Others believe in bayonets. The words quoted in the title are those of a U.S. Marine who survived Guadalcanal, as portrayed in the Hanks-Spielberg production of the six-DVD series, “The Pacific”. Some soldiers at war often talk about, and even talk TO, God. We have already commented in an earlier post on the cliché which suggests that there are no atheists in foxholes, and found it wanting, a valiant attempt to prove that when there is nowhere else to go, most people fall on their knees. In fact, the horrors of war, for the civilians whom the generals and politicians call “collateral damage”, but especially for the troops on the front line, often provoke or reinforce unbelief rather than belief. The atheist G.I. whose Bible-bashing buddy believed in God, free will and even predestination, said he believed in bombs, the ones he dropped into the barrel of his 3-inch mortar, the weapon for which I was a designated instructor in the Australian Cadet Corps, though I never got to use one in a real war. At the time – I was fifteen years of age – I believed in both God and ammunition. Today I do not believe in God, and believe in ammunition as a prodigious source of income for countries like France which sells fighter planes, tanks, state-of-the-art weaponry and all the ammo you need to go with it. We even have secret bunkers with stacks of nuclear missiles and a valise, always within the President’s reach, with the necessary code to trigger and launch them should he so decide.
“Conventional” weapons and ammunition are bad enough (though arguably a necessary evil for defence and deterrence), but God help us if ever we start nuking our enemies. Of course God, for obvious reasons, won’t help us or our enemies, though on both sides many expect Him to. Believing war will solve our problems is illusion enough. Expecting God to do so, is nothing less than blindfaithblindfolly.