Atheists In Foxholes

07 August 2007

A soldier stationed in Iraq, who is also a member of the Iraqi chapter of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, recently attempted to hold a meeting at his particular Forward Operations Base. After going through the bureaucratic channels necessary to hold such a meeting, this soldier began to hang flyers in an effort to drum up interest. Despite the fact that this soldier went through all the proper channels to organize the meeting, he had to continually re-hang the flyers for several weeks, as somebody kept tearing them down.

Only a handful of junior enlisted soldiers attended the meeting, as well as one higher-ranking Major. However, it turns out that the Major was a fundamentalist with a rather angry disposition towards atheists:

"the Major turned out to be a fundamentalist Christian who verbally berated the other attendees, accused them of plotting against Christians and disrespecting soldiers who have died protecting the Constitution, and threatened them with punishment under the UCMJ for their activities (said they were "going down") and said he would do whatever it took to shut the meetings down. Keep in mind that by this point, he had two of the attendees (one soldier fled when the shouting started) standing at the position of attention so that he could yell at them, berate them, and humiliate them. This apparently went on for several minutes at which time the Major shut down the meeting by saying he wasn't some "push-over Chaplain" and that he would not tolerate the meetings to continue."
Sadly, this is hardly an aberration. More stories of religious intolerance in the military can be found here and here.

In related news, the Department of Defense Inspector General recently found that seven military officers, including four generals, had violated ethics rules by proselytizing, in full uniform and in their official capacity, in a Christian Embassy promotional video. One of the seven officials, Air Force Maj. Gen. John Catton, said that the Christian Embassy group was so involved with the Pentagon that he simply thought it was a "quasi-federal entity."

The video itself is available here. It begins with statement from the #4 Ranked Dumbest Congressman J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), and goes on from there to brag about how pervasive bible groups and meetings are in the Pentagon. The defining quote? "These men and women [foreign ambassadors] are some of the most influential leaders in their countries. Christian Embassy desires that these men and women, who represent the presidents, prime ministers, and kings of the world go home with more than simply an understanding of the U.S. government and its operations. They return with a personal relationship with the King of Kings, Jesus Christ."

In yet another story, when atheist Army Ranger Pat Tillman died in Afghanistan, apparently at the hands of his fellow troops, Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich had these comforting words for his family:
"Well, if you are an atheist and you don’t believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing and now he is no more... I don't know how an atheist thinks, I can only imagine that would be pretty tough."

There is a popular (and demonstrably false) adage that says: "There are no atheists in foxholes." Yet despite all this, atheists are still overrepresented in the military. According to the Department of Defense's Defense Manpower Data Center (Table 5), those who identify as "atheist / no religion" represent 21% of the military despite the fact that they represent only 13% of the general population.

Also, can somebody buy me this book?

1 comment:

FreeThinker said...

Thanks for keeping this Tillman story going. We need closure!