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April 13th, 2013
02:38 PM ET

My Take: Nothing wrong with Nazi assignment

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) – School officials in Albany, New York, are racing to control the damage after a teacher at Albany High School gave students a persuasive writing assignment that challenged them to defend the proposition that “Jews are evil.”

After studying Nazi propaganda and rhetoric, sophomores in three English classes were instructed to imagine that their teacher was “a member of the government in Nazi Germany” and to prove that that they were “loyal to the Nazis.”

But this unidentified teacher is now caught up in a propaganda swirl of his or her own.

Albany Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, at a Friday press conference at which she was flanked by members of the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Federation of New York, apologized and promised disciplinary action.

One student, Emily Karandy, told The Times Union of Albany that she kept putting off the assignment “because I didn’t want to think about it” and she felt “horrible” when she turned it in.

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New York City Councilman David Greenfield has called for the resignation of the teacher, who has been placed on leave.

"The teacher responsible for coming up with and assigning students with this task must be held accountable for attempting to indoctrinate children with anti-Semitic beliefs," Greenfield said in a statement. "Quite obviously, this teacher lacks the judgment and common sense necessary to have a position of such great responsibility and is clearly not fit to return to the classroom."

"You asked a child to support the notion that the Holocaust was justified, that's my struggle," said Vanden Wyngaard. "It's an illogical leap for a student to make."

I think it’s Greenfield who is lacking in common sense here. And it's the superintendent who is being illogical.

I suppose it is possible that the teacher is a closet Nazi attempting to reconstruct the Third Reich in Albany. But isn’t it more likely that he or she is trying to teach students about the dangers of propaganda and the horrors of the Holocaust?

Consider the student who felt “horrible” about doing this assignment. Is that really a bad thing? How are high school students today supposed to feel about Nazism and the Holocaust?

Apparently, what they are supposed to feel (and think) is nothing, because the lesson high school teachers are going to take away from this fiasco is to avoid this topic at all costs, lest they risk losing their jobs.

When I was an assistant professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, I used to teach Nazi theology. My students read sermons by Nazi theologians arguing that Jews were evil and were responsible for killing Jesus. They also read a book called “Theologians Under Hitler” by Robert P. Erickson, who tried to explain how and why Christian thinkers could come to believe that exterminating Jews was somehow Christ-like.

I am not a Nazi. I was not teaching Nazi theology as the truth. I was teaching it as propaganda, just like this Albany High School teacher was doing. My purpose was not to make my students sympathetic to Nazism. My purpose was to unsettle them. And to teach them something along the way.

I had two goals when teaching this material.

First, I wanted my students to realize that smart Christians with doctoral degrees supported the Holocaust. Second, I wanted them to grapple with the implications of this fact on their own religious commitments. Do Christians today have any responsibility to know this history and to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again? If so, how can they exercise that responsibility without coming to understand the contours of Nazi thought?

But instead of grappling with these questions, my students almost universally tried to side-step them. The Nazis were not Christians, they told me confidently, because Christians would never kill Jews just for being Jews. Case closed. Time to move on to more comfortable topics.

What I witnessed in Atlanta, and what we are seeing today in Albany, is a failure of imagination. My students were so locked into their current circumstances that they couldn’t imagine things being different in a different place and time.

For them, to believe that Christians could condone the Holocaust was (to quote from the Albany superintendent) an “illogical leap.” But Christians did condone the Holocaust. How can students learn that without digging into the primary materials? And how better to wrestle with those primary materials than by constructing a persuasive essay built upon them?

If I were teaching at Albany High School I might have worded this assignment a little differently. But it's a terrific assignment, and one that should be used at more high schools across the country. To far too many American youth, the Holocaust is an echo of an echo. Assignments like this bring it alive in all its horrors.

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But students aren't the only victims of the failure of imagination we are now witnessing among Albany school officials and Jewish leaders. The teacher is a victim, too. And so are public school teachers across the country who are being told via this fiasco not to be creative as teachers, not to challenge their students to think in new ways.

