Another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel (Judges 2:10).

This is the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, Allied troops from Britain, Canada, and the United States launched a mighty assault to liberate Western Europe from Nazi forces. During the night, paratroopers dropped from the skies behind enemy lines, and 5,000 ships moved through the darkness from Britain to the beaches of Normandy. At daybreak thousands of soldiers waded ashore in the greatest amphibious assault in history. Fighting was fierce, and a lot of blood was spilled, but the Allied forces were successful. That was the decisive moment of World War II, a war in which Christian civilization fought the forces of paganism.

Do you find it strange to hear World War II described as a clash between Christian civilization and paganism? That’s how British leader Winston Churchill described it. Before the war began and before Churchill became Prime Minister, he knew Adolph Hitler’s goal of European conquest and world domination. In 1938 Churchill spoke against efforts to appease Hitler, saying, “There can never be friendship between the British democracy and the Nazi power, that power which spurns Christian ethics, which cheers its onward course by a barbarous paganism.” Once the war began and Churchill became Prime Minister, he declared,

“Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization… If we can stand up to [Hitler], all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world… will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the light of perverted science.”

As we mark the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day, we may be thankful that the military power of paganism was defeated by the forces of what Churchill called “Christian civilization.”

We may also be grateful that in the Cold War which followed World War II, anti-Christian communism eventually weakened and fell. Fifteen years ago this week, on June 4, 1989, Poland held its first free elections since before World War II. Later that year the Berlin Wall was torn down. Various atheist governments fell around that same time. Churchill did not live to see it, but he would have rejoiced when the wall fell. It was Churchill who first spoke of “an Iron Curtain” and called communism “a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilization.” Churchill would be glad that atheistic tyranny did not prevail.

This week also marks another anniversary, a grimmer one. Fifteen years ago this week—on June 3 and 4, 1989—Chinese tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square to crush a huge gathering of pro-democracy demonstrators. Many were killed, and it seemed like a blow against freedom. That was a grievous event, but in the bigger picture, China continues moving toward greater freedom. There’s a long way to go, but there has been improvement.

Even though China still has oppressive policies to limit the number of children per family, even though the government still tries to limit religious groups, control churches, and prevent children from being raised as Christians, things are better than they were. There appears to be no going back to the widespread oppression of China’s cultural revolution. In the fifteen years since Tiananmen Square, China has seen many positive developments, including rapid growth in Christianity. Millions in China are putting their faith in Jesus, and even many who don’t yet follow Jesus do want a civilization which honors freedom, opportunity, and human rights, the sort of culture which has grown in countries with a Christian heritage.

As we mark the anniversary of D-Day and of other important world events, we should honor the memory of those who overcame the ferocious military attacks of Fascist paganism and the cruel persecution of Communist atheism. Christian civilization has withstood the attacks of its enemies, and still today it can remain unbowed before the terrorism of anti-Christian religious extremists. Christian civilization has not fallen to attacks from without. The question now is how it will handle problems within. In some countries with a Christian heritage, Christian civilization is in trouble not because of attack from outside but because of decay inside. Decadence may do what dictators and terrorists could not do: separate us from a culture rooted in the Bible and replace it with a culture in bondage to atheism and paganism. Indeed, in the long run, such inner rot and emptiness would open the way for free societies with a once-strong Christian heritage to fall under the domination of zealots from a different religion.

Hitler Against Scripture

On this anniversary of D-Day, it may be wise to consider what happened after D-Day. Hitler’s armies lay buried, but his thoughts are echoed in some surprising places– not just by skinheads and confused youth, but by leaders in education and public policy who are eager to dismantle Christian civilization. Hitler is dead, but opposition to Judeo-Christian civilization lives on in various forms.

What did Hitler really think of Christianity? He was baptized but he grew to hate the Church and the Christian faith. Hitler said, “Christianity is an invention of sick brains.” “The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity.” Hitler is most notorious for hating Jews and for murdering millions of them in the Holocaust. What is not so widely known is that Hitler also hated Christianity, murdered many Christians, and wanted the church to vanish.

