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Veterans And Atheism


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I was wondering if there was any veterans on the forum who deconverted AFTER they had been deployed? My husband served for 11 years and was deployed to Iraq for 10 months (USMC). He has more than once expressed that a large reason for his total confidence in his faith is because of the events that took place "over there". I haven't experienced anything like what he went thru, so I feel largely unable to discuss it in terms of faith.

 

I wondered if these types of experiences tend to be more salient in terms of securing ones' faith? With what I've learned about traumatic memories and how differently they are encoded in the brain/memory, it makes sense to me that if these memories are then tied to a belief about God, specifically a belief that the only reason you survived something was because of "God's Hand", then the memories could be much more deeply held and/or difficult to deal with in terms of simply logic.

 

I do think that holding onto a belief in God actually makes it harder for a veteran, especially if they experienced the loss of others in their unit. The question is usually "Why did God let me survive/save me, and not my fellow soldier?". There's the guilt that often accompanies it as well. If you dispense with the belief in any supernatural intervention, and see the events as simple randomness and luck/chance, it doesn't seem to carry as much weight. At least that's how I see it.

 

 

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A lot of people seem to turn to xianity more after a traumatic event or process in their lives. (Equally, as a lot of people here will tell you, trauma/loss/illness can make them lose faith).

 

I turned to xianity twice as an adult because of depression, and of the xians in my family, the ones who seem to be most into it are the same people who have struggled with depression.  I think trauma or mental illness weakens our psychological "immune system" and makes us more vulnerable to the god virus.

 

When my depression started getting better, my belief in god slipped away.

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In my case, unfortunate events in my life tended to come before my deconversion - although not right away, it was merely a step in the process. It was more a case of the traumatic event knocking me out of my comfort zone, rearranging my perspectives and priorities, and leading me to think in ways that were outside of my normal grooves. It was ultimately the thinking of things in new ways, and allowing myself to ask questions previously off limits, that led to my loss of faith.

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I was never deployed over seas when I was in the military but I did go over to Afghanistan and Iraq as a contractor after I got out of the military. I think I've mentioned this in other threads but my deconversion proper started after I returned home and began the process of integrating what I experienced into my world view. I was trying to make sense of those experiences. I was also profoundly depressed because I was dealing with the fallout of a potentially career ending back injury. Finally, I was back in college taking a heavy load of physical science courses. The combined effects of these concepts over a period of a few years led to profound changes in my world view, including loss of faith.

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Isn't the military currently hyper christian?  I remember reports of servicemen being forced to either go to church or clean latrines, etc.  I would imagine if you were a believer before you joined, the religious atmosphere they cultivate would help you deal with what you saw and if you are not one to question authorities (which is another thing they train servicemen to do) you could leave your tour a stronger believer.

 

However, I would imagine if you were paying attention, there are few better ways to deconvert.  But Ive never been a part of any armed services, so I really couldn't say what is more likely.  I'm glad too; I don't think I could handle being in a war...

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I was Christian during my first tour and that experience had no effect on my beliefs. I had deconverted a few months before my second tour and that trip profoundly reinforced why I lost my faith. I saw how isolated and primitive these people lived and it became obvious how easy it is for religion to prosper in that environment.

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If you believe something and experience a highly emotional event and then use your belief to get you through, you're going to end up with a pretty strong psychological link to your belief system.  This in no way offers evidence for the belief system, it just speaks to the power of emotional linking. 

 

This is why motivational speakers use fire walks. 

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Isn't the military currently hyper christian? I remember reports of servicemen being forced to either go to church or clean latrines, etc. I would imagine if you were a believer before you joined, the religious atmosphere they cultivate would help you deal with what you saw and if you are not one to question authorities (which is another thing they train servicemen to do) you could leave your tour a stronger believer.

 

However, I would imagine if you were paying attention, there are few better ways to deconvert. But Ive never been a part of any armed services, so I really couldn't say what is more likely. I'm glad too; I don't think I could handle being in a war...

It was about as Christian as the general population of the United States. During basic training you had to either go to church on Sunday or be involved in some other task such as cleaning the barracks. Religion was not pushed on anybody however. There were "church" services for nearly every religion you could imagine.

 

Once you leave basic and advanced individual training (AIT), your experiences are as varied as the units that exist. Frankly, I was surprised by the diversity.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by the question authority comments. I was never an unquestioning killing machine if that's the generalisation. Again, this will really depend in the unit you are in, it's culture and it's leadership. I spent time with incredible leaders and was able to facilitate some great battalion level changes regarding our medical section in the battalion aide station (BAS). I must admit others were not so lucky however. The military has a structure and a system to how it operates. To be successful, you need to understand this structure and work within it to facilitate change. Like any job, there's often a certain amount of "game" playing involved.

