Operation Ranger Up

An Atheist Chaplain???

By
Updated: August 5, 2013
chaplain

 

By SGT Awesome

For years now groups have been lobbying to allow atheists to serve as chaplains in the Armed Forces. This may sound confusing when the words hit your ear holes, and it should, because it is. Firstly, atheism is not a belief system (it is in fact simply a lack of belief in a deity), so what is actually being pushed forward is a “Humanist” chaplain.

Humanism (as defined by the American Humanist Association) is “a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”

Their claim is that Humanism fills the same role for atheists that Christianity fills for Christians, or Islam fills for Muslims. Here is where I (as an atheist and Humanist) come to my first objection.

chaplians corpsChristians are Christians because they believe in Christianity. One need not believe in Humanism to be an atheist. This is a false equivalency. Yes, many atheists tend to follow Humanist beliefs, but it is not a requirement or a standard. Atheism is, again, simply a lack of belief in a god or gods. That is the sole universal unifying factor amongst non-believers. They come from a vast ocean of cultures and backgrounds and to attempt to shoehorn them all under an umbrella, no matter how many are already under it, is dishonest.

Next they point out that the chaplain corps currently under-serves or disregards atheists. They also point out that out of the 1.4 million active duty service members, 290,000 of them have no religious affiliation.

Non-belief is absolutely the fastest growing demographic in America  and it dwarfs the populations of all non-Christian religions, yet even with all of this, I still struggle to see why an atheist would require the use of a chaplain.

Religious chaplains study their particular book and associated dogma extensively so they can perform rituals and advise people according to those particular rules. What would a Humanist chaplain study? What could they do that a Soldier’s chain of command or battle buddy couldn’t also do? As an NCO, a primary facet of my job is to look out for the welfare of my Soldiers. I do this regardless of the Soldier’s religious beliefs and if they happen to be religious and want to pray or something, they have chaplains available for that. What would a Humanist chaplain do for a Soldier that I could not?

I absolutely understand that what they are going for is an available counselor for Soldiers that can help people without requiring belief in parthenogenesis, but is there an actual need for it? They claim there is a stigma attached to Soldiers who seek help from a psychologist (which there absolutely is) but I fail to see how the addition of another officer running around without a weapon will be of any help.

What it boils down to in the end is just the latest attempt for a stigmatized minority group to attempt to gain equality from its government. While I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment, I personally think this is the wrong way to do it.

All this does is further cloud and confuse people’s understanding of what atheism is. It also makes it appear as though we wish to take something from religious people (even though this wouldn’t, nor do we wish to) and it frankly seems childish.

I may however not be the ideal judge of the situation as I tend to avoid chaplains as much as possible (and will continue to do so even if they are Humanist). Do you see a place in the chaplain corps for a Humanist chaplain? Am I looking at this too cynically? And I suppose most importantly, is there any real harm in allowing it?

Sound off in the comment section!

Comments

comments

111 Comments

  1. Padre Harvey

    August 5, 2013 at 7:50 am

    While psychologists fill the role of counselor without necessarily having any religious attachment, they do not enjoy the same level of confidentiality that is provided to chaplains. Simply put, chaplains cannot disclose anything that is said to them in the course of their counseling sessions – they cannot be forced to reveal such information even when subpoenaed or asked to provide testimony in a court martial.

    Humanists who want to do more than be Army/Navy/Air Force psychologists claim that chaplains do not provide such services to atheist or non-religious personnel, but that is far from the truth. In fact, as a chaplain, I have counseled numerous soldiers, sailors and Marines whose religious beliefs (or lack thereof) have differed greatly from my own, yet in no way did that affect the counsel or advice I provided to them. A listening ear and an objective view of their troubles is often what many seek, and that doesn’t require a discussion about God.

    Another thing that these would-be humanist chaplains overlook is the amount of time spent ministering to those of their own religious faith. From chapel services and Bible studies to prayer breakfasts and invocations, chaplains do much to sustain those who share similar faith. What similar role would a humanist chaplain fill? Since the religious aspect of their duties would be absent, they would presumably exist merely to provide counseling services – something that existing chaplains already provide.

    As a currently serving chaplain, I fail to see how these individuals will be able to provide any meaningful service that is not already being practiced by the chaplains in our ranks. I shudder to think what a memorial service would sound like if given by one of these chaplains. What comfort would they be able to provide the family and comrades of the fallen soldier? In all likelihood, they would have to pass on most of these opportunities, because their lack of religious beliefs would put them at odds with the majority of the servicemembers and/or their families.

    Finally, there is the question of education and endorsement. In order to be commissioned as a chaplain, one must have 7-8 years of advanced education (a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree) and pass the ordination requirements of their religious institution; demonstrating a high level of knowledge of their respective faith group. For many, this is a lengthy and arduous process. What comparable qualifications would a humanist bring to the table? What degree would they hold, and who would be their endorsing body? How rigorous do you think the selection process would be?

    The author asks what harm would come from allowing such chaplains.
    The first thing that comes to mind is that there would be a steady erosion of all things religious from within the Chaplain Corps. See that symbol at the top of the article? That is the regimental crest for the Chaplain Corps; its inscription, “PRO DEO ET PATRIA” translates as “FOR GOD AND COUNTRY.” How long do you think that it would take for humanist/atheist chaplains to object to wearing such an object on their uniforms?

    • Xenli

      August 5, 2013 at 10:19 am

      “I shudder to think what a memorial service would sound like if given by one of these chaplains. What comfort would they be able to provide the family and comrades of the fallen soldier?”

      Really? So, the only way to give comfort then to a family is to say that they’re now in some magical allegedly better place?

      This is what I would love to have said at my funeral:

      “You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

      And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

      And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

      And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.” – Aaron Freeman
      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4675953

      • Parsley

        August 5, 2013 at 12:08 pm

        Beautifully said. I want that said at my funeral.

      • Padre Harvey

        August 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm

        That sounds nice and all, but you forget one essential thing: funerals and memorial services are for the living, not the dead. Unless your family and friends are all avowed atheists/humanists, there’s probably going to be a minister there, and he or she is going to deliver a eulogy that speaks to the religious beliefs of those who were closest to you.

        Seriously, is that the best advice a humanist can give? That my energy & photons are still here bouncing around in some different form? Somehow I don’t think that approach would go over so well during Traumatic Event Management after a few soldiers have been killed by an IED blast. I know from personal experience that during such times people want more than just scientific jargon & data points. YMMV.

        • JockTAC

          August 5, 2013 at 4:02 pm

          Sir I thank you for your service and I do not wish to offend nor inflame but the fact that you do not understand the above comment is precisely why a Chaplain should not be near an Atheists death and perhaps why there is a requirement for an Atheist “Chaplain”. Your beliefs are so entrenched that do not understand an Atheist nor can you relate to one and assume that there is still some Pastoral role for you to play in their death/bereavement. This is somewhat arrogant and disrespectful to the dead Atheist. Perhaps this is a generalization but I would bet there aren’t many strong willed Atheists that are “married” to devout Christian (there are bound to be some to prove me wrong)for the simple fact as a descent human being I am not filled with hate and I am a happy to be best friends and a good neighbor to a Christian/Muslim/Jew/Hindu/Jedi and have respect for whatever gives you comfort but I could never marry and raise children with someone who is fundamentally at odds with my system of beliefs. Also I am thankful that my parents were Secular and Humanist enough to not brainwash me as a child.

          • Padre Harvey

            August 6, 2013 at 4:37 am

            JockTAC-
            I understand him perfectly well; my beliefs are not so “entrenched” as you say that I am unable to understand or relate to the differing beliefs of others. Perhaps I didn’t make my point clear, so let me try again:

            Unless you stipulate clearly in your will or some other final instructions what you want read at your funeral, it will be left up to the chaplain. All remarks – from the Battalion Commander to the closest friends – will be read beforehand and approved by the chaplain. There are many reasons for this, which I won’t go into here.

            Were a soldier (whom I knew to be an atheist/humanist) to die while assigned to my unit, I would in no way attempt to inject my own religious beliefs into the service. However, in the grief-stricken aftermath of any death, there are numerous comrades who *do* have religious beliefs and are trying to make sense of this individual’s death.

            A humanist chaplain may be able to speak more adequately than I while delivering the eulogy at that particular memorial service, but I still maintain that they are ill-equipped to handle the grief counseling to the majority of religious soldiers who will flood the chaplain’s office in the aftermath seeking comfort and solace.

