I’m so confused over religion and war

Halls of History

When I was 10 and told my wise old grandmother that I wanted to be either an anesthesiologist or a history teacher, she advised me to become a history teacher. “How come?” I asked. “Because I don’t know what the other one is, but I know that if you study history, you won’t have to repeat it.”

She had been born in 1911, so she suffered through the Great Depression and World War II, and saw her oldest son go off to the Korean War and youngest son go off to the Vietnam War.

I quit wanting to be a history teacher once I found out how much money teachers made in Texas. I knew being a teacher and making that kind of money would not allow me to escape the poor and low-income families that I had been with for my first ten years of life. Yes, at the age of 10 I was able to determine that one needed money in life….

Nonetheless, I always have enjoyed reading about, and studying, history, especially war history. I find it fascinating what people will do to other people in the name of patriotism and religion…. crucifixions, beheadings, drawn and quartered, iron masks…. all sorts of unique ways to torture and kill.

Ever notice, though, that the sons and daughters of the wealthy and privileged never go off to war. There’s always some sort of exemption for them.

Rebel YellIn the book that I just finished reading about Confederate General Stonewall Jackson (►), one of the themes that ran through the general’s life was his religion. He loved his war, though, believing that everything he did in his life, including killing people, sometimes even his own soldiers after he judged them guilty of whatever sin they had allegedly committed, was directed by God. His god, of course.

So I found the beginning paragraph in Chapter 43 quite interesting. It’s a long paragraph so I have broken it up here to make it more readable:

Eighteen months after the first shot at Fort Sumter, there were certain truths that the soldiers had come to know. Death in war was neither picturesque nor peaceful, and dying bravely didn’t make you any less dead, or mean that you would not be dumped into the cold earth of a mass grave with everyone else, brave and not brave. Nor was there likely to be anyone to hear your last miserable words.

People of the era cherished the idea of a ‘good death’—a peaceful, dignified passing wherein God was embraced and sins repented and salvation attained, preferably in your own bed with your family gathered devotedly around to hear your last murmurs of Christian resignation. War made a mockery of all that. War made a mockery of the idea of a benevolent God. It replaced the family home with the rank, power-scorched horrors of the battlefield. These were the new truths.

In war you lived outdoors like a wild animal. You lived in blistering heat, drenching rains, and knifelike cold. You were exposed and vulnerable. The majority of men who died did not even have the honor of dying in a fight. Two out of three were carried away by diseases that killed them just as surely as minié balls. Those who survived did so on a quarter pound of bacon and eighteen ounces of flour a day—one-third the regular meat ration—with the infrequent small issue of rice, molasses, or sugar. (The rice ration was an ounce.)

Men lived without shoes or coats or blankets. Food was short all over the South. Soldiers hunted up sassafras buds and wild onions to ward off scurvy. Horses died for lack of forage. In Richmond, where much of the eastern army’s far was gathered and transshipped, there were bread riots.

I have never understood why an all-powerful, all-knowing God needs men to fight wars for it. That certainly does not sound like a benevolent God. Wouldn’t a benevolent God make sure that his warriors had shoes and food, the basic necessities? I’m so confused over religion and war.

And yet, get this, the beginning of the second paragraph:

In spite of these hardships, which seemed to multiply as the war dragged on, many of the men in the Confederate States Army remembered the winter of 1862-63 as one of the most extraordinary times of their lives.

Say what?

People are weird, which is probably why there never will be peace on Earth, not unless country boundaries and religion cease to exist.

fabricate supreme being

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25 thoughts on “I’m so confused over religion and war

  1. T Ibara Photo

    I couldn’t agree with you more…
    And yes, I often wondered about how certain people (= the wealthy and privileged) somehow found a way to get out of active duty – even when they force it on the sons/daughters of others in the name of patriotism, etc… Thank you for this thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I can think of only one person from wealth and privilege who went to war: Prince Harry. I wonder if there is parallel person from the United States, at any point in its history. Might be some interesting historical research…….

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      1. Lisa

        I think historically old (medieval kings etc) used to lead their troops into battle…Richard iii (who was recently found near here in a car park) did so but then got killed. I suppose there must have been a time when it seemed a bit silly to keep sending all the kings and lords to their inevitable death if they were supposed to stay in power.I am not sure that that all wealthy and privileged people even in more modern times actually do avoid the battlefront… maybe just some 🙂

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        1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

          But I’m looking for wealthy and privileged who went to war. Prince Harry is the only one I can find so far. The wealthy and privileged have always been in the news so if one went to war, it should be newsworthy.

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          1. Lisa

            Because it was the Royal family there was a lot of discussion and disagreement about letting Prince Harry put himself in danger as the security costs that went with it were so high.Plus the fact he was such a high risk target. But I am sure you know this so ……
            good luck with finding some others 🙂

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  2. europasicewolf

    God doesn’t want wars fought for him. Wars are fought by and for men in the name of whatever unfortunate they use to justify the unjustifiable. But God gave us all free will including to believe or not in his existence. How we utilise that free will is down to each and everyone as individuals. But we should remember. ..For every action we take their will be a natural consequence. One that we may not like. Like the consequences of war.

