Posts tagged military
Posts tagged military
The Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy today released a new position paper that details a disturbing expansion and entrenchment of Christian fundamentalism in the U.S. military — a cultural force which remains at times both tacitly and overtly endorsed by senior military leaders.
Over the past decade there have been multiple news reports highlighting an intensified tension regarding what constitutes proper religious expression in the U.S. military. However, there has been a scarce amount of thorough research examining the connection between these reports and, in addition, proposing possible solutions. As a result, there has been a lack of information with which to stoke change.
CFI’s position paper, titled “For God and Country,” presents several case studies demonstrating a clear pattern of unconstitutional religiously sectarian behavior; explores the merits of the competing philosophical perspectives on the proper role of religious expression by men and women in uniform; and concludes with recommendations that those in power should implement immediately in order to fully protect the U.S. military’s necessarily secular foundation and the religious freedom of all who volunteer to serve.
“For God and Country” was authored by James Parco, PhD., Lt. Col. USAF (Ret.), an associate professor of economics and business at Colorado College. Parco graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1991, was a member of the faculty for many years, and retired from active duty as a lieutenant colonel in 2011. He has also served on the National Security Council at the White House during the Clinton Administration, as well as in a diplomatic capacity overseas with the American Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Read the full position paper here.
I just finished Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox and it was a horrifying yet fascinating read. The story of the Small Pox virus captivated me from the books early pages and maintained my interest to it’s final chapter. There is much to be learned in this book about the history of this deadly virus and the threat it poses to the present and the future.
I hate to miss this but I know it’s going to be a great success even without me:-)
After more than a year of planning, atheists in the military will stage a public festival and rock concert celebrating their lack of religious beliefs at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, one of the largest U.S. military bases.
Dubbed “Rock Beyond Belief,” the event is believed to be the first of its kind to highlight “freethought” — atheism, humanism and skepticism — on a U.S. military base.
Organizers hope the March 31 event will lead to broader recognition and support of nonbelievers in the armed forces, where they say they receive little support and often discrimination from an overly Christianized military.
“This is perhaps the first step in a new direction away from the evangelical proselytism that has permeated the military for decades,” said Sgt. Justin Griffith, an atheist serving at Fort Bragg and the event’s chief organizer.
Griffith said the concert is a “bitter pill” for some of his superiors on base, which is home to the storied 82nd Airborne Division, “but they get it. They are supporting us and I am really proud of them.”
The event, which will be open to the public, will include music and public speakers, including Richard Dawkins, a best-selling author of several books, including “The God Delusion.” Base officials expect approximately 5,000 people to attend.
How many of those will be atheists is an open question. According to the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, which analyzed a Department of Defense census, Christians account for 68 percent of the military population, while those who state “no religious preference” make up the second-largest group, at 23 percent. Those who choose to have “atheist” stamped on their dog tags account for less than 1 percent.
Many military nontheists report being the unwelcome targets of proselytism, sometimes by superiors, and complain of compulsory religious prayers and practices at official events. One area of growing concern is the mandatory assessment of soldiers’ ”spiritual fitness,” which they say is both unconstitutional and an attempt to proselytize.
“If you are a nonreligious soldier, you are a third-class citizen in the U.S. military,” said Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a military watchdog group, who will attend the event in Fayetteville, N.C.
“You are basically told that you lack intellectual integrity, courage, character and honorability . … Rock Beyond Belief is an attempt to stick a fist up in the sky and say, ‘We have our rights.’”
The idea for Rock Beyond Belief grew out of “Rock the Fort,” a Christian-themed concert held at Fort Bragg in September 2010. That event, staged by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, included Christian music, speakers and an altar call for attendees to publicly embrace or affirm their Christianity.
That upset many nonreligious service members at Fort Bragg, including Griffith, who has been an atheist for 12 years. He asked officials for equal time and support for an atheist-themed event.
Griffith said he initially met with resistance — piles of paperwork to file, approvals to obtain, proof of interest and financing plans. An agreement was reached early last year and Rock Beyond Belief was slated for April 2011. But Griffith soon canceled it.
“I felt we were not getting all of the support we were promised,” Griffith said. “We were not getting an equal level given to Rock the Fort.”
