Onward Christian Soldiers – March off to War

As a humanist, I am somewhat amused by the idea of humanist chaplains being added to the US military’s chaplain corp.

The idea that there are no atheists in foxholes should be challenged, but also examined.

Believers would like to think that atheists are childish perpetually rebelling adults and that when push comes to shove, we put aside our anger at god and we really do believe.

That isn’t the case at all, atheists are in foxholes. In fact, when you are in danger, taking the time to pray and ask to be delivered, is when you are more likely to be killed because you stopped paying attention to the surroundings that are endangering you.

But, should there be atheists in foxholes? That is a more compelling question. Why should an atheist join the military at all? Career opportunities and training –the involuntary American draft of the lower and middle classes has ended and been replaced by a voluntary poverty draft of the economically disadvantaged. The US military is the employer of last resort.

Sure the US military has the most tricked out hardware and sophisticated tactics, but a military compromised of such a mixed bag of people who have varying degrees of dedication to the task are not an effective force against dedicated and decentralized fanatics who hide among their civilian supporters, because they are the civilian supporters.

To my mind, the phrase, no atheists in foxholes, should mean that no atheist was dumb enough to sign up for military service and risk their lives for nothing.

However, patriotism is not limited to theists, although, it is essentially, putting your idea of nation above all other nation ideas – so patriotism is essentially, the religion of citizenship. And fundamentalist patriotism is that My Country Right or Wrong/Might Make Right mentality that dovetails into religious fundamentalism.

We cannot fight fanaticism with reason and rationality – we need to fight it with fanaticism directly and reason indirectly.

I have long thought that the way to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan is with an all female army, preferably when they’ve synced up their menstruation cycles – the Taliban would have little option but to flee the fields. The only way to fight a fanatic is by presenting them with their worst fears.

So, leave the humanists and marginally religious soldiers stateside, they won’t perform as well as fundamentalist soldiers and will require more post battle trauma counseling and won’t ever be able to return to combat status.

Theists are easier to convince to die for a cause if it’s connected to their god’s will aka higher power that will reward them for their sacrifice. There is very little separating a Fundamentalist Christian/Patriotic soldier from a fundamentalist jihading suicide bomber – with the except that the suicide bomber is more dedicated to the cause in that they are absolutely laying down their life. Whereas a soldier in a troop, may survive the various battles and war overall.

It is to the military’s advantage to have religious/patriotic soldiers – soldiers who are dedicated to the purpose experience less post traumatic stress disorder because they can justify what they see as necessary to the higher purpose.

When soldiers have joined for the career and training opportunities and it’s their bad luck that a couple of wars are on – even the ones who initially joined after 9/11 to protect their country – once you question the purpose of the conflict, you necessary can’t ignore what’s happening around you. It starts a cascade failure of meaning and purpose – thus the soldier becomes traumatized.

It helps the US military avoid the expense and loss of manpower when they don’t have soldiers who will become traumatized. It is also to our society’s advantage to send only the religiously motivated – because they will experience less psychologically trauma and be able to reintegrate upon their return home, but also because this would remove an aggressive segment of our society from the gene pool for those who do not.

One of the main purposes of war is to reduce population, directly through battle but also indirectly in the aftermath of famine and disease. War is what happens when you put too many rats in the cage, they battle with each other until the number of rats is supportable by the resources available.

Planet Earth is our cage and there’s not enough resources for everyone, something’s got to give, and it’s better to eliminate the obstructionist portion of society – the religious sector – so that the rest of us can get on with the business of shifting from fossil fuels to other sustainable fuels, to sustainable societies that are better able to get along and cooperate with each other the way we need to do and that religion is one of the major stumbling blocks to.

We have to stop thinking locally and think globally and part of thinking globally is that diversity is good and that no one group of people is any better than any other group of people, we’re all in this together.

As long as the focus of the world in on one religion over another, we are never going to collectively step up and say that none are better than any other – so it’s up to those who have stepped away from the my religion is better than your religion argument and notice that religion is hampering our species sustainability.

2 thoughts on “Onward Christian Soldiers – March off to War

  1. Interesting post, and while i disagree with a lot of what you said, I definitely think you made some valid points. As an atheist who is considering a military career in my future I think you generalized atheists a little too much as to suggest we have the same ideals. While I don’t support the conflicts the U.S. is currently engaged in, I do support many of the ideals which the U.S. stands for, and would willingly fight to protect them. Now, you might view that as a form of patriotism, and we both agree that patriotism is basically a religion on its own. However, I dont think my interest in the U.S. military lies in a blind support for the U.S. but instead a reasoned approach to the ideals which the U.S. happens to incorporate. In other words, I would be just as happy to fight for Britain, Sweden, New Zealand, or any other country which shares my same ideals.

    I do agree that theists may be easier to convince to die for their cause but joining the military is not a death sentence and I think atheists might be just as inclined to fight for their cause as long as death isn’t a sure outcome. And even then, i think there are many atheists who would die to protect a variety of freedoms. Interestingly, I think atheists would die for their cause for the exact opposite reason a theist would. While a theist expects a wondrous eternal life for their actions, an atheist, such as myself, knows that life and consciousness is limited, and as such, I would be fine with ending my life in order to protect the ideals i support, for when im dead the fact that i didn’t live an extra 20 years is meaningless.

    I also am dubious of your assertion that religious people are less likely to experience trauma from military engagements. You wrote, “It starts a cascade failure of meaning and purpose – thus the soldier becomes traumatized.” That would seem to suggest a religious person would be more likely to experience trauma as a lack of clear meaning in life counters their belief system while it only confirms the reality known by the atheist solider. I don’t have any statistics to back up my claim so i can only remain suspicious of that point you made until you provide statistics of your own.

    • If there’s one sure thing that can be said about atheists is that we’re not groupthinkers – so I wouldn’t expect any other atheist from having the same ideals – although, we do tend towards humanist values – there’s nothing wrong with measured patriotism – it’s when it flips to unquestioning that it’s the dangerous kind.

      Your point that there are causes worth dying for is well taken – and if the US or Canada and Commonwealth countries were under attack, I would be willing to do whatever I could to defend these nations and the ideals that they stand for.

      But the current conflicts are not about these things – they are about murky and unclear reasons – and these ideals cannot be imposed on a population that is not prepared to stand up and demand them for themselves – this being the case, I don’t see the value of spilling any democratic blood in a wasted and thankless effort.

      The basis for my likelihood of trauma is from a recent 2011 issue of Psychology Today – about the US military trying to determine why some people are more resilient to others and they had concluded that belief in what the fight was about was a major consideration – I extrapolated a step farther than the article did.


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