It’s as easy as it is pointless to highlight the continued absurdity of Nathan Bradfield’s arguments, so forgive me for caving in again.
He’s updated his “Army’s Message to Democrats” post a second time to reflect material I’ve posted I’ve here. In response to what I wrote yesterday, where I derided Nathan for claiming I had compared U.S. troops to Jihadists, he asserts that I have “backpeddled” (it’s “back-pedaled,” Nathan — just an FYI; lots of folks oopsy this one) with respect to this comparison.
In fact, I never compared our troops to Jihadists. I never even used the latter term. What I did claim is that a Christian solider who thinks Jesus wants him to fight Iraqis (or, for that matter, doesn’t want him to) is just as deluded as an Islamofasicst motivated by visions of Allah’s will, and I stand by that. Taking orders or discerning approval from nonexistent overlords is questionable at best regardless of one’s “relationship” to the deity in question. Nathan and I are never going to meet on this issue because he disagrees with the idea that anthropo-gods are mythical.
As Sam Harris has pointed out, the real problem when it comes to mixing gods and war is that it’s not difficult for an ideologue privy to private directives from supernatural powermongers to justify pretty much anything. I’m not characterizing the unfortunate Chris Mason as an ideologue, but it’s not difficult to see the problems in his thinking, although it probably got him through some tough days and nights.
This, however, is a far cry from claiming that the actions of U.S. soldiers are just as misguided as those of suicide bombers and other nutty ideologues. It’s not a subtle distinction, but it won’t assuage Nathan because he and other fundies are understandably not fond of comparisons of Christianity to especially sick-ass religions, and this combined with basic intellectual parochialism blinds them to the nuances of discourse. In his view, if I mention Christianity and Islam in the same sentence, I’ve called Christians terrorists, period.
Aside from this, Nathan runs off the rails in other, predictable ways. First, he writes:
“Nevermind that our troops are willing to die for you, but you would root for them because you are targeted by their opponent? How SELf-CENTERED can one man be?”
This was in response to my stating that in a battle of allegedly God-driven armies, I’d rather see America’s prevail. I’m not sure how this is any more self-centered than slapping a sticker on my car that says “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS” or, more generally, hoping for Islamic terrorism to be squelched worldwide for the sake of everyone’s safety. What Nathan doesn’t realize is that a God-driven military is no thinking person’s ideal, and moreover, that fighting the war in Iraq is not the same thing as combating Islamic terrorism. Like all dutiful stooged for the moronic, uncritical arm of the right, he conceives opposition to the war, in any form, as a concession to global terrorism.
Nathan rambles on:
“Realizing how hard it is to look past Mr. Beck’s enflated [sic] head to see his argument, I will do so for you so you don’t have to. Mr. Beck’s now two-fold comparison of Islam to Christianity displays his lack of knowledge about the most basic tenets of each: The former a
religion cult, the latter a relationship.”
Nathan is fond of this brand of clumsy relativism — relabeling things in a way that is convenient to his purposes, but logically vacuous. He tried the same thing when he tried to lay into evolution, and it was just as much a failure then as now. Islam and Christianity are both classic, monotheistic Abrahamic religious cults. The constraints of Western civilization have rendered Christianity far more tame than today’s ugly face of Islam, but the things Christians are plainly commanded to do in their sacred text — and thankfully don’t — are hardly less odious.
For present purposes, my comparison of Christianity to Islam — and there are several historical aspects not worth mentioning, especially in the company of rockheads — lies in the conflation of human will and cosmic (nonexistent) “will.” Religions are never good excuses for fighting war. Islam may presently give rise to a host of unrivaled evils, but its tenets are no more far-fetched than those of a religion that holds that a father-deity, masquerading as his own son, killed his earthly rendition of himself in order to punish everyone else on the planet, only to spend a test-run vacation with Satan before rising to Heaven to rejoin himself/his father, with the promise to return yet again “someday” to preserve the saved and only the saved. The entire construct is hopelessly f*cked up and if it weren’t for historical reasons that protect believers in this and only this kind of woo, they would be deemed clinically insane. Nathan is lucky that he’s merely considered ignorant.
Nathan next attempts to gather momentum in painting me as a clueless leech:
“Jihadists die for two selfish reasons: 1) martyrdome and 2) the advancement of Islam. This advancement of Islam has one goal that has obviously managed to slip past Mr. Beck’s engorged head: Force the rest of the world to convert to Islam or kill.”
I guess the “martyrdome” might be where they play American-rules football in Baghdad. And “engorged head”? Nathan is showing a kinky side.
Nathan is wrong, of course; I know full well what the internal aim of Islam is and how this is manifested in the geopolitical theater of today. I also know that I regularly receive visits and pamphlets from people who hope to convert me to Christianity. These include Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others, most of whom litter my doorstep with tracts after I’ve politely shut the door. These people are pleasant and uniformly unwelcome, and thankfully, they don’t threaten me with violence. But Nathan himself as badly misguided advocate of a Christian-run America should readily empathize with anyone who wants to cram a religion, any religion, down the throats of the unwilling, and govern them by its graceless, largely immoral laws.
“On the other hand, Christianity is grounded in servanthood. This is also the basis of our military. It’s a volunteer army. Certainly not every American soldier is a Christian, nor do they all share Mason’s personal beliefs, but a nearly every single American troop believes in fighting, and dying, from a servanthood position, regardless of their religious standing … Thus, we see that while both use a higher being as their overall motivating force, it does not mean their reasons for sacrifice are equal, Mr. Beck. In fact, they are complete opposites. But expecting an atheist to understand either position is quite a stretch. But thankfully, he will know which side to root for.”
I’ve served as an officer in the U.S. Army. Although I didn’t do anything worth mentioning, I probably have a better handle on the range of personalities and attitudes in the U.S. military than Nathan does. Given that he’s from Alabama, it’s likely that most people he knows are Christians like him. But most soiders are not martyrs with a yen for catering blindly to a higher authority. They follow orders because this makes missions run more smoothly. And most of them, while recognizing the possibility of dying, are not eager to do it. All Nathan is doing here is painting U.S. soliders as being more like fighting Muslims, not less — not a convincing way to portray the opposition as unfairly doing the same.
Regardless, trying to draw any sort of sensible analogy between a volunteer army and a sectarian religion — the latter entity something virtually no one volunteers to enter — is stone-cold bullshit. If nothing else, wars (though not the one we’re in now) can have clearly defined objectives and plans for achieving them. Religion’s objectives are by definition ineffable (good luck meeting your maker), and so here on Earth, highly religious people make a point of creating as much disruption to as many modes of progress as they can.
I’ll grant Nathan this much, though: It’s no coincidence that those happiest to swallow more and more Washington punch even in the face of continued undeniable failures in the desert are Christian extremists. Throw those dogs bones laced with pseudopatriotism and mention “evil” and you’ll never see their jaws relax, not even under the worst forms of duress.