I am scrolling through Google images after typing in the term ‘War’ and I come across an image that depicts a grave, it has written ‘KNOWN UNTO GOD’ on it, presumably for a solider that most likely could not be identified. Forgotten life, similar to that of 2.5 million voluntary soldiers of India in WW2 for the British. I contemplate for a second. In this moment a thought hits me, that the notions of ‘God’s will’ and ‘morality’ play a key role in justifying acts of violent and this modern day atrocity we call war.
This rhetoric is used over and over, from one generation to another. Although it holds many sides to it, ultimately for me it provides the ability for the overseer to filter down a conflict (often a very complex issue) into the simplistic ‘good vs evil’ dialogue for the masses. The overseer then just paints the ‘bad’ as they go along. It is the people at the end of the day they have to sway!
Whether the individual (or administration in charge) actually believe it is their ‘moral’ duty to start acts of war is questionable, but it is exactly this undertone of ‘God wishes for us to do this’ and the ‘higher’ moral stance that is used to sway the masses.
Take for instance the language used by George Bush in 2003 (one of the many men to use such a appeal regularly) when he told graduates “We are in a conflict between good and evil. And America will call evil by its name”. Or when he told an audience “freedom is not America’s gift to the world, its the almighty God’s gift to all humanity.” The constant use of this rhetoric at the time played a significant role as it persuaded the audience that 1) what we are doing is morally right 2) ‘good morals’ are never to be questioned 3) provided the masses with an basic picture that there is only ‘good’ and ‘bad’ at play here and nothing more complex then this. Ofcourse this turned out to be wrong in many cases…
This approach driven for social justice, freedom and which every democratic words which comes to mind (I use the terms loosely) is rooted in religious ideals and faith is very complex yet a persuasive one. Think for a moment of your religion or faith and you will instantly realise that it is very personal and sensitive to you. It truly is in my case directly linked to my emotional reserves. What this approach is able to do is directly initiate dialogue with my reserves of emotional capacity and therefore be able to sway our judgment.
History provides a variety of examples for how this approach has been used by whoever wishes to use it for whichever motive, transcending the left or right paradigm. There is always a calling from ‘higher power’!
Even take Hitler in 1923 for instance, Hitler himself did in part use this rhetoric to ascent through the political ranks and gain popular support. Not that there are similarities between these men. In 1923 he declared that ‘it matters not whether these weapons of ours are humane: if they gain us our freedom, they are justified before our conscience and before our God’. The language being used is firstly quite clearly dangerous due to its direct nature. More importantly the association being made between God and inherent rights, such as freedom is exactly the tipping point where the association with the individual using this approach goes from mere respect to the kind of pedestal treatment with Hitler received, as the protector of race, land and power.
Now what’s interesting is that in 1961 The Milgram experiments were being carried out to research how far people can be pushed by an authoritative figure (inspired by the trial of Adolph Eichmann).
The experiment in general noted down the submissive actions of subjects due a variety of reasons such as the physical presence of authority or the ability to pass on responsibility to another individual. However I personally feel that maybe the God and morality approach should have been anaylsed more?
Of course such acts have been taken under the name of God, Greek deities, various religions etc and I’m not one to preach but surely if there exist a God or a higher being surely it must think ‘why is my name being dragged through this every time?’ For wherever there is a bullet in the modern day there is an also the abuse God and morality sadly.