Mark Twain's "The War Prayer"

Mothers, fathers, spouses, children, family, friends, loved ones pray for a son or daughter going off to war, they wave USA flags, hold parades when they go and when they come home, dead or alive. What good is all that activity? 

It seems to me that a far better act would be to protest wars to your president, senators and representatives, join with others in ending the war and destruction. Learn the history of the conflict and hold those who make decisions to go to war to a higher standard than the stated "to bring democracy to an embattled people".

More often our prayers result in maiming and death of innocent people, "collateral damage", some would state. Ineffective and inefficient prayers only add to the destruction of ways of lives, of water, air, soils, and infrastructures. Prayers maintain and perpetuate the status quo. 

It is because individuals have a constructed god that favors one's point of view, usually a nationalistic perception. One tiny piece of land with the petty name of Gaza is being fought over now because people who are genetically closely related have different versions of god and each pray fervently to their different gods.

If there were a god, the prayer would be to have everyone flourish, crops would grow, food would be available for all, education would flourish as would health care. Water would be available to everyone, and there would be work for all.

Don't expect me to respect a person who has a god to whom he or she prays and then allows corruption, exploitation and manipulation.

Joan Denoo, July 14, 2014


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It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, for there was no sense in what he said.
-- Mark Twain, "The War Prayer," last line

No sense?  If anything, there was too much sense to it, though the kind that the people praying typically do not care to hear.

I know! That is why I think that some of us can go full throttle against the institution and people who hold such beliefs. I may be wrong. I have been wrong before, big time, and I am used to the blowback. There is something about overcoming fear caused by one threat, to not be afraid of perceived threats. I know, there are lunatics out there who would do me in, and so what. I have lived a tremendous life, have a family with incredible skills, and I would rather go out like a firecracker than a spent dud. 

That's well said, Joan. I was writing to a woman just today about such things, and also added some logic about religion and why I'm now a nonbeliever. Her reply was interesting. She decided we cannot be friends because:
1. I'm a Democrat.
2. We do not have the same beliefs.
Strange that I never told her I was Democrat. She just assumes so because it now appears that Republicans are wanting to dominate religion and politics and treat them both as one. I wanted to let her know that this should not be happening. God did not write your constitution. He did not found your nation, and might does not make right.
In the case of Israel and Palestine it's an ever going chess game about who actually has the land. Israel wants to gobble it all up and the American "christian right" wants to back them all the way. How would the Arabs ever have a nation? They won't. Such idiocy as this is supported by the religious as death tolls rise. This is one of the things that the religous do not care to hear.

Pardon me if I don't say "god bless the Jews." Whatever land they had before was one thing, but I believe their religious thinking is going back way before the Ottomans. There were three offshoots of the Abrahamic religion with 2 of them constantly fighting. It's about land, holy places, and their religion. By 1948 the west was brought in on this with christians supporting Israel in some way so as to believe "prophesy." If the Palestianians ever got any land who would give it to them? There's a hint that they might get land and nation status if they are "good boys." That will never happen. Meanwhile, Nuttiyaho pushes on for more land and is likely to be so happy that decieved westerners are sending money for that purpose while declaring that "mideast events show that christ might return any day now." The decieved beleivers actually think they are helping usher in the "end times." In this way you might say that Israel is viewed as so important to modern fundamentalist christian faith.

This entire setup smells. The world sees it in different ways but the reality of it is a push for land backed up by your religious beliefs. BTW, I'm not pro Arab or pro Palestinian. I'm just a man without god calling it as I see it.

What I see is some supernatural mechanism at work here saying that Israel could have won all the battles blindfolded! Is that a "goddidit" or is it explained a little bit better in Joan's writings?

Michael, I like your term, "smells"! It stinks to high heaven, excuse the pun. The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes so far back into time, it began before writing was invented. How can anyone put a property rights marker on any part of that land and be taken seriously by rational human beings? Clearly, the decimated Jewish communities, scattered all through Europe and gassed during WWII, had not the power or the energy to declare their own space. It took the Allied Forces to meet and create a country to which the remnants of the Jewish people could call home. Financial support from 1945 until today made possible their military might. Now, are we to believe that might makes right? Since when is that a moral justification for deciding who owns the land?

OH! I know, the strongest armies write the histories of the battles. One group of people or town or nation has more strength, wealth, and determination and defeat their neighbors. In reality, who really wins? What constitutes the rights of ownership? Is it where one's ancestors are buried? If that is true, the Native Americans, North and South have the moral right to this land. Obviously, the Spanish, with their guns, steel and germs defeated the mighty Native American tribes throughout the hemisphere.

Let us imagine, just for a moment, that there is no history. A particular human being clears some land near a water source, plants some seeds, raises some livestock, and tends to his or her agricultural affairs with thought and effective action. He or she thrives. Does another person have the right to come in and take the water, pollute the soils, and air, and water, and drive off the farmer?  Where is the justice in this event? Who decides? Who enforces it? 

Germs and steel conquered the Americas. What will be the new means by which one person defeats another? Could it be the use of technology? Are the poor able to get access to technology to the degree that the wealthy have access? Do we claim a level playing field? Especially now, with the growing gap between rich and poor. 

Perhaps you are correct Freethinker31, "then at least give them credit  for winning  the wars  legitimately ..."