Fort Bragg officials say they asked nothing extra of Griffith that they do not ask of anyone seeking to hold an on-base event. Further complicating the process were reports by Fox News that the concert would feature the rock band Aiden, whose lyrics are perceived by some as anti-Christian.
With funding from several freethought organizations, Rock Beyond Belief was rescheduled. And while dissenting opinions about religion will likely be expressed, Griffith and base officials have agreed the content will be “family friendly.”
Still, the concert has its critics. The Associated Gospel Churches, an organization of independent evangelical churches that endorses chaplains for the military, has asked the Department of Defense to step in.
“What we want to see is the Secretary of Defense say enough of this nonsense and shut this thing off,” said Chaplain James Poe, president of AGC. “It is not in any way constructive to military discipline. It reeks with rebellion. The Army has had for years a sense of core values and this tears down those values. It is an assault on the things Army people hold most dear and it needs to stop.”
But Col. Stephen Sicinski, Fort Bragg’s garrison commander, has signed off on the concert and issued a statement, reading in part, “Fort Bragg will not discriminate against speech on the basis of its viewpoint.”
No taxpayer money is supporting this event, a base spokesperson said, nor did any public money go toward Rock the Fort — a claim Griffith and others dispute. The base will provide security, setup, tear-down and cleanup for Rock Beyond Belief, as it did for Rock the Fort.
Griffith would like to stage similar events at other bases, especially those where Christian-themed events have been held with support from military brass. Meanwhile, he hopes Rock the Fort gives unbelievers in the military the courage to come forward and seek tolerance and acceptance.
“At the end of the day we are asking the same questions as the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians,” Griffith said. “We just have a different answer.”
This has been such a long time coming with kickback and cancellations along the way. Now I’m waiting for the Westboro nuts to announce that they’re going to protest this too…unless I already missed the announcement. ~ Kim
This entire website involves the plight of atheists in the military. These men and women have rights, and those rights should be respected. There is no reason why atheists willing to be in the military should be subjected to crap like this.
A very good friend of mine who is also a nonbeliever served for eight years, some of the stories he’s told me are fucked up.
But Christians are persecuted… heh
I think Tom Flynn makes several good points in this piece in which is discusses whether MAAF’s efforts to get the U.S. military to endorse a humanist chaplaincy is really the best approach to address the prejudice against nonbelievers in the chaplaincy corps.
For instance, one of the problems with this approach is that…
“…when humanists, atheists, and other nonspiritual people lobby to be able to provide the same kinds of “spiritual” support that religious practitioners deliver, it encourages the false public perception that we are simply one more gaggle of believers seeking special privilege for our own “creed.” If the campaign for humanist chaplaincy succeeds, it may do permanent damage to unbelievers’ image as activists who stand—by choice—outside all religious traditions.”
I agree with his assessment here but what are the options for addressing the problems MAAF is hoping to alleviate with a humanist chaplaincy?
First and foremost, Flynn says,
“I’d suggest that instead of pressing for nonbelievers to be admitted to the chaplain corps, we should campaign for nonreligious servicemembers to be exempted from required interaction with chaplains. It should be understood that chaplains are there to serve servicemembers who happen to be religious; nonreligious ones should have a swift and painless way of wiring around them. This would necessarily require making scientific mental-health practitioners more easily available without chaplain referral. That might mean recruiting more of them, and it would surely mean discarding those elements of the current system that stigmatize servicemembers who seek genuine scientific counseling or therapy. Finally, a confidential path to counseling needs to be available for servicemembers who prefer not to exploit the chaplain’s clergy confidentiality.”
Personally, I like Gregg Epstein and what he has done with The Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard but I am a little squeamish about the whole humanist chaplaincy movement, especially this attempt to institute it in the military.
After all, is it really rational for people like myself who reject religion to devote our limited time and resources trying to create an “oxymoronic humanist/atheist chaplaincy?”
What do you think?
The night before the burial of her husband 2nd Lt. James Cathey of the United States Marine Corps, killed in Iraq, Katherine Cathey refused to leave the casket, asking to sleep next to his body for the last time. The Marines made a bed for her, tucking in the sheets below the flag. Before she fell asleep, she opened her laptop computer and played songs that reminded her of “Cat”, and one of the Marines asked if she wanted them to continue standing watch as she slept.
