Soldiers without Heaven

Soldiers without Heaven February 22, 2012

Our friend Justin Griffith recently contributed to an article about the US Army’s mandatory spiritual fitness test in the Pasadena Sun. However, what’s getting the most attention are the comments from Rev. Bryan Griem, who goes completely off the rails:

If you believe you’re nothing but worm-food at death, you aren’t going to jump on a grenade to save the platoon, or charge a machine-gun nest expecting to meet Jesus. You’re going to be reserved, second-guessing, and probably be a big fat chicken.

I can’t help but view this historically. I think of the great world conquering armies, like Alexander’s Macedonian army or the Roman legions. These ancient armies were not composed of atheists, but the soldiers all had no expectation of seeing some sort of afterlife if they caught a spear to the chest. That idea simply hadn’t developed yet.

So what on earth could compel them to travel across the ancient world and fighting horrendous battles? Clearly, to Rev. Griem, they should have stayed home and huddled about the fire, too afraid to lose their brief lives to strap on armor.

They fought for glory. They fought for honor. They fought for the hope of personal advancement. They fought for duty. They fought to defend their homelands and their family. They fought to advance their cities and their countries. They fought because their ancestors had fought, and because their children would fight, and because the generations could be linked by this common endeavor with a bond of such power that death could not break it.

None of this apparently makes sense to Rev. Griem.

Sometimes I think the idea of the afterlife is the most damaging idea that humans have created. It cheapens life. It makes the purpose of living to keep on living. But if life is meaningless without the afterlife, it is also meaningless with it. Zero multiplied by infinity is still zero. Maybe it’s only by appreciating the briefness of life that we can appreciate the importance of life’s contents.

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