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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Military and Religion

In the previous post, I spoke a bit about PTSD.  The military has a huge problem with it.  The preferred treatment: religion.

Yes, the US military has relied on religious services to help servicemen cope with the stress of war.  The generals and admirals realized a long time ago that men of faith have fewer personal problems.  Sure, psychology can be very helpful, but over-all studies have shown that people with deep spiritual life prior to entering into trauma have a higher statistical chance of avoiding severe PTSD problems afterwards.  That's not to say that all religions are equally effective.  I think a lot of the shallow religions do a disservice to people.

But, healthy beliefs in the power and love of God help men process their experiences and get through their suffering without resorting to drinking, drugs, and other forms of escapism.  So, the military has always advocated attendance at chapel and use of the chaplains.

Then, you have this:

In short, you have a stressed out and angry young man, coming from a family where his father committed suicide, who suddenly wants to change the whole system.  Even his fellow atheists at West Point are not on board with him.  Why does he get the attention?

Well, let's look at the situation: when you are in the US military, you serve the Commander in Chief (the President) without question.  If he says, "Wear a pink coat," you better put it on.  So, the people within the system are particularly vulnerable to presidential whims.  He's hoping to pressure the White House to remove the religious activity in military institutions.

But, like the 'court card' problem in civilian life, the problem is this: if you utterly cut God out of the military, can you provide an effective replacement?

In the case of alcoholism, nothing has been found to be as effective as the spiritual program of the 12 Steps.

What about the military?

So far, I have not seen any studies of, let's say, PTSD among Soviet veterans of WW2 or the Afghan Occupation.  If it is anything like the rest of Soviet society, then there was no religion but lots of vodka.  I've posted previously on the Soviet view of vodka: at once a blessing (taking the stress out of a repressive society) and a curse (having so much of your population drunk is no path to success, or even survival).

If the US strips all religious activity out of its institutions, it had better have a a more effective and proven way to handle the coping aids that religion has traditionally played in military life.  what's more, there must be a way to instill a real conscience in servicemen who will continually have their morality challenged by their environment.  Failures in this respect will not only lead to PTSD, but also inhuman acts and war crimes.

This is the flip side: do we want a military when all conscience is externally enforced?  Sure, there can be punishments for immoral behavior... but you have to get caught first.  Can an utterly secularized military use a single approach to give all servicemen a sense of conscience that will keep them from trying to 'get away' with atrocities?

I think it is dehumanizing and stupid.  Not everyone is going to respond the same way to a single program.  This is why I think that chaplain services, counselors, and psychologists should all be offered together rather than trying to remove religion utterly from the scene.

Trying to treat humans like widgets is the mistake of the modern scientific mind.  It never works, and we have crowded prisons to prove it.

1 comment:

  1. I see this "treating people like widgets" happening more and more. In Romania, a largely Orthodox nation, a small but vociferous atheist group are trying to take religion out of schools because they claim that words like "sin" and "hell" traumatize children and that religion is being forced into them. Well, their claims are not based on any sort of scientific proof, and I don't even think there can be any such proof, only very isolated exceptions. I'd say it's the same thing as those who say that immersing babies in water during baptism and communing with the same spoon is dangerous (never have there been recorded such cases).

    In Sweden, the schools allow kids to go to Nativity services, as long as the Name of Christ is not mentioned (if I understood correctly). One thing that worries me about such things is that we need to have more faith that a child is not that fragile and stupid to have to be guided (brainwashed actually) in such a way, or else they will really do become stupid when they grow up. And such laws if they add up, and they will add up because atheism is really trying to redefine humanity as a whole over there, they will become a living hell to manage and apply.