Posted by: dswerling | July 9, 2008

The Jeremy Hall Debacle

I just saw this news story about this Army guy Jeremy Hall. According to the story Hall was brought up as a believing Baptist Christian, said grace before meals and read the Bible every night before going to bed. After two tours in Iraq he became an Atheist, and was insulted and threatened by his fellow soldiers, and eventually forced to return home early. Now he’s suing the department of defense and the Government because his constitutional right of freedom of religion has been infringed upon.

Let me be honest here, although I am a believing Christian, it sounds like the guy was discriminated against. They told some story about him being driven away from a table at thanksgiving, and his fellow soldiers said some pretty bad things to him. I have to feel for the guy, especially considering all that he saw and all the service he did for my country. Especially since he’s not suing for money, I doubt that he’s doing this for one of those selfish get rich quick schemes that people sometimes pull. It sounds like he was honestly discriminated against and doesn’t want it to happen to anyone else. I would concede all of that to any atheist who came to me whining about Christians still persecuting non-Christians.

However, I also would like to say that I doubt this is some sort of universal conspiracy in the Government, and I’d be willing to bet Hall’s lawsuit isn’t going to do anything. You know what I think happened to Jeremy Hall? I think he came from pretty Americaland where life is easy and everyone’s (relatively) happy, and it was easy to have faith. I think he went into a warzone where he saw death and chaos, and watched his comrades and innocent people get blown up day after day after day, and I think after seeing all that it was pretty difficult for him to still have faith in any supreme, ultimate goodness. I can’t blame him for that. He knows a certain amount of pain I will never know, and has seen things I hope I’ll never see. Nevertheless, I think that Jeremy Hall was stuck in an environment with a lot of tough, gung-ho men who are not being encouraged to question ideas and to be thoughtful and open minded to other viewpoints. I think that he was different, and that like a bunch of schoolboys his fellow soldiers picked on him for it. I can hardly blame them either.

Jeremy’s lawsuit isn’t going to do anything because his experience is another tragic consequence of human nature and warfare. It has nothing to do with religion. It has nothing to do with God, or Christianity or ultimate reality in general. What it has to do with is how terrible war is, and the depths of our own animal nature. In war soldiers are taught to kill one another with no regard to whether it’s “right” or not. The only way to do this is to bury their humanity. A soldier’s job isn’t to be open minded and thoughtful, it’s to fight and kill and listen to orders. A unit’s job isn’t to be diverse and blended, its job is to be one united fighting force. Why is it any surprise then, that you would find discrimination in this organization? When men bury their humanity, nicey-nice things like tolerance and acceptance go out the window. The department of defense and government aren’t going to change that unless they stop fighting wars, which isn’t going to happen. I feel bad for you Jeremy, but your lawsuit is utterly pointless.

I’d be willing to bet Jeremy’s a nice guy who just wants to do the right thing. I’d also be willing to bet that the men who discriminated against Jeremy never would have done that if they weren’t sorrounded by death and killing and seeing the worst humanity has to offer every single day. This big debacle is a great example of how war brings out the worst in people, how burying our humanity is never a good thing. Unfortunately it won’t be remembered that way. In a few days the “blogosphere” will be buzzing with articles praising Jeremy as some martyr for Atheism and showing why those nasty Christians are all stupid, mean pigs. It will become another big conflict to be had, another war of thoughts the same way we’re fighting a war on the battlefield. The same way all governments seem incapable of holding themselves back from fighting, Atheists and Christians will probably be incapable of holding themselves back from fighting over this issue, and in doing so won’t even see the sad reality of their meaningless conflict.

We humans are a very stupid race. I think the greatest miracle that shows there must be some divine reality is the fact that we haven’t managed to kill ourselves off yet.

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