After some wrangling, a group of military atheists gained permission to host a “Rock Beyond Belief” concert at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg. Sgt. Justin Griffith, the event’s organizer, tried to arrange for the festival to be held earlier this year, but canceled it because he said that the army was not treating the event like last September’s “Rock the Fort” concert, sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“This just might be the turning point in the foxhole atheist community’s struggle for acceptance, tolerance and respect,” said Griffith, who is currently deployed in Kuwait. “It’s an amazing time to be a nonbeliever in the U.S. military on the cusp of a major breakthrough.”
The concert will be held on March 31, 2012, and will feature famous non-believers like Richard Dawkins as well as musical groups. It will be open to the public. The fort has agreed to provide electricity, water and security for the event, but no direct financial assistance. Last fall’s Billy Graham concert received over $50,000 in financial support from the base, in addition to the centrally located parade ground space.
Ultimately, Griffith’s goal is for atheists to become more accepted in the Christian-dominated world of the U.S. military. And you do have to wonder how it feels to all non-Christians, not just non-believers, that Fort Bragg was willing to contribute such a significant sum of money to an evangelical Christian event, but not to an alternative concert.
This isn’t a complete victory for Griffith and other atheists in the military, since the fort isn’t assisting financially, but at least they are being given some kind of support. Perhaps a more important step would be getting more atheist and secular humanist chaplains into the armed forces.
Photo from Eric Ingrum via flickr.