Thursday, February 14, 2013


From Hitler Youth to Ex-Pope: The Sordid Story of Ratzinger

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 | by

Courtesy India Wire and with permission of the author.

Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI, quit papacy today. He cited the lack of bodily and spiritual strength due to old age as the reason for resignation. It is curious that he did not appeal to Jesus for providing strength. Jesus had promised, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find (Matthew 7:7)” and “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer (Matthew 21:22). It is evident that Ratzinger did not trust Jesus enough to pray for strength. Ratzinger is not the first Christian celebrity to have doubted Jesus and effectively repudiated him. Mother Teresa too, in a confidential note, confessed her lack of faith in Jesus. Yet, such charlatans as Ratzinger or Teresa hypocritically hoodwink the gullible into believing that a prayer to Jesus would work miracles.

Ratzinger was born in 1927 in a typically fanatic Catholic family in Germany. In 1941, he joined the notorious Hitler Youth, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party. Hitler Youth’s primary objective was to indoctrinate the youth in anti-Semitism. Ratzinger then served in Hitler’s forces and only deserted it in 1945 when Hitler’s defeat was imminent. The exposé about his Nazi past proved very embarrassing for Ratzinger and the Vatican. They claimed that Ratzinger only joined the Hitler Youth because the membership was compulsory. This is a disingenuous claim because membership was only mandated in 1936 and 1939 for all boys aged between 10 and 14, and not in 1941 when the 14 year old Ratzinger joined. If Ratzinger had really been forcibly conscripted into Hitler Youth, he would rather have publicly distanced himself from his past after Hitler died than hide this fact.
Even in Ratzinger’s little town, there was a resistance movement that opposed Hitler. One might think that a person who would eventually become the pope would have at least shown as much courage and scruples as the dissidents that resisted Hitler did. However, if one knew the history of the relationship between the Nazis and the Christian churches, especially the Vatican, one would realize that aligning with Hitler came naturally to Christians. Here, I will summarize relevant points from Hector Avalos’ essay Atheism was Not the Cause of the Holocaust:
  • In 1543 CE, Martin Luther of the Protestant Reformation wrote an anti-Semitic tract called On the Jews and Their Lies in which he advocated a seven point plan for the utter destruction of Jews. This plan included burning Jewish homes, schools, and synagogues, confiscating their property, and imposing forced hard labor on their men, women, and children. Nazis later on implemented every point of the plan.
  • The Vatican was not to be outdone. In 1555 CE, Pope Paul IV established a ghetto for the segregation of Jews and consigned them to perpetual servitude. Nazis would implement this too.
  • Hitler saw his mission as a fulfillment of the will of the Christian God. He wrote in Mein Kampf, “I believe that I am acting with the will of the Almighty Creator … I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” Hitler also insisted, “Neither a personal life could be built without Christianity nor a state.” Hitler attempted to create a state-sponsored Positive Christianity.
  • Hitler drew inspiration from John 8:44, where Jesus says that the “Jews are liars fathered by the devil,” and displayed this verse in road signs.
  • In 1933, Pope Pius XI signed a Concordat with Hitler so the Vatican could make political gains knowing well that Hitler intended harm to the Jews. This paved the way for Hitler’s consolidation of power.
  • Hitler hailed Jesus as a popular anti-Semitic leader.
Hitler became popular by espousing views that Germany’s Christians had cherished for centuries. Even after he died, the church saw him as an ally. The Catholic Church ordered prayers to be said for Hitler’s soul to reside in heaven as a Son of God.  Ratzinger quite likely saw Hitler as a kindred spirit when he joined Hitler Youth. However, when he became pope decades later, he realized that a past linked to Hitler does not endear one to modern society. So, he dishonestly attempted to whitewash the fact that Hitler was Catholic or that his crimes were motivated by Christian teachings and instead blamed the Holocaust on atheists. This, and other legitimate reasons, prompted Richard Dawkins to call Ratzinger an enemy of humanity.” Dawkins makes a pretty good case:
  • Ratzinger is an enemy of children because he supported pedophilia.
  • He is an enemy of women for his advocacy to discriminate against them in jobs.
  • He is an enemy of truth for lying that condoms do not protect one from AIDS.
  • He is an enemy of the poor for turning them into womb-factories.
  • He is an enemy of science for obstructing stem cell research.
Why do such charlatans as Ratzinger or Teresa succeed? Why do such unscrupulous elements rise to positions of power within the church? One must examine the nature of Christian teachings to understand this phenomenon.

Christianity is a system of belief founded on truth claims, i.e., it claims to be the only true religion and expects its adherents to uncritically accept such claims. However, the claims it makes are absurd and false, and one can list the claims of virginal conception or the resurrection as representative samples. In his essay, Why the Resurrection is Unbelievable, Richard Carrier points out that the apostle “Paul reveals the earliest Christians were hallucinating on a regular basis, entering ecstatic trances, prophesying, relaying the communications of spirits, and speaking in tongues – so much, in fact, that outsiders thought they were lunatics (e.g. 1 Corinthians 14).” 

Carrier, relying upon the findings of modern neuropsychiatry, remarks that only functional schizotypes (i.e., individuals displaying symptoms of psychosis) would have been prone to congregating into cults like this. Christianity also took advantage of the general gullibility of the masses that expected the world to end soon and used intimidation as the means to convert them. Later on, once Constantine became the emperor in the fourth century CE and converted to Christianity for likely political reasons, Christianity acquired brute force to propagate itself.
Christianity lacks the serious philosophical or doctrinal framework that characterizes many doctrinal schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, or Hellenism. It lacks a reasonable understanding of morality. Truth is the first casualty in such systems as Christianity. Vilest elements rise through the echelons of churches so long as they play an effective role in propagating the Christian meme. The successes of a Ratzinger or a Teresa, neither of whom can be considered virtuous, is attributable to the fact that they effectively propagated the Christian meme.

Their successes come at the expense of the gullible masses that are conditioned to believe in Jesus by those that evidently lack any belief in him. However, it would be fallacious to think that Ratzinger’s abandonment of papacy would make these masses see the truth. The psychologists Petty and Cacioppo demonstrate that persuasability begins to decline at the age of eight whereas Christian indoctrination starts much earlier. This decline in persuasability works hand in hand with another psychological phenomenon called confirmation bias. Human beings have a tendency to seek evidence that confirms pre-established beliefs and to ignore evidence that negates it. Since a Christian is conditioned from early childhood, he would ignore all facts that portray Ratzinger as a charlatan, and instead look for evidence, even of the spurious variety, that would allow him to continue to see Ratzinger as divine.

Christian apologists and spin doctors can be relied upon to synthesize such spurious evidence. This stark reality is the most sordid aspect of the Ratzinger story.

Kalavai Venkat is a Silicon Valley-based writer, an atheist, and a practicing orthodox Hindu.

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