Boots on the Ground

One of the knock-on effects of leaving behind the Christian faith is that I have become very anti-war and anti-violence. So when I hear Republicans expounding on the virtues of carpet-bombing civilian populations, it sickens me to no end.

The worst comment came from the execrable Ben Carson, an evangelical neurosurgeon who is far more scientifically ignorant than you would expect a doctor to be. He was asked whether he would have the wherewithal to carpet bomb civilian populations when it meant killing hundreds or thousands of innocent children.

His answer is horrifying:

You should see the eyes of some of those children when I say to them, ‘We are going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor.’ They’re not happy about it and they don’t like me very much at that point. But later on, they love me. Later on, they really realize what’s going on. And by the same token, you have to be able to look at the big picture, and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job, rather death by a thousand pricks.

Let that sink in for a moment.

From the sound of it, Ben Carson would have no problem looking into the faces of those thousands of children, one by one, and telling them that obliterating them into a red mist while leveling their families, friends, and city is good in the big picture, so they’ll be okay.

How can this be? How can Ben Carson, or any of the other warmongering Republicans (are they the thousand pricks he mentions?) even begin to think this way?

Religion, of course.

In some ways, I think the most dangerous doctrine in Christianity, and many (probably most) other religions is the concept that there is an eternal afterlife of bliss awaiting believers and the innocent. This concept allows people like Carson, and other leaders of similar religious thought, to believe that when they kill a child with a bomb, that the child will be instantly transported to eternal bliss in heaven with Jesus (or whomever they believe in.) No harm no foul, right? I mean, they’re probably done the little tykes a favor. No struggling through growing up, adulthood, accountability, and the uncertainty of whether they’ll find salvation. We circumvent all of that and provide the child with an assured eternity of perfection.

I think this is why military leaders are so intent on indoctrinating soldiers, why the peer pressure is so great and why the reaction to non-Christian attempts to push back on Christian elitism are so vilified. I mean, it would be much easier to send teenagers and young adults off to die in foreign lands if you were certain that those who don’t come home to America go home to Jesus, right? You’re not destroying lives and families, you’re just making them wait a little while for the ol’ family reunion.

The real likelihood, however is that this life is the only life we have. We are like all animals, finite and temporary. If there was some sort of afterlife, we know nothing about it, we have no evidence to suggest it, and there are so many varying versions of what it is and how to get there, that there is no reason to trust one version over another, no matter how geographically ingrained into the culture it may be.

To send a youth to die is to destroy a family forever. You can never bring them back. They will never be seen again. They will not flower and grow. They will not fall in love, or if they have, they will leave their lover bereft and their children fatherless or motherless. They will not grow old and watch their children mature. They will never bounce a grandchild on their knee nor tell them stories by the firelight in the cold midwinter. They will not have the dignity of a gentle death surrounded by loved ones, nor the final farewell into memory.

If our culture, our leaders, and people in general, would just accept that either there is no assurance of an afterlife… or for pete’s sake, just have the humility to admit that you don’t truly know, then wouldn’t we be a lot more reticent to send our young people off to annihilation? I’d be okay with that. I know plenty of folks who believe we go on after this life, and they have their reasons for believing so. I don’t want to take that away from them. I just want them to admit that none of us truly know, nor can we. Not knowing, not having a shred of certainty, we should then refuse to let young people spend their only lives serving the financial and egotistical lusts of a few old and powerful men.

The cavalier and thoughtless attitude of politicians who willingly send young lives over to kill and be killed is a cancer. It is atrocious to expect someone to die for political gain.

I’m not saying we never have to fight. There will likely always be a few assholes who won’t give others a moment’s peace. But perhaps we should work harder to isolate those assholes and make it harder for them to draw everyone into an exercise in destruction of the young and innocent.

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6 thoughts on “Boots on the Ground

  1. “..to believe that when they kill a child with a bomb, that the child will be instantly transported to eternal bliss in heaven with Jesus (or whomever they believe in.) No harm no foul, right? I mean, they’re probably done the little tykes a favor.”

    And yet those very same believers will go to any lengths to interfere with abortion access, because they claim that “abortion is murder”. If sending a child to heaven is doing them a favor, then by their logic it would be kinder to send them all there as soon as possible. The cognitive dissonance of these people is just mind-boggling.

    • The same could be said about the other foot, they don’t want war and want to protect animals from suffering and yet will fight for a woman’s right to kill her baby growing inside of her in a barbaric way. If life is precious, all life is precious, even the ones that need life support until developed enough to survive on their own.

  2. Use of reason to extrapolate the reasoning of the reasonless leads only to madness. The fundamental feeling for Dr. Carson is that the Middle East is ridden with cancer and only an invasive and painful surgery will cure it. A century hence, its obediently democratized population will thank his memory for his willingness to do the distasteful. This is made clear when you realize the judges at late-medieval witch trials (e.g. Salem, Mass.) believed the pyre freed the soul from the grip of demons and was an act of mercy, or when you remember the statement by Osama bin Laden shortly after 9/11 (which I curiously have not heard since) that the attacks on America were essentially merciful.