        • leftoftheboom

          August 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm

          Padre Harvey,

          Your comment is the exact reason that there needs to be such a person as an Atheist Chaplain. Unlike some of the others here, I have availed myself to the Chaplain for help when I wanted to talk to someone but did want to go through official channels. The training a Chaplain received is unique and valuable. Personnel who do not ascribe to those specific religious values who NEED that same care, should be afforded trained representation no different than what you provide to your own flock.

          • Padre Harvey

            August 6, 2013 at 4:43 am

            LOTB-
            Which comment are you referring to, exactly?
            I have counseled numerous soldiers who were either atheist or had no religious preference. In no case did I bring my religious views into the conversation; there are many methods of providing counseling, only a few of which have religious overtones.

            Remember, while chaplains provide spiritual care specific to those of their own faith group, they also provide for the religious expression of ALL faiths. In addition, they provide individual counseling to ALL members of their unit without regard for spiritual beliefs or lack thereof. To say that we need Atheist Chaplains is to imply that I can’t counsel a particular soldier because I don’t share their view on God – which is simply untrue.

          • leftoftheboom

            August 6, 2013 at 11:34 am

            Padre Harvey

            “That sounds nice and all, but you forget one essential thing: funerals and memorial services are for the living, not the dead.”

            There are special circumstances to any faith. You are a subject matter expert in yours. While any Chaplain has to be and in many cases does and outstanding job at helping Soldiers regardless of Denomination, we don’t have a one size fits all Chaplain. We have different Chaplains for the specifics because there ARE specifics. All we need is one more to handle those who NEED the same care that a Christian or any other denomination receives.

            I don’t know how exactly that it might work but I do know this, a Chaplain has authority and privileges that are distinctly separate from those of any other counselor.

            Look at it this way. If a Soldier does not fit the standard uniforms, then uniforms are made for the Soldier special order. No Soldier is left without the same benefits that the others have. This is no different. People perceive a difference because the topic is Religion.

            Like all things there are good and bad Chaplains. But Soldiers without a specific religious belief structure still need the services and if they are uncomfortable with a religious chaplain then an individual needs to be provided that can me their needs with the same rights as a Chaplain so that the Soldier has the same protections that a religious Soldier has.

        • R.S.

          August 6, 2013 at 3:03 am

          “That sounds nice and all, but you forget one essential thing: funerals and memorial services are for the living, not the dead.”

          Thank you, for validating the assertations I had to stomach at St. Mary’s Basilica of the Assumption. Funerals are, by your standard, emotional masturbation about personal and/or shared experience for/with the person who has expired.

          Does this not meet you with the slightest tinge of egotism, or narcissistic self-pity?

          • Padre Harvey

            August 6, 2013 at 4:15 pm

            LOTB-
            Thanks for your reply. You are absolutely right; there is no “one size fits all” Chaplain, and we do our best to minister to the various religious needs of our units. Where we find those of like faith, we perform direct religious services & support. Where we have those of differing beliefs, we provide such space, time and equipment as they require to conduct their own services. We are committed to upholding & maintaining a pluralistic environment, which views every belief (or non-belief) as worthwhile, and we do our best to ensure that all servicemembers have the resources & opportunity to worship according to the dictates of their particular faith.

            @ R.S.-
            So tell me, exactly what do funerals mean and/or signify to you?
            To my knowledge, I haven’t claimed that funerals or memorial services/ceremonies are “emotional masturbation” exercises, nor do I see them as opportunities to proselytize or evangelize to others. Yet they *are* for the living, not the dead – how could it be otherwise?

      • Rune

        August 5, 2013 at 6:38 pm

        ffs.

      • Rune

        August 5, 2013 at 6:39 pm

        ffs.

        I want that for you too.

      • Pearson Ward

        August 6, 2013 at 8:36 am

        I find that a psychologist, though hard to get with the VA…., offers more confidential than a chaplain. By law what is said to the psychologist can not say anything anywhere else unless they threaten to kill someone else, and only then can only that person be notified that someone wants to kill them. (there are other loopholes with minors and parents, but anything else is a I need your permission to tell someone else)

        I am an Agnostic. I see no moral value in a Priest or a Chaplain… I find that churches use God to exploit people. Being a practicer of a religion that has good moral values I have no quarrel with. A Jew can be a great person, the same as a Christian, Buddhist, and even Muslim. But its the leaders of the religion who take it from a simple light hearted good-for-the-earth message and turn it into an everyday thing. They say you need to donate 10% of your weekly earnings to the chapel because the bible said so. Well I know a friend of a friend who owns one of the largest Churches in the southern USA. He clears a million dollars a month in tithings. And thats all he cares about is getting a small part of religion that is overlooked and using it to exploit money out of people… same thing with that christianmingle BS dating website. The bible is very Humanistic in it self, and 8 years of studying it should provide the key to everything. If you were to allow a humanist as a chaplain, his study books should not be based upon one or two teachings, or a morale instinct, but of many religions and putting them into one. But that isn’t worth the effort required to prove that you have no situation where you cant offer “humanistic” advice that isn’t like the above comments of protons and shit.

        • Padre Harvey

          August 7, 2013 at 7:32 pm

          Pearson-
          I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad experience with both the church and those who claim to be Christians (like the mega-pastor you speak of), yet whose lives often do not match the very beliefs they claim to uphold and adhere to. We are all of us imperfect in many ways, but the way a person may or may not reflect Christ in their life in no way detracts from who Christ was and what He did. Simply put, you can’t judge Christ by his Christians.

          As to your other statement about humanist chaplains, they don’t take “many religions and [put] them into one.” That would more accurately describe one who follows Universal Unitarianism, and we already have chaplains for them.

      • SrA_Tom

        August 15, 2013 at 2:02 am

        “Really? So, the only way to give comfort then to a family is to say that they’re now in some magical allegedly better place?”

        So what you’re telling me is; that because I believe in God, and that my immortal soul will go to heaven after I kick the bucket, and telling my family that is somehow wrong, absurd, and foolish?

        You sir are an ass, also your argument is invalid. It’s called reductio ad absurdum, or reduction to the absurd, and it’s a logical fallacy. It shows your lack of knowledge on the subject, and your unwillingness to accept that religion matters to other people. If you were an athiest, none of this would bother you, because there is nothing after death except non existence. But you’re not an athiest, you’re an anti-theist, which means that you believe in the non-existence of a deity, which is a belief unto itself, and thus you feel a need to prove your case. You’re just an egocentric ass.

        • Ian

          September 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm

          He didn’t say that at all, he said that comforting HIS family. Way to strawman that in there though. That said he’s right, if your an Atheist you should have every right to have an Atheist represent you at your funeral.
          I get you think it’s fine and dandy that you feel the need to shove your religion onto MY family if I die but guess what I don’t want that. Also why on earth would you assume that an Atheist wouldn’t care about what happens after they die? Let’s set aside the fact that belief in an afterlife is separate from Atheism (Many Buddhists are technically atheists after all as most have no God) and simply focus on that just because most of us don’t think there’s an afterlife doesn’t mean we don’t care about our families. I don’t want my family and friends being told “hey your deceased loved one is now burning in hell, hopefully my imaginary friend will forgive him for being such an ignorant prideful fool and decide to let him party in heaven”. Yeah no thanks.
          I’d much rather have them told that I lived my life well, enjoyed every moment I had with them and hopefully left the world off better than I came into it.

          So please, stop making stupid assumptions about Atheists, not everything revolves around you and your faith.

    • Micheal Martinez

      August 5, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      What they are trying to do here is almost, if not as bad as that Imam our idiot government got to “pray” for seal team six.

    • jon

      August 5, 2013 at 6:59 pm

      “I shudder to think what a memorial service would sound like if given by one of these chaplains. What comfort would they be able to provide the family and comrades of the fallen soldier?”… bigot.

    • Christopher Scott

      August 6, 2013 at 6:10 am

      “I have counseled numerous soldiers, sailors and Marines whose religious beliefs (or lack thereof) have differed greatly from my own, yet in no way did that affect the counsel or advice I provided to them.”

      If this is true, then why do you feel a humanist’s lack of belief would change the way they minister to those with faith?

      • Rob Calhoun

        August 6, 2013 at 11:47 am

        @ Christopher Scott ,

        You missed the point of that comment. Barring the gov’s and military’s love for redundancy, there is no real need for “another unarmed officer running around” when the current chaplain staff provides the services that this “newer and better” humanist chaplain would supposedly fill.

        That raises another question. Since the humanist/atheist chaplain has no religious objection, could/would he/she/it (gotta cover all bases for the new mil.) be armed?

