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(RNS) He was a minister to monsters.

That’s what Tim Townsend writes of Henry Gerecke, the unassuming Lutheran pastor from Missouri who shepherded six of the most notorious Nazis to the gallows in “Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis.”

The book is one of a string of new titles that dust off a remote corner of World War II history — the role religion played both in and beyond the conflict.

“That’s why I wanted to write this book,” Townsend said from Washington, D.C. where he is a senior writer and editor for The Pew Research Center.

“A large part was trying to figure out why did the Allies provide spiritual comfort for men who were on trial for what was ultimately called the Holocaust,” he said. “They clearly did not have anyone’s spiritual welfare in mind when they were murdering Jews, so why did we feel it was necessary and humane to provide them with chaplains to see to their spiritual comfort?”

Townsend combed the National Archives for some piece of paper, some order that explained more deeply why the Allies felt those charged with the most horrendous crimes of the century needed — even deserved — a chaplain of their own, beyond the fact that the Geneva Conventions required it.

Beyond the rules of international law, American culture has long accepted the idea chaplains ministering to criminals from the common thief to the death row murderer.

Townsend finds his answer in Gerecke, a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor charged with caring for men such as Hermann Goering, Albert Speer and Wilhelm Keitel — men responsible for the mass-extermination of six million European Jews. How, he asks, did he understand his role in leading the condemned Nazis to their deaths?

Tim Townsend's 400-page "Mission at Nuremberg" details an American Army chaplain's mission to save the souls of Nazis imprisoned following the end of World War II.

Tim Townsend’s 400-page “Mission at Nuremberg” details an American Army chaplain’s mission to save the souls of Nazis imprisoned following the end of World War II. RNS photo courtesy Heidi Richter, HarperCollins


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

 

Gerecke volunteered in 1943, when the Army was desperate for chaplains. His unit was sent from England to Germany after the Germans surrendered in 1945.

There, he visited Dachau, where hundreds of thousands of Jews were gassed and cremated in ovens.

As the Nuremberg Trials began, higher-ups heard there was a German-speaking Army chaplain and asked Gerecke to take on the role of ministering to 21 high-ranking Nazis on trial for their lives.

In saying yes, Gerecke played one of the most puzzling and under-examined roles in what Townsend calls “the judicial improvisation we now call the Nuremberg trials.”

“Gerecke was the perfect choice,” Townsend said. “He was able to go in with his mind and his eyes wide open. He had seen Dachau, he knew what these people were responsible for but he was able to move past that in terms of his ability to relate to them.”

Townsend thinks Gerecke looked beyond the terrible men imprisoned in front of him to the children they had once been. One of the most lovely — and chilling — pieces in the book comes when Gerecke accompanies Keitel up the 13 steps of the gallows and prays aloud with him a German prayer both were taught by their mothers.

“He knew that he needed to save the souls of as many of these men as he could before they were executed,” Townsend said. “I think for him he thought it was a great gift he had been given.”

And not one he took lightly. Gerecke did not give communion to any of the Nazis  unless he believed they were truly penitent and made a profession of faith in Jesus. Only four of the 11 sentenced to hang met Gerecke’s standard.

One who did not was Goering, who many historians credit with helping to create “the Final Solution,” the genocide of the Jews. When he and Gerecke discussed the divinity of Jesus, Goering disparaged the idea.

“This Jesus you always speak of,” he said to Gerecke, “to me he is just another smart Jew.”

Gerecke held that unless he accepted Jesus as his savior, Goering could not receive communion.

“You are not a Christian,” Gerecke told Goering, “and as a Christian pastor I cannot commune you.”

Within hours, Goering was dead, robbing the hangman by swallowing cyanide he had secreted in his cell.

In the end, Gerecke walked five men to the gallows. After the war, he was criticized by some of his fellow pastors for not granting Goering communion. And he was criticized for ministering to such monsters in the first place.

During the trials, a rumor spread among the Nazis that Gerecke would go home before the end. They wrote a letter to his wife, Alma, asking her to please let him stay. That letter, which Townsend first saw in a St. Louis exhibit, led him to the story.

“Our dear Chaplain Gerecke is necessary not only for us as a minister but also as the thoroughly good man that he is,” the letter reads above the signatures of Goering, Keitel, Speer and others. Then it includes a word Townsend writes is not often associated with Nazis: “We simply have come to love him.”

YS END WINSTON

 

 

78 Comments

  1. The Great God Pan

    From Gerecke and these Nazis to Lord Longford and the odious Myra Hindley, on up to the group of California born-agains who recently failed to get a Manson Family acolyte sprung from prison, the Christian obsession with forgiving monsters lays bare the moral black hole that lies at the center of their religion’s doctrine..