If this teacher is fired, I will invite him or her to Boston University, where I now teach, to explain what he or she was trying to accomplish in challenging students with this assignment. And I will give the same assignment to my college students. I think it will do them some good.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Culture wars • Education • Holocaust • Judaism • New York • Prejudice • United States

soundoff (1,829 Responses)
  1. hoboroadie

    In the olden days, when mental ability was still fashionable, there was a subject called Rhetoric. Even when I was in school they had something called Debate, and one of the primary exercises was to argue a position that was contrary to one's own.
    My apologies to all of you whose brains are now hurting.

    April 20, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • Science

      hoboroadie................................Facts work best for teaching children !

      Evolution wins hands down ..........time for god(s) to get the HELL out of the way................so humanity can evolve !

      Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young

      April 21, 2013 at 6:56 am |
    • Science

      Oops source for above...........also the source below is BETTER than the bible !

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104324.htm

      April 21, 2013 at 7:00 am |
    • Akira

      Hoboroadie: stop. You're making too much sense.
      We can't have that now, can we?

      April 21, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • fred

      Science
      What came first the dinosaur of the egg?
      That answer can only be found in the bible. If you start with a good foundation your story has hopes of standing the test of time.

      April 23, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • Science

      From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

      http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml

      No angels the pope kicked them off the team last year FRED

      April 28, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • Science

      Hey fred .........educations works.......... .does it for you ?

      April 28, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  2. Redsoxnation

    Why would anyone try to "get in the head" of a sociopath and the ignoramus who followed him blindly?

    It's interesting to me that the focus by the liberals is on Hitler calling himself a "christian" and using that assertion to slam christianity. The fruit of ones life determines ones faith...whether its genuine or not. Hitler could call himself a Christian all he wants but he wasn't. Was his conduct anywhere near that of Christ's? Did he turn the other cheek? Did he treat others as he would have. Wanted to be treated? Did he love God with all his heart mind and
    soul and his brother as himself?? NO. Refer to him ALL you want but it's like Pol Pot calling himself a humanitarian. I know he wasn't one because of his brutality. I don't care WHAT hitler CALLED himself, his actions determined what he REALLY is. Liberals relish on focusing on the evil that so called "christians" do and never recognize the overwhelming good influence that real christians
    have had in this world and continue to have. Don't be afraid to look at the fruit.

    April 19, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • Science

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/13/pope-asks-cardinals-to-study-church-reform/comment-page-2/#comments

      Make sure to read comments or comment ?

      April 19, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • Akira

      Nonsense. The majority of liberals, (that you are using as sort of an epithet) are Christian, also. You are doing exactly what you are accusing liberals of doing....generalizing a whole group of people in an erroneous, inflammatory manner.
      Of course Hitler didn't act in a Christ-like manner; he was a monster.

      April 19, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
  3. Katie

    I agree with Stephen's take on this situation. I had a creative World History teacher in high school too. He actually dressed up as a Nazi officer, made us line up in the hall before we entered the classroom, and then separated us into different groups based on reasons we were not privy to. Then once we were all seated on the floor of the classroom in our assigned groups, shoeless, he told us of our groups gruesome fate. Gas chamber and then incineration, work horses, starved and forgotten, and experimented on. We all made fun of the other groups, cheering at our fate. Trying to make a game out of it. He stood there silently, while we tried to make it more comfortable. Then he put on a picture slide show that made it real. It was disturbing. It should be disturbing. It really happened. It should affect the people hearing about it for the first time. It was unfair, evil, and senseless. And yet it happened. It happened to millions of people. Thousands died because of prejudice and political games. That day in class, I sat on the floor, barefoot, and learned something. I applaud the Albany teacher. If history was all roses and rainbows it wouldn't be worth recording. We record and learn so we don't repeat. And if you can't learn where those ideas and beliefs can originate from, that's all we're doomed to do.

    April 19, 2013 at 4:11 am |
    • Science

      Yea put lots of people are in denial no god(s) needed !

      Where do morals come from?

