Yes, There Are Atheists In The Military


From getting camouflage-bound Bibles at pre-deployment briefings to the seemingly obligatory prayer before every ceremony or conference; from “go see the chaplain” orders for a stressed out soldier, to proselytizing commanding officers – you would be forgiven for assuming that everyone in the military is a Christian or at least a believer in a theist religion.  That assumption is another one of the stereotypes that many civilians have of the military – and it is also one that isn’t a hundred percent true.

There have been grudging allowances made for pagans: the chapel/outdoor circle at the AirForce Academy, for example, recently opened after a prior circle was desecrated in 2010.  To have this happen at the place that has been criticized for years for their acknowledged fundamentalist Christian proselytizing was surprising.  Unfortunately, the Academy continued its infamous “Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare” class, using religious imagery from the Bible as justification for nuclear war. (This class has been suspended due to unfavorable media coverage.)

A senior Air Force Space and Missile officer who reviewed the materials, said the teachings are “an outrage of the highest order.  No way in hell should this have been presented as a mandatory briefing to ALL in the basic missiles class,”  the officer, who requested anonymity so he could speak candidly, said in an email. “It presumes ALL missile officers are religious and specifically in need of CHRISTIAN justification for their service.”

In 2007, a long running fight to allow military gravestones to bear a Wiccan symbol resulted in a court settlement which permitted the pentacle to join symbols from numerous other religions, some of which have less numerical representation in the military than Wicca does.

Another milestone was reached this week.  At the West Point 12th Annual Diversity Leadership Conference, Jason Torpy,  the President of the  Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers (MAAF), a national non-profit building community for non-theistic veterans, appeared, talking about reforms that are needed to provide support to atheists and humanists in the military.

The overwhelming majority of chaplains, according to a story in Mother Jones,  are conservative evangelical Christian.  Many of the tasks given to chaplains are actually counseling, including pre-deployment, deployment, marriage, “resiliency”, and even financial!  Anyone who wants to get advice on these subjects, no matter what their beliefs, has to “go tell the chaplain.”  A pagan military spouse,  not that long ago, “witnessed a Catholic Navy chaplain telling his boss he couldn’t deal with me because his religion apparently prohibits him even talking to me.”

Now that atheists, humanists, Pagans – all the non “traditional” belief systems — are being acknowledged by the military, perhaps the truth of the values of these service members can be acknowledged, without them having to hide their beliefs.  The America public did not realize for a while, but Pat Tillman was not a “perfect Christian warrior.”  He was an atheist and, as Jason Torby has said “we plan to name one of our new donor societies after Pat Tillman, based on his example, showing secular values, secular commitment, secular patriotism, and his own status as a great scholar-warrior.”

With mandatory Christian music concerts and evangelical chaplains who assert their faith on the job, there is a visible lack of understanding of how non-Christian members of the community feel. What worries Torpy and others in the community is the lack of knowledge of what an atheist is, what a humanist is and what a Pagan is.


Photo from Leo Reynolds via flickr


Lyn V.
Lyn V5 years ago

To Andrew C. thank you for voicing what most of us think.
You are very eloquent and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments

Lyn V.
Lyn V5 years ago

Rather be Atheist than cause wars for your supposed 'religious beliefs. True religious people dont KILL

Diane Stollger
Diane Stollger5 years ago

When looking at history and all the wars and killing in the name religion, I am proud to be a non-believer. I'm sure the men who took down the twin towers would not have done it if not expecting their heavenly rewards. Being a humanist to me means loving all of the creatures on this earth and not just those that believe like me. And that includes animals. I believe energy doesn't disappear. We may stay in some fashion, but who really knows. All we have is a history of prophets that say they know. All we can do is be the best people we can in this life. And if we are the only life in this universe, it doesn't matter if a god made us. We are still special and all the life put here is special. No matter what you believe.

Walter G.
Walter G5 years ago

Andrew C, please consult the Care 2 directory of addresses or view the dog's head with "Walter G" below it, and if you can, send a summary of all of your above panels to me on one page. What you have written is the most concise and logical argument I have seen yet pertaining to superstition versus logic.
I wish to have it caligraphed and framed for my wall, behind me when I talk on a VOIP on camera.
Your argument BTW is supported by simple math.

Walter G.
Walter G5 years ago

'freedom of religion' includes religion ot the point of not believing in superstition.
The problem comes when religion begins to aggressively acquire unwilling and non-believing individuals to get additional money.

Ron Samuels
Ron Samuels5 years ago

The prefix "a-" (or "an-" added before a vowel) does not mean "anti". It means "no-" or "not-" whatever follows. "Apolitical" does not mean "against politics" but "non-political". "Atheist" means "not a god believer". I don't think there is any way, Andrew C., to extrapolate a belief in the supernatural for the run-of-the-mill atheist. An atheist is not simply "against religion" but has no belief that there is a god, or are any gods, or any supernatural entity. They just don't believe in that sort of thing.

Jane Barton
Jane Barton5 years ago

Kelly, religion is a personal choice and people should keep it private and to themselves. The problem here is the entanglement of religion and politics. Religion of any kind has no place in the government or in the military. Christian fundamentalist extremists who have an aggressive, hateful agenda are trying to take over our government as we speak. These glazed eyed wacko crazies are gay bashers, anti-abortionists, woman haters and murderers in the name of a dusty old history book. And those are their good points. They are whores bought and paid for by big business. Big business wants to take over the White House and deregulate so they can make even more MONEY and pollute the environment even more.
This isn't about religious people who mind their own business and are good people. This is about a danger to democracy and a danger to America.

Kelly R.
Kelly R5 years ago

My son is active military and considers himself an atheist. I consider myself agnostic and his father was Catholic until he married an oriental woman and now considers himself a Buddist.

My son respects other's choice in religion and has at time sought out the service of a chaplain. Neither he or I go around expecting Christians to take down their crosses or not pray in our presence. Whatever helps you make it through it what is important - it is when we decide that all should believe as we do that we have problems.

My mother-in-law(may she rest in peace) was a devote Catholic and her faith got her through some rough times in her life. I have alot of respect and am glad she had her faith to get her through and I loved the woman dearly. My father was Catholic until he married the love of his life who was Protestant and then was excommunicate from the church and he never went back.

Free will ain't it great!

Jane Barton
Jane Barton5 years ago

There are MUSLIMS in the military. There was one recently who killed 13 people on a military base in CA. There are women and gays in the military. You mean there are HEATHEN ATHEISTS in the military?? MY GOD, WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO?? Should we kick them out? The CHRISTIANS must be highly offended to rub elbows with ATHEISTS.

Dijana D.
Dijana D5 years ago

I can't believe that sane people are in the minority here..