      • Padre Harvey

        August 6, 2013 at 4:23 pm

        Christopher-
        When counseling non-religious soldiers, I can find ways to frame their problems and provide solutions without resorting to religious jargon or dogma. No doubt an humanist chaplain could do the same.

        The question is, what do they do with the majority of soldiers who *do* operate from some religious framework? How will they speak to them with any context of understanding? Seems to me that they would have to pass that individual on to a religious chaplain, since the vast majority of servicemembers identify primarily as either Protestant (of different denominations) or Catholic.

        Then there is the question of conducting religious services. That would pretty much be taken out of their hands, as they adhere to no religion, and would not be conducting services as such.

        So what are we left with? Staff support as a religious leader and counseling a small minority of non-religious personnel. Objectively speaking, it doesn’t seem to me that the DoD would be getting much bang for its buck.

    • Hunter Bullock

      August 6, 2013 at 9:09 am

      Alright, I was a chaplains driver in the old guard, and I was on a mission involving and atheist soldier an his christian family. Not having an atheist chaplain, a christian one spoke at the funeral. He included nothing about religion in any part of his service. He spoke of the soldier’s accomplishments in life, his values and family life. Then he signaled for the honors to begin.After, I don’t know what he said to the widow, but he would have never said anything to comfort the family that was against the soldiers beliefs. Why can’t an atheist chaplain do that? Honestly if you are christian (but don’t push your religion on people) why can’t you just understand that some people are different or frankly don’t care about religion?

      • Padre Harvey

        August 6, 2013 at 4:28 pm

        Hunter-
        This is a great example of how religious chaplains can and do minister to the needs of the atheist. What you describe sounds very similar to what I would do under similar circumstances. But while it is relatively easy to remove such religious overtones from a service, what would an atheist chaplain do for a Christian funeral? Would it violate their conscience to read a verse from the Bible? To talk about the hope of the resurrection in Christ? I honestly don’t know how they could in good conscience inject religious aspects when needed – or am I missing something?

        • Ian

          September 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm

          “what would an atheist chaplain do for a Christian funeral?”

          Why don’t you go and make this same argument for every non-christian Chaplain hmm? After all, it’s pretty much the same thing, why then is it ok to have tons of chaplains of different faiths but a humanist one is so bad? After all they’d be just as equipped at dealing with a Christian funeral as a Jewish or Muslim Chaplin if not better so do to their lack of religious dogma.
          Also on a side note, just because a Christian Chaplain may be wise enough to not inject their dogma into an Atheists funeral or a session doesn’t mean they will or are under any obligation to do so.

    • Mal

      August 10, 2013 at 1:53 am

      The new Army chaplain that was introduced to our unit yesterday at JBER, AK, introduced himself as being an “ordained exorcist”. He went on to tell a story about how 2 “hardcore infantrymen” in Afghanistan came to him saying that they’d seen glowing eyes in the darkness and then spontaneously burst into flames on their arms. He performed an exorcism and they never saw the eyes again.

      I wish I was making this up, but I’m not.

      Tell me again why any atheist would want to talk to a chaplain?

  2. Sandra Mullikin

    August 5, 2013 at 9:35 am

    I am a Christian woman who’s son served in Iraq and is also Christian. However, I also have a brother who is an Atheist. Therefore, I see and hear of all sides of the arguments on religious issues. I am deeply concerned that everything in America seems to be about taking away from the Christians. We help the poor (even though being poor ourselves for it is a Christian belief to do so) without expecting others to believe as we do. Yes, we tell them of Christ if they are willing and wanting to hear. We wish to share the peace and joy he has put in our hearts…but, we do not push it on anyone. However, everyone wants to ‘make more room’ so to speak for other religions and atheist. We have no real problem with this either. Our problem lies with the fact that they keep taking away from us and our beliefs and needs in re: soldiers no longer aloud to pray in Jesus name without great fear of being harshly reprimanded. Yet, Muslims can pray in Allah’s name, and so on. We deal with this from every level of our govt. from our children in schools on up to college and work, etc. which, is so ridiculously discriminate as it is…but, to have our sons, daughters, husbands, and wives, have to deal with this discrimination and lack of freedom in what is a real deity to them and extremely important to their well being when at war and fighting an enemy of evil that hates them and those they love and care for is so wrong on so many levels and seriously puts them and their units at risk for not getting that reassurance and peace they need from their God which, is supposed to be prayed in the name of Jesus the savior. This should not even be a problem at all considering that these men fight for our freedoms and deserve to have their rights and freedoms in tack more than anyone. As you pointed out about the Atheist, I have learned from my brother that they simply do not believe and could care less whether anyone else prays to anyone at all….means nothing to him either way. Therefore, I believe that those who keeps pushing these issues of wanting an Atheist statue next Christian statues and wanting statues of Jesus torn down and wanting their own chaplains is absolutely absurd and could not possibly be Atheist doing this. It makes no sense to me or my brother for any Atheist to do such things and go to so much trouble. Something else is going on in all of this and some other group that is trying to kill out Christianity for their own reasons is at hand hear. It is the only thing that makes sense to either of us. Now, what say you? ~Sandra~

    • Ryan

      August 5, 2013 at 10:26 am

      Sandra,
      Thank you for being a prime example of how delusional some christians are. First, YES you do push your religion on everyone. As a matter of fact, it’s required of you in the bible to proselytize. Second, no one is trying to take anything away from christianity. A conspiracy? Really? The ONLY thing atheists are trying to do is get you to keep it to yourself! Stop praying at mass gatherings! (something Jesus spoke against. You probably forgot.) Stop erecting massive monuments and then bitching when other faiths or lack of want to do the same in the name of, oh I don’t know… LOGIC. And if you think that christians are discriminated more than atheists, you are insane. Christians FOUNDED the good ol’ boys club. Do we need atheist chaplains? No. Do we need some sort of source for counseling for non-religious soldiers? Absolutely, just not on the battlefield. One of the reasons for combat chaplains is to perform any “rites” needed by dying men. No such mumbo jumbo superstitious nonsense is needed by rational people.

      • Tom

        August 5, 2013 at 11:14 am

        I used to have an atheist soldier under my command. He was a pretty good soldier (a little strange though). I could not grasp the concept why he wanted atheist chaplains so much. I did not debate with him. I merely said that he and I have different beliefs. I would respect his beliefs (or non-beliefs) if he would respect that I believe in God. I never preach or try to convert anyone. But when someone tells me to “stop praying at mass gatherings” or stop praying at all, I will tell them to stuff it. You don’t have to pray and you shouldn’t because, after all, you don’t believe in it. Just understand that a lot of people still do.

        • Ryan

          August 5, 2013 at 11:51 am

          Pray all you want Tom. Pray for your team to win the Superbowl, pray for McDonald’s to bring back the McRib, and pray for God to bless another Change of Command ceremony or BNOC graduation (assuming he’s not to busy giving kids cancer to teach them a “life lesson” or turning his back on 1 million people being hacked to death by machetes). Just do it SILENTLY. Don’t force us to sit through it while you blast it through the PA system. Unless you are willing to follow it by a Muslim Call to Prayer, a Jewish blessing, and an atheist giving a 5 minute dissertation on the latest scientific development to treat another disease, then just make it a moment of SILENCE. That’s all we ask. That way we can take that time to try and remember if we set the DVR to record Breaking Bad.

          • akula431

            August 6, 2013 at 12:47 am

            I am not a Christian. If I have any religious leanings it’s towards Arthur C. Clarke’s theorem. For the life of me I just can’t understand the stereotypical loud-mouth atheist’s complaints about public prayer. It reminds me of a platoon mate who freaked out when we were in Haiti because an old voodoo witch would shake a chicken leg & throw powder at us whenever we returned from patrol. He was supposedly a devout Baptist, but a crazy woman scared him. To me, shamanism is shamanism- in one ear & out the other. It makes them feel good & keeps them happy. When that happy babble turns to words of persecution, then I’ll get the guns & law suits out.

      • Mr. Smith

        August 5, 2013 at 11:31 am

        Exactly.

        Christians cry about taking “God” out of schools/work/governement, but will be the first ones to deny a Muslim or Hindu the ability to have religious symbols or prayers in the same places. It’s laughable.

      • Ashton Christie

        August 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm

        Is it not possible to ask someone to respect those that don’t believe as they do WITHOUT insulting them or their beliefs. Not being able to do so, reduces your statements to childish rants.

      • Padre Harvey

        August 5, 2013 at 3:22 pm

        Hey Ryan,
        If you want us to take you and your views seriously, trying doing a few things:

        1) Quit attacking those who hold other beliefs. Calling those who disagree with you “delusional, “insane” or irrational adds noting to the debate at hand and only makes you look like an angry toddler.