      By Kelly Murray, CNN

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/

      Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

      Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’

      Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
      bears his name as the “God particle.”

      http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/08/atheist-prof-peter-higgs-stop-calling-higgs-bosen-the-god-particle/

      Pope praises science, but insists God created world updated Thur October 28, 2010
      Stephen Hawking is wrong, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday – God did create the universe. The pope didn't actually mention the world-famous scientist, who argues in a book published last month that the laws of physics show there is no need for a supreme... \

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/28/pope-praises-science-but-insists-god-created-world/

      Science

      Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says updated Tue May 17, 2011
      By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when...

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/17/heaven-is-a-fairy-story-scientist-stephen-hawking-says/

      April 7th, 2012

      08:32 PM ET

      The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/07/the-jesus-debate-man-vs-myth/comment-page-137/#comment-2281915

      Make sure to read comments

      April 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |

      Science

      NASA: Three planets found are some of best candidates so far for habitable worlds outside our solar system.

      http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/18/us/planet-discovery/index.html

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/02/09/my-take-a-word-to-christians-be-nice/?iref=allsearch

      April 19, 2013 at 6:01 am |
  4. Submit Your Site To 800,000+ Search Engines

    I somewhat agree, but some matters should be done a bit differently. Submit Your Site To 800,000+ Search Engines http://www.iTOOLS3000.com

    April 18, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
  5. Robert Striblen

    Excellent assignment! We need more teachers who are willing to push the educational envelope and to make a real difference in the lives of these new age Zombie apocalyptic Twilight fantastical children.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  6. To Prothero

    Steve P, one of these days could you kindly let us us know why you are 'religiously confused, ?Inquiring minds want to know.

    April 17, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • lol??

      Why do some young boys playin' in the sandbox make a decision to work for the Dept of Streets and Sanitation? Job security? All the naps you need?

      April 17, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • .

      Aw, still mad because he didn't immediately goose-step to you preferred religion's drumbeat, Chadly? Gotta cast aspersions because he IS honest enough to say he's confused instead of swallopwing blindly? Why should he answer to YOU? It's none of your fucking business, that's why, CHARDTARD.

      April 17, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • Science

      A follow up article would sink the ARK !

      April 18, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  7. JD

    I am disgusted by the myopic and insensitive opinion so arrogantly eructated by this editorial. Your single-minded prsuit of academic absolutism ignores a critical factor here: the human factor. Any idiot can make an argument for or against any premise using raw data and historical information, but how do you reconcile the feelings and unimaginable brutality experienced by the victims and victims' families of Nazi Germany with the feelings and experiences of young students in contemporary America? The assignment, and more so your senseless embrace of it, is wholly offensive.
    The intended lesson could be taught with any number of examples that do not risk offending the millions and millions and millions of people affected by the Nazi horror. The teacher may have intended a valuable lesson, but was wrong to assign it to public school students in this way. It shows a level of ignorance and insensitivity that should come with a public rebuke and some disciplining, though perhaps not termination. We are human and make mistakes. This may apply to the teacher, but not the Nazis.
    Finally, you make a ridiculous conclusion that, "…the lesson high school teachers are going to take away from this fiasco is to avoid this topic at all costs, lest they risk losing their jobs." The topic has been and will continue to be taught, only by more sensitive and informed individuals. Hopefully not you.

    April 17, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • .

      How do you reconcile the raw brutality of what drove the Nazis to do this in the first place? You haven't a clue as to why this assignment was given; if you ignore history, it WILL repeat! You don't GET that, do you?? Read the article again. S l o w l y. And although it may not have been suitable for HS students, tell me WHY it isn't for college students, who Prothero taught? If critical thinking is beyond you, then hide in your ignorance. Don't expect others to act so willfully ignorant of our history, though.

      And yeah, when HS teachers have to consider shrinking violets such as yourself, they ARE going to be hindered. If you want a stupid kid, home school.

      Freaking Pollyanna. The world stinks sometimes. Time you learned that.

