As I explain in some detail in the "Social Dilemmas" section, it is not logically sound to say that the battle may be lost as a result of this particular soldier not participating. It is highly unlikely that the success of the battle will depend on whether this one soldier chooses to fight or not. "But what if everybody did the same?" is an irrelevant and nonsensical question as far that particular individual is concerned (because we are only talking about the impact of one soldier dropping out).
The illogic surrounding the act of voting is the inspiration for much of the content of this essay and is an excellent example of an irrational act that somehow seems to be beneficial to humanity. The concept is discussed in detail in the afore mentioned Social Dilemmas. It is most puzzling to hear educated and apparently intelligent people talk of their individual vote as if it were a rational act that would somehow impact the election results! For more on the voting confusion, see my essay, "How to Avoid 'Wasting Your Vote'".
Many times I have heard ranting such as "That clerk was really rude to me when I tried to return that defective light bulb and I will never shop at Walmarts again!" Now let us think about that. Will the executives at Walmart ever know that this individual no longer shops with them? Would they be able to detect it in their annual financial report? No and No. Will this upset individual suffer as a result of not being able to take advantage of the lower prices of Walmart in the future. Most likely. So by what logic should she decide to never shop there again? None that I can see.
Generally, the acceptance of the religious belief is based on blind faith. However, we humans are not happy with that so we try to rationalize. Apologists for the Christian religion say that their belief is based on the Christian Bible. Now what do they know about the bible? Not much. No one alive today can vouch to its veracity. History tells us that the Christian "New Testament" Bible was most likely written 90 years or so after the death of someone who may have existed, Jesus. Consider for a moment how accurate a story might be that was handed down for 3 or 4 generations -- verbally -- by a tribe of people who were mostly illiterate. I'm not saying that any of the story is untrue -- I'm just saying the probabilities that it is factual are mighty slim! For those who doubt, let me suggest an experiment. Go over to the Middle East today (they are far more educated today!) and try to establish an interesting story, fact or myth. Come back in 90 years and check out the current version of your story. Would you base the rest of your life on its veracity?
But that is just the beginning. After the story of Jesus was written down, it was translated and transcribed many times by people. I don't know too much about people that lived here a couple of thousand years ago, but today there is substantial evidence that people with such tasks often have their own agenda and tend to "flavor" their transcription. If you don't believe that, just watch the television evening news!
The most popular advertisements on late night television seems to be for "Psychics". From this fact alone, I must conclude that many people actually believe in the claims of these people. Further, since the government has not stepped in and harassed these people, forcing them to desist -- as they would if some fledgling company simply claimed their product was better than some other company -- the implication is that the government endorses their claims. And just look at the classified ads in any popular magazine, including Psychology Today, and you will see piles of ads for "Psychics", Astrologers, and others with magic capabilities. Are we not civilized? Or are we headed back to the Dark Ages?
Television routinely reports in the news about people praying for relief from some disaster (the most strange are the stories wherein all in a plane crash are killed but one and the relatives report it as a miracle of God that that person survived!). Do we really believe that stuff? Statistics readily available from reliable sources show that people who pray constantly do not live a bit longer than the rest of us and suffer, on the average, just as many illnesses and accidents. Where is the rational thinking?
And look at our burial customs. How little we have progressed over the most primitive tribes when it comes to burials! We will spend millions to retrieve the remains of a dead person from some far off land, remains which have reverted back to nothing but chemicals. But why? It was my understanding that when a person dies the soul does not hang around. So why bother with the inanimate and soulless body? More below.
In fact, why bother with the church? Many of us skipped the church ceremony and still feel we are married. So it must not be the state or the church ceremony that determines when we are married. Maybe all we have to do is simply look each other in the eyes and say the vows. Sure would save a lot of hassle and money.
Oh no, you say, the marriage would not last without the church and/or state ceremonies to cement it. Gosh, is that the reason we stay married? I was hoping we had better reasons to stay married. Would you go though the ceremonies just so you could bring pressure to bear on the person to make him stay with you? Surely not.
But wait a minute, I read somewhere that that portrayal was incorrect, that it was just an effort of men to keep women down. From what I have read -- and from some personal experience :-) -- the modern woman likes sex as much or more than men do. I am confused.
In fact, my own life has not been completely sheltered and as a result I have personally met quite a few women who can be quite aggressive for sex! Some can even get a bit mean about it, if you know what I mean. So what is going on here? Why do comedians routinely joke about the sexual aggressiveness of women and the sluggishness of TV-Sports watching men? Would it be funny if there was not some truth in it?
So, maybe women do like sex. Maybe some women like it a lot! Who knows, maybe they like it more on average than men do. Then why does the news media assume -- without question -- when there is a sexual impropriety that it is always the man's fault? Why is it argued that women who dress sexually are really not looking for sex?
"Charity begins at home", the old saw goes. And so it should. The average person would never be able to take care of the impoverished in their own home town before they ran out of funds. Then why do they chose to send their money far away to some organization that will keep up to 90% of it for "administration" costs? Why do we look upon our on poor neighbors with contempt and send money to people we know nothing about? There must be a reason, for we are rational -- aren't we?
There are good arguments that say we just might be. We have all heard the expression, "ignorance is bliss". There may be some truth to that -- see my essay, "Rational: To be or not to be?".
Some examples of irrationality given above might fall into this category. For example, while I made the case that blind religious belief is irrational I did not conclude that it was a bad thing. In fact, we all might be better off if we subscribed completely to certain religious beliefs.
In the famous "Prisoner's Dilemma" scenario, the best action would be for both participants to be irrational. In fact that is a common characteristic of the so-called "Social Dilemma" that a rational action leads to an inferior result for the group.
Derek Parfit in his book, Reasons and Persons, examines this approach to life in some detail, providing several examples and concludes that it does pay -- at least sometimes -- to be irrational. Of course, the question promptly arise, "Can you be irrational if you wanted to?". I will write more on that later but for now, let me suggest this excellent article, "On Self-Delusion and Bounded Rationality", by Scott Aaronson, for your amusement.
On reflection, most of us conclude we would not want to live in a fully rational world. In such a world, it would not be safe for little old ladies to ever leave their homes. Humans would abuse each other, cheat and rob whenever there was no chance of being caught. Most people would not work but would rely on government welfare. Voter's would vote for more and more handouts until the government collapsed. Individuals would spend all their wealth before they die and pass nothing onto their descendents. No one would ever risk their lives defending themselves, including soldiers defending their country.
Thank goodness, humans are not completely rational.