Ethics and War in a Secular Age

Decoupling religion from war is not an easy thing. The poet Stephen Spender, in reflecting upon World War II, wrote these lines (in his poem, “Rejoice in the Abyss”):

Against an acrid cloud of dust, I saw

The houses kneel, revealed each in its abject

Prayer, my prayer as well: ‘Oh, God,

Spare me the lot that is my neighbor’s.’

The impulse to pray for your own survival, and leave the fate of neighbors and enemies to God (as a matter of indifference) is natural, but it is not in accord with love. So in a secular age should love, in the name of Darwinian survival, be abandoned? Should the fate of neighbors and enemies be a matter of indifference to any sane person trying to survive in a competitive, unjust, absurd, and tragic world? Or should you wed your own fate to following love and an expansion of concern, even at the expense of your own life?

What matters? What should matter?

Just asking.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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1 Response to Ethics and War in a Secular Age

  1. Peter says:

    Im guessing that the man who stands up and says take me instead of him doesnt get as much opportunity to have kids.

    Having said that Love can drive us into great acts of courage and bravery. It can make us better fighters giving us a strong reason to fight. And showing a love for the soldiers around us may benefit us too.

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