Should Pentagon Propaganda Include Religious History?

Islamic suicide bombers are increasing in the world, and now they’ve added a new twist. Two days ago, the Associated Press reported that the previous day, “A female suicide bomber blew herself up Saturday in the southern Russian region of Dagestan, injuring at least 18” people. She detonated her explosives-laden belt in the public square of a city. This 25-year old woman was the widow of two Islamic radicals killed earlier by Russian security forces. Her first husband was killed in 2009, and her second in 2012. You may recall that Dagestan, in the Caucasus Mountains (see my post on April 30), is where the two Chechnyan brothers named Tsarnaev were from who killed and injured so many people at the Boston Marathon on April 15. Why did the woman do it?

This AP article further states, “Since 2000, at least two dozen women, most of them from the Caucasus, have carried out suicide bombings in Russian cities and aboard trains and planes…. The bombers are often called ‘black widows’ in Russia because many are the widows, or other relatives, of militants killed by security forces. Islamic militants are believed to convince ‘black widows’ that a suicide bombing will reunite them with their dead relatives beyond the grave.” Obviously, young woman whose Islamic radical husbands have been killed are very susceptible to depression and thereby become prime candidates for ending their lives.

Also last Saturday, US TODAY newspaper reported that it had obtained a recent, non-published report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which assesses the Pentagon’s propaganda activities called Military Information Support Operations (MISO). According to the GAO, these propaganda activities include websites, leaflets and broadcasts intended to change foreigners’ “attitudes and behaviors in support of U.S. Government” objectives. One of its big objectives is to counter the anti-U.S. propaganda of Islamic radicals presented mostly on numerous Internet websites. Boston authorities believe that the Muslim Tsarnaev brothers became radicalized primarily by reading Islamic websites. And the Pentagon admits that it has not used Internet websites to issue pro-U.S. information as much as the Islamic radicals have with their propaganda.

In this GAO report, its main criticism of MISO is that it has no method whereby it can assess its own propaganda efforts. Yet US TODAY claimed in an article last year that the Pentagon spent as much as $580 million per year on these propaganda activities in recent years. And the Pentagon submits regular, ample reports about MISO to Congress. Saturday’s US TODAY article further says of the Pentagon, “It also relies heavily on contractors to produce advertising, leaflets and radio broadcasts, many of them unattributed to the U.S. government because locals do not trust western influence.”

The longstanding Voice of America (VOA) also broadcasts the U.S. world-viewpoint into foreign countries in 43 languages by means of radio, television, and the Internet.

In my post on April 23 (“The USA’s Separation of Church and State Binds Its War on Terrorism”), I proposed that the U.S. government, thus the Pentagon and perhaps VOA, should counter Islamic propaganda which exhorts Muslims to forfeit their lives with acts of terror directed against “infidels” such as U.S. soldiers and even U.S. citizens. How? I stated that the Old Testament, which Islam accepts as a “holy book,” teaches clearly and repeatedly that “upon human death souls go down inside the earth to a place called “Sheol” (mentioned 67 times and similar to Hades) where there is no memory and no consciousness.” I also explained that this is what the early Christians believed, which modern historians, such as Alan Segal in his classic book, Life After Death, have well documented. In contrast, radical Muslim clerics assert that for Muslims who conduct jihad by suicidal acts of terror, their souls immediately go to heaven to enjoy bountiful rewards.

Many Christians will object to my proposal, asserting as Muslims do that the soul is immortal and that when the faithful die their souls immediately go to heaven to enjoy conscious bliss. I used to believe that only because my church taught it to me and that’s what most Christians believe. But I later came to realize that this teaching has very little, if any, support in the New Testament. It mostly depends on two passages: Philippians 1.21-23 and 2 Corinthians 5.1-8. Both of these texts can be read from the viewpoint that the soul is not immortal, but only comes to consciousness at the resurrection at the end of the age, an important teaching to embraced by both Muslims and Christians. Martin Luther explained it this way concerning the faithful: when they die it’s like falling asleep, and when God’s trumpet sounds at the resurrection it will be like an alarm clock going off, and they won’t recall anything that happened between the time they died and that moment they awake. But after Luther died, the Lutheran Church departed from this teaching by its founder and has believed in the immortality of the soul ever since. Why? That’s what people want to believe, and so do these Muslim radicals who blow themselves up in the name of Allah. But it arguably is not in the Bible.

I’m not saying the Pentagon should to take a stand on what the Bible says about this. I just think it should tell history, explaining that it is very well documented in patristic writings and others that the Christians of the first few centuries did not believe in the immortality of the soul; rather, they strongly opposed it because that is what was taught by Greek philosophers, who ridiculed Jewish belief in bodily resurrection. The Apostle Paul encountered the latter (Acts 17.30-32; cf. 23.6-8).

So, the early Christians did not believe that the books and letters later included in the New Testament taught the immortality of the soul. And some Muslim scholars don’t think their Qur’an teaches the immortality of the soul, either. I think if Pentagon propaganda included this history, it might convince some of these Islamic radicals not to blow themselves for Allah. That’s where this fight really begins, so that’s where U.S. efforts on its War on Terrorism should begin.

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