Hello Friends,

I was ruminating a bit today on my sixty-some years existence. My mind went back to teenage years when I first figured out religion is not only obnoxiously loud, but also nothing I wanted anything to do with. Truly. I knew by age 15 that these myths were only invented to hold every man and woman back from being what each could be.

Viet Nam was my main worry in 1971. I only wanted to learn, not kill people I didn't know (or even those I did know.) War was definitely not part of my makeup. And yet I had been coerced as a lad to prepare for war.

Onward Christian Soldiers

Back then, I kept thinking, surely a precept of religion ought to be at the minimum, "do no harm." Not marching off to war.

"Believe what you want," I thought as a lad, but shut up and don't prevent others from working things out for themselves. Proselytize is a word the English language could do without.

At the least, no marching off to war. We've had too many of those. And certainly don't commemorate war's so-called rectitude in verse.


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Funny thing - I was just thinking about Onward Christian Soldiers this morning, I suspect associated with the movie M*A*S*H, which I watched again recently, and how Hawkeye and Forrest and some of the rest of the 4077th mocked Major Burns for his obsessive religiosity with it.

It deserved to be mocked, because that song is dangerous.  It sets and us-vs-them tone, treats the Great Commission as a war to be fought and is even written in tempo de marche to further fix the mindset.  It also plays to the sense of Christian privilege believers live with without really being aware of it (are fish aware of the water?) and treat as a natural part of their lives.  And all of this is supposed to come from a god of love?

Cognitive dissonance, indeed.

Indeed! The whole myth is by a small group of goat herders in the mountains and valleys of poor growing soil and lack of rain. Survival was to kill and conquer or die of starvation and thirst.

"This land belongs to us, and anyone who gets in the way of our taking its resources is to be slaughtered, including their unborn and everyone through the elders. This land is ours!" 

Year after year after year. They dreamed up a god who gave them instructions to kill and destroy. Century after century, the killing and destroying became institutionalized, a sacrament. 

Two millennia and they continue to fight for their land. I wonder where they expect the Palestinians to live? They don't really care, I suppose. 

Israel, Past and Present?

"Beduin campsite in Israel. The Genesis Patriarchs lived in tents, as evident from Genesis 12:8; 13:3, 12; and numerous other passages."

And, Loren, as a further coincidence, while hiking a trail in Greece, several group members started to sing "Onward Christian Soldiers". I responded with a "Not me", which triggered a good discussion about religion. Actually, I was surprised at the number of people (half?) that were non-believers or agnostic. My daughter, however, is very much a Christian, although she listens to what I have to say about Christianity very closely.

Horrible song - I can still hear the pounding of it in my parents' church.

We've had millennia of war -- sending people to threaten and kill each other -- being considered not "horrible, catastrophic, unthinkable" but actually an acceptable, expected, "honorable", "glorious" "last resort" for settling our conflicts.

Ruth has mentioned Chris Hedges' book
War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

From the introduction (free download, also attached to this reply):

“The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent.... And war is an enticing elixir. It gives us resolve, a cause. It allows us to be noble.”

Another quote, from Goodreads:

“In the beginning war looks and feels like love. But unlike love it gives nothing in return but an ever-deepening dependence, like all narcotics, on the road to self-destruction. It does not affirm but places upon us greater and greater demands. It destroys the outside world until it is hard to live outside war's grip. It takes a higher and higher dose to achieve any thrill. Finally, one ingests war only to remain numb.”

I've seen Kent Shifferd's book From War to Peace: A Guide to the Next Hundred Years, where he chronicles the history of Western culture as promoting war, and proposes that we have the opportunity to actually outlaw war as we've outlawed slavery.

From Tom Hastings' review: "Shifferd, a historian, looks at how our war system came into existence, what the consequences of that system have been and are today, and what it takes to transform that system into a peace system. It is the single clearest document on the topic that I've read in the past 30 years, and the most realistic."


As an alternative route, outlawing religion might bring about similar benefits. And it could be easier than outlawing war since religion in the modern era is probably (a bit) less profitable than war. [Of course they do their best work when they join forces.]

Sometimes a good antidote to dangerous, hateful lyrics is a different song with different lyrics!

This one is another hymn, which I suspect most pastors/ministers/priests would have no problem with:

This Is My Song
to the tune Finlandia by Jean Sibelius;
words by Lloyd Stone (v.1-2) and ?Georgia Harkness (v.3)

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine;
this is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.

May truth and freedom come to every nation;
may peace abound where strife has raged so long;
that each may seek to love and build together,
a world united, righting every wrong;
a world united in its love for freedom,
proclaiming peace together in one song.

I have trouble with this song because of the reference to god, even if it is a god of all nations. That is the problem; this is not the reality. Nations and nationalism are part of what keep wars going. Just look at Israel and Palestine. Wars, year after year, with no end in sight. Catholic and Protestants, warring against each other. It reminds me of two chicks in a nest trying to get the worm that mommy brings. One chick pushes the other out of the nest to certain death. Survival of the fittest. Not a very loving thought. 

I would like to have the beautiful song and singers and with different words. 

This is my song, my call to all the people,

a song of peace for lands afar and mine;

this is my home, the homeland where my heart is;

here are my hopes, my dreams, my aspirations:

but other hearts in other lands are beating

with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

Revisiting this page... what a beautiful, elegant edit, Joan! Repeating that in the second stanza (or "O people of all nations") makes the entire song godless.

I'll pass that along to a friend whose Unitarian church, which welcomes nontheists as well as theists, might sing it.




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