Bishop of Augsburg, Walter Mixa, is alarmed by the rise of Atheism in Germany. He chose to raise the threat level to red by delivering an Easter sermon that linked Atheism to mass murder and oppression.
... the godless regimes of Nazism and Communism, with their penal camps, their secret police and their mass murder, proved in a terrible way the inhumanity of atheism in practice.
There are a number of glaring problems with the bishop's sweeping assertions about Atheism. While the Nazis explored everything from Ariosophy to Darwinist ideas, there wasn't much tolerance for Atheism as such in Nazi Germany. In fact freethinkers and their organizations were actively persecuted.
Even if the bishop prefers the term "godless" in reference to the Nazis - there are still problems with his claims. The neo-pagan myths surrounding Nazism have led some to believe that Nazism and Christianity were antithetical. The reality was a lot more nuanced.
The philosopher Michael Schmidt-Salomon believes that the claim that the Nazis were "godless" is a distortion of history. He points out that Nazi ideology was based largely on Christian traditions and that "The majority of the Nazi elite saw themselves as Christian." This is borne out by the existence of Deutsche Christen, a large body of German Christians that actively supported National Socialism and Hitler.
In his book The Holy Reich, Richard Steigmann-Gall makes the telling comment that "Christianity, in the final analysis, did not constitute a barrier to Nazism." He cites a speech made in April 1922 during which Hitler said that Jesus was "the true God". Steigmann-Gall also gives the example of a private Nazi meeting where Hitler spoke of the centrality of Jesus' teaching to the Nazi movement.
Aside from the traditional Christian denominations in Germany at the time, a more Nazi-friendly strain of Christianity made an appearance. So-called 'Positive Christianity' was promoted on the pages of Nazi journals such as der Stürmer and Völkischer Beobachter.
There were also those in the Nazi hierarchy who took a more negative view of Christianity. Martin Bormann for example said that "National Socialism and Christianity are irreconcilable". However it would be a mistake to associate such attitudes with Atheism per se - they derived in the main from ideological considerations.
Given the history of the Catholic Church, it's rather ironic that a Catholic bishop should refer to the "inhumanity of atheism in practice" without experiencing any embarrassment. Bishop Mixa conveniently avoids mentioning the history of atrocity that has marked the progress of the Church throughout the centuries. The Inquisition is sometimes offered as an example of the Church's dark side, but that is just one example among many.
The Church has acted like a temporal power throughout its history, allying itself with political entities of convenience. The statement by St Bernard - "The Christian glories in the death of the pagan, because thereby Christ himself is glorified", described a prevailing attitude.
The bishop also fails to mention that many in the Catholic hierarchy collaborated with fascists in the WW2 era. Roman Catholic involvement with fascist regimes was more extensive than the Church has been willing to acknowledge.
This isn't the first time Bishop Mixa has engaged in sensationalist remarks. In 2007 he criticized the expansion of daycare in Germany, saying it would turn women into "breeding machines".