    I guess the best you can say for Gerecke is that he didn’t actually try to get his pet war criminals set free, which puts him slightly ahead of the others I mentioned. Still, the notion that perpetrators of the Holocaust get to spend in eternity in Heaven as long as they tell Jesus they love him (and therefore that Goering’s truly unforgivable crime was not converting to Christianity before death) strikes me as distasteful, at best.

  2. @TGGP,

    “the notion that perpetrators of the Holocaust get to spend in eternity in Heaven as long as they tell Jesus they love him…is distasteful at best”

    I agree but…There is no ‘best’. It is merely disgusting.

    • Jesus never came to save fictitious sinners.. A person must bare real and true sins to be saved..

      and not only do they get to spend eternity with God the way it sounds you get to spend eternity with you master to …Your master IS Satan. AND ITS YOUR OWN FAULT

  3. These monsters were already Christians. The attempt by the Allies to give them a ‘pastor’ was humanitarian act – not a Christian one.

    “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter.”
    Adolf Hitler

    “It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were
    and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow my self to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows . For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.”
    -Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922

    The Holocaust was carried out with most holy, Christian of intentions:

    “bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King
    And execute them in front of me.” – JESUS (luke 19:27)

    Hitler learned from this parable.
    And so did the rest
    of his Nazi guards.

    They believed they were ‘Heaven Bound’ from Day ONE!

    —–

    Religion is a poison to the world. Abandon it while you can.

  4. @ AM. With all due respect… Abandon what I believe…To believe in your god, (yourself) and respond to your great wisdom? I abandoned what you are now!Wrest the wisdom of God all you want, try to unravel 44 years of abuse by religious men all you want… in the end we all shall see. We all have nothing absolute to hang our beliefs on but perceptions of truth. To each his own “choose today who you will serve”. As for me I will serve the living God!

  5. @ART,

    “With all due respect”
    why start now?

    “Abandon what I believe?…To believe in your god, (yourself)”
    I do not believe in gods. I’m not ‘my own’ god. I can’t make it rain.
    Ridiculous. To not believe in Zeus does not mean I claim the power of Zeus.
    If a God is found to not exist in one place
    one is not obligated to move him to a different place!

    “and respond to your great wisdom?”
    Where is the wisdom in chopping off the head of a journalist like Mr. Foley because of his lack of faith in Allah?
    Show me how that is wise !

    “I abandoned what you are now!”
    So God was no better than a myth to you but something happened to make you pretend otherwise?

    “Try to unravel 44 years of abuse by religious men all you want”
    I was never ‘abused’. I was lied to. That is different.

    “in the end we all shall see.”
    After Christians, Jews, Islamists and Hindus destroy the world? Thanks!
    Very immoral of you.

    “We all have nothing absolute to hang our beliefs on but perceptions of truth.”
    Speak for yourself! You claim to know a leprechaun personally
    And you pretend that it has power over the rest of us!?

    “To each his own…As for me I will serve the living God!”
    Do whatever you want – ALONE with your Church-mates in your home or in your church.
    I REJECT your God overseeing my public meetings in Greece, New York
    Or any other public meeting.
    I fully reject your Jesus preachments which call on you ‘servants of the Lord’ to bash me around and throw me and my Atheist family under the bus.

    “Execute them in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    Fine – Keep it in your church!

    • You make a lot of sense my friend and I admire your courage to speak out.

      I had the utopia of Christian upbringings, parents were dedicated missionaries. We served in the third world and pretty much sacrificed all we had to do so.

      AND IT WAS ALL ONE BIG LIE!

      With the advent of the internet, it now turns out the mission boarding school we attended was just a big paedophile ring. Child after child was sexually abused, physically abused and mentally manipulated into keeping silent about it.
      I escaped and moved from being a “reluctant Christian” to becoming an Agnostic, as I tried to reconcile what I had seen and experienced with the coverup of sanctimonious crap that kept being pumped out by the mission organisation.
      Decades down the track, I’m finally free of my psychotic father and my mad family. They do not know where I am and I can get on with my life without the religious manipulation. I am free at last to think for myself and to question my past and future, while living each day, not just existing.

      I don’t know whether their is a god or not. But the one I heard about when I was a kid and was expected to ram down indigenous peoples throats, while being abused in His name, left me totally disillusioned.
      And to think that the monsters of my past will be offered communion and forgiveness on their deathbeds, makes me even more disillusioned.

      • @Oscar,

        Yes. I hear you loud and clear.
        Liberation is a sweet victory. Congratulations on your freedom, your clear thinking and your support.

        Speaking out as you are
        and declaring that you are ‘godless’
        Helps others admit the same.

        And less suffering over this religious nonsense
        will lead to a better world.

