I’m just doing the proofreading for my second book, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War, to be published in April 2016 by Pen and Sword. I came across this quote from a Normandy Veteran, Ken Tout, whom it was my privilege to meet back in June. He went to war a committed member of the Salvation Army. He returned, still a Christian as he is to this day, but with a changed view of the dogmatism of many sects. It seems even more pertinent a few months on in the light of the Paris attacks and Britain’s decision to extend airstrikes against ISIS / ISIL / DAESH into Syria.
It is a verbatim account of what he told me during a recorded interview.
“Some people found a clear vision …of what God might be, or be able to do, but did not want to come back into a particular ordered religious environment.
Once you print a law, lawyers find a way of avoiding it. Once you have a principle, people bend it. Dogma has been there with different churches and becomes sacred, an intellectual prison. You either accept it, to some extent unthinkingly, or not.
There are so many illogical things about religion, it has to be an acceptance. Dogma linked to authority gives you ISIS and jihads. Just like the Crusades of the tenth and eleventh centuries.
We might say Christianity is a better religion than Islam, but those who took part in the Crusades were not Christians. A Christian is someone who believes in Jesus Christ, not those who commit atrocities in the name of Christ.
Dogma is all very well, for example as Roman Catholic if you don’t know a better way of expressing what God is all about. But when you have a dogma, the presence of a priest becomes terrifying. You have to go to Mass once a month or be damned. Will the priest come in time to save my soul? Once you start to challenge all this, you’re at risk as you have to make up your own religion”
This confirms the pattern I have found in many people who went to war from a particularly dogmatic Christian sect. The Christianity did not come back from war the same. Further examples are Eric Lomax (The Railway Man) from a strict Scottish Baptist upbringing and Alec Waldron, a member of the Plymouth Brethren who returned with an incidental faith.
My own father, whose family attended an independent, non-aligned Railway Mission in Colchester, returned with his faith intact and continued to express that faith in his own way, not led by elders, priests or bishops.