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Home arrow Religion arrow Religion in the Ranks: Belief and Religious Experience in the Canadian Forces

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The Rank and File

While CF chaplains represent formal institutional religion, the majority of those outside the chaplaincy are better described by Robert Fuller's label 'spiritual but not religious.' In fact, if it were not for the aspect of 'unlimited liability' that goes with their duties, young military personnel would be much like their civilian peers, who, for the most part, have come out of religious traditions but are not likely to participate in religion. The term 'unlimited liability' indicates the inevitable loss of life, whether one's own or another's, that invariably comes with the 'profession of arms' that includes military service (DND 2003d, 4; Hackett 1963, 222).1 The combination of the secular nature of many young men in Canada today and the inherent risk of mortal danger in military service creates a unique subculture in which personnel might be irreverently secular while also acutely attuned to existential concerns as well as seeking answers to ethical and moral questions. Additionally, however, a minority of CF members continue to participate in formal religious traditions. Although they subject these traditions to their own interpretive authority, they identify them as helpful in assisting them to be effective in their military duties.

 
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