      • Oscar . your argument does not hold up … because people make a mockery out of their Christian faith does not mean that you have to..

        because some husbands make a mockery out of being married does that mean you have to cheat on your wife to ..?

        or how about this one

        because some people molest children and make a mockery out of their being a decent human being does not mean you have to.
        molest little children ro.?

    • “execute them” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

      ISIS is being very Christian these days.
      More executions are on the way.
      While you worry about my feelings… I choose to care about this entire matter of religious nonsense overtaking the world.

      “Slay them” – (Surah) Q’uran

      You defend this.
      But It must all be abandoned.

      • Are you going to keep exposing your ignorance of what a parable is all over this thread? [I bet multiple threads. On multiple boards.]

        If I quote Hannibal Lecter saying “I ate his liver w/ fava beans and a nice Chianti. Thththth!”, *I* am not claiming to be a cannibal, OK? Anymore than Jesus, quoting “the King” in his PARABLE, is ordering “Execute them”. Capice?

        • JFC,
          “Are you going to keep exposing your ignorance of what a parable is all over this thread?”

          Read your Bible.

          Why does Jesus say it?
          “EXECUTE THEM” – JESUS (LUKE 19:27)

          Luke 19
          is called “The Parable of the 10 Minas”:
          It is the story of a Nobleman master who leaves a number of Minas for his 3 servants to invest. The nobleman returns and is disappointed in the one who spoke honestly of his fear – so he orders the obedient servants to round up the bad ones and “execute them in front of me.”

          Jesus is the ‘nobleman’ in this story.
          Jesus is conveying several lessons:

          1. It is important to honor ‘the master’ (Jesus).
          2. The servants owe it to the master.
          3. The servants should fear the master.
          4. The servants should OBEY the master regardless of what the master commands – even if he orders murder – it is not for the servants to question the master.
          5. The servant who speaks out honestly of his fear of the master has doubled his error – his mina is removed before he is executed.

          Jesus is preaching
          that the immorality of the Nobleman’s command
          IS NOT FOR THE SERVANT TO JUDGE.

          Only the obedience to the master.
          The obedient servant will have the duty of EXECUTING
          the disobedient servant.

          Luke 19
          is a spectacularly immoral parable.
          It is a loveless, hateful set of lessons, unfit for modern people of all kinds. It is in support of slavery and blesses the sickest, most immoral behavior from every slave master who ever lived.

          Jesus is rightly called ‘evil’ for preaching it.*

          :-(
          ________

          *
          Always be aware that when we are talking about stories
          in the Bible we referring to things ‘attributed to Jesus’.
          We cannot know if Jesus really existed, what he really said, or what he really meant in some of these stories.
          These are bundles of contradictory texts written by hundreds of strangers.

          But if you want to claim the Bible is true – that God means what he says then you have to accept all of the consequences of taking that position.

          “Execute them” – JESUS

          It would be laughable if it were not so cruel and dangerous.

        • @JCF,

          EVERY INTERPRETATION OF LUKE 19
          SAYS THE NOBLEMAN IS JESUS!

          Catholic Christ Notes – THE NOBLEMAN IS JESUS:
          http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=42&c=19

          BIBLE GATEWAY – THE NOBLEMAN IS JESUS:
          http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Luke/Controversy-Jerusalem

          BIBLE STUDY TOOLS – THE NOBLEMAN IS JESUS
          http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/luke/luke-19.html

          MATTHEW HENRY’S COMPLETE COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE – THE NOBLEMAN IS JESUS
          http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/view.cgi?book=lu&chapter=019

          CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS – THE NOBLEMAN IS JESUS
          http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2009/06/09/what-does-the-parable-of-the-minas-mean/

          CATHOLIC BIBLE HUB – THE NOBLEMAN IS JESUS
          http://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/19-27.htm

          THE MOST IMPORTANT INTERPRETATION IS THE ONE PROMINENT CHRISTIANS GAVE IT!!!

  6. Chaplain Martin

    Chaplain Henry Gerecke
    Did his duty to his God and his Country. As a state correctional chaplain, I visited the states death row and the death chamber. It was there the chaplains who served that prison talked to us about ministering to prisoners on death row and walking that “last mile” with them.

    It may interest you to know that a number of chaplains believe in the death sentence (or they did at that time, before so many wrongful convictions). There is a difference in the court carrying out its wishes than a
    Chaplain assigned to the duty to offer spiritual aid to the condemned. Not to offer some comfort, which usually means a lot of listening to the condemned, would be, to me, make me, a man of God no better those in the crowd yelling “crucify him, crucify him” at the time of Jesus’ trial.

    Chaplain Gerecke went unto the worse of sinners, offering the love of God, absolving them of their wickedness was not his to give. Chaplains are usually “hard nose”, not the softies some inmates, at first, think of them.

