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.