Religious Interests as a Response to Hardship and Suffering

So far we have identified a group of individuals who appear to come mainly from Christian traditions in Canada. Many of these people no longer participate in formal religious activities, although they retain some ties to their heritage through traditions, religious rites of passage, and even their continued quest for religious understanding. This image does not represent the whole picture of religion in the military, however, nor does it identify aspects of military duty that encourage people to pursue religious interests. For one thing, the 'unlimited liability' aspect of military duties often leads people to questions about suffering, meaning, and the 'big issues' of life. As we saw in the previous chapter, bureaucratic and competitive elements of modern societies have the potential to alienate people (Toennies 1963 [1887]). This alienation is often amplified for military personnel, who, owing to the current operational tempo of military deployments, sometimes feel, as one soldier put it, like 'a small cog in a big machine.' Finally, the types of duties that military members are obliged to do and the environments in which they are posted often raise questions about values and ethics. These three aspects of modern military society - mortal danger, the bureaucratized nature of military employment, and duties that raise moral and ethical concerns - cause some people, who might not otherwise have cause, to turn to religious resources and think about religious issues.

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