Sunday, August 07, 2005

On Belief in Heaven and Dead Soldiers

Cindy Sheehan's son died in Iraq and now she wants President Bush to look her in the eye and to try to convince her that the war is worth her son's life. Right now, she's protesting outside of Bush's Crawford, Texas Ranch, seeking an audience.

The White House has offered a "blah blah blah, can't run from terrorists" response. I'd be impressed if Bush had the guts to meet with her. She says that they have met once, in the presence of other families who have lost soldiers, but that Bush "changed the subject" when she brought up her belief that her son died in a war that we shouldn't have started in the first place.

This afternoon, Wolf Blitzer asked Virginia Senator, and possible Republican presidential candidate, George Allen, what he would say to Sheehan. To his credit, Allen said that Bush should take the meeting. But, when it came to what Allen would say, how he would defend the war in Iraq and how he would comfort a grieving mother, one bit he threw in was that her son is in heaven and that she'll see him again, when she goes to heaven.

I find such words disturbing when they come from the mouths of people who can order their fellow citizens into war. I'll take Allen at his word -- he believes in heaven and apparently believes that God is so behind us invading in Iraq that if you get killed over there, you get to march through the Pearly Gates. Bush probably believes the same thing.

You see the problem here? These guys aren't facing mortality. They can believe whatever they want but when you make decisions that can end other people's lives, you kind of have to put your own beliefs aside and assume that death is... final. You have to assume that Ms. Sheehan will never see her son again.

I don't think that one of the virtues of religious faith, as people tend to understand them, is that it let's you avoid the real impact of a soldiers death because it provides the comforting story that the dead soldier is in God's hands and that all will eventually be made right, even by the grieving mother, when God reuinites the family in his heavenly kingdom.

The real virtue of religious faith, on the part of those who makes decisions about wars and who will fight them, is that if they view life as a divine gift, they should be more reluctant than anyone to actually start wars.

Maybe I'm taking Allen too literally. But I really do fear that a lot of the people in charge have this little "everything will be all right in heaven" idea in their heads. And I think that idea is making it easier for them to get innocent folks killed.


At 4:10 PM , Blogger E. Worthington, Editor said...

It's not so much that these people really believe that everyone reunites with their loved ones in heaven, I don't think. No one knows until they're dead. It's more that they have to try to believe it; otherwise they'd need to really face the responsibility. They're trying to convince themselves, as much as anyone.

So the insistence in an afterlife can be taken as showing great doubt that what they're doing is right. If they really had the courage of their convictions about the war, they'd just say "There may or may not be a God, but this is worth it, painful as it is." I'd have a lot more respect for that.


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