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Theos Team Blog

In Remembrance Week, ex-head of Armed Forces says spiritual dimension is essential to military life

9th November 2011

General Lord Richard Dannatt in the 2011 Theos Annual lecture said a moral dimension is essential to soldiering today, but is not enough. There also needs to be a spiritual dimension.

Talking about his own personal experiences in the military, but also recounting some of the doubts and fears that ordinary soldiers experiences in their tours of duty, Dannatt repeatedly said that “Everyone, when push comes to shove, is reaching our for something bigger than themselves.”

He spoke of his own deeply held Christian faith and said that when he was Chief of Staff he had instructed the Chaplain General “to make sure that everyone deployed on operations has some understanding of the Christian message.”

However, he was very clear in the Q&A, that whilst the spiritual dimension was important, it was “down to individuals to work out what their spiritual dimension is for themselves.”

Dannatt also spoke about Iraq, Afghanistan and the relationship of religion to modern conflict saying that “too…much warfare has been conducted in the name of…religion.”

However, he was clear that “what we are doing in Afghanistan is nothing to do with any Judeo-Christian campaign against Islam.” He said that wars were fought “under the banner of religion” because it is “often rather easier to motivate people [with] religion, than to describe…political motives.”

Elizabeth Hunter, director of Theos, said:

“Whether or not you agree that the military is the right place to look for moral guidance, it is clear that there is a consensus in society about the need for it.

In a time where we are wrestling with what seem to be moral failures across all sections of society, perhaps we should heed Dannatt’s advice to look beyond the moral to the spiritual.”

- ENDS -


1. The whole text of General Lord Dannatt’s speech is available here.

2. Lord Dannatt is the fourth person to deliver the Annual Theos lecture on religion and contemporary society following Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and Baron Blair of Boughton, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He was Chief of the General Staff between 2006 and 2009.

3. The Theos annual lecture was held at 1 Birdcage Walk, Westminster, London on the evening of Tuesday 8th November. It was attended by 200 politicians, policy makers, faith leaders and journalists. Theos is a religion and society think tank which offers research and commentary on issues of faith and belief. It was launched in November 2006 with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the former Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

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