Sunday, February 26, 2012

Soldiers Without Heaven

I just read this article on the blog Unreasonable Faith, which I'll be adding to the link list at right. It speaks to something very similar to my post from yesterday: the dedication to story, which has nothing to do with God.

The reasons that people enlist in the military are many. Religious faith has certainly always been one of them, since many wars have been fought for religious reasons. But the thing that drives a soldier to put himself (or herself, of course) specifically in danger is elusive and rare, and I suspect it has more to do with earthly considerations than the promise of eternal bliss. Really, this Rev. Griem is suggesting that American soldiers are the same as terrorists, motivated only by the selfishness of future gains in heaven.

I like to give our soldiers more credit than that. One can rationally examine a situation and determine that the loss of one life is better than the loss of many, and some people who come to that conclusion will follow it through to make the decision that self-sacrifice is the most ethical thing to do. I'm not saying it's easy, but wouldn't we all like to think that we'd put our own lives on the line to save, say, a trainload of children? This calculation has nothing to do with God or even legacy, though we all hope to be remembered for our selfless deeds. It's a logical, rational calculation that has at its root a deep valuation of human life. If human potential is good then it makes sense to sacrifice the life of one middle-aged woman to save the life of many children.

Likewise, it is the fight for human dignity that we hope drives our soldiers today, especially in a time where our wars have fundamentalism on one side and Democracy on the other. When our soldiers are engaged in nation-building, it is essential that they treat each person in an occupied country with dignity. And when we are trying to convince people from another religious and cultural background to change their ways, the only viable argument to make is one based on rational thinking.

So shouldn't we be evaluating military volunteers on their Humanism, rather than their spiritual health? Ask them about their understanding of the value of human life, their definition of the word "dignity" and what is the difference between the words "loyalty," "faith," and "fanaticism?"

No comments:

Post a Comment