What if Hitler repented?

Right before he died, what if Hitler prayed to God and repented for his evil, and begged God for forgiveness. Would he get it?

Assumably. That’s how the system works, isn’t it?

A charitable humanitarian Buddhist, of course, BURNS IN HELL, SUFFERING, FOREVER.

Extremely fair.

I assume you’re talking about a christian God here, so I’m basing my response on that. If you’re not, then feel free to disregard anything I say. Also, most of this is just my understanding of this stuff.


Based on my understanding of God, yes. God would forgive him. This is based on a few key understandings:

  • Everyone is has sinned. Big sins and little sins are still just sin.
  • Sin separates us from God because He is holy and sin cannot exist in his presence.
  • The price of sin is death.
  • God loves people. All of them, and doesn’t want to be separated from them.
  • Jesus paid the price of sin, so that we wouldn’t have to. All sin, not just select sins. Anyone who accepts and claims this will be forgiven.

See, who am I to say that my sin is lesser or greater than yours or anyone else’s? My sin is between me and God. Yours is between you and God. Hitler’s is between him and God.

Is it fair? Not really, but God errs on the side of mercy giving everyone the chance to be reconciled.

If one person is a shoplifter who stole to feed his family, and the other person is a mass murderer, I’ll just go ahead and make the judgement call that person number two is a greater sinner than person number one. All sins are NOT equal, and I cannot see giving equal punishments to both sins. Of course, I cannot conceive of a sin that would merit eternal punishment either.

All sin is equal in the sense that they separate from God, and the remedy for that is the same for all sin - no matter what the sin is.

Certainly there are other consequences to sin, which differ depending on the nature of the sin.

What I am saying is that it’s not for me to say that one sin is worse than another from the perspective of who gets forgiven and who gets into heaven. That’s between the person and God.

Didn’t they say Timothy McVeigh repented right before he was executed for the terrorist attack on Oklahoma City?

Which would mean (depending on which flavor of Christianity you subscribe to) that you could end up with McVeigh in heaven and Ghandi burning in Hell…


"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

"About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

"He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

"‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

"He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

"The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

"But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

— Jesus (Matthew 20:1-16)

It’s really not for us to judge. You could have known Gandhi all his life, and known Timothy McVeigh all his life–though that would make you kind of old by now–and be no closer to really understanding what went on in either person’s respective soul. How much of Hitler’s actions, or McVeigh’s, or Gandhi’s, were attributable to psychological and physiological factors, and how much really reflected the state of the soul that inhabited that body for a time? Unless you’re God, you’ll never know.

So that’s why it comes down to don’t judge, lest ye be judged–not even in the case of Hitler.

BTW, what Christian sect insists that Buddhists or Hindus must go to hell? That’s not what I learned.

Me neither.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Jesus — (Matthew 7:21-23)

Also, I’ve heard conflicting interpretations of “hell”, for which unrepentant human souls are presumably bound. Sometimes I’ve been told that hell is equivalent to the “second death”–that after the resurrection, those people who are judged ineligible for eternal life will be sent into destruction and oblivion. According to this theory, they don’t suffer for eternity.

So getting to SenorBeef’s point: since the whole rationale for Buddhism is escape from an eternally recurring cycle of life, and the humanitarian Buddhist is presumably trying to attain nirvana, AKA escape, AKA oblivion . . . wouldn’t “hell” be exactly what he or she is striving for, under this interpretation?

I don’t think that’s a fair representation of mainstream Christian doctrine (although I’m sure you can find some people who believe in the Big Bad Stick God); “all have sinned and fakllen short of the glory of God” - In archery, it doesn’t matter if you miss the target by an inch or a mile; you missed; I think that’s what robinc308 was saying - it’s not that god says “oh good, he’s sinned, now I can whack him with my big stick”, it’s that sin, any sin, breaks the connection between man and God (this says more about the nature of sin than anything).

BTW; I’m just trying to accurately represent mainstream doctrine; I’m not going to attempt to defend it.

IMO, the Deathbed Disclaimer[sup]tm[/sup] - “Sorry for everything, God!” drops dead - is not an assured route to salvation. Genuine, feeling repentance is required, being sorry for what you did and seeing the wrong of it, not being sorry because you want to avoid Hell.

The other thing in my understanding of God is that God has providence so is outside time and doesn’t see it in the linear fashion that we are forced to live it - birth->life->death. I think it more likely that a whole lifetime is judged, so if a godly nun trips, swears, and falls under a bus without final confession, I imagine her Pearly Gates admission is still a lot more likely than a mass raping torturing murderer who remembers to do a quick Hail Mary on his death bed.