      April 17, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  8. Think for yourself

    Thank you for writing this article. I thought the same thing when I first read about it. It reminded me of an assignment in high school where a teacher asked us to write an essay and present our arguments against the new non-smoking laws that had just taken effect. (No smoking in restaurants, etc.) He was not promoting smoking for high school students – he was trying to get us to think the arguments through. I know this is not the same thing, but the method is worthwhile. I would even argue the method is more important when studying Nazi Germany and the underlying causes and events that lead to the holocaust. My hat is off to the teacher and to you Mr. Prothero for saying out loud what a lot of us are afraid to say, for fear that our point will be misinterpreted as well.

    April 17, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Oldprof

      Teachers at all levels are both fearful and lack the creativity to structure their assignments such as to challenge students to comprehend and think deeply. This is why it takes thirty years to change anything in education. The 'practice effect' of Thorndike was repudiated by by him, but is adhered to by millions of teachers. The stories in the teachers lounge have as a major theme "Teachers in Trouble" rather than 'what works' to get kids to think about the problems they will face in a decade. We choose teachers from the lower middle class and then hope they will rock the boat – it doesn't happen.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  9. Mary

    Just for fun, everyone, try researching the link between US senator Prescott Bush, George's grandfather, and Nazi Germany. Who ever said that war profiteering should be restricted to dealing with your own side, eh?

    April 17, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Alias

      And the Kenedys made their money running moonshine.
      What is your point in bringing up history? Sins of the father and all ....

      April 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • jeanie

      what is the point of bringing up history? Are you kidding???? (And unless the Kennedy moonshine fed the Nazi war machine YOUR statement makes no sense)

      'The late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany.
      The Guardian has obtained confirmation from newly discovered files in the US National Archives that a firm of which Prescott Bush was a director was involved with the financial architects of Nazism.
      His business dealings, which continued until his company's assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act, has led more than 60 years later to a civil action for damages being brought in Germany against the Bush family by two former slave labourers at Auschwitz and to a hum of pre-election controversy.'

      hmmmmm.... that certainly equates with making moonshine....NOT!

      George H W Bush & son George W used as a springboard for their fortunes and political careers, money that helped build the Nazi war machine, which (besides all the Jews & other people they didn't like) killed thousands of our troups and troups and citizens of a great number of nations. How is that not relevant??? I wouldn't be using 'sins of the father..' if George Sr. & Junior there, had refused to use any of Prescott Bush's fortune for their education and/or living expenses etc as did a grandson of a Tobacco Giant. He refused to benefit from sins of his father and grandfather, unlike both Georges.

      What if a hypothetical President's GRANDfather had aquired the family wealth by murdering every member of your family back to your great grandparents,.. except you. And this man's son & his son went on to become presidents grew up and flourished in part from the money the grandfather aquired from the murders of your family....would you be saying, 'what is your point in bringing up history?'

      April 17, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Dippy

      Troups?? Try troops next time.

      April 17, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • Maryanswersherselfasjeannie

      What good does it do NOW, dipshit?? And yeah, my great grands WERE killed in the Holocaust...think I can sue Bush and family?? No?? Then all you're doing is bringing up a lot of worthless crap. Get a fucking clue, you hyena.
      You're feeding the tin foil industry just fine. What's next? Nazi flying saucers? Bwa ha ha ha!!! Moron.
      What's in YOUR skeleton closet?? Do you have a Nazi in your family past that may closed the door on my great grands??? Hmmmmmmm. Better drink some of that moonshine. All of this was known when the Bush Family Robinson became President(s) anyway. Didn't matter a fucking bit then, and it doesn't now. Idiot.

      April 17, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
  10. Chris

    While trying to understand Nazi Theology and the effectiveness of Propaganda is something I believe should be taught, the idea of a grade being given out for this particular assignment is pretty ludicrous. This teacher wanted his students to actually try and write why the holocaust was justified. Again, not why Nazi's believed they were correct, but to try and write saying it's correct.

    April 17, 2013 at 4:08 am |
    • jamesfoley

      That wasn't the assignment at all Chris. The assignment was for the students to put themselves in the nazis shoes. To write from their perspective. Following along now?