    Even my friend Atheist Max, I think would agree with me that being a caring human would mean going to the condemn would be a graceful act.

    Chaplain Gerecke is to me a hero. It was difficult to befriend the worse of the worse and then go to the gallows with them.

  7. @Bro Martin,

    “Even my friend Atheist Max, I think would agree with me that being a caring human would mean going to the condemned would be a graceful act.”

    YES! I absolutely agree.

    I support all humanitarian work – including counseling the condemned murderers. No human should be denied counseling.
    I prefer to call it “caring, decent and humane” rather than ‘graceful’; a loaded term connected to horrible baggage.

    From what I read in this article Henry Gerecke was doing the humanitarian, decent thing. No god was needed for him to do it. The Allies show their humanity in offering such a service – unfortunate that it was specifically religious in nature.

    My important point of departure with Bro Chaplain:

    The ‘Humanitarian thing to do’ is always Humanitarian.
    The ‘Christian thing to do’ is often inhumanity on steroids.

    :-(
    “do not associate with anyone…if he is guilty.”
    (1 Corinthians 5:11)

    “For whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”
    (2 John 1:11)

    “have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.”
    (2 Thessalonian 3:14)

    ___

    Any pursuit of wisdom must first disown such cruel teachings.

    • Chaplain Martin

      Bro Max
      There is much on which we agree. I think about your words about your grandmother and her worry oven sinfulness. She must have been a good Catholic and, I suspect, a good Christian. It seems she had endured such long life negative teaching that it left her with unreasonable fear of being sinful no matter what she did. I can well be wrong. It’s just I’ve met people along the way that had more fear of hell and sinfulness than the love of life.

      There are as you point out much of which you and I agree, however, I didn’t have a Catholic upbringing and that makes a big difference to me. Now my mother did have a fear of “failing from grace” actually she more feared that I would fall from grace.

      I see a God of grace who loves me, you see a God of hate and vengeance (if he exist).

      • @Bro Chaplain,

        Love is bigger, more important and better than religion; it is the reason to go forward, the reason to live. It is bigger than Jesus, and bigger than gods (especially the ones we’ve both heard about).

        Maybe we can both agree on that.

  8. As always, non-Christians do not get it. We are all sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God. All of us, grieve God. Some of us need his mercy more than others, but we are all in need of mercy. No man is beyond the love of God. I see atheist like to cherry-pick from the bible, just as fundamentalists do to support their own personal view rather than learn the entire lesson.

    • Alas what “non-Christians” get is an insight into a world of infighting, bickering and sometimes pure hatred.
      Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, Baptists, Brethren e.t.c. all have their credibility destroyed by hardliners and their intolerances, who can quote scripture to justify anything they desire.

      I spent my childhood wondering if the grass was really greener on the other side of the missionary fence. We were told that the grass was poisoned, and anyone who dined on it and did not partake of the narrow theological tolerances of our cultish group would condemn themselves to hell.

      I’ve reluctantly worn the shoes of someone immersed in Christianity. Now I wear the shoes of an Agnostic. For me the shoes fit better and they are not re

  9. @ You all… lighten up on AM he is indicating that love is biggest! Love of course is the true nature of God; there is no other explanation for this truism… once; like the prodigal son; AM realizes this, he will stop eating the garbage of this world, reject the religious spin doctors and simply ask God (the real one) to enlighten him.. he is only a few degrees off; and grace is still working… in your dark moments AM pray for the Holy Spirit… He will respond! You all; thank God that probation for us is still open… and that we live in the USA!

      • How can God “get rid of the Bible” if God doesn’t exist?

        FWIW, Max, I respect *intelligent* atheism. Knee-jerk, uninformed anti-theism, not so much [it's just another knee-jerk, uninformed belief-system, otherwise known as a (form of) fundamentalism].

        Love is God and versey-visey!

        • “Love is God”

          In order to save humanity from the Hell God created, God required the torture and horrible murder of his human son (supposedly) who had to bleed to death and spill his ‘innocent blood’. There was no other ways.

          Now, 2000 years later only 40% of humanity even believes in God’s son. And of that number, most will not be saved at all (“the way is narrow” says Jesus).

          But God could have tortured and killed the Devil instead (supposedly). That would have closed down Hell and saved 100% of humanity instantly.
          Every human would have worshipped God for that.
          (since worship is what God wanted).

          Instead, God has spent the last 2000 years threatening eternal torture on all of humanity unless they believe this story.

          Why would a God of Love be so cruel and act so incompetently?
          So much nonsense and failure.

          God is Love?
          You are free to believe it.
          But there is absolutely no reason for anyone else to believe it.

  10. Alas what “non-Christians” get is an insight into a world of infighting, bickering and sometimes pure hatred.
    Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, Baptists, Brethren e.t.c. all have their credibility destroyed by hardliners and their intolerances, who can quote scripture to justify anything they desire.

