Marines in Heaven

This cartoon disgusts me. It represents the worst of patriotism and the worst of religion combined. It is, in fact, exactly what we accused our backwards enemies of doing: portraying our martyrs as ushered to Heaven by God.

The cartoonist doubtless meant this as a fluff piece. It's a way of expressing gratitude toward those who have lost their lives doing their duty for their country. Perhaps it's also a way of not feeling so bad about having sent young people to their deaths.

But the cartoon's disturbing subtext is clear: God is on our side in this war. He takes our fallen to Heaven as their reward for their sacrifice. Implicitly, He does not take the killed Taliban soldiers to Heaven, or else the plane would say "soldiers killed in Afghanistan."

This battle is the West against the Wahhabis, the arrogant, narrow-minded people who claim to know God's will, to be able to judge who deserves Heaven and whom God hates. It is the evil ones who claim that God is a partisan in their geopolitical struggles. But with this cartoon we indulge in the same vice as our enemies. It is an example of patriotism with religion's self-righteousness and religion with patriotism's self-centeredness.

It's comforting and tempting to imagine that God is on our side. That's exactly why we should be on guard against such a self-serving delusion.

January 2002