        2) Stop trying to tell me what the Bible says. It makes you look foolish & uninformed when you take passages from my holy text out of context and try to apply them in some false or inappropriate way.

        3) Stick to the topic at hand. Make your arguments for or against having atheist/humanist chaplains, and then back it up with the logic that you hold so dear.

        Thanks.

        • Eric

          August 5, 2013 at 5:32 pm

          Padre,

          You’re wrong, either way. Not everyone needs the Chaplain after their battle buddy has died. CHRISTIANS do, but there are more than enough people whose friends and family don’t want to be proselytized to at their loved ones funeral. Would you want an Imam at your funeral instead of a Priest? Then why would an Atheist or Pagan soldier want a Priest at theirs? (I added Pagan because it’s another seriously under-represented group).

          Source: Chaplain Assistant and Non-Christian.

          • Rune

            August 5, 2013 at 6:28 pm

            Eric,

            Is there some rule I’m unaware of requiring “friends and family that don’t want to be prosletized” to hire a chaplain to officiate a burial?

          • Padre Harvey

            August 6, 2013 at 5:04 am

            Eric-
            First off, I don’t proselytize. Ever. I don’t coerce others to believe the same thing I do, under any circumstances.

            Secondly, when a soldier dies – esp. if overseas – there will be two memorial services. One in-country at the unit level, and another back home when the soldier is united with his or her family and laid to rest. At the unit level, the service is normally provided by the unit chaplain. If the deceased soldier’s religion differed from that of the assigned unit chaplain, every effort would be made to bring a chaplain of like faith to perform the service, since there would likely be elements that are particular to that individual’s faith.

            If, as may sometimes be the case, an individual has no religious preference, then a general memorial service would be held, with no religious trappings.

            You have to understand, a chaplain is there for ALL the members of the unit, a point I can’t stress enough. I’m not there for the deceased atheist soldier – he or she has passed on and is no longer in need of my advice or care. But there are many there who DO want or need my assistance – is it right that I absent myself from the memorial ceremony if by doing so I fail to provide the necessary assistance that many soldiers desire?

      • George

        August 5, 2013 at 5:14 pm

        Ryan,
        No need to be a jerk. It seems like most atheists have a hatred towards Christians, and it reflects in their tone of writing and speech. Chill out!

      • Rune

        August 5, 2013 at 6:32 pm

        “Stop praying at mass gatherings! (something Jesus spoke against. You probably forgot.) Stop erecting massive monuments and then bitching when other faiths or lack of want to do the same in the name of, oh I don’t know… LOGIC.”

        Yeah. Jesus spoke against hypocrites praying in the public square, not against praying in the public square at all (something you never knew, apparently).

        I’m unaware of any bitching from Christians re: someone else erecting a faith-based monument. Do you have an example? And – LOGIC?

        • kevin

          August 6, 2013 at 1:08 am

          I think he may have been referencing Jesus valuing the man who prays at home in quiet, as opposed to those who recite memorized prayers in public. Matthew 5-7. Its the idea that public prayer could just be putting on a show, and mindlessly reciting words, but silent, and personally improvised prayer means so much more since it couldn’t be for show and comes from yourself, not others. I’m just guessing this it what he meant.

          And as for Christians complaining about other religious monuments, I don’t have a lot of examples, but one that comes to mind was the “ground zero mosque” controversy. Given, I agree that it wasn’t all about the religious nature, but about the victims sensitivity. It still showed a lack of tolerance though.

        • Tyler

          August 6, 2013 at 3:37 am

          >I’m unaware of any bitching from Christians re: someone else erecting a faith-based monument. Do you have an example?

          The so called “Ground Zero Mosque,” which was nowhere near ground zero, was met with such a public outcry that you would think they were putting up a billboard that said “bin laden was right.”

          It wasn’t even a mosque. It was a muslim community center that included a chapel.

          It was all the christian talking heads could chatter about for months.

          Also, the Atheist Monument revealed recently in Bradford County Florida was met with a ton of christian protest, including one preacher who, at the unveiling ceremony, jumped on top of the monument and thanked the American Atheists for providing such a wonderful platform from which to “declare the truth that Jesus is real.” A lot of pettiness and, yes, bitching, flew around on the news networks.

      • Derek

        August 5, 2013 at 11:18 pm

        Last time I heard Ryan they weren’t killing people for being Atheist in the Middle East they were killing Christians. Many reasons we are fighting these wars in the Middle East is because these countries hate the Christian religion. This Country was built on Christianity and this is how many countries relate to us weather you believe or not. Dying men aren’t rational Ryan and they do need to be comforted. When you think your going to die that comfort or faith might save your life. The fact that you don’t believe is fine but don’t start saying things like they are an absolute. I remember when I got my first Chemistry set and learned the secret of life. Now as far as the Atheist Chaplain is concerned we don’t need them they are not in the “Good Ol boys club”.

    • Angela

      August 5, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      I think having someone for soldiers to talk to for different faiths is an excellent idea…Whether it be a chaplain or not…Chaplains are mostly for the christian faiths…and so what do they understand what an atheist, or anyone from any other faith or belief is going through. I am Wicca, but I wouldn’t go to a chaplain for my religious needs. A chaplain wouldn’t understand, and frankly all he/she would be thinking about is where they think I’d be going should I die. Sandra you are wrong to think that Christians don’t push their religious beliefs on others. I myself have had dealings with “Christians” on my beliefs. Also, now that “Christians” are being put through what many “Christians” have put others that didn’t believe what they believed were put through, they don’t like how they are being treated, they think it unfair. I consider it karmic justice.
      Ryan, well said

    • JoeNavy

      August 6, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      You ma’am are a liar. In particular about xtian problems in the military and more than likely about having two sons in the military.

    • Ian

      September 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      Oh my my my Sandra you could not play this victim card any harder. First off Atheists aren’t trying to “take from Christians” we’re trying to uphold the first ammendment to the bill of rights, I know how dare we want equal representation.
      Here let’s give an example of what that little bit of text does exactly. Yes it stops you from telling kids they have to pray to your God in school or having tax dollars go towards funding such prayers or services… you know what else it does? It also protects YOU and YOUR KIDS from having to say a different religious groups prayer or attend their service. The only way to assure that everyone is equally represented is for these things to remain SECULAR or to push ALL.

      Ie after a prayer was given in your Gods name we’d have to spend time giving every groups prayer and then a little segment talking about how there was no God. I’m sure you don’t want that do you? If you can see that then we’ll be on the same page, but please stop acting like if we take away your religious beating stick that you are somehow being oppressed. You’re free to push any religious prayer you want on your own, you’re just not free to take my tax dollars and have them fund YOUR religion and then bitch when your dollars go to fund a religious view different from your own, we call that hypocrisy.

  3. leftoftheboom

    August 5, 2013 at 10:15 am

    SGT Awesome,

    Maybe calling this individual a Chaplain is part of the confusion but the need is to pigeon hole an individual into a MTOE that the military can understand. I am not a fan of creating something that was not there before just to make sure everyone has one but there is a valid need.

    You avoid Chaplains so you might not be aware of all the benefits. Seeing a mental health advisor involves the unit. Seeing a Chaplain does not. Information spoken to a Chaplain is more confidential than information spoken to a mental health advisor and they will not divulge anything unless someone may come to harm.

    If you think about it this way, a religious person has two separate avenues to seek assistance and counseling. Call them informal and formal if you need a distinction. Without the “Atheist Chaplain” those without any affiliation have only the formal channel and that is a definite lack of support that needs to be addressed.

    It is true that there are a lot of small groups crying for equal benefits when some are not really needed. They see wrongs being addressed and figure why not shout out for our little group. In this instance, having been in need to speak with someone and wanting the informal path, I know the advantages to the individual to have someone to talk too.

    The real problem is that if they are not called “Chaplains” then the rights that protect conversations will have to be completely devised from scratch and that is a can of worms that we do not want opened because it has the potential to invalidate the very goals it is trying to achieve. Hell, just figuring out what symbol they are going to use is going to be a challenge. Atheist Chaplain may sound like an oxymoron but with today’s world, it may have to do since that is the only way to get the benefit without a hundred years war.

    Our society is unfortunately too immature to accept anything other than the status quo. We fight scorched earth campaigns over abortion, gay rights, evolution, and other things. We fight them to a Pyhrric victory that leaves both sides decimated morally and has done nothing to improve anyone’s life. So the only way to get someone what they need is to admire the emperor’s new outfit while asking for what we need instead of calling out the truth and fighting a battle that no one wins.

