The Hell With Atheists After the Foxholes

Many people say, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” As a practical matter this obviously isn’t the case, but the Army’s new Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program (CSFP) implies it should.

The mandatory program measures soldier fitness in a variety of dimensions to help them cope with the rigors of combat. It’s spiritual dimension has a wealth of information for believers. However, it  implies that only believers need or can be helped in this dimension. In short, non-theists need not apply.

There’s nothing wrong with measuring and grading this dimension. It is critical to overcoming battlefield trauma. Whatever gets you through the terrors of war is great. But grading and providing solely religious-based feedback can demoralize non-believers and deprive them of helpful information in much the same way DADT chose to simply ignore the presence of gays. Non-theists are similarly marginalized.

Clean Toilets or Go to Chruch?
And, this ignoring of other than religious – more often than not non-Christian points of view – is larger than this program.

As a young airman in basic training during the 1970s everyone was offered two choices each Sunday – attend church or stay in the barracks and clean toilets.

Hmm…clean toilets or escape the tedium of 24×7 training for an hour singing and laughing with friends? Which shall I choose?

To the Air Force’s credit, the services were non-denominational and mentioned God only once or twice per service. There were two prayers, both of which were generic enough to interpret in any way, including as a non-theist statement. Services were comprised of signing vaguely religious, up tempo, and “modern” songs. To escape cleaning toilets with a toothbrush most atheists saw it as a good trade.

Nods to religion for the rest of my Air Force career were limited to my dog tags – which you could label as atheist, any religion, or not applicable. I entered “Granitellism” a faux belief that race car driver Andy Granitelli was God because he could pick up a screwdriver covered in oil. It didn’t cause an eyebrow to flutter.

It seems there has been a steady movement backward since those days.

In addition to CSFP, the Air Force Academy has suffered a long-standing bias against all but Christians and despite several Pentagon attempts to change, it continues. Individual unit commanders sometimes cross the same line and chaplains – which in my day did more social work than God’s work – have upped the ante.

Service members sometimes refuse to attend nondenominational services conducted by Islamic chaplains or vice versa. The Navy has squabbled over building mosques on large bases. National cemeteries banned atheist and multi-theist symbols on graves until recently because they “offended” the religious.

Unreasonable Demands?
Generally speaking, non-thesists haven’t made unreasonable demands for accommodation just as gays haven’t. When services build chapels and mosques there isn’t a clamor for an atheist house for contemplation. Asking for a symbol on a veteran’s grave is hardly a big thing. But, the CSFP goes a step beyond.

By refusing to include non-theists in CSFP the Army denies help to those service members, even though they remained atheists while in the foxholes…arm to arm with straight, gay, and minority soldiers.

The military is all about releasing some individuality to serve a greater purpose, a non-religious purpose. The Army used to call this, “An Army of One”. It degrades the contributions of non-believers because they didn’t give up an individual right guaranteed by the Constitution, and at least nominally by military training.

It’s simply wrong for the military to tout individual rights during training while denying those rights when the bullets fly.

After all, bullets don’t have an opinion about God.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

The Hell With Atheists After the Foxholes

Many people say, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” As a practical matter this obviously isn’t the case, but the Army’s new Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program (CSFP) implies it should.

The mandatory program measures soldier fitness in a variety of dimensions to help them cope with the rigors of combat. It’s spiritual dimension has a wealth of information for believers. However, it  implies that only believers need or can be helped in this dimension. In short, non-theists need not apply.

There’s nothing wrong with measuring and grading this dimension. It is critical to overcoming battlefield trauma. Whatever gets you through the terrors of war is great. But grading and providing solely religious-based feedback can demoralize non-believers and deprive them of helpful information in much the same way DADT chose to simply ignore the presence of gays. Non-theists are similarly marginalized.

Clean Toilets or Go to Chruch?
And, this ignoring of other than religious – more often than not non-Christian points of view – is larger than this program.

As a young airman in basic training during the 1970s everyone was offered two choices each Sunday – attend church or stay in the barracks and clean toilets.

Hmm…clean toilets or escape the tedium of 24×7 training for an hour singing and laughing with friends? Which shall I choose?