In some of his public speeches Hitler said positive things about Christianity, but only because he didn’t want to upset too many Germans who still went to church. In private remarks recorded by his staff, Hitler was more candid. He snarled that Christianity was an “invention of the Jew” and vowed that the “organized lie (of Christianity) must be smashed” so that the state would “remain the absolute master.” Hitler said, “I’ll make these preachers feel the power of the state in a way they would never have believed possible… The war will be over one day. I shall then consider that my life’s final task will be to solve the religious problem.”

Adolph Hitler hated Christianity for its emphasis on compassion, on individual rights, on worshiping God rather than government. He thought Christianity stifled the aggressive strength of the Aryan peoples and hindered the absolute power of government. On one occasion Hitler said,

It’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn’t we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?

One of the main reasons Hitler hated Jews—besides his racism—was that the Jewish people gave rise to Christianity. Jewish prophets and apostles wrote the Bible. Hitler snarled, “We have no sort of use for a fairy story invented by the Jews.” Hitler claimed that Jesus was an Aryan revolutionary against Jewish capitalism and that Jesus was not Jewish at all. Hitler thought the real Jesus was probably okay, but Jewish writers of Scripture, such St. Paul, twisted the original message of Christ. Hitler isn’t the only one to talk this way. In the decades before Hitler rose to power, German pulpits were dominated by theological liberals and German seminaries were busy looking for a Jesus other than the biblical Savior.

What if Hitler had won on D-Day? Many seminaries might be maligning the Bible and claiming that St. Paul twisted Jesus’ message. They would be offering a Jesus packaged more to their own liking. But wait—isn’t that exactly what’s happening among some preachers and scholars? Hitler isn’t holding a gun to their heads, but they are singing his tune. Theological liberals malign the Bible, claim that St. Paul was wrong about many things, and reinvent Jesus to suit their own agenda.

Hitler hated the Ten Commandments. He said, “The day will come when I shall hold up against these commandments the tables of a new law.” He objected to a God “who orders one to do the very things one doesn’t like.” He griped that the commandments “protect the weak from the strong” rather than honoring “the immortal law of battle” where the divine principle is that might makes right. “Against the so-called ten commandments,” declared Hitler, “against them we are fighting.”

What if Hitler had won on D-Day? Government might try to raise its own law above God’s law. The Ten Commandments might be outlawed in schools, and students would be taught to make up their own values, rather than listen to a God “who orders one to do the very things one doesn’t like.” If Hitler had won, our society might be repudiating its Judeo-Christian foundations. We might leave Christian civilization behind and promote secularism instead. It might be considered offensive even to mention Christian civilization or to talk of a country being a Christian nation. If Hitler had won, it might be illegal for the Ten Commandments to be displayed on public property. A judge who dared to display the commandments could lose his position.  But wait—isn’t that what’s been happening?

Forgetting God

Hitler did not win on D-Day. Soviet power did not last. The military forces of paganism and atheism did not prevail. And yet many officials and individuals in the free, victorious nations chose to forget their biblical heritage and to copy the thinking and attitudes of their anti-God enemies. This is not the first time such a thing has happened.

The Bible tells how God helped the Israelite people under Joshua to defeat Canaanite enemies. The Canaanites worshiped other gods, were sexually perverted, and even murdered babies as sacrifices in hopes of gaining prosperity. These wicked enemies fought hard, but Joshua led the Israelites to victory. Joshua’s generation was marked by moral strength and military success. They believed in God, honored his commandments, defeated their enemies, and became established in a good land where God showered blessings upon them.

But then something happened. Joshua’s generation got old and died, and a new generation of Israelites came along who ignored God. They started thinking and acting like the nations they had defeated. As the Bible puts it in Judges 2:10-12,

Another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger.

How foolish! They were living in a good land only because God helped them, but they forgot the God who made their prosperity possible. The earlier generation had defeated people with evil beliefs and wicked lives, but the new generation started believing and behaving like those defeated pagans. The hard-won victories and freedoms of a godly nation were squandered by a generation that didn’t know God. As Hitler hated a God “who orders one to do the very things one doesn’t like,” so these people rejected God’s will and did their own thing: “In those days … everyone did as he saw fit”(Judges 17:6, 21:25). Their moral decay led to political problems. They came under repeated attacks, and their freedom gave way to domination by enemies.