But IMO is essentially irrelevant, as Judgement is Mine Saith The Lord, etc.

I’ve since come to realize that it isn’t what all Christians believe, but as a boy I had it shouted to me from many pulpits by many sweating, scary Southern Baptist preachers. Every Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Mormon, atheist and agnostic, and most long-haired musicians and pinkos in general, were going to burn forever and ever in a literal hell, as they richly deserved, unless we Christians (I counted myself a Christian back then) showed them the error of their ways. I think it was usually based on an interpretation of John 14:6:

Not saying that I believe it, of course. But I did hear it often growing up.


it’s nice to feel kindred spirit on the opposite side of the globe!

I’ll add that repentance isn’t some passing sentiment–it’s certainly not the normal fear at being destroyed by God after a lifetime of selfishness. The idea in the Bible, perhaps among other things, is that no one is so far “bad” that they can’t change for the good. The focus that those of a legalist bent have on whether somebody can be saved at the “last moment” misses 99% of the point.

When getting to an ultimate evil incarnate like Hitler, it’s unlikely his dying wishes were to undo what he’d done. Among his last thoughts appeared to be blasting the German people for “letting him down”. A swine to the last.

The Buddhist perspective I was raised with, by-the-by, doesn’t have much to say about last minute changes of heart. Sincere, abrupt changes, yes. Completely erasing a life of wrongdoing, no. I don’t think it enters into answer of the original poster, tho.

I was always told that to confess a sin and ask for forgiveness without actually wanting it or feeling sorry was a worse sin in and of itself. False appologies and all that. So, a last minute “Oh, and by the way, sorry I was an asshole” statement before death doesn’t gaurantee anything.

If Hitler TRULY felt sorry for what he’d done, and asked for forgiveness and TRULY wanted it, then yes, according to most beliefs in God, he would be admitted into heaven.

As for the whole “Thief of bread vs. Axe murderer” challenge, I guess a good way to look at is to look at sin as a bit of metal, and one needs to pass through a metal detector to get into heaven. It’s a very high powered metal detector, so whether you’re wearing a suit of armor or have a bit of spare change in your pocket, you’re not getting in. That’s what purgatory is for. It’s a cleansing station, essentially. A place for you to remove your metal bits so you can pass through the metal detector alright. It takes some people longer, and some people would rather keep their shiny bits, and are hence, not granted access.

Maybe that sounds stupid, but hopefully it’s simplistic enough to be helpful.

IANA Biblical scholar, but I’ll agree with what a number of people have said. I can say that I’ve been to Hawaii, but that doesn’t make it true. The speaking of repentance means nothing; the feeling of repentance is what counts.

If Hitler truly repented (and I believed in the Biblical God) I’d say more power to him. No man or woman’s goodness is defined by his/her deeds of the past (IMO).

The “AKA oblivion” is the tricky part there.

Nirvana, strictly translated (translators assure me), can imply oblivion. Literal translations tend to be dangerous things, though–I’ve little doubt that some Buddhists do formulate nirvana as oblivion, but I don’t think it’s a necessary formulation.

The goal is cessation of suffering, which entails escape out of samsara, the helpless round of rebirth. The problem with that is, it ranks up there with any of the theological troublesomenesses of Christianity as being concepts more slippery than the average fish. Samsara is arguably (debateably so, but it’s a valid position) the only thing we as human beings know, the only thing we have awareness and memory of–so conceiving an accurate picture of what the state of being free of that is like is generally going to be prone to gross simplification. Since it’s hard to conceive of, the nearest stab at it is “extinction.” It’s a good a term as any.

Many Christians will probably accept the definition of Heaven as being that state entered into after the defeat of death, and Hell as that state from, well, it not being defeated. Ideological and narrative differences aside, this seems to me to be a close enough parallel to the Buddhist formulation of nirvana as that state entered into with the cessation of suffering, and samsara as that state that from its perpetuation. Hell==samsara; Heaven==nirvana. All conceptions of what either state is like==likely lacking in significant detail.

Other Buddhists will vary, but that’s my take.

No need to worry about Hitler. The Mormons are taking care of him and his friends.
Eg. http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/hitlertemplework.htm

Didn’t the RCC say that Hitler “ex-communicated himself”?

If so, does not this preclude Heaven unless the Church “re-instates” him?

The Church doesn’t decide who goes to heaven. If Hitler excommunicated himself, it just means he couldn’t receive the sacraments anymore.