To the Air Force’s credit, the services were non-denominational and mentioned God only once or twice per service. There were two prayers, both of which were generic enough to interpret in any way, including as a non-theist statement. Services were comprised of signing vaguely religious, up tempo, and “modern” songs. To escape cleaning toilets with a toothbrush most atheists saw it as a good trade.

Nods to religion for the rest of my Air Force career were limited to my dog tags – which you could label as atheist, any religion, or not applicable. I entered “Granitellism” a faux belief that race car driver Andy Granitelli was God because he could pick up a screwdriver covered in oil. It didn’t cause an eyebrow to flutter.

It seems there has been a steady movement backward since those days.

In addition to CSFP, the Air Force Academy has suffered a long-standing bias against all but Christians and despite several Pentagon attempts to change, it continues. Individual unit commanders sometimes cross the same line and chaplains – which in my day did more social work than God’s work – have upped the ante.

Service members sometimes refuse to attend nondenominational services conducted by Islamic chaplains or vice versa. The Navy has squabbled over building mosques on large bases. National cemeteries banned atheist and multi-theist symbols on graves until recently because they “offended” the religious.

Unreasonable Demands?
Generally speaking, non-thesists haven’t made unreasonable demands for accommodation just as gays haven’t. When services build chapels and mosques there isn’t a clamor for an atheist house for contemplation. Asking for a symbol on a veteran’s grave is hardly a big thing. But, the CSFP goes a step beyond.

By refusing to include non-theists in CSFP the Army denies help to those service members, even though they remained atheists while in the foxholes…arm to arm with straight, gay, and minority soldiers.

The military is all about releasing some individuality to serve a greater purpose, a non-religious purpose. The Army used to call this, “An Army of One”. It degrades the contributions of non-believers because they didn’t give up an individual right guaranteed by the Constitution, and at least nominally by military training.

It’s simply wrong for the military to tout individual rights during training while denying those rights when the bullets fly.

After all, bullets don’t have an opinion about God.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

Don’t Do Unto Others As They May Decide to Do Unto You

American Christians are quite vocal in the belief they’re oppressed, but it’s hard to feel their pain. They’re the overwhelming majority in this country. Virtually every member of every legislative body and every elected representative is Christian. Their lobbies are as potent as any on K St. The government funds them by not taxing them. They routinely work to defeat bills clear majorities want and that deprive citizens – sometimes other Christians – of their civil rights.

If that’s oppression, sign me up. It sounds like a sweet deal.

However, there are persecuted and oppressed Christians. For example, many countries with real zero tolerance for anything other than their God and prophet. They sometimes force Christians from their homes, turn them into refugees, or kill them.

Meanwhile, American Christians busy themselves with important issues like the proper etymology of Christmas v. Holiday. Living in their secure homes and working in their secure jobs they feel it’s their God-given right to rewrite history books, let pedophiles escape unpunished, or denigrate science because it doesn’t completely jibe with their Bible.

There’s no doubt the intolerance against Christians in countries like Iraq is awful. It’s the tyranny of the majority directed against the few. But except for the degree of modern persecution (the Christians don’t exactly have a bloodless history either), how is that any different from the tyranny of the American majority against the minority here?

I’m not a Christian and I’m sure there are many Christians who’d argue I have no right to an opinion about their religion. However, I’d point out that by the same logic, Christians have no right to an opinion about Islam or me or Druids. But, they never seem shy about exercising the same freedoms they seem unwilling to share with anyone other than themselves.

It is the Christian Sabbath, the last one before the holiest of Christian holy days. Whether you call it Christmas, the holidays, or Festivus, it seems like a good time for Christians, indeed everyone, regardless of religion or the lack thereof, to borrow the concepts of peace and harmony espoused in the Bible, the Quran, and most other religious texts in the world.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

The Irreverent Frog

 

 

                                                              by Walter Brasch

 

             The First Sometimes United Church decided last week not to ordain any frogs. To find out why, I visited the Rev. Matthew Mark Johnson.

            I approached him as he finished blessing the ceremonial offerings plate. "Rev. Johnson," I asked, "the frogs-rights groups are upset with your Board's decision. What are your reasons?"

            "The Bible tells us that frogs are nothing but problems."