No words in the Bible are more chilling than Judges 2:10, “Another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done.” It’s possible to forget God, to forget our own history, to forsake a civilization built on God’s Word, and to become clones of the pagans who fought against our fathers.

How sad that after Joshua’s generation won such important battles and upheld God’s Word, the next generation willingly became like the enemy their fathers had fought. And what a tragedy it would be, after the victory of D-Day, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, after winning what Churchill called a battle for the survival of Christian civilization, for this generation to abandon Christian civilization and to base our culture on anti-Christian principles.

Hitler and Science

Hitler hated Christianity and its Jewish roots, he hated the Ten Commandments, he hated Paul’s writings, and he regarded Christianity as a religious superstition which got in the way of scientific progress. He thought faith would fade and science would reign supreme, unhindered by biblical laws and ethical principles. He said, “The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science.”

What if Hitler had won on D-Day? Or what if communist atheists had won the Cold War? College professors might be proclaiming the death of faith and the triumph of evolution. Our children might be in government-controlled schools that ban the teaching of creation and require science classes without God. Wait a minute—isn’t that what we’ve got? What happened after D-Day? After Christian civilization won the big wars, our courts banned prayer, religion, and moral training from classrooms. Creation was banned; evolution was required. Hitler lost on D-Day, but Darwinism rules many classrooms.

The Nazis loved the theory of evolution. Hitler’s henchman Rudolf Hess declared, “Nazism is applied biology.” Hitler based his racist public policy on evolution and insisted, “We must understand and cooperate with science.” He said, “A higher race subjects to itself a lower race …a right which we see in nature and which can be regarded as the sole conceivable right.”

Hitler’s belief in evolution was accompanied by belief in eugenics, the supposedly scientific effort to propagate the best genes and eliminate the poorer ones. Hitler tried to build a superior race by eliminating inferior races, and by sterilizing or killing people with mental or physical disabilities. Who coined the word eugenics and made the idea popular? Charles Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton.

What if Hitler had won? We might not value every human life but favor eugenics instead. Unwanted and unfit humans would be eliminated. The wrong genes would mean a death sentence. But isn’t that what’s happening right now in doctor’s offices where unborn babies are tested for abnormalities and eliminated if there’s a problem? Abortion advocates even brag about how we now have far fewer people with Down Syndrome, thanks to the fact that they are killed before they can be born.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, ardently supported eugenics. People with bad genes should be given their choice, she said: “Segregation or sterilization.” In 1933, Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Review featured an article entitled “Eugenic Sterilization: An Urgent Need,” authored by Ernst Rudin, Hitler’s Director of Genetic Sterilization. To Sanger’s credit, she opposed Hitler’s cruelty and did not favor abortion. Indeed, there was a time when Planned Parenthood called abortion was the taking of a human life. But principle of eugenics—eliminating the unwanted and undesirable—has now destroyed more than forty million babies in North America alone.

In the days when Hitler was still just a wannabe artist and an army corporal, Oliver Wendell Holmes was a Supreme Court Justice of the United States. Holmes served on the high court for 30 years, from 1902 to 1932, and his influence on the Supreme Court and on legal theory remains to this day. Holmes taught that laws have nothing to do with God’s justice. He told students in law school to put aside any moral view of law and to see law as the science of political force. Law, said Holmes, “is the majority vote of that nation that can lick all others.” In short, might makes right. Holmes the evolutionist declared, “I see no reason for attributing to man a significance different in kind from that which belongs to a baboon or a grain of sand.”

Hitler did not win the war, but what happened after D-Day? The ideas of Sanger and Holmes kept spreading. Truly the pen is mightier than the sword. The legal philosophy of Holmes and his influence in the courts is huge. Some courts tell us that marriage laws have no basis but religious prejudice, but what they don’t say is what they base their new system upon. They attack religion as the basis for law and replace it with nothing—nothing but raw power and a contest to see who can appoint judges. Behind all the clever antireligious legal jargon is the belief that man matters no more than a baboon and that might makes right. How can such a philosophy defend human dignity and rights?