The fact that the Jews won the wars seems a bid disingenuous to me. Did the Jews, acting alone, win the wars with a Palestinians? Did the Jews have access to money and machines of war from USA, UK, and other nations in their fight with Palestinians? Did Palestinians have equal access to money and machines of war from the communist block? I don't know.

Did the Jews have more determination than the Palestinians? I don't know the answer to that either, but it is not the issue. Does winning a war decide who is entitled to the spoils of war? That is the value system of the patriarchy. Is that a just way to determine who owns the land?

Pre-patriarchal peoples, during the time when god was a woman, and when matriarchal and matrilineal values determined ownership, there were not fortifications or weapons of war; that came after the overthrow of matrilineal cultures by the patriarchal ones.

For verification of this statement, look to the archeology records of Neolithic periods of human history. Catal Huyuk, Turkey's lower layers of archaeology digs do not reveal fortifications or weapons of war and their burial grounds contained no signs of battle deaths. In Greece pre-patriarchal remnants, there also is no fortification and weapons of war and no evidence of battle deaths. It is relatively easy to see ancient war remnants because of the skeletal remains. Axe wounds include broken skulls, collar bones, limbs, ribs and other bone fragments. Natural deaths do not have those kinds of wounds. A war death can be discerned from an accidental death, such as a fall. It is not difficult for a trained archaeologist to read the bones. 

Marija Gimbutas - Life and Work, The Language of the Goddess

Riane Tennenhaus Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade 

Elinor Gadon, The Once and Future Goddess 

In my opinion, the transition period from matrilineal values to patriarchal values can easily be identified and Abraham provides a marker. We are at the end of the patriarchal value system and there is a good question as to whether life on Earth will end before the establishment of a new value system. 

Riane Eisler writes about this in powerful ways and she has a vision of how to make the next evolutionary change in human history. 

Riane Eisler, Center for Partnership Studies

It is, Freethinker31, but the USA held their hand every step of the way in more ways than one.

No US soldier  from any branch  has  been killed  or injured  as a result. Really!!!???
USS Liberty

I agree with you, Freethinker31, about the impressive accomplishments of agriculture in a desolate land, where their neighbors were not able or willing to do the work necessary to make such remarkable achievements. 

I also recognize that Jerusalem has always been kept open to the three religions for pilgrimages on holy days. Your point is very well taken. 

At the same time I say that, I wonder how all these accomplishments could have been made without the assistance of USA and Allied countries?

I have lightly followed the Israel story from 1948 and the agreements that were set up then. I was a 12 year old girl with romantic notions of heroism and valor, especially as I saw the newsreels at the movie theater. We didn't have TV at that time. I loved gardening, even then, and wondered at the methods they used to get water to the vegetable and fruit gardens, and the fine orchards they created. I didn't pay attention to what the Palestinians were doing at the same time. 

With current events between Israeli and Palestinians, I am compelled to re-look at the means the Israelis use against the Palestinians to achieve their ends. I don't like what I am reading currently, and do not see the rationale of Obama and his position. 

Very well said, Joan.

Joan, thank you so much for the link to Mark Twain's "War Prayer".  I like the protest statement very much.

Mark Twain wrote the prayer in protest of the Philipine-American war.  A war that, I imagine, 99% of Americans have never heard of.  Even among the fair number of Filipino people I know, they are a bit shocked to learn of it.  The war was its era version of the Vietnam war, and the Iraq war also has many parallels. 

I was interested in the war because my grandfather was in it, and he told stories about his experience.  Since he was older when my dad was born, and my dad was older when I was born, my generational experience expands back to what many consider "prehistory".

My grandfather referred to the war in the term of his day "The Insurrections". The war was a "traditional" American war of aggression against another nation, with uncertain benefits and the usual jingoism and opportunism. From the book, "Honor in the Dust", "

What was intended, in McKinley’s mind at least, as an effort to help the Filipinos, ended up igniting a deep hatred of Americans. In the spring of 1902, Senator George Frisbie Hoar, who had argued against the war from the beginning, delivered an excoriating three-hour speech on the Senate floor that left the nation stunned and Roosevelt fuming. “You have wasted 600 millions of treasure. You have sacrificed nearly 10,000 American lives — the flower of our youth. You have devastated provinces. You have slain uncounted thousands of the people you desire to benefit,” he said. “Your practical statesmanship has succeeded in converting a people who three years ago were ready to kiss the hem of the garment of the American and to welcome him as liberator . . . into sullen and irreconcilable enemies, possessed of a hatred which centuries cannot eradicate.”

In the end, the numbers of Filipinos left dead are estimated between 200,000 and 1million.  The war is most often described as a cleanup after the Spanish American war, but is not that clean - the Philippines were an independent nation at the time the US invaded.   As in wars throughout history, there was no lack of atrocity and betrayal, opportunism and racism. 

I have a small pile of faded photos and postcards from my grandfather's attic. These are a few of them. It is in the interest of government and industry for us to forget history, so we really don't know it repeats, repeatedly. Truly nothing new under the sun.


I think history is considered an avocation of the old, looking back instead of forward.  In reality, history is a prediction of what is to come.

Fortunately, there are those, like Mark Twain, who are also part of history, and speak out against atrocity.


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