      April 17, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  11. Austin

    No matter how much resentment I hear about Christianity, I will always be able to look you straight in the fact and explain to you that your wicked heart is the reason you reject the messiah, the Risen Lord and savior of the world. His name is Jesus, His blood is pure.

    I was the recipient of a sequence of spiritual revelations that were the sovereign voice of God. I see that you all hate what you see as religious Christianity . But I have to tell you the truth. Jesus Christ is God, Creator Redeemer. Your thoughts are apparitions while the Word of God always was and will be.

    The only lasting matter you will ever experience is not what you feel, but the life of the Spirit of Truth.

    The truth goes further. You have an issue with Jesus himself.

    Evolution and Atheism is a spiritual vacuum. But it is nothing compared to the second death. Those who live are born twice. those who die, die twice. This second choice of the rejection of spiritual life, is terrifying.

    No one deserves anything. God's mercy is the only cure for your disease.

    April 16, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Translation:

      "blah blah blah Jeebus, blah blah I have weird dreams blah blah believe me because I say so."

      April 16, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • Athy

      Why do we even respond to this nutcake?

      April 16, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • jamesfoley

      I'm afraid not Austin. The fact is, life is finite. It goes from point a to point b. There is no point c. There is no Cow Level. There is no point revelations 3 1/2. There is no consciousness before life or after death. You only have your one life to live. I see through you. The reason you can't live without your imaginary friend is because you've been programed to be afraid. You did not hear any voice of god, but you may certainly have heard voices. Your dire warnings of ghastly apparitions and a gruesome afterlife are only meant to bolster your own private insanity. They mean absolutely nothing to anyone else and hold no sway over any that do not choose to give them power. Pray all you like. It will avail you naught except your own personal comfort. Your threats are hollow and powerless and so is your god.. Your devil is exactly the same. Fictions.

      April 16, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Larry

      It's not my wicked heart that rejects your messiah, Austin, it's my wicked mind. I just can't believe in something that I know isn't true. Any was I slice it 1 + 1 + 1 does not equal 1.

      April 17, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • Mary

      Sure I have issue with Jesus himself. Not everything he said can be interpreted as "nice". He was also definitely not a "Family Values" type of guy when he told people to abandon theirs. In many ways, Jesus comes off as callous, and not very compassionate, or peaceable.

      April 17, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  12. Mack Hall, HSG

    When teaching BECKET in a drama unit I have asked the students to consider Henry's point-of-view, even though it is patently false. A teacher uses such projects to encourage thinking. Values are not promoted by preaching in monotone.

    April 16, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
  13. pistos

    Dear Steve P,
    Why is it so difficult for you to understand that the Messiah came to earth for a specific purpose, that purpose was salvation. There is not one group that was responsible for his crucifixion, he had to pay the price for all of our sins. ALLl of mankind were responsible, not one group or person.
    Through His resurrection you and I have life eternal if we choose to believe in Him.

    Pray to God and ask him into your heart today.

    April 16, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I would never presume to speak for Mr. P but perhaps the answer is that there is not a shred of objective, verifiable, independent or factual evidence for any god or the divine jesus myth.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • Akira

      Probably because the crucifixion wasn't the subject of the assignment.
      Why is that so hard for YOU to understand?

      April 16, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • שמיחזה

      because we already have eternal life, and need no salvation, dodo matter and energy never disappears. we pagans have been saying ti for thousands of years before you and science agrees. we don't die we just transition to the next . so lets work hard to day to make this life better for our next one. start be doing away with the thing that hurts this planet most..... Christianity

      April 16, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • Alan Hoffman

      As an educated, observant Jew, I can answer your question. In the history of the Jewish people we record a major revelation at Sinai in 1,313 BCE. An entire nation and people saw and heard that message and experienced those events. We also had minor revelations by prophets (proven to actually be prophets) and propagated a written/oral tradition that is still with us today – unchanged. Whatever the "Jesus episode" was, it did not get communciated by G-d to the entire Jewish people (some research indicates that there were less than 200 followers of Jesus during his lifetime). Hence, there is no historical confirmation that any broad revelation from or about Jesus occurred. The Jewish people recorded all relavent things (both good and bad) moreso than most nations. Jesus became a footnote in Jeiwsh history. Those closest to the events should know their own history (lets not claim some grand conspiracy here ... that leads to more bad history). I would not presume to tell the Chinese people their history, so please do not assume others can preach ours to us.