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      Read some history books about war and you might come away with a different opinion of all these warlords because, in their own words (documented with letters to loved ones, autobiographies, etc.), they certainly believe that their god (or goddess!) wants them to fight the war in his or her name. The best examples are the Crusades and the Confederate side of the Civil War.

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      1. europasicewolf

        I have read history books about war and I am probably better educated than you think. BUT the warlords believing as they did is exactly my point – it is MAN not God with the war notion and desire in their heads. It is MAN’S beliefs not God’s will and desire. But as they have a choice as to how they behave so they made that choice. Along with the consequences. But much less uncomfortable to blame an unseen being who may or may not exist yes??

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        1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

          Yes! But my point, which obviously I am not making clearly, is that these people believe that God talks directly to them and tells them what to do. Heck, even many of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates have confessed that they waited for God to tell them whether or not to run. My question is, Why is God telling so many Republicans to run for President?

          Several decades ago I was dating a woman named Kerri. I had met her at a Bible study. We dated for about six weeks before I just had to end it. She used to come over to my place on Friday and Saturday nights. Never stayed over and we weren’t intimate. I worked at home at the time. One Saturday night she was in my bedroom lying on the bed reading her Bible and studying for Sunday’s Bible study. I walked in and asked her if she wanted to take the two dogs for a walk with me. She rolled over, looked at me ever so sweetly, and said, “No. God hasn’t told me to take the dogs for a walk with you.” Wow.

          Turns out that God told her when to go to work each day, which meant that sometimes she was late for work. God told her when to call in sick, even if she wasn’t sick. God told her when to come over to my house! I couldn’t take any more.

          Her type of people have always existed and probably always will exist, sadly.

          My follow-up question to you might be, “How do you know what God’s will and desire is?” Is God talking directly to you, too? Certainly sounds like it. Are your beliefs any more valid than the beliefs of the warlords, the Republican candidates, and Kerri?

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          1. europasicewolf

            People are amazingly good at deluding themselves into believing what they want to hear! Most times from personal experience much better than actually hearing God when He does speak to us. I probably develop huge cloth ears where God is concerned since I’m prone to either not thinking to ask him what he wants of me in the first place lol or I don’t much like what he’s got to say as it doesn’t fit with what I want 😉 Mostly we just aren’t listening get full stop. As to Kerri. ..oh dear! I certainly get your point there lol 😉 I’m sure she was very genuine and sincere but God does I believe expect us to exercise the common sense we are born with 🙂 I guess everybody’s beliefs are valid on some level though we naturally think they’re misguided ones if they differ from our own. Of course mine are more valid than the others you mention! Otherwise mine would be invalid and without their true value. That said arrogance on my part is not a quality my beliefs hold in high regard. I don’t hold with mocking others beliefs even if I think they’re wrong. They are real and valid to those that believe them and respect is important. Unless you’re ISIS. Then you’re a murdering deluded nutter who probably should have been put down at birth 🙂 How do bI know what God’s will and desire is? The Bible teaches us many things on this issue. But it helps if you read it. I’m very spasmodic in doing that. I have a Bible app on my phone and I’m still a lazy butch when it comes to making the effort. Sometimes God speaks to us through other people. Mostly I don’t believe them because I prefer to think God speaks to me directly and therefore they are trying to lay their own laws down to me. Just as well God is patient eh?!! people like me must drivem him crazy!! Much easier to force his will on us…luckily he’s not that sort of guy 🙂 I believe he talks directly to me as I do to Him. But as I talk – moan! Winge! Etc lol more than I listen He has a hard time getting my attention lol so a big smack you in the face “sign” is a tried and tested communication method for the wayward rather self oriented believer such as moi 🙂 That doesn’t make my faith and beliefs sound very valid compared to others does it? But in my heart it is and in the end I know the only voice truly worthy of listening to is the still small voice of God 🙂 And sometimes that still small voice leaps out from the great blog posts I am privileged to be able to read here on WordPress. ..God works in mysterious ways…It is His grace that has brought me safe thus far and it is His grace that will lead me home. Have a blessed day my friend 🙂

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            1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

              Sadly, when one is talking to a magical being in the sky, there is no reasoning with that person. One cannot argue with beliefs because beliefs don’t need fact, reasoning, logic, etc. Therein lies one of the problems with religion………

              I have read 48 different versions of the Bible, three of them more than once. 48 different versions! Therein lies another problem with religion……….

              And what about the Apocrypha? The fact that men decided what books would be part of “The Bible” is problematic in and of itself to my logical and reasoning mind.

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              1. europasicewolf

                The problem with religion is that it’s dry boring and man made to his own ends and is a dead thing. I don’t believe in religion. I believe in a personal relationship with a living God. Btw…sorry if my comments have been essays 😉 I’ve been answering from the mobile and I can’t tell how long they really were unlike on the laptop 🙂

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                1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

                  I soooooooooo wish religion was a dead thing. Unfortunately, it’s anything but dead. I do hope it dies soon, though. Fortunately these old Republican white men are helping kill it. Millenials are leaving religion like there’s no tomorrow.

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