If you want to know why atheism is getting a comeback, you only have to go to the Washington Post’s discussion by eminent theologians on “war and religion“.

The official question is:How do you keep your faith during times of war?

The intellectual level of the discussion is staggering, at least in the five essays that I managed to get through before I left to take an anti emetic.
Most of the authors spout political/historical cliches rather than discuss the actual question.
It’s all there: Gitmo. The “wars of religion” (i.e. of four hundred years ago). Northern Ireland (where a couple thousand died in what was essentially a tribal war).

What is not there? Modern wars inspired by religion, or more accurately, distortions of a certain religion.
Suicide bombers killing Pinoys on ferries, Israeli grandmothers in Pizza parlors, Hindu commuters, and worshipers in mosques, churches, Hindu shrines, and Buddhist temples.

The “elephant ” in the living room…
Another missing element in their discussion are wars and democides under the name of atheist religions that proposed earthly utopias, from the Holocaust (inspired by “social darwinism” and eugenics) to the one hundred million dead in various Marxist democides.

Most of the authors rightly condemn the wars of religion caused by Christianity, but none of them seem to know that history is full of non religious wars and deathmaking, from Ghengis Khan, Attila the Hun, and the Emperor of Chin, to the Japanese massacres of civilians in World War II. (seven million Chinese civilians killed).

Does this sad history of human deathmaking suggest a genetic weakness in human beings that makes them prone to commit murder? Or (dare we say) could war have something to do with a human tendency to commit evil, or even an “evil one”?

Last time I looked, that was a “religious” question.
But if you notice, the WaPo discussion is not supposed to be about religion helping to justify war, or even the history of religious wars, but was supposed to be about how the authors retained faith “during a time of war”.

The few who discussed that part of the question are even more stupid.

Every cliche in the book is there.

“God is love”. (JesuslovesmethisIknowcausethebibletellsmeso).
“God doesn’t want war”. (well, duh).
“I oppose war”. (I do too…but what do you do if an “insurgent” walks into your hospital and starts shooting your patients and nurses? Inquiring minds want to know).
”In times of war, my faith teaches me to look for signs of love gathering around the evil and violence…”

Ah, little Miss Sunshine.
Hello, fellahs (and gals). Did any of you ever, how should I put this, risk your tush in a real war? And if you did, how did it affect your faith?

Words are cheap. Politically correct cliches by pampered clergy agonizing over theoretical war they meet mainly in headlines makes me want to become an atheist…or at least watch Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

What is lacking in the essays is something subtle.




Knowledge that you are part of the community of the suffering (to use the phrase of Albert Schweitzer).
And humility: the knowledge to know we are not in control, but we are only required to do our best.

The faith to believe that there is a reason behind the things that happen, or at least that in the face of evil, that the ultimate outcome will be turned into good.

Camus, an atheist who fought with the French resistance, had one of his characters to say that he promised himself that he would always chose the patient over the pestilence. Later, this character said that the most important question of the modern world was ” to know how one can become a saint,”[16] but a saint without God…

Maybe the WaPost should ask an honest agnostic/atheist to answer the question the next time.

Cliches, bah humbug.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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