Does Atheism Lead To Anti-Semitism?

Those who hold a penchant for, or at least interest in, the story comprising the rise and fall of Christianity will always have a few favourite characters that they identify as the personification of a True Christian. The problem exists, however, that it is often impossible to look at these characters objectively, because they were often an integral part of the formation of the modern day incarnation of the religion they identify with.

These characters were often people who triumphed over great adversity, remaining strong (at least reputedly) in their faith as they battled various evils. They are then, often, championed by priests and pastors as a hero – “if he/she can go through such tremendous adversity and remain true to their faith and their god, then why would we lose our faith when our issues are trivial in comparison?”

The Protestant reformation owes its existence to such a character. As a priest, Martin Luther was a man willing to stand up against what he saw as the evils of the Catholic Church, at great personal cost.

Disgusted by the sale of indulgences (pre-paid absolution for committing specific sins which the Catholic Church sold to fund extensions to the Vatican), he nailed 95 theses to the front door of his Catholic Church in protest. His belief, and what he preached, was that salvation was not earned through good deeds, but through faith and belief in Jesus Christ.

He also translated the bible into common language, allowing the common person to have access to the same literature as the revered priestly class. For his beliefs and actions, which ultimately led to the reformation and Protestantism, he was ex-communicated, his writings were banned and he was condemned as an outlaw. This made it a crime for anyone in Germany to give Luther food or shelter and permitted his murder without legal consequence.

And yet, throughout the turmult, he remained faithful. A model Christian, indeed.

Martin Luther, however, whether reflecting the sentiment at the time (and past, and future, and indeed present-day) or simply by nature of his devotion to scripture, was also hideously anti-Simetic. More specifically, he asumed that the Jews would convert to his new form of Christianity and was quite irreverant towards them for a time. When, however, they did not convert, he turned rather violently against them.

A man who is revered for both his devotion and the integral part he played in today’s version of Christianity held, arguably, the most violent and hateful views towards Jews.

I speak of his publication entitled, The Jews and Their Lies (c.1543). In the paper he, in splendidly morally repugnant detail, why the Jews should be exterminated and how to go about such a task:

First, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss in sulphur and pitch; it would be good if someone could also throw in some hellfire. Second, that all their books their prayer books, their Talmudic writings, also the entire Bible, be taken from them, not leaving them one leaf, and that these be preserved for those who may be converted.

Third, that they are forbidden on pain of death to praise God, to give thanks, to pray, and to teach publicly among us and in our country. (For such praise should only be given to Jesus). Fourth, that they be forbidden to utter the name of God within our hearing. We must drive them out like mad dogs, so that we do not become partakers of their abominable blasphemy and all their other vices and thus merit God’s wrath and be damned with them.

While this type of anti-Semitism was not uncommon during the time, one can see obvious parallels between the writings of the father of present-day Christianity and other despots from recent history, namely one Adolf Hitler.

Thus, it is important to remember, to ensure that we never forget, that behind the reputedly peaceful and loving ideology of Christianity, lays a foundation of blood, torture, violence and supremacy.

Resources:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/Luther_on_Jews.html

http://www.awitness.org/books/luther/luther_jews/17_treat_jews_reprise.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_Reformation