One of the great challenges for Christian civilization today is how it will handle cloning, stem cell research, and genetic selection. Scientists trumpet their ability to create new stem cell lines from cloned human embryos. Lawmakers and courts dither, unwilling to ban cloning or to halt the destruction of human embryos for stem cell research. Some insist that government not only allow such research but pay for it. Anything less is an “antiscience attitude,” they say.

Adolph Hitler also did not want religion to limit science, but Winston Churchill had no such confidence in science for its own sake. Churchill knew that science unlimited by faith and ethics would not produce enlightenment. It would produce a new dark age more evil and more durable than previous dark ages.

Returning to God

In the years between the two world wars, President Calvin Coolidge said, “The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.” These days, however, many have abandoned the Bible, forgotten the God of their fathers, and adopted the views of the very tyrants who made the twentieth century the bloodiest in human history. What a tragedy to do willingly what our fathers could not be forced to do even when their lives were on the line!

In some ways, it is worse to be post-Christian than never to have been exposed to Christianity at all. This is true of individuals and of societies. Adolph Hitler was baptized in the Roman Catholic church, and Josef Stalin studied at a Russian Orthodox seminary for future priests. When they turned away from the true God, Hitler and Stalin became monsters. Similarly, societies that once knew God but turn away from him tend to become more depraved than societies that were pagan all along. Pagan societies had homosexuality, but they never dreamed of declaring it equal with marriage. Pagan societies exposed and killed unwanted babies at birth but never on the scale of post-Christian cultures. Pagan societies had dictatorships but never on the scale that Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia had in their efforts to leave Christian civilization behind.

One of the bravest, wisest voices of our time has been Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He suffered for years under Stalin and detailed some of that dictator’s crimes. The Soviet dictatorship destroyed between 30 and 60 million people because it rejected God, made itself supreme, and saw no moral standard to obey and no divine authority to hold it accountable. Solzhenitsyn became a Christian in prison, and his books helped to show the bankruptcy of Soviet atheism. But Solzhenitsyn isn’t very popular today, in Russia or in other nations. Why not? Because he warns that people in Western countries have “forgotten God” and face “a calamity of despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness.

We should take this to heart, not in order to be gloomy but in order to recognize the dangers of forgetting God. If it could happen to the Israelites after Joshua’s victories, it can also happen to the nations that triumphed in wars against paganism and atheism. The triumph of D-Day and the rending of the Iron Curtain are things for which we should thank God. Tyrants and terrorists have not prevailed, and for that we can be glad. But the greatest danger is never in the weapons of an enemy but in our own tendency to abandon God.

The good news is that even when a civilization abandons God, the Lord may have mercy. Many countries dominated by anti-Christian dictatorships, after decades of suffering, are tasting greater freedom and opportunity. Meanwhile, in free nations that have taken God for granted until they have forgotten him, where everyone does what is right in his own eyes, the Lord may still intervene.

God did so during the time of the judges when the Israelites repeatedly wandered from him. God sometimes let them go in their sin, allowing them to sink lower into wickedness. He sometimes let them fall into the hands of cruel enemies. But when they cried for God’s mercy, he would send deliverance. He would send leadership to call people back to God and to liberate the people from their oppressors.

God’s ultimate act of mercy in all of history was to send his own Son, Jesus Christ. Salvation in Jesus continues to spread. Individuals may turn their back on the faith of their fathers, but many other individuals and families are coming to know Jesus. Some nations with a Christian heritage are forsaking their foundation, but in others Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds, and those nations will experience blessing if the truth of the Bible and the life of Jesus spreads throughout the structures of the society. This is not a matter of forcing a religion on people through violence but of winning them through love and through the transforming effects of truth.

As we ponder what has happened since D-Day, let us also reflect on God’s promise in the Bible: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.