  4. JoeC

    August 5, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Padre Harvey pretty hit almost everything I was going to say and did so far more eloquently than I could, so I won’t rehash it. However, I do see both sides of the argument. I am in agreement that there is no tangible benefit to an atheist chaplain. As stated, the counseling requirements of an atheist are easily handled by a chaplain of any religion. Where I see the need is for those individuals who do not want to see a religious chaplain because they do not want to be preached to. I know several chaplains personally and of those 6 or 8 I can only think of one that I think would focus too much on preaching and not enough on counselling. An atheist chaplain could fill that hole, but is it really necessary? Probably not. Any chaplain should be professional and courteous enough to respect the beliefs of anyone he counsels.

  5. Joy

    August 5, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Why can’t atheists speak to am MFLC? All conversations with them are confidential. I met with one three times to hash through some issues and it was very helpful.

    • SFC Lawler

      August 5, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      I’m sorry I’m in the National Guard. Let the jokes commence, but what is a MFLC?

      • Mal

        August 6, 2013 at 4:04 am

        Military Family Life Counseling. I’m an atheist and have talked to them many times. I’m not entirely sure of the difference in confidentiality, because as far as I know, where abuse or suicide is concerned, the chaplains have to report it as well (correct me if I’m wrong but I am under that impression). The MFLCs are all Masters or PhD level counselors, and they are informal services that are 100% confidential with the exception of the above scenario. The only real difference I can see, logistically, is that “going to a counseling” appointment is cause for question, whereas a “talking to the chaplain” appointment is not. Technically the MFLCs can’t even say they ever saw you and there is no record kept of your visit, but you still have to block off your time with some excuse or other, since you can’t very well just say “I have stuff to do”. Counseling generally means marital problems, depression, or something similar. Talking to the chaplain doesn’t have the same negative connotation from an outside perspective.

        Honestly, I wouldn’t talk to a chaplain about anything, not because they preach (I’ve never personally met one that has) but because I’m not comfortable with their ideals and feel like I’m being judged regardless of their actions, like they always think, even if they don’t say, that if I believed in Christ I wouldn’t have XYZ problem.

        I think the real problem is that the military is slow to adapt as a general rule. If there wasn’t such a stigma about seeing counseling then this would be a non-issue.

        • Padre Harvey

          August 6, 2013 at 4:35 pm

          Mal-
          To answer your question, the privileged communication that a chaplain enjoys is absolute; I am not permitted to reveal confidential communication, even when it involves potential self-harm or harm to others. There are various ways to deal with this, but the upshot is that I cannot be forced to reveal ANYTHING that was said to me in confidence, unless the individual who revealed personally grants me such permission in writing.

          I’m sorry that you don’t believe you can talk with a chaplain without being judged. I certainly don’t judge anyone, and would never say that all their problems would magically vanish if only they believed in Christ. Sure, I have my own beliefs about how my relationship with God impacts and affects my life, but I don’t see it as my job to judge others by the same standard. Jesus certainly didn’t do that – in fact, he roundly condemned those who did pass judgment on others.

  6. Dirtdartwife

    August 5, 2013 at 10:29 am

    “There would never be vaccination unless there were germs, there would never have been Prohibition unless there were something to prohibit, and there would never be atheism unless there was a God to atheate.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen

    • joenavy

      August 6, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      “There would never be bigfoot hunters unless there was a bigfoot.”
      ummmmm are you seirous with this horrible logic?

    • Joenavy

      August 6, 2013 at 5:05 pm

      “There would never be bigfoot hunters unless there were bigfoots”
      Logic fail right there by that Archy…

      Atheism is a nuetral position…think about it.

  7. Brian Dirks

    August 5, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Being both a Christian and a veteran, I’m interested to see how this would turn out. I agree with both the article and Padre Harvey. What benefit would this be and how would they go about instituting this?

    Besides the other duties that Padre Harvey listed above I always saw the Chaplaincy as a source of comfort and meaning or helpful explanation. What would a humanist/ atheist chaplain bring to this?

    What words of wisdom would a chaplain of this line of belief bring to a solider seeking meaning after the loss of a life personal to them in combat. The postmodern thought? “Sorry you lost your Sgt. in combat son, let me leave you with some positive thoughts, and tell you how the enemy won this time because their truth happened to be stronger than your truth”? “To help you with your grief, lets examine how the enemies’ right to exist conflicted with your fellow soldiers’ right to exist.”

    I use the postmodern/existentialist belief as only one example so don’t think that this is what I believe of all atheists. It seems to me, however, to be the current or most relevant topic for those who claim belief in themselves or lack of a belief in a God.

    It would seem that counseling should be sought for these things. Regardless of stigma attached counseling is a way for an objective third party to show strength and weakness where one cannot find it for themselves. Last I checked atheists weren’t opposed to seeking help from someone with an “outside” perspective. Dont atheists choose not to seek a chaplain by claiming no faith? Why then should we offer them one?

    I can see only harm from this and an erosion of established religions which bring meaning to tough situations to those of a faith. This lobby seems to seek to break an integrity that uniformly binds the military services. If an atheist chaplain had objection to whatever protocol was set in place for chaplains it could set a precedent for a divisive culture where one did not exist before. (e.g. The patch padre Harvey spoke of)

    All in all a bad idea.

  8. chase

    August 5, 2013 at 11:03 am

    the premise of this article that “non-belief is the fastest growing religeous affiliation in america” is a falsehood .Various non religeous polling groups have found that Atheism is on a rapid decline at less than 5% of the global population and less than 2% in the united states.And the fact that Atheists are under served or disregarded by the chaplains corps is because atheists don’t want their services and have a tenancy to mock and ridicule chaplains.

    • T. Morris

      August 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm

      According to who? Honestly, in the past ten years alone, I’ve personally noticed a decline in people who believe in fairy tales. Furthermore, as its been said, atheism is a religious affiliation the same way that bald is a hair color. However, atheists are underserved and disregarded. I’ve tried to go to a chaplain in the past while I was on active duty and I really did not want to listen to some guy babble about some wholly unproven somehow meaningful afterlife that came out of a book written by borderline rock-banging cave men two thousand years ago. Instead, I was admonished for not believing these fairy tales and told that the Chaplain couldn’t help me in grieving unless I accepted some dude that got nailed to a tree as my personal savior. So, yeah, you’re damn right I mock that sort of idiot.

  9. defensor fortisimo

    August 5, 2013 at 11:53 am

    While we’re on the topic, I recently came across an interesting story regarding an af chaplain and some controversy. Basically, the chaplain wrote an essay about the origin of the saying “there are no atheists in foxholes,” which ended up pihttp://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/07/24/air-force-chaplains-online-essay-reportedly-expunged-over-this-bigoted-religious-supremacist-phrase/sing off some atheists reading the article in their fox holes. The thing is, looking at the original text, it’s hard for me, (albeit a practicing christian,) to see what the fuss was about. The text gave a brief story of the chaplain who coined the phrase in WWII, spoke of the trials and tribulations the man went through, and then spoke of the importance of faith in our lives, be it secular or religious.
    The reason I bring this up is that it’s stories like this that leave many christians convinced that it’s only a matter of time before an open season is declared on our faith.
    As I stated, I am a practicing christian so I fully acknowledge that it’s possible I’m missing something about how this is actually offensive, but frankly, it strikes me as a case of mike “ACOG” weinstein forcing his agenda on the rest of us. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/07/24/air-force-chaplains-online-essay-reportedly-expunged-over-this-bigoted-religious-supremacist-phrase/

    • Steve

      August 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      It’s BEEN open season on non-believers since the beginning of civilization, we’ve only in the last 30 been able to be openly atheist and the public still trusts us less than Muslims there are laws saying we can’t hold offices
      But yeah you the second most popular religion on the planet are being persecuted

  10. leftoftheboom

    August 5, 2013 at 11:57 am

    And the war begins. I am not a Christian. I have Faith in God but that is a very different distinction from the group that identifies as Christian. Christians are not losing any freedoms. Everyone else is getting the same freedoms that Christians consider theirs and theirs alone. It seems like a loss because it denies the ability to continue to act as a privileged class while never having to actually live up to the full standards of the creed they profess to have.
    This nation is supposed to have separation of church and state. However, there is in the nation and in several states a concerted effort to deny the recognition of marriage, the ability for a woman to choose what to do with her own body and all these battles are being done by elected representatives to whom the primary motivational factor for their stance is their RELIGIOUS Preference. These are just a few topics where people who are elected to a secular government are using their interpretation of the bible to justify the laws they create for the rest of us to live by. While at the same time, they themselves are not living by the established laws of their own religious doctrine. Example, to my knowledge there is no Commandment from GOD about homosexuality. There is a Commandment about committing Adultery. So why is there such vehemence and vitriol against gays and lesbians instead of against Adulterers?

