The Nazis also drew on philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, adapting his atheist philosophy to their crude purposes. Nietzsche’s vision of the abermensch and his elevation of a new ethic “beyond good and evil” were avidly embraced by Nazi propagandists. Nietzsche’s “will to power” almost became a Nazi recruitment slogan. I am not for a moment suggesting that Darwin or Nietzsche would have approved of Hitler’s ideas. But Hitler and his henchmen approved of Darwin’s and Nietzsche’s ideas. Sam Harris simply ignores the evidence of the Nazis’ sympathies for Darwin, Nietzsche, and atheism. So what sense can we make of his claim that the leading Nazis were “knowingly or unknow- ingly” agents of religion? Clearly, it is nonsense.
Some people have expressed bafflement that atheist regimes have produced bloodbaths that no other force in history has matched. Dawkins himself raises the question of how an absence of belief can possibly cause social harm. Little does Dawkins realize that his own deepest beliefs provide a clue to the “final solution.” The atheist killers regarded their cause as so grand and noble that nothing should be allowed to stand in its way. They viewed themselves as acting on behalf of inexorable and incontrovertible forces like science, reason, and progress.
Science? Yes, the Nazis saw themselves promoting the survival of the fittest, in precisely the way evolution has always done. Reason? The Communists saw their project as an institutionalization of the age of reason. Marx was in the Enlightenment tradition of the French Jacobins, who enthroned a goddess of reason in the Cathedral of Notre Dame and then unleashed the Reign of Terror, in which “unreasonable” people— noblemen, priests, and other representatives of the old order—were sent to the guillotine. And progress? As the Communists and the Nazis always stressed, history was on their side, and therefore their opponents were religious or bourgeois reactionaries who should beeliminated because they were retarding the forward march of society This secular apotheosis of science, reason, and progress—a doctrine that is very much with us today— is precisely what licensed men to do things to other people in a manner and on a scale that were previously unthinkable.