    I don’t recall what he said exactly. We only hear these things in the first day or so before the news media have defined the message going forward. Notice the San Berdoo attack only became the act of a married couple a couple days later, and those other gunmen seen by witnesses have completely disappeared. But that’s another subject.

    It’s scary that Americans have regressed to the point where people like Carson and Trump can be taken seriously. But such regression has happened before. The war I’ve been predicting for fifteen years now that will start around 2022 seems still to be right on schedule.

  3. ‘One of the knock-on effects of leaving behind the Christian faith is that I have become very anti-war and anti-violence.’

    As a Christian, I find this statement absolutely heart-wrenching. I have been anti-war and anti-violence for as long as I have had an opinion on the matter and have no more understanding of how ‘Ben Carson, or any of the other warmongering Republicans’ can hold the views that they do than you do. I find nothing in the New Testament that justifies war or violence and plenty that directly opposes it. A man who cried ‘Father forgive them’ from the cross on which he was so cruelly put to death, does not look to me like a man who believed in a god of either war or retribution. The way in which his ‘followers’ have distorted the message he preached fills me with the deepest anger and sadness.

    ‘In some ways, I think the most dangerous doctrine in Christianity, and many (probably most) other religions is the concept that there is an eternal afterlife of bliss awaiting believers and the innocent.’

    I would agree with that assessment – though for a slightly different reason than the one you give. To me, it is dangerous because it all too easily becomes an excuse for not working to right the injustices of this world. it becomes a reason to rape and destroy the earth and its inhabitants because it is under judgement anyway and the good guys can all escape and go to heaven…

    Again, I would see this as a warped version of the true message of Jesus. As I read it, he didn’t come to condemn the world, but to make it new. He taught compassion, respect, forgiveness and servanthood because he knew absolutely that this is the only way in which we *can* be made new. And since we – all of us – find it so hard to truly love one another, he promised us God’s Spirit to help us; the same Spirit that raised Jesus from darkness, humiliation and death.

    That, to me, is a faith worth having. How it has come to be so distorted, I don’t know, except to say that the true message of Jesus is one that challenges most of us to the core. Far easier to point a gun at evil than to love whatever the cost. Far easier to believe in a god who rewards the virtuous than in one who has compassion on the paedophile. Far easier to believe in a god who throws his weight about than one who ‘takes the form of a slave’…

    And, of course, once we have learned to point a gun at evil, it becomes easier and easier to justify the colateral damage. After all, the god of the Old Testament indulged in such behaviour. Never mind that Jesus came to do away with such tribalism…

    It breaks my heart. That folks find it hard to believe in the supernatural… in God… in the resurrection… That I can accept. But that the ‘followers’ of Jesus have so distorted his message that folks want nothing to do with faith or religion and would rather see it die… That breaks my heart. I can only say that I am deeply, deeply sorry for what the church has done.

  4. The faith described by Ros — “He taught compassion, respect, forgiveness and servanthood because he knew absolutely that this is the only way in which we *can* be made new.” — is similar to the faith, or perhaps more accurately intention, being displayed by more and more of my friends who seemed to found a fresh post-Christian sense of spiritual mission after spending a few years in the culture of Burning Man. Not to proselytize Burning Man, the point is really that belief in something supernatural is essential to humanity, and it will not go away just because people see how religions have failed them. People only need to be guided towards thinking (and feeling) that is fresh, unstained by past error, and that really works to elevate them and improve their lives. Once people see that for themselves, things fall into place. I’ve often wondered what would happen if some jihadist chose to terrorize Burning Man with an explosive vest. It would be easy to do. I can confidently predict that few if any of the survivors would then call for war. As we did in my church after 9/11, we would pray for the perpetrators, and for their eventual opening to the light of a higher vibration.

    Or some such lingo, but however stated the loving intent would be sincere. Don’t lose hope.

  5. I’m not sure if the US thinks killing in war is ok because people go to heaven, I think we do it to have control. We have a lot of politicians (Republican and Democrat) that want us to get involved in every aspect of the world.

    Over time I’ve become more pacifist, not because I left my faith, but because I hate the price of war (loss of our boys and financial). Saying that, in light of the radical Muslims that want to kill us because we are infidels, I’m ok with us killing them. I mean, kill the radicals ones that we know are plotting things, not to kill Muslims in general.

    I’ll admit too, I was for the Iraq war. I did believe if they saw the freedom that we have, that they would love it and want to fight for it themselves. As time wore on, I realized that’s not going to happen. They are willing to fight for the name of Allah, but not fight for their freedom or the freedom of their females. That was a huge eye opener for me.

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