaws) are atheists. She forgives them and prays for them but is not deeply disturbed and does not bother them about it, and her attitude is the same as many people in my life who happen to be Catholic specifically or Christian or Jewish more broadly. And that’s fine, it’s working.

    Then, the Pope comes along and tell his followers that my people carried out the Holocaust, when really, it was much more his people, three times over! (As a Catholic/Christian, as a German, as as an actual citizen of the Third Reich as opposed to someone who lived and died earlier or later in time or elsewhere in space). We don’t link the Pope the the holocaust becasue he was a (mandatory) HJ member, but he is wrong to say, rather than “My people are ashamed and changed” that “Those people did it, yeah, it was them!”

    Anon’s reaction to my reaction was in part becasue of Anon’s relationship to other of various belief systems. But my strong reaction is also in the context of people in my life of various belief systems. So two people with different, valid (though I think mine is more valid, of course) reactions to the same event affecting us in very similar contexts…

    I can also be more clear about the analogy. The analogy was meant to re-frame Mousguy’s comment as utterly inappropriate, as a way of distracting from the discussion at hand by bringing in a vaguely parallel case and making it into a big scary thing in order to utterly derail the conversation. A similar analogy might be: You call 911 to tell them you got mugged and your wallet was taken, and the dispatcher tells you that there are sevral convenient store hold ups every month, so what are you talking about? and hangs up. The whole thing is a distraction, and even the discussion of the distraction is a distraction.

    Regarding tone, that is a long term conversation that has been going on for some time. Personally, I think that the Pope accusing atheists of the holocaust requires all sorts of reactions, and loud indignation MUST be among them. When people … interested parties, students, etc. a few years form now, look up the Holocaust or other related topics on the Internet, they are going to find the Pope saying that it was conducted by Atheists. I feel very strongly that the Pope’s statement should on it’s own be on the 30th page of Google search results, except where it is embedded in conversations like this one, which clearly state that he is a liar.

    Anon: Thanks for the note, I hope you keep commenting on this blog. I didn’t retain for the blog any of your note because I did not want to decide what you wanted seen vs. not, so you may wish to add a comment.

    GTL

  44. #44 Anonymous (but having privately disclosed my name)
    September 20, 2010

    I think you pretty much covered it, dude :). Thanks for sharing the personal reasons behind your perspective on tone, and for getting why my perspective’s a little different.

  45. #45 Tsu Dho Nimh
    September 20, 2010

    @18 – “the reason commies were down on religion in the first place (snipped) because of the potential for religion to be used as a tool of social repression.

    Organized state religion in Russia was one of the main props of the Tsar and the whole social order. Because of the government/church entanglement, getting rid of the government meant they had to get rid of the church too.

    Same in China with Confucianism and Taoism, where they slid Mao in the top spot with a bit of rewriting to change family-oriented to party-oriented.

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