God Given Victory?
Since the days of the Greeks and likely long before their pantheon even got started mankind has been appealing to supernatural forces for everything and anything. Be it an ancient culture performing human sacrifices to appease their deities and bring the rain their crops needed or a modern Christian praying that Jesus help them on their final exams. Human beings, it seems, are superstitious. But the very fact that we have always appealed to these supernatural beings for help should be a dead give away that no God deserves credit for victory, be it on the battlefield or in the classroom.
This is part of an ongoing series of hubs about the subject of believers giving credit to God for the strangest things, things that, as I hope to show, God has nothing to do with.
War, Uh, Good God
War and superstition seem to go hand in hand. Obviously there are a great number of folks in the military who maintain some kind of religious faith. I'd take this moment to point out that there are indeed atheists in foxholes however (one of my best friends is currently in Iraq and is also an atheist). Despite the atheists who bravely fight alongside religious military members it's easy to see how irrational superstitious beliefs could be beneficial to a fighting force. I can remember feelings of power and invincibility when I was a Christian during prayer. There is a confidence that stems from the irrational belief that the all powerful Creator of the Universe is on your side and that has served to give many soldiers a bit of a morale boost.
There are those that believe, however, that God himself is deciding who wins a conflict. Some years ago, before I realized I was an atheist, my Father told me that it was Christian soldiers who had won in WW2 and that they had done so only because of the prayers of the faithful here in America. Even then, still a drifter in between theism and atheism, I could see the issues in these ideas. Not only did I know for a fact that some of the soldiers MUST have been atheists but I also knew that the Nazis ALSO believed God was on their side.
Their belt buckles read Gott Mein Uns, GOD WITH US. Of course Christians will dismiss the idea that God could have ever supported the Nazis since so many of them were involved in horrible atrocities. I think they're forgetting how many atrocities God himself commits and condones in the Bible. The God of the Bible is not beyond committing genocide although Christians will be quick to point out that the Nazi's primarily targeted Jews for extermination and labor camps.
So was it God who decided WW2? Does God pick which countries are his favorites? We should also not forget that the Allies, in particular America, were far from blameless in WW2. We may not have sent millions to death camps but we did drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing primarily innocent Japanese civilians. We then rounded up Japanese Americans into internment camps. The Allies were less evil than Hitler to be sure but we did not escape the war without thousands of innocent lives staining our hands. This is about a mile away from the turn the other cheek philosophy of Jesus but it does fit well enough with the revenge-hungry win-at-all-cost attitude of the Old Testament God.
The idea that prayers, that God, won WW2, or any other conflict does something else which I find to be the most aggravating aspect of it for me.
One would think that Christians of all people would understand sacrifice. Millions gave their lives in WW2 to help win against the Nazis. If it was God that won the war than their sacrifice is completely meaningless. They gave their lives for nothing. It also means that God allowed each of them to die. After all if he was in control of the entire war, and apparently decided he liked the Allies better than the Axis, than he could have put a stop to the whole thing. Perhaps he could have dropped some fire and brimstone on Berlin long before D-Day even became necessary. Or perhaps a more fair and less Old Testament solution where the truly evil Nazis dropped dead suddenly.
What about events like the Civil War. History seems to suggest that God was on the side of the North, yet the South supported Slavery... but the God of the Bible ALSO supports slavery... at least he supported allowing the ancient Hebrews to have slaves, he even directly regulated who they could take as slaves (direct from the mouth of God slavery is condoned in Exodus 21 only 1 chapter after the famed 10 Commandments).
The sacrifice of so many for so few becomes so meaningless if God is the one deciding the conflict. What were they fighting for if God could have stepped in at any moment and defeated Hitler himself? Why would a loving God let such a monster rise to power? Of course apologists would just claim it was humanities fault for letting Hitler commit all those atrocities. I'd remind those folks that according to them the Jews are God's chosen people... if he's not going to look out for his own chosen than he's a more pathetic God than I thought (and that's pretty bad for those who've followed my other hubs).
Would a movie like GOD ON TRIAL, need to exist if God had done a damn thing about WW2? The answer, an obvious NO.
Despite the nonsensical and superstitious nature of this trend people all around the world continue to plead with magical and supernatural forces to rule in their favor on a host of things. When I was Christian of fourteen or fifteen I would ask God to get me a girlfriend or at least provide me the confidence to ask the girls I had crushes on out.
In a recent news story an atheist supposedly converted when his Mother won the lottery after praying about it. The truth is that most people who play the lottery probably pray about it. If I played the lotto even I'd probably lift a few tongue-in-cheek invocations to Joe Pesci (in honor of George Carlin of course). The fact that this event convinced this atheist just goes to show you that it doesn't take brains to be an atheist... of course I'd like to think it helps.
Sports teams are another place where this type of superstition is rank. I've never been a huge sports fan, although like most men my age during NFL season you will find me watching football come Sunday (anyone know if that damned lock-out is over?). Many sportsfans pray, cross their fingers or rub their lucky rabbits feet and hope their teams win. Even more sickening are the after-game interviews with overpaid athletes talking about how Jesus helped them win and gave them their talents. Forget genetics and all the hard work they did in training camp, it was a dead guy who got nailed to a piece of wood 2,000 years ago, that's why they won. The very idea seems OBVIOUSLY wrong in every way.
Of course every fan thinks God is on their teams side and the only person who doesn't have a say in it is, well, God himself. Could it be because there's probably no God or, if there is one, he just doesn't care about who wins American football?
As with war the idea that God decides the victor cheapens the efforts of those involved. The players, the coaches who came up with the game plan, etc. If a deity were really meddling in our affairs this way don’t you think we’d notice? Kinda reminds me of a movie I used to watch when I was a kid, btw don’t judge me, I was a huge Christopher Lloyd fan ;)
Victory is just another thing that people give credit to God for that God doesn’t have anything to do with. I see no difference between claims that the gods intervened in the Trojan war and God intervening in WW2. I see no difference between those that pray to Allah and win the lottery and those that pray to Jehovah and win the lottery. Which makes me wonder why after all these centuries the habit still persists. Superstition dies hard.
Thanks for reading, leave feedback below and as always if you have any other things that God gets credit for that I have yet to address in my other hubs on the subject let me know.
Other Hubs in this Series
- God Given Morality?
A hub analyzing and debunking the bizarre claim that morality comes from God. Part of an on-going series deconstructing the habit of giving credit to God for things he obviously had nothing to do with.
- God Given Rights?
Further analysis of the bizarre trend of giving credit to God for things he obviously didn't do. This hub deals specifically with the idea of rights from God.
- God Given Gifts?
Argues against the idea that your talents are God given.
- Giving Credit to God
Objections are offered against the superstitious trend of giving credit to God for things he obviously didn't do.