    I spent my childhood wondering if the grass was really greener on the other side of the missionary fence. We were told that the grass was poisoned, and anyone who dined on it and did not partake of the narrow theological tolerances of our cultish group would condemn themselves to hell.

    I’ve reluctantly worn the shoes of someone immersed in Christianity. Now I wear the shoes of an Agnostic. For me the shoes fit better and they are not required to trample all over others to gain admittance to a better hereafter than others.

    If we walked in each others shoes for even just a short time, we might find that the grass is greener in places that we never expected it to be and where the truly not so green fields lie. And the understanding gained might just bring a genuine peace between peoples of all faiths (and the odd person of no or diminished faith).

  11. Apologies Oscar; glad you are free. P.S. sorry for the “believers” that messed with you. I really think forcing and offering a point of view are different. Thank you for yours.

  12. @ AM… Ask Him for it! No one else has been able to show it to you! No disrespect intended. If I relied on what was in the heart of men I would still be an atheist.
    Humbly; Art.

  13. @Art,

    “Ask Him for it!”

    You simply do not understand what Atheism is.
    I was a Christian for 44 years.

    Like all Atheists who once believed, I had very long period – years – of saying:
    “God, where are you?”
    “God, Where did you Go?
    “God, please help like you said you would”
    “God, what is this all about, show me the way..”

    I did that for at least 2 years
    before the light switch went on!

    Never tell Atheists to “ASK GOD”
    We are way past that. It is dishonest to continue pretending

    And if you think about it what sort of God would deserve ‘worship’ if pretending is the only method that works!

    Besides, once the light switch of Atheism goes on
    and you discover you can’t believe in god – you realize that is the best thing that ever happened to you.

    I do not want to go back to believing in God. It is ridiculous.
    But I would believe in a god IF there were evidence I could not deny.

    I comment for 4 reasons:

    1. To remind believers that Atheists exist everywhere.
    2. To challenge unsupported claims.
    3. To challenge laws subverting separation of Church and State.
    4. To argue in favor of philosophy over nonsense of Religion.

    As far as I’m concerned searching for this hidden, sneaky, supposed God
    And speculating on what he may or may not want of humans
    is a trivial, silly, pointless matter
    compared to the importance of saving the world first from the head-chopping, nihilistic, End-times worldview of all these primitive religions.

    Isn’t it interesting who powerful people want me to believe in this supposed
    “Most Powerful Almighty” yet there isn’t the tiniest speck of evidence they can point to that it actually is there!

    Pretend that you hear your god’s voice all you want.
    Just don’t tell me it is honorable, righteous or pious to do so!
    It is not to be respected.

    • Thanks for that bit of insight. You have truly walked in other shoes and found the ones that fit you.

      My motto is for each of us to believe in what we find to be true to ourselves because it works for us. Not to believe in something because we are to scared not to believe in it. And often the only way to arrive at what one truly believes is to strip everything back to it’s basic components and examine what is left. Keep that which makes sense and dismiss the rest.

      Of course being an Agnostic makes me somewhat of a fence sitter and therefore a coward to some. For I have not the courage to be an Athiest, nor the strength of conviction to call myself a person of faith. However I hope to redeem myself of the “coward” label and know that after many years of vacillating I am a person of “honest doubts” and like the sage of old, though not agreeing with the views of many others on matters of faith and religion, I will defend the right for all to believe what they personally do, with the proviso that they do so in peace, without disturbing others. Putting across their view in the appropriate places such as this forum, where debate is healthy.

      • @oscar,

        You are no coward.

        The agnostic says I do not ‘know’ if there is a God
        the atheist says I do not ‘believe’ in a God
        that’s all it is.

        I am both agnostic and atheist.
        But I leave it open as to whether God may exist
        I am ready to see the evidence if it ever comes up.

        Atheism is not a claim that God is impossible.
        I’m sitting on the same fence with you on that question.

        I go so far as to say Yahweh, Jesus and Allah are all *unlikely* to be true gods
        as their texts and arguments are so ridiculous.

  14. “I go so far as to say Yahweh, Jesus and Allah are all *unlikely* to be true gods
    as their texts and arguments are so ridiculous.”

    I have read most of the Hebrew Bible. I don’t believe that it is the literal word of God, but every time I read a section of the Bible, I learn something new. Sometimes I see something new in the text that I have never seen before. I learn something about humanity. I see the development and the changes in the view of God in the Bible. The Bible was written for a certain time and place, but it still can speak to us today. I have known atheists that study the Bible and they don’t find it ridiculous. There is always something new to see in studying the Bible. I don’t just mean reading it by yourself. I mean studying it yourself or with a group.