      That is not to say something did not occur, it just did not occur to the Jewish people. Now here is some advanced theology to consider from "the religious other": G-d does want a relationship will all people. Revelation is how G-d creates that relationship. But hat means the revelation needs to be discernable. At Sinai, it was so it created a people and a nation that is eternal. If other people experience revelations, that is fine, its just that it is not a shared experience, hence no relationship can be formed based on what is not experienced. Pre-Vatican II thinking that presumes Jews are "blind, dumb or evil" are racist on its face. Some bad history confirms that. So given that the Jewish people are no less intelligent or good in comparision to other peoples, its stands there is no G-d required or sanctioned relationship to be formed between the Jewish people and the person of Jesus – hence no effective revelation (I am ignoring what should be obvious in that 3,326 years of a constant Jewish tradition prohibits worshiping people as gods, regardless of how common that was in the Greco-Roman world), Since G-d clearly can communicate to all people when and how He chooses to create such a relationship, absent the communication attempt is proof it was not intended for the Jewish people.

      Logically, therefore, to expect everyone not raised to believe or educated to believe in Jesus, absent historical proof of a national or universal revelation experience, is irrational. Worse, it leads to some of the bad history I alluded to.

      April 17, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • Larry

      Alan Hoffman
      Your historical proof that the Jewish people received a revelation on Sinai through Moses is just as valid as the Christian claims that the apostles received a similar revelation through Jesus, right?

      April 17, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • jamesfoley

      Larry is absolutely correct. None of you people are any more special or chosen or enlightened than the other. Your claims are the same with different names at different times. Jesus was borne of the resentment of a people marginalized by the Jewish elite of the time [Pharisees and Sadducees] who needed their own messiah because the jewish one wasn't working for them. They heard the words drummed into their heads but so little example in practice. This all assumes a man named Jesus actually lived.

      April 17, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  14. Geoff

    I'm a little fuzzy on the context here. I fail to see the author of this articles point, given the assignment was an exercise in "persuasive writing". Why is an high school teacher teaching about the impact of propaganda, and is it stated anywhere that was the purpose of the assignment? If so, I haven't seen it mentioned. Ditto for theology, this belongs in an English assignment, why? Ditto again, for critical thinking. Did the teacher do any preliminary groundwork, instructing the students about the realities of the Holocaust, the Nazi Party, or walk them through the fallacies and dangers of Nazi propaganda and rhetoric? Are high school children, without supervision, really equipped to "wrestle with those primary materials"?

    April 16, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • Akira

      Judging from the response here, many adults can't wrestle with the primary materials, either.
      But, to answer your question shortly and succinctly, no, it is probably more suitable for college students.
      I do not, however, think that is the reason for the uproar over this.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
  15. to the religiously confused scholar

    Prothero, Do you not understand what it means to be evil? why would you not instead suggest something along the lines of...Nazis were evil for this assignment.

    April 16, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • .

      To the ignorant chad, those who don't learn from the past is doomed to repeat it; PROTHERO DIDN'T GIVE THE ASSIGNMENT THAT THE ARTICLE IS SPEAKING OF, MORON!
      Trying to deny bad things exist is surely as retarded as your reason and "logic".
      You fucking wish you were half as knowledgeable as Prothero is. Hysteric. Holocaust denier.

      April 16, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • lol??

      Silly dot, denying bad places exist? Like the Lake of Fire??

      April 16, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Lol, go fvck yourself sideways with a god damned cast iron skillet.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • midwest rail

      And we'll throw in a second skillet free – you pay only for shipping and handling.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • Akira

      What dot SAID was "
      Trying to deny bad things exist is surely as retarded as your reason and “logic”."