            "The Bible tells you that?" I asked suspiciously.

            "Right there in Exodus. God said he'd smite all of Egypt with frogs if the Pharaoh didn't let the Jews be free. It proves that God was so ticked off he had to find the most loathsome creature he could to punish the Pharaoh. Do you know how bad it must be to be smited by, of all things, frogs?"

            "But God used the frogs to help the Jews. It's not that the frogs did anything God didn't want to be done."

            "Bad is bad," said the Rev. Mr. Johnson. "Turn to Revelations," he commanded. "John says that he saw three unclean spirits that looked like frogs come from the mouth of the dragon. That proves it! Not only are frogs loathsome creatures, they're also unclean." I tried to interrupt, but the anti-frog minister wasn't about to let another view meddle in his logic. "Even Shakespeare hated frogs. Right there in Macbeth. The witches brewed the most horrible concoction they could. What do you think was in it?! Eye of newt and toe of frog!"

            "This is ridiculous," I said. "Are you sure there's nothing deeper to your decision to ban frogs from the ministry?"

            The Rev. Mr. Johnson cleared his throat, looked at me carefully, then somberly explained—"They're green."

            "They're green?" I asked incredulously. "That's it? Because they're green!"

            "Green conflicts with our basic color scheme. It's not as if we're the only religion not to like color. For the longest time, a lot of churches didn't allow anyone who's black to be ordained, let alone be a member, so I guess that green is just as good a reason as any." He thought a moment, and then added, "Of course, I guess there might be another reason."

            "I thought so!" I said, now writing furiously in my note pad.

            "Frogs also have webbed feet. It's against the laws of God for ordained ministers to have webbed feet."

            I stopped writing. "Let me get this straight. You don't want to ordain frogs because they're green and they have webbed feet?"

            "That's right. Webbed feet is not God's wish for humanity. Webbed feet is a sign of breaking with God's world of five-toed feet. It's a sign of willful rebellion. It results from living in a sinful world."

            "Shouldn't the Church recognize that even frogs have faith?" I asked.

            "The Bible tells us to love all creatures, and that we are all part of the Lord. But, nowhere does it say that frogs should be ordained."

            "But what about their knowledge of Scripture or whether frogs have the ability to lead people? Shouldn't that count for something?"

            "You think that frogs can lead people? Have you ever seen a frog walk? There's no one who's going to hop to church on Sunday mornings."

 

            "But, most frogs seem to be so much more respectful and honest than many of your own parishioners," I pleaded in the frogs' defense.

            "I agree," said the minister, "and the ministry should offer models of integrity, morality, and honesty—if at all possible. And, I do admit that some ministers do stray from the paths of righteousness on occasion. But, at least they're not green, they don't have webbed feet, and they never smited anyone!" He thought a moment, and then suggested, "Maybe instead of trying to ruin the ministry, he could join the military. They have amphibious vehicles and a whole darn SEAL team."

            "You know dang well the military doesn't allow frogs."

            "Not my problem."

            Forgetting my role as an objective reporter and lapsing into an impassion plea, I cried out, "Frogs are wonderful creatures who should be given a chance to preach the will of God!"

            The Rev. Matthew Mark Johnson looked at me sharply. "You ain't a frog in disguise are you, boy? You ain't trying to take over this here church, are you?"

            "Oh, no sir!" I said. "I'm just trying to find out why frogs can't be ordained if they have every other ability."

            "You're trying to cause us serious trouble," said the Rev. Mr. Johnson, "and I don't care to discuss this issue any more. Now, if you'll leave me alone, I have to go watch an important television show. Never miss it. Even better in re-runs than first time I saw it."

            "What show is that?" I asked.

            "The Muppets."

 

            (Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist, and the author of 16 books, the most recent one Sex and the Single Beer Can, a look at the media and popular culture.)

 

U.S. Government Witness Testifies Gitmo Prisoner's Religiosity Makes Him Dangerous

In testimony Tuesday afternoon that literally had my jaw dropping, a forensic psychiatrist called by the U.S. government testified that Omar Khadr, the Canadian who Monday pled guilty to a slew of terrorist acts including murder, is too dangerous to be released because he is sincerely religious and became even more devout at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

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