    • @Susan,

      Have you really understood how depraved the bible is?
      I’m not talking about a few proverbs or the book of Ecclesiastes which is very beautiful.
      I’m talking about the majority of the Bible – the claims about god and his laws:

      God’s rules for Sex Slaves:
      “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.” (Exodus 21:7)

      God commands raping and stealing
      “Lo, a day shall come FOR THE LORD when the spoils shall be divided in your midst. And I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle: the city shall be taken, houses plundered, WOMEN RAVISHED; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be removed from the city.” (Zechariah 14:1-2)

      God commands killing of babies and sweet children.
      “Anyone who is captured will be run through with a sword. Their little children will be dashed to death right before their eyes.” (Isaiah 13:15)

      Jesus agrees with all of this stuff:
      “I and the Lord are ONE” (JOHN 1:17),
      “I have not come to abolish the law” (Mark 10:19)

      If you know it is nonsense why not admit it?

  15. The Hebrew Bible is a product of a certain time and place. That time and place included slavery and patriarchy. The Bible did not invent these things. They already existed. For an atheist, you are a Biblical literalist. When I talk about the Bible, I mean the centuries of commentaries and Midrash that interpret the Bible too. The Bible is also much more humane than the society that surrounded it at the time. What about the passages where one is told that to be holy is to help the poor? You don’t point out any of those passages or where in Isaiah it says, “Justice, Justice you shall pursue.” It is because of my religion that I am a liberal and think that the government has a place to help those in need.

    • @Susan,

      “What about the passages where one is told that to be holy is to help the poor? You don’t point out any of those passages or where in Isaiah it says, “Justice, Justice you shall pursue.”

      Here is why that isn’t fair.
      Imagine a book which speaks from both sides of its mouth:

      “Cigarettes are good for you” – The book of Zeus
      “Cigarettes are bad for you” – The book of Zeus

      What use is such a book? How can it be considered ‘Authoritative’?
      Especially if we ALONE have to decide by ourselves
      which of the contradictory statements is true!

      “Love your neighbor” – (Matthew 22: 37-40)

      But Not really:

      “Avoid Them” (Romans 16:17)
      “have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thessalonian 3:14)
      “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!” (1 Corinthians 16:22)
      “Now we command you..in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from anyone who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition…” (2 Thessalonians 3:6)
      “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone .. if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

      Such a book is useless to humanity.
      We must agree that such a book is NOT AUTHORITATIVE.
      We can navigate proper behavior with each other such immoral nonsense.

    • @SUSAN,

      Furthermore,
      The Golden Rule is Godless
      “do unto others as you would have others do to you” is a moral code which existed for thousands of years before Jesus and Yahweh.

      If I teach you the wisdom of the Golden Rule (as Jesus did) that does not make me a God!
      If I teach you that E=MC squared that does not mean I invented it!

      Culture is a continuum and Jesus falls somewhere in that continuity.
      Jesus is not above it.

  16. So yes, the Nazis were Christians all the way to the end.

    Christianity served their needs when in power, allowed them to recruit collaborators, and laid down the groundwork for excusing the most immoral acts ever performed by a developed nation at war.

  17. No one has mentioned that Gerecke was a Lutheran and Martin Luther was a rabid antisemite. The Lutheran church did not begin to deal with Luther’s antisemitism until after the Holocaust. Here is a quote form Luther’s venemous pamphlet, “On the Jews and their Lies”:

    “Accordingly, it must and dare not be considered a trifling matter but a most serious one to seek counsel against this and to save our souls from the Jews, that is, from the devil and from eternal death. My advice, as I said earlier, is:

    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. That would demonstrate to God our serious resolve and be evidence to all the world that it was in ignorance that we tolerated such houses, in which the Jews have reviled God, our dear Creator and Father, and his Son most shamefully up till now but that we have now given them their due reward.”

    There is a direct line from Luther to Kristallnacht. Gerecke might have needed some repentance himself for his own antisemitism and anti-Judaism.

  18. i certainly don’t believe that Jesus is a God or God’s son. When I use the term Hebrew Bible I mean what Christians call the Old Testament. I don’t call it that because I don’t believe there is a “New” Testament.

    Max, think of the Bible as being like the constitution. When the constitution was written women couldn’t vote, Black people were slaves, and only property owners could vote. However the constitution was changed over time, yet, not one believes that it is not authoritative. The Hebrew Bible means what Jews over time have interpreted it to mean. It adapts to different time and places, but I consider that a good thing.

    • @Susan,

      “However the constitution was changed over time…”

      When the Bible is changed, call me.
      So far, Leviticus is still the law for Jews.
      Deuteronomy is still the law and Exodus is still the law – among others.

      Show me when those laws were voted out – show me where they were amended.