      It is patently obvious that lol?? lacks reading comprehension skills. As well as the definitions of most of words it tries to use.

      Silly lol??.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • lol??

      Got a lifetime supply of fryin' pans out of the deal. BTW, y'all know silly dot is a lake denier. Mighyt have something

      April 17, 2013 at 1:43 am |
    • lol??

      It might have something to do with a fear of water. He denies the great flood, too.

      April 17, 2013 at 1:46 am |
    • .

      Lol?? Translation: blah blah can't read a simple post blah blah communist bitch.

      April 17, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • blueashtourist

      The missing piece of information, and I think it is important, is that after "proving" themselves to be good Nazis and supporting the victimization of the Jews, the class's next assignment was to read Elie Wiesel's Night. To see the results of such thinking and inability to challenge propaganda was a creative idea although perhaps poorly executed

      April 17, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  16. Reality

    It is time to change the name of this blog to "What Beliefs?" as in the 21st century most if not all religious beliefs are bogus. Or better yet, disband the blog altogether.

    April 16, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • BG

      CNN and it's leftist masters believe that "blogs" like this one serve a useful purpose in propagating disinformation and cultural propaganda to grease the rails for socialism. Demean family, denounce religion, tout perversion as normal, yada yada..

      No, Reality, I'm not back. Just checking it to see if anything here has changed.

      It hasn't.

      April 16, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • lol??

      Your socie leader has a special pill for all the little socies. "......disband the blog altogether......" same ol', same ol'

      April 16, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
    • .

      Fuck off, lol??....you have no clue about half the shit you mouth off about, you stupid commie twat. Reality is no more a socialist leader than you are a Christian one.
      Idiot.

      April 16, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • lol??

      Silly dot, reality has adopted hiitler doctrines and tactics. She needs to remember the supplies. Me a commie?? That's just a socie with bigger plans.

      April 16, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • midwest rail

      "...adopted hiitler doctrines and tactics. "
      We all remember who led the purge of comments on certain threads here.

      April 16, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • lol??

      Once a "wegodian", always a "wegodian". Sheepdogs gone bad.

      April 16, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • midwest rail

      I typed "we" on purpose, and right on cue, you delivered your standard drivel. A drivel delivery man, that's you.

      April 16, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • lol??

      And you are a cheap tipper.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • Akira

      Lol??, would Jesus have wanted you to be so selfish as to only think of yourself, as "I...." employs?

      April 16, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • jamesfoley

      @BG what does the BG stand for? Certainly not Brother Grimace right?

      April 16, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
  17. Tribalism

    From Nazi Germany till now people haven't learned the lesson of tribalism. And people are smart enough to navigate through space and create all sorts of things but this one thing just eludes everybody. It's a simple concept.

    It goes like this: NO matter what you believe or don't believe, no matter what color your skin, no matter what your gender is you are a person, I am a person therefore I don't want to go out of my way to make you miserable.

    And that's all there is too it. It's LESS effort than making people miserable, really. I don't know why anti-tribalism isn't more popular.

    April 16, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  18. Mike Petrik

    To state that Hitler was a Christian really is a tad misleading, unless one is relying on the fact that he was baptized a Christian. Hitler despised Christianity, especially the Catholic Church, and held no orthodox Christian beliefs.

    That said, the reality is that many educated Christians supported Hitler and his atrocities. Why educated people who claim to be Christian would act this way is worthy of study and reflection, no question.

    April 16, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • Akira

      Perhaps it would be better to say that Hitler wasn't a practicing Christian, because he certainly wasn't.

      That being said, he certainly wasn't an atheist, which is what most Christians assert.

      I would say he was nuts, and was uniquely himself, representing no ideal but his own.

      April 16, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • jamesfoley

      Let's not forget that his parents were also of jewish descent.

      April 16, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  19. jackpenn

    The truth is, for whatever twisted reasons, thousands if not millions of German Christians actively supported and participated in the Holocaust. Writing about why the Germans thought the way they did could be a valuable learning experience.