    I am very tired of the people who consistently spout their drivel as the word of God. I am tired of people with selective reading ability that find the passage in the bible that supports or seems to support their argument in order to deny some ability to others that they don’t agree with. NO ONE ON THIS PLANET HAS THE RIGHT TO SPEAK IN GOD’S VOICE. The religion known as Christianity is supposed to be about following a man who loved the people so much that he willing gave his life. WHERE IN THAT SACRIFICE DID THEY RECEIVE THE RIGHT TO DICTATE TO ANYONE ELSE?

    Get over yourselves and “Love they neighbor”, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you”, “For those who are without sin may cast the first stone”.
    HYPOCRITES

    p.s. Why don’t Christians spend time ensuring that they are policing up their own ranks before they start picking on anyone else?

    • JoeC

      August 5, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      There is nothing in the Constitution that separates church from state. The separation of church and state is a fallacy. The only thing the Constitution provides is an assurance that everyone is allowed to practice whatever religion they choose as long as that practice does not infringe on the rights of others. In this regard, all religions fail because they all do things that infringe on the rights of others. I find it curious that you speak of the hypocrisy of Christians because they pick and choose the parts of the Bible that support their case, yet you do the same thing with the Constitution. The only difference is that when they pick a verse to support their cause the verse is at least there.

      If religion does dictate the law of the land in the USA it is because that is what the majority ultimately wants. This is how our country works. The many elect the few to represent them by majority vote. If the elected representatives beliefs do not match those of their electors they are out of a job. If you don’t want Christiatity to influence the laws of the nation all you have to do is knock it off the podium as the overwhelming majority. Roughly 3/4 of Americans claim (emphasis on claim because most suck at it) Christianity as their religion. It stands to reason that the laws we have should reflect that. You wouldn’t go to a Muslim country and expect their laws to not favor that religion, so why expect it here?

      • leftoftheboom

        August 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm

        The Constitution provides for Freedom of Religion and protects against Religious persecution. It does not matter what the majority is. The majority is not supposed to enact a law based upon religious belief or affiliation because that law invalidates the Constitution.

        Majority rule is a democratic thing. But If a majority votes to burn all red heads does that make it right? NO. And the Constitution prevents it. Thus the layman’s viewpoint of the separation of church and state. Otherwise we are no different than IRAN.

        • JoeC

          August 5, 2013 at 2:20 pm

          Show me in the Constitution where it says religious beliefs are not allowed to sway the law making process. What it says is that the government will not establish a state mandated religion and the people will be free to practice any religion they choose. Personal beliefs guide the formation of every law on the books in any jurisdiction. Religion is nothing more than a set of personal beliefs, so what’s the difference?

          • leftoftheboom

            August 5, 2013 at 2:57 pm

            Your own words “practice any religion they choose”. The majority cannot use their practices against me. What part of that don’t you get? When your practice interferes with mine, we have conflict. That was what founders who wrote the Constitution were trying to prevent.

            I know personal belief has guided law. And when that belief is based on religion then the lawmaker is in violation of the Constitution.

            “The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights.”

            Prohibits the making of any law impeding the free exercise of religion; you cannot use your religious belief structure to interfere with mine. You cannot make a law that interferes with the way I want to practice mine. It does not matter if you have a majority unless that majority is 100%, you cannot do it.

  11. Trevor

    August 5, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    As a currently serving Chaplain Assitant (SSG), and a Wiccan, I tend to agree with Padre Harvey. Most chaplains I have met don’t push their faith on us “non-believers” or those without faith. There are some that do, though. And they should be drummed out of the military at the earliest convenience!
    But, to clarify;
    Rule 503 of the Rules of evidence outlined in The Manual for Courts-Martials is what gives protection to Chaplains, Chaplain Assistants and “the penitent”. Neither psychiatrists nor MFLCs are covered by this.
    Now when it comes to praying in any of the multitude of imaginary friends’ names, it is reserved for events of a strictly religious nature. These events are not and/or should not be compulsory. Again, those that violate this, should be loaded in the turd launcher….fire for effect!
    I wish I had the answer, but I don’t think an Athiest Chaplain is it.

  12. Gary

    August 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Want to know what’s really important? Regardless of my beliefs or anyone’s beliefs, whether they are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Wiccan, Satanist, Humanist, or Athiest the greatest thing anyone can do is not be a FUCKING DICK to people because of their religion or lack thereof. Don’t tell Christians there is no God or say they have an imaginary friend. Don’t tell Atheists they are going to hell for not believing in Jesus. DON’T BE A DICK. Holy shit people.

    • Nick

      August 5, 2013 at 11:16 pm

      Well Said

    • Rune

      August 6, 2013 at 1:41 am

      Thumbs up ;}

  13. Timothy Lyons

    August 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Atheism = An affirmation of God/god’s non-existence
    Atheism ≠ An absence of belief in God/gods
    If you were to define Atheism as the absence of belief, such a position could neither be true nor false, it would simply be the description of someone’s personal psychology.

  14. Eric

    August 5, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Well heres my two cents getting back to the original question. I think chaplains are in the military to help advise soldiers on decisions they have to make based on what their faith dictates acting as a religious consular just to name one duty among many. Christians adhere to different things in different circumstances as do muslims, buddists,athesists,etc,etc. not all decisions are easy and some need extra guidance. so a “chaplain” for atheists I believe to have merit but much thought and trial must be put into it.

  15. Madurin

    August 5, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Honestly, anyone who argues that an athiest chaplain isn’t needed from a position of religious belief is being a little silly. I mean, the entire argument against athiest chaplains is based on an utter lack of understanding as to why atheists believe what they do. The smug patriarchy of the religious to the willfully non-religious is getting rather tired, especially considering that attempting to pass off a lack of ability to understand atheism itself as a strength is a bit disingenuous.

    What do christian chaplains of differing faiths do when confronted with troubled soldiers of different brands of christianity; they bring forth the counseling aspect at the expense of the religious. But, even so, the path to becoming a chaplain is the result of the pursuit of mastery in a subject, and that pursuit shapes a person. It shapes how they deal with dilemmas and personal crises, since that faith is the filter by which they process the overwhelming pain of our world.

    I never visit the chaplain, because I find the idea that an adult with access to the sheer amount of information we have, can still believe in the existence of a higher power, does not have a grasp of the rational I want in order to place their opinion at a sufficiently superior level in order to take solace from them. In other words, there’s no way they could overcome my own sense of mental superiority. I believe that such an individual has no business counseling me on how to deal with grief or my personal struggles.

    But that’s just me. I take no comfort in the messages the christian faith tries to push, and feel that it is a mental crutch which leaves people at a disadvantage when they are faced with the reality of our existence. I am entitled to that belief, just as they are entitled to theirs.

    The bottom line from this is that the Chaplain corps is a relic that has changed and adapted to find relevancy in the modern age. They provide religious services, counseling, and moral support, and two of those three have nothing to do with the narrow slice of faith an individual Chaplain happens to be ordained in. This is just another of those changes; if someone doesn’t agree with the need for an atheist chaplain and are not, themselves, atheist, then I’m pretty sure it’s a safe assumption to say that it’s not really meant for them, anyways.

    • Padre Harvey

      August 8, 2013 at 6:04 am

      I find your response to be very interesting; first, you claim that we exhibit the “smug patriarchy of the religious to the willfully non-religious,” yet in the next paragraph you claim to never visit your chaplain because of your “own sense of mental superiority.”

      Who exactly is looking down on who? Who is being patriarchal here?

  16. Fillmore

    August 5, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    A couple of points to counter what seems to be a majority opinion here…

    1. Some of us who do not embrace a particular faith, do not do so because of past bad experiences with religion and/or religious people in our own families and communities. While I have no doubt that Padre Harvey is a fine man and has all of the best intentions, some people will NEVER be comfortable in seeking comfort or guidance from someone whose role in the military is based on religious affiliation.

    2. Suggesting that someone who does not have religious affiliation should just go to a psychologist or psychiatrist is much akin to saying that anyone who might seek comfort or philosophical counseling from a Chaplin would never need or want a more clinical level of counseling. The two are not the same.