      If the Bible is the “Word of a God”, then you are ignoring God’s law to kill homosexuals because God disgusts you, or you don’t believe in him.

      If the Bible is not god’s word, then let’s call it what it is: mostly superstitious and ignorant scribblings from the Ancient world no better than Gilgamesh, The Code of Hammurabi or The Egyptian Book of the Dead.

      Here are some important laws from your so called
      “constitution” which you are ignoring:

      “”God loves the aroma of burning goat flesh.”(Exodus 29:18)”

      GOD SAYS – CUT OFF YOUR WIFE’S HAND IF SHE TOUCHES ANOTHER MAN’S PENIS.
      “If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes to rescue her husband from the grip of his opponent by reaching out and SEIZING HIS GENITALS, you shall cut off her hand; show no pity.” (DEUT. 25:11)

  19. First of all I wouldn’t call any of those books “superstitous and ignorant scribblings of the ancient world.” You can learn a lot about human nature reading them. They may not be literally true, but they contain wisdom.

    I never said that I believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, because I don’t. You have created false choices. There are other valid choices.

    Leviticus is not literally the law for Jews today even for Orthodox Jews. Judaism is a rabbinic religion, not a Biblical religion. Leviticus as it is interpreted by the rabbis over the centuries is the law for the Orthodox. The Talmud and various codes of law written over the centuries modify the law.

    The Talmud is filled with reinterpretations of the Bible. For example, the Bible says “an eye for an eye”, but that was almost immediately interpreted to mean monetary compensation for an eye. Polygamy is a taken for granted in the Hebrew Bible, but in the Shulcan Aruch, a codification of the law from the 1500s, the conditions were put forward that would make it impossible to marry more than one women. Those are just two examples.

    • @Susan,

      If you do not believe in a god and you do not defend the Bible
      we are on the same page.

      To me, The Bible is a doorstop on the bathroom floor.
      To you the Bible is an interesting doorstop on the library floor.

      As long as you agree that god is nonsense; that Jews, Christians and Muslims are equally wrong – the Bible is DISPOSABLE on matters of God.

  20. “”God loves the aroma of burning goat flesh.”(Exodus 29:18)”

    When the Temple was destroyed for the last time, the rabbis replaced animal sacrifices with prayer, good deeds and torah study. They even added a part of the prayer service to replace the Sabbath sacrifice. It is true that some Jews believe that sacrifices will return the Messiah comes, but most Jews do not.

    • “It is true that some Jews believe….but most Jews do not.”

      Then why call it a constitution??
      The Bible is just ancient scribblings of little or no value.

      Now, don’t go telling me Judaism is true, that Yahweh created Jews as the chosen people or that there will be a messiah of any kind – because those claims are no more valuable than “God cares about smoked goat”!

      Dump this ancient drivel. Religion is dangerous nonsense.

  21. I just recently learned of Henry Gerecke from my cousin. His son was a teacher for many years at the high school in Mt. Olive, Illinois where my mother and other relatives attended. It’s good to know that his story is coming out.

  22. They WERE monsters. But what Gerecke understood was that Christ came to save monsters, not just Nazi monsters but also garden variety monsters like Max, Susan, Larry, and myself.

  23. Wordmahn, Jesus might have thought he was the Messiah, but he never thought he came to “save” anyone. Christ is the Greek word for Mashiach, the annointed one. That’s what it really means.

    Max, you asked for examples and I gave you some, but you just ignored them. Judaism would not have survived the destruction of the temple if had not changed, but you wish that it didn’t survive.

    • @Susan,

      Judaism, Christianity and Islam are NOT true unless you can do better at providing evidence that one of these gods is true.

      I want lies about God to stop.

      “The moon is made of cheese” is a claim. If you can’t defend it, abandon it.
      “The Jewish God is real” is a claim. If you can’t defend it, abandon it.

  24. The moon is made of cheese is a claim that can be proved by going to the moon and by examining the physical evidence. God cannot be proved or disproved in that way. I wasn’t trying to prove God’s existence. I was answering a direct question and I obviously provided a good answer because you are ignoring it.

    • @Susan,

      I’m not ignoring your answer.
      Rabbinic tradition means the Bible’s claims are worthless:

      1. God is being molded by Rabbis.
      2. God’s laws are being defined by rabbis.
      3 God’s character is being defined by rabbis.
      etc…

      You have not shown me where the Bible has been changed.
      You have shown me how the bible has been ignored by Rabbis.

  25. No, the rabbis would say that the true meaning of the Bible has been searched out by the rabbis. They have read the deeper meanings that God placed in the Bible. You are a Biblical literalist just like the fundamentalists.

    • “You are a Biblical literalist just like the fundamentalists.”

