How Christianity was largely responsible for the holocaust
While Christianity wasn’t the sole catalyst for the Holocaust, there is no doubt in my mind that Christianity set the stage for the Holocaust to happen to the extent that the Holocaust couldn’t have happened without Christianity.
If you look at the history of Christianity in Europe you’ll see a long tradition of oppression, corruption, abuse of power, and close-mindedness. Christianity ruthlessly oppressed its own people financially as well as mentally. One of the harshest ways it did this was by demanding money from the poor in the form of tithes, one time donations, indulgences, fees for breaking moral laws and the occasional estate left to the church in a family member’s will.
This stole much needed income from the poor and gave it to the aristocracy of the Christian Theocracy. Not only did this hurt the poor’s chances of living well in the present, but that lost income couldn’t be saved, invested or passed on to future generations. So over the course of several generations, the consequences of lost income compounded. Add this all up, and it builds the argument that Christianity played a significant and systemic role in the oppression of poor Christians in European history by selling snake oil to the poor and ignorant.
In addition to Christianity oppressing its members financially, it also oppressed its own mentally. The church actively established state laws forbidding behavior that deviated from Church doctrine. People were put in the stocks for gossiping. People were ostracized for adultery. People were killed for witchcraft. Galileo was put under house arrest for saying the earth orbited around the sun. If you go to any medieval torture museum in Germany today, most of the instruments of misery there were used by the state to enforce (their interpretation) of Biblical morality. Medieval Germany under Christian rule was like Saudi Arabia is today under Islamic rule. Everyone was forced to walk the line, and punishment for deviation was harsh. Women and children were treated as second class citizens. Life sucked.
As much as Christianity caused life to suck for Christians it was even worse for the Jewish community. In the eyes of the Christian church they were heretics and Jesus-killers. Since they rejected the teachings of salvation they were destined for Hell fire, and they deserved it. As a result the good Christians ostracized them. Since the Jews couldn’t find acceptance within the larger community they had no choice but to rely on one another.
Over time the Jewish community became a tight-knit group with well established connections between families. This meant well-established connections between businesses. This meant businesses could grow easily and have a safety net of support if the business fell on hard times. But that was unlikely to happen anyway because the Jews had spent generations being pushed around by Christians. They knew there were hard times in the past and there’d be hard times in the future. This taught the Jews to save their money for the hard times to come (under Christian rule).
The big cherry on top of the cake is that Christianity practically handed the banking industry to the Jewish community in Medieval Europe. The idea was that the Bible clearly forbid usury (aka charging interest on a loan). Since Christians couldn’t charge interest they had no incentive to open banks. People still need loans though. So the Jews stepped in and filled the need (even though, technically, they weren’t supposed to charge interest either, but hey, nobody follows all the rules in the Bible). Once the Jews had their hand in the financial sector then money beget money and the income gap between Jews and Christians widened (with the Jews on top).
Your average Christians living in Germany saw that they were the “have-nots” and the Jews were the “haves,” but they didn’t understand why. They just thought Jews were Jesus-killing, heretic, big-nose, stingy thieves…because that’s how the church indoctrinated Christians to see the Jews. While Hitler took advantage of German Christians’ ignorance, he didn’t create it. Anti-Jew riots occurred in Germany well before World War II because Christianity had already established a well defined environment for distrust, resentment and hate.
After World War I, life in Germany was even more destitute for poor Christians than ever. Of course, the church didn’t open it coffers and give back all the money it had swindled out of the poor for generations, and of course, the church wasn’t going to admit its role in the subjugation of the poor. So the poor were left to find a someone else to blame for their problems.
That’s when Hitler stepped in and said, “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” Hitler merely played on the prejudices created by Christianity to blame the problems (that were largely created by Christianity) on the Jews, who were living comfortable lives (which happened out of response to Christian oppression). Hitler merely took advantage of the opportunity to use a people oppressed by Christianity as a scapegoat for the problems largely created (or at least neglected) by Christianity by playing on the xenophobia inherent in Christianity. Thus, Christianity played a central and vital role in setting the stage for the Holocaust.
Originally published at thewisesloth.com on May 21, 2010.