    April 16, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Even worse, many of them stayed silent and let the minority rule through brutality and fear.

      Consider the mindset....defeated in WWI...a charismatic leader starts to emerge, and Germany went from a defeated nation to almost taking over the world...in a few years... the mind set of the people was vastly different than what we know, I learned this from my grandmother who was there. The media and really all information you were given for yo=ears was cesored and controlled.

      Study this to see how easy it is to control populations with mis information.
      What I found most interesting is the tactics used to control the people were the same tactics as many religions had used in one form or another for millenia.

      April 16, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
  20. Mike

    Does a serial rapist get the respect that he was living out christian doctrine of male dominance? is that ever an issue? A serial rapist claiming a dominance harem would simply be deranged and mentally ill.

    But you liberals treat Adolf Hitler like a respectable test killer, one we can learn so much from because he was religious. that must have played a significant role right?
    Why is that Adolf Hitler, a KILLER OF MILLIONS, has the sympathy of evolutionists so that they can point to Christianity?

    that seems like a pretty low down agenda. I think that ww2 being far enought in the past that this is something out of reach to slander Christianity. That really seems like the primary motive for the agenda with this garbage.

    April 16, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Who said anything about respecting Hitler? Are you just trying as hard as you can to manufacture something to be indignant about?
      That's pretty pathetic. The persecution complex is very strong in you.

      April 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Could you point out where this author or the teacher was suggesting giving Hitler sympathy? Really, I am challenging you. You seriously missed the point of both the exercise and the article, and I say this as someone who has already stated multiple times that I disagree with this particular assignment. Try reading again...slowly...then read it again.

      April 16, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Mike
      What is slandering christianity is christians.
      Hitler was christian.
      All of the leaders of the crusades were christian.
      the KKK is christian.

      Those are facts. It angers you that your fellow christians committed these atrocities. It angers me too.
      Just like it angers muslims that fellow muslims are using their faith to justify their acts.

      You are angry with your religions history, don't take it out on us.

      April 16, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • Akira

      There is so much wrong with Mike's post that I wouldn't even know where to begin...what an idiotic assertion.
      Ignore history, Mike. When it repeats, it won't have been those pesky liberal evolutionists that started that ball rolling.

      April 16, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Greg

      Agreed, Akira.

      April 16, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      but Hitler did do it because he was christian, he said so.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • jamesfoley

      Actually mike... "we" *snicker* treat Hitler like an Archetype; "A very typical example of a certain person or thing. An original that has been imitated." He represents a form of government corruption. He also represents the type of government official that uses religion as a tool/bludgeon. That's one of the reasons he and many religious leaders get lumped in together. They administer the cool-aid.
      For clarification, the assignment the original teacher gave was meant to encourage the students to engage in critical thinking and to imagine what might have been going through the minds of the people Hitler and Goerrbles assigned to create such propaganda. To question and ponder; "were these people as uncomfortable as I am writing this? Did they really feel this way or were they following orders under threat of violence or death? What tactics did they use? What tactics and policies would they advocate? What would they use as support for their propaganda?"
      You are all very upset at this singular assignment, and have no idea what the teacher had in mind for afterward. None of us do. It could be that you are correct, but it could also be that you are passing undue judgment on this teacher. But to say this person should be fired or that the assignment is inappropriate without knowing where the teacher was going or intended is a crime in itself. Drawing a faulty conclusion and putting the cart before the horse. Jumping the gun.

      April 16, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • jamesfoley

      And for the record mike, it was liberals and conservatives that fought and died in WWII against Nazism and fascism, and it is liberals mostly now who fight it still. Still fighting the tactics the nazis would employ. Where are the conservatives on this issue? Fighting the fighters.

      April 16, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Oldprof

      I lived through WWII and have known several German nationals that lived during that time also. There is certainly enough criticism to go around. Pope Pius on down, shared in support of Hitler and his goals. There was no public resistance to the Nazi movement.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.