“I think it would be kind of nice if you kept doing it” she said.
“I think that’s what he would have wanted”.
This made me cry.
On this day set aside to honor the veterans of this country, I think it’s important to point out that one doesn’t have to always agree with the military policies or actions of the United States to be patriotic and appreciate the sacrifices of our retired and fallen service members.
My grandfather fought in WWII and my father-in-law fought in the Korean War and I have relatives and friends that have fought or are currently fighting in other wars. Even though I have served myself (not in a time of war), I often disagree with our countries military policies and I know very few service members who do not sometimes question the actions they are ordered to carry out in the name of “freedom.”
I was a dissenter during the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom and as a patriot and former service member it really pissed me off when President George W. Bush stood up in front of the nation and basically called me a traitor when he proclaimed that “either you are with us or you are with the terrorists” in an effort to try and silence me and others who opposed the war in Iraq.
That being said, it seems like an appropriate time to post a link to this piece for discussion. It is actually an excerpt from a book which questions many of the assumptions we have about the longstanding notion of “America’s moral authority.”
In this excerpt, published in the September / October 2011 issue of The Humanist magazine Nikki Stern, shares Chapter 4 of her book Because I Say So: The Dangerous Appeal of Moral Authority.
The attacks of September 11, 2001, were so devastating, so personal, and so unexpectedly shocking that they seemed to negate any kind of nuanced response. We Americans believed the attacks represented an assault on our way of life, our freedom, and our values. Sometimes it seemed as if we viewed ourselves as having been exclusively injured, as if the awfulness of terrorism had not already penetrated many corners of the globe. No matter; a great wrong had been committed and action was needed to make it right. What that action was occasioned some debate, but not much. Most people couldn’t have agreed more with our president when he said, “You’re either with us or against us.” The situation was that clear.
Not to me. Yes, I saw the attacks as representing humanity at its worst. Targeting civilians for death or commandeering them as part of a suicide mission directed at others was wrong in every sense of the word. I believed my husband had been murdered by terrorists, not freedom fighters. But those terrorists were also dead. People were clearly itching for the government to do something; but what? Go after the mastermind, Osama Bin Laden? Fine, do that. And then? Because as angry and shocked and devastated as we all were, I felt strongly that a measured response was the only response that made sense.
Some of my colleagues professed to be stunned by my hesitation to support an all-out war. One woman who had become completely unnerved at the thought of another attack got right up in my face not even a month after 9/11, screaming, “They killed your husband! You of all people should understand why we have to do whatever it takes to get these bastards.” No point in asking which bastards she meant; she was ready to bomb the entire, unfamiliar, suddenly threatening Arab world.
She wasn’t alone. While Americans seemed initially inclined to unite in the spirit of resilience, our political leaders were clamoring for retaliation. The focus was on the moral injustice of the attacks and the moral justifications for a “swift” response. The media was brought on board to deliver the message repeatedly and unequivocally. The emphasis on offensive action was in part a calculated bid to mobilize support at home for a series of foreign policy decisions while also sending a message abroad. But the approach also grew out of a black-and-white worldview promoted by those who envisioned the United States as having the moral authority to do whatever was necessary to eradicate evil.
I encourage you all to read this excerpt in its entirety and share your thoughts in the answer section of this post or by re-blogging and appending your opinion on your own site.
What are your thoughts?
By Justin Griffith | freethoughtblogs.com
Esther Garatie is a hero to our nation, serving in the Marine Corps in war-time. She also happens to be a lesbian.
But that shouldn’t matter. Not when she checks into a Dallas-area VA hospital for treatment for severe depression – including suicidal thoughts. She wanted help, and was brave enough to actually ask for it.
She had been battling PTSD-like symptoms before she even received her Honorable Discharge. Rather than help, an evangelical Christian nurse took it upon herself to preach about Esther’s life of sin. Esther left the VA Hospital absolutely determined to kill herself because of this.
This is absolutely unacceptable. After reading this, please sign the petition and the end of the article.