      If something is true, shouldn’t you follow it 100%?
      Who are you to say the fundamentalist is wrong?

      I dispose of all religion because these claims don’t hold up whether
      you follow 10%, 50% or 100%.

      Tell me. What is the correct percent of the bible which is true?

  26. if Oscar was honest he would admit there are atheists and agnostics who molest abuse and have murdered little children yet we don’t hear him having no faith in them or wanting to leave there circles we don’t hear him bashing them

    no the real reason he bashes Christians is he wants to.. and the real reason he is leaving Christianity is its his own fault .. or he never was what he claimed ..

    • @Rob,
      “there are atheists and agnostics who molest abuse and have murdered…”

      Yes. And the police are catching them.
      But The Catholic Church is hiding its rapists and abusers
      in Vatican City – a country of its own, out of the reach
      of international justice:

      Cardinal Bernie Law, kingpin Godfather of the Boston Pedophile Priest Network, responsible for aiding and abetting thousands of pedophiles to ‘enjoy’ the raping and molesting of little boys.
      He is Alive and well living under the protection of the Vatican.

      For shame.

  27. I don’t read the Bible that way. I don’t care what percentage is true. If I read a great novel, it is not literally true, but you can learn a lot about human nature from reading a great novel. The Bible contains a lot of wisdom and insights into human nature. That is true whether the Bible is literally true or not.

    • “I don’t care what percentages true”

      That is the difference between us. I care a lot about what is true.

      Al Qeuda kills because it believes its religion is true. Same for Zionists who steal land and Palestinian Muslims who claim the same land for themselves.

      Religion makes claims which lead to James Foley being killed and it all happens at the direction of the claims in these holy books.

      A novel is fiction and it says so. The Bible is fiction but it lies that it isn’t.
      If you don’t care what is true, you have no right to care what Al Queda believes, or ISIS, or religious behavior of any kind.

      You are not interested in truth. Only fiction. Good luck.

      • If you think that these organizations wouldn’t find another reason to kill if they wernt using religion for the reason , then you really are a fool. Humans are the worst killers of any animal, and they will always find a reason to fight. If not over religion it will be something else. War is always going to happen.

  28. It’s amusing to me how a person who doesn’t believe in God , and really should have no interest in this website or article , has nothing better to do then troll this page. Most Christians have heard all the arguments time and time again. They don’t change , or differ they just get tired and annoying. I see and hear of many good things that churches do , especially the Lcms , thr organization that this pastor was from . It’s very good that these places are out there to help people in need. Seriously , get over it. Despite the time you spend on line arguing, religion is not going to dissappear. The church is declining in some places, and it is growing in others. Maybe get off the cpu, and go out there and be a good athiest , do some humanitarian good deeds. Maybe someday you will do as much as the church. In other words , your time would be spent better , reaching out to help your fellow man , then it is online complaining about the bible. It was here before you , and it will be here after you are gone.

    • “do some humanitarian good deeds.”

      Gosh, thanks for the advice. I donate thousands of dollars and much of my time to many of these GODLESS CHARITIES.

      Do you?
      These ATHEIST organizations (as in connected to NO RELIGION) are saving the world:

      Doctors Without Borders,
      The Foundation Beyond Belief
      Newman’s Own
      Goodwill Industries,
      Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,
      Warren Buffet Foundation,
      Oxfam International,
      Rotary International,
      American Red Cross,
      SEED foundation, United Children’s Fund,
      Sierra Fund, National Campaign to prevent Teen Pregnancy,
      Treatment Action Campaign, Women’s Defense League
      US Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers,
      Plan USA, Tanzanian Children’s Fund
      National Academy of Science,
      The ACLU….etc.

      ….While your God does nothing.

    • @Gretchen Kauss,

      “Atheists….should really have no interest in this website or article…”

      Not true.
      The Separation of Church and State is my primary concern. If I can’t count on religionists to stay out of my Public Law – I must confront the source to win hearts and minds, instead.

      I care about what is true and I care about people.
      I study religion as an Oncologist studies cancer. It is a diseased way of thinking about reality. I hate Cancer, not Cancer patients.

      The phenomenon of Religion needs analysis and disputation.
      RNS is a great religious news site for that purpose.

      Also,
      I challenge religious claims the way a fireman challenges arson.
      If religion would stop lighting so many fires I would stop having so much to say.

      “Execute them in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

  29. You make assumptions that are not true and then you say you care about truth. There are some zionists who believe the bible is true. There are also zionists who are atheists or zionists who are zionists for totally secular reasons.

  30. You twisted my words. I said “literally true”. Just because something is not literally true does not mean that it does not contain wisdom.

    Why is it so hard for you to accept that atheists can be Zionists or that people can be Zionists for non-religious reasons? David Ben-Gurion was an avowed agnostic.

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