 

I'd also say that the opinions on America's foreign policy in the military are quite varied. I joined back in the 90's when the general atmosphere of the United States was quite different. This was nearly two decades ago and I've been out nearly a decade so it's certainly possible that things have changed significantly.

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During basic training you had to either go to church on Sunday or be involved in some other task such as cleaning the barracks.

 

 

So you can relax in church or clean toilets?  This sounds like they're pushing religion to me. Wendyshrug.gif

 

My cousin was pretty irreligious before the Navy.  He had a born again experience in basic and is one of the bigger fundies in my family to this day.  Dunno how common his experience is though. 

 

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Meh, either way it was a break. Again, this was about two decades ago so I'm not sure how much that has changed. As I've mentioned in other threads I actually met my first "satanist." He even let me take a look at his "bible." It was an interesting experience and maybe this my my first early twinge of deconversion because he was a pretty nice guy and what I read in that bible was actually pretty sensible. This clearly contrasted with what I though of satanists.

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I'm not sure what you mean by the question authority comments. 

 

Just to me, as an outsider, I see military culture as teaching "just do it, don't think or question it", and also "he was just following orders" as a way to excuse an individual's war crimes.  I didn't mean it that soldiers are all like that, but I do think the command people would love unquestioning unfeeling unthinking robots…as does religion.  I see the 2 cultures as somewhat similar.

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I'm not sure what you mean by the question authority comments.

Just to me, as an outsider, I see military culture as teaching "just do it, don't think or question it", and also "he was just following orders" as a way to excuse an individual's war crimes. I didn't mean it that soldiers are all like that, but I do think the command people would love unquestioning unfeeling unthinking robots…as does religion. I see the 2 cultures as somewhat similar.

Yes in a way. There are often critical tasks such as airborne or air assault operations. These are completed following pretty strict what you could call protocols. Operating outside of these procedures can be lethal. Therefore, you will often train to strict guidelines and learn to perform tasks in a certain sequence without asking or deviating.

 

However, outside of training when you are in your unit, a much more out of the box approach is often needed to succeed. However, very critical tasks are still completed using these strict, sequential guidelines. This ensures everybody is is the same page and doing the same thing.

 

For example, during air assault operations everybody learns to tie a "Swiss" harness for rappelling procedures. A "German" or "diaper" harness is easier to tie and more comfortable IMHO, but during these operations we all do the same thing and everybody is on the same page.

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Interesting thoughts, thanks for sharing everyone!

 

Rogue: what branch did you serve in? I remember my husband saying the same thing about either going to church or cleaning, so most guys decided to go to church in Boot camp.

 

A side note that I  thought of with Marty's comments... I certainly don't think that all (or even most) of the wars that the US has been involved in have been for good reasons or weren't a "waste", but I hesitate to condemn the military culture or go as far as to say that we'd be better off without them (not implying that this is what Marty was suggesting, just thinking outloud here). Is it realistic to think that in this world we as a country could survive without a group of people who were willing to fight (and die) to defend our country? I liken it to law enforcement and the way many people "hate" cops. I understand that there's corruption and problems within, but most people's first reaction when they get assaulted/etc is to call the police.  I don't know how else a military could be run except with much of it being structured the way it is. In combat, people need to be willing and able to follow commands and act in an instant. How else can this happen except in a top-down structured system?

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Army and Army National Guard. The attitude and cultural issues are unit dependant. I'd be lying if I denied that this attitude existed in certain units. There are also other problems involving threats, intimidation, sexual attacks and rape. While I never had any such issues I'd also be lying if I denied the existence of these issues.

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Army and Army National Guard. The attitude and cultural issues are unit dependant. I'd be lying if I denied that this attitude existed in certain units. There are also other problems involving threats, intimidation, sexual attacks and rape. While I never had any such issues I'd also be lying if I denied the existence of these issues.

 

I agree. I think it really varies from branch to branch as well. A good friend of ours is Army and some of the problems he describes are totally opposite of what my husband experienced (and visa versa).

 

I really respect any woman who goes into the service, I know I could never do it. Besides the physical part, I wouldn't want to put myself in a situation like that, where sexual assault is often overlooked or swept under the rug.

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Let me put it this way. Wounded soldiers and/or soldiers near a wounded soldier shout "MEDIC, MEDIC!" Not "chaplain, chaplain!"

 That's a good one-liner response to the 'there are no atheists in foxholes.' 

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