    3. I’m not making this statement as an attack on Chaplin Harvey, whose response was certainly well reasoned and honest, but his response does in fact show that his religious background and experience don’t allow him to fully understand the emotional and philosophical needs of the non-religious. We’re I still on active duty, I would be particularly concerned about his comments regarding the conduct of memorial services without a religious context. If I was to fall in the line of fire, I would not want my memorial to be framed by a mythology to which I do not subscribe. Likewise, it would be meaningful to my family or any friends/colleagues who new new me well enough for a memorial service to be meaningful. If the Padre or anyone else shudders to think about a memorial service conducted by a Humanist Chaplin might be like, they only have to look at the relatively well publicized memorial service conducted for Pat Tillman to see what can happen when a religious Chaplin conducts a memorial for an atheist/atheist family.

    4. Finally, there seems to be the assumption among many respondents that a lack of religion is the equivalent of a lack of a personal belief system. I think that I have a very strong personal belief system based on honesty, integrity, and empathy. I’ve come to these beliefs based on experience and my own personal study of philosophy, history, literature, and yes, religion. Like anyone else, I’ve experienced thing that have challenged my beliefs, and at times it would have been nice to have someone with a similar interdisciplinary approach with whom to privately discuss some personal issues or other challenges or events in my personal or professional life.

    • Madurin

      August 5, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      I’d definitely like to reinforce and support number 4, here.

    • Fillmore

      August 5, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      Sorry, I kept losing my connection during response #3 and it got a little confusing. I intended to say that a religious memorial would not be meaningful to the deceased or their friends and family if they did not practice the religion. To think otherwise is like saying that a Buddhist memorial would certainly suffice for a Christian family simply because it is a religious service.

    • Padre Harvey

      August 6, 2013 at 5:28 am

      Fillmore-
      Thank you for your thoughtful response.

      You are correct in that some folks will never go see the chaplain for any reason simply because of their own baggage when it comes to anyone who represents religion in any form. The best way I’ve found to overcome this bias is to simply be there with my soldiers, doing what they do and getting to know them as individuals. Hopefully, they do the same for me and find out that I’m not such a bad guy after all. By building relationships you build trust, and that trust sometimes results in them seeking advice for issues that are happening in their lives.

      You are correct in saying that I cannot “fully understand the emotional and philosophical needs of the non-religious.” But that sword cuts both ways; how would a humanist be able to fully understand the emotional and philosophical needs of the RELIGIOUS, if he or she are not themselves religious?

      If you are going to argue that a humanist chaplain is uniquely gifted to provide comfort & guidance to fellow atheists/humanists, then you have to address how they will provide spiritual care to the rest of the troops who DO believe in some type of religion. Yet if you argue that they ARE in fact able to care for the religious soldiers in their ranks (albeit inadequately), you must make the same allowance for religious chaplains to provide for the care of those non-religious soldiers.

      Seems like a Catch-22 to me.

  17. Gunship Load

    August 5, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I don’t know where I stand on the idea of an atheist chaplain, especially because I am an atheist.

    I do know that having to have your outprocessing checklist signed off by a chaplain or his/her assistant 30 days before leaving theater is bullshit. Apparently nothing bad happens when you’re 30 days out?

    On the other hand, without a doubt… Chaplains tend to have the best coffee anywhere in theatre

  18. GI Joey

    August 5, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    We want rights! We don’t want you to have them! We have to coddle everyone equally! Jeez, whatever happened to the good ol’ suck it up and drive on army??? Rtfu, kids. On all sides.

  19. JockTAC

    August 5, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    I’m not sure how it is for the US Military because I’m a Brit but for us the Padre has a lot of sway with welfare issues and can sometime get problems solved that the chain of command can let you and your family down with. Equally it is useful to have a counselling ear that you can turn to without fear of reprisal or judgement. Like yourself I am an Atheist and Humanist and I also avoid chaplains like the plague but if I genuinely needed help with a welfare problem I’d rather struggle with it than seek that help of a Christian Chaplain. Perhaps a small number of Atheist Councilors would would fill this void. I take your point that all Atheists cannot be pigeon holed as humanists (to me that just means trying to be a good person anyway) but its equally true that not all Christians adhere strictly to Christian values.

  20. Rob

    August 5, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    I wonder why Atheists here insist on attacking people for having beliefs. These people scream for tolerance and acceptance yet they give none. You want to be accepted for your non-beliefs? How about try accepting people that have beliefs. Your behavior is the exact definition of bigot according to Merriam-Webster.

    Personally, I could care less if you believe in anything, it is not my concern. What does bother me is how you feel the need to attack anyone who has beliefs.

  21. z0phi3l

    August 5, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    Atheists need to make up their damn minds, you are either part of a religious choice or you aren’t, you can’t claim to not believe (which is a religious choice) and you don’t need any representation or you finally admit that it is a religious choice and come up with some standards, as it stands you just come off as pissy little kids that make Scientologists look reasonable in comparison

  22. SPC Hall

    August 5, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Am I the only atheist around here that thinks seeing the (most commonly known) atheist symbol (an ‘A’ wrapped by electrons) on an officer’s uniform would be fricken awesome? I feel like I could talk to that guy. The cross (and others) actually makes me feel like I can’t trust a chaplain with personal matters.

    • leftoftheboom

      August 5, 2013 at 8:02 pm

      I did not know there was a symbol. That does look cool but I can see Star Trek References fast and furious in placed.

  23. ET1(SS) Princess

    August 5, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    This escalated quickly…

    • Brian Dirks

      August 5, 2013 at 7:50 pm

      “I’m mean it really got out hand fast.”
      “I killed a guy with a trident”
      ” I saw that and, Brick, I’ve been mean to talk you, I think you should lay low for a while…”

    • leftoftheboom

      August 5, 2013 at 8:05 pm

      Scorched Earth. Nuke em from orbit, the only way to be sure.

  24. Brian Westley

    August 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Refusing atheist chaplains looks like it violates Article VI:
    …no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

    It doesn’t look constitutional to say some kind of god-belief is required.

    • 427 Shelby

      August 6, 2013 at 1:06 am

      You would be correct, nor is there any real basis for statements made regarding the United States being a Christian nation.

      It was and still is a nation predominantly comprised of Christians, however a notable portion of the framers of the Constitution where not Christians. These where men of the enlightenment and looked to forge a government that more so encompassed natural law. There simply is no codification of that notion in fundamental Constitutional law in our government of enumerated powers.

      The treaty of Tripoli most certain most certainly supports that notion.

      This being said the Government as per the First Amendment and lots of case law; cannot endorse a particular religion nor be hostile towards it.

      Keep in mind folks these institution s are separate for a reason. Apart they prevent corrupting influences of one another from effecting the integrity of the each values, as both institutions need no help in the corruption department as history has shown time and time again.

      This seperation is arguably the reason the United States as such a prevalence of religious groups ; aside from the fact many of the early settlers where very religious people forced to leave due the conflicts with the other religious factions in power.

      More to the point there most certainly is an issue which will need to be addressed as more service members are falling into other categories than currently represented.

      I have watched more and more people feel uncomfortable when a Chaplain will come by to say a few words which ultimately leads to an awkward prayer session. Some stay to be respectful or supportive of the brothers in arms some merely feel uncomfortable with the possible second and third order effects of walking away.

  25. Boliver Allmon

    August 5, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    As a Protestant Chaplain Candidate I honestly do not care if they allow in humanist or atheist “chaplains”. The Corps is full of chaplains whose beliefs are vastly different if not antithetical to mine. I serve with them just fine. In the end it isn’t about me or my faith group. It isn’t about me cramming my views down every one else’s throat. It is about the soldiers. If an atheist chaplain has better counseling skills than other chaplains, how can that be bad?

    For those who think an atheist chaplain would somehow water down the Corps I say, “Too late.” The Corps is already full of neutered useless chaplains.

    SGT Awesome, I also avoid chaplains if at all possible. It is better for my health (especially blood pressure).

    • Padre Harvey

      August 6, 2013 at 4:42 pm

      Boliver-
      You say you are a “Protestant Chaplain Candidate” yet you then attack the Chaplain Corps as being “full of neutered useless chaplains?” Really? Based on what…your years of experience and witnessing chaplains in every clime & place?

      And you say you “avoid chaplains if at all possible?” If that is the case, then pray tell why are you seeking to become one? I can tell you that you’re going to have a hard row to hoe if you continue to maintain that same attitude while seeking to join the same Corps that you so readily castigate.

      • Boliver Allmon

        August 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm

        I know about neutered chaplains from my years as a 56M especially during my time with RTB at Ft Benning and from my years as a CC.

        I am not becoming a CH because of the Corps. I am becoming a CH for the soldiers. I have seen the work that good chaplains do and the positive changes it creates in soldiers’ lives.

        When a PVT has a terrible NCO lead him this does not mean that the PVT should not become an NCO. Rather the PVT should see the bad leadership of that NCO, learn from those mistakes, and not make them when he is an NCO.

        Same goes for CH. Just because I see a bunch of dorks walking around does not mean that I should stop my pursuit of pinning the cross. It simply means that I should learn from their deficiencies and become a better CH myself.

  26. ArmyHumanist

    August 6, 2013 at 7:13 am

    I just read through all of the comments and one thing keeps standing out. Everyone speaks of atheist chaplains or a chaplain for the atheists. That’s not a fair description of a Humanist Chaplain. A Humanist Chaplain teaches the values, history, philosophy of Humanism. The fact that Humanism rejects the supernatural is but a single facet of the belief system. And yes, Humanism is a belief system. There is no proof to Humanism. In fact, it must be taught just as other belief systems are. And this is the most critical argument for Humanist Chaplains. I have been an atheist all my life. But only in the past few years did I learn about Humanism from leaders in the movement. Teaching about Humanism; its origins, its contributions to society, its tenets and principles – that’s a role for a Humanist Chaplain which no Chaplain currently serving provides. And, from personal experience, I can confidently state that the leaders within the Chaplain Corps are working delingently at keeping the status quo. Humanism is an enlightment that provides an emotional comfort to the logically minded. But it is complex and takes years of learning to understand. Without leaders to teach Humanism, it is even more difficult. That’s why we need Humanist Chaplains.

    • Padre Harvey

      August 7, 2013 at 6:23 am

      Well, that still leaves the educational & ecclesiastical requirements. Plus the whole ordination thing. Is there a Master’s Degree in Humanism? Does one get “ordained” in the humanist belief system? How does one go about getting two years of full-time lay experience as a humanist leader?

  27. Caleb

    August 6, 2013 at 7:24 am

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a humanist chaplain. As an atheist, one only does not believe in a diety. Outside of that, there is nothing to subscribe to. But if a Soldier wishes to talk to a chaplain over a psychologist for reasons of anonymity, then I definitely think one should be a able to talk to a chaplain who is coming from a non-religious perspective.

  28. Tactical Joke

    August 6, 2013 at 9:45 am

    As a non-believer myself, I just want to ask my fellow non-believers, Why in the hell are you so angry and sensitive, especially towards Christians? Jeebus, you whine and cry like little f’n girls. For the most part, the believers of the floaty guy in the sky have been polite and courteous in the comments, and us heathens have been twitchier than my XO after a month of NoDoze and as sensitive as a damned hemorrhoid.

    The atheist chaplain concept is just retarded. While I only spoke to a chaplain once over a brother’s suicide, he handled it professionally and with courtesy and didn’t attempt to convert me. Do we really need a chaplain for our lack of faith… Really? Have we grown vaginas since I left?

  29. William

    August 6, 2013 at 10:42 am

    As an agnostic sailor, I don’t see any value in an atheist chaplain. This was founded as a christian nation, the religion clause was meant to protect the rights of all sects to freely practice their religion in public, and to prevent any one church from being the official state religion. It’s been grossly misinterpreted since the 1940s.
    Extending those protections to non-christian and atheist belief systems was a good thing, but extending the logic to blocking public expression was not.
    When religion comes up, I enjoy discussing it if the other party is civil. If not, I can get just as rude, but I notice a lot more atheists are militant and obnoxious than christians, because of a false belief in persecution. So can we get back to discussing whether an atheist chaplain serves any real purpose and how to do it? Civilly?
    My thought is that the best compromise is to assign some qualified atheist counselors to the chaplain corps, and write a regulation giving them the same confidentiality. Then, instead of seeing aa psychologist and getting the unit involved, a servicemember can say “I’m going to see the chaplain”, and ask for the couselor when they get there. Don’t call them chaplains, and don’t make them wear the religious symbols. Everyone gets the benefit of the reasonable part of the idea.
    So, anyone else got a counter-proposal?

  30. Tony

    August 6, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Hmmm….
    I always notice that atheists/ non-believers fall roughly into two camps: those who genuinely seem to have no interest whatsoever in religion and shrug their shoulders at the whole argument and those who have a hard-on for Christianity and use atheism as their soapbox. Although I’m a Christian, I’m agnostic on a fair amount of dogmatic issues. When someone tries to offer an argument for angels or something I just shrug my shoulders and move on. How can I get angry over something that I have zero interest in? The anger of some of you “atheists” looks unhinged. Lacing into a chaplain? C’mon, looks real douchey.

  31. DocHellfish

    August 6, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Why is it that Atheists can only seem to communicate their feelings by being condescending asshole that put down anyone who doesn’t see their point of view as crazy idiots? I cannot stand militant atheists and I’m agnostic. You people make a religion out of hating religion.

  32. D M Waggoner

    August 6, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I do not need to read it, I already know hypocrisy. So, the question is, ARE WE GOING TO ALLOW SATAN TO DISRUPT ARE TRUSTING IN GOD? If we do that, we die.

  33. Common Sense

    August 6, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    The whole system should be scrapped- you want to pray, good for you, go ahead I won’t stop you. What we don’t need are people running around without weapons in a combat theatre. EVER. You want to come and comfort the troops, man up and grab a rifle and do an actual job on the ground.

    We don’t need piles of random individuals speaking inane and tired “lessons” and giving “comfort” to those they have never met at a funeral. They say nothing of value, and they drone on and on (I unfortunately have much experience listening at military funerals).

    A humanist chaplain is an excellent idea- but is only second to no chaplains as real plan.

    • Padre Harvey

      August 7, 2013 at 6:36 am

      Common Sense-
      Well, I’ve served my time toting a rifle – 6 yrs enlisted and 12 as a combat arms officer. So now I’m useless because I don’t carry a weapon? Hmm. Vincent R. Capodanno, Charles J. Watters, Joseph T. O’Callahan, and Emil Kapaun might argue with you on that score.

      What you’re doing here is projecting your own views onto others and making claims on their behalf. Nothing of value? I beg to differ. I know that I have offered much in the way of comfort to grieving soldiers and family members on numerous occasions. So you’d like to deny that assistance to your fellow soldiers? I seem to recall that “Selfless Service” is one of the Army values; maybe you should take a sec and go re-read that portion.

      How ’bout we stop speaking in generalities and

      • leftoftheboom

        August 7, 2013 at 9:07 am

        Desmond Thomas Doss
        Date of birth: February 7, 1919
        Date of death: March 23, 2006
        Burial location: Chattanooga, Tennessee
        Place of Birth: Virginia, Lynchburg
        Home of record: Lynchburg Virginia

        Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist, was the only Conscious Objector of World War II to earn the Medal of Honor. .
        AWARDS AND CITATIONS
        .Medal of Honor
        See more recipients of this award

        Awarded for actions during the World War II

        The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Private First Class Desmond Thomas Doss, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty from April 29 – 21 May 1945, while serving with the Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division, in action at Urasoe Mura, Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. Private First Class Doss was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Private First Class Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them one-by-one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On 2 May, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and two days later he treated four men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within eight yards of enemy forces in a cave’s mouth, where he dressed his comrades’ wounds before making four separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On 5 May, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Private First Class Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire. On 21 May, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited five hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Private First Class Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter; and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers’ return, he was again struck, this time suffering a compound fracture of one arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Private First Class Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.

        General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 97 (November 1, 1945)

  34. c van bueren

    August 6, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    what u expect with a america hater and 1000 of his nazi/communist friends at key jobs at all office’s
    im not amazed wait till obamacare is in effect it only get worse
    jus have 2 wait that its worse enough that the democrat voters last 2 times start 2 hate this communist/nazi regime also cause they dont wanna sink through the bottem they r at now…
    democrats should fear gop in election democrats better fear democrats :)
    thanks 2 obama and his corrupt nazi loving communist friends i do see light at end of the tunnel
    obama ty carry on u louzy —–#$%^@@# :)
    dont hate my spelling im from HOLLAND i have a excuse and chicago not!

  35. J.T.

    August 7, 2013 at 1:41 am

    Here is something that everyone fails to recognize. Religion was in itself founded as a way for the ruling body (who at the time was head of the church for what ever faith) to control it’s people through fear. What better way to control peoples actions than to tell them that there IS an after life and your actions in this one shall be reflected there. Convince people that through negative or criminal action you’ll be tormented and tortured forever or for however long and you suddenly have a drastic decrease in crime. I am in no way saying no to believe in some higher power but organized religion simply was a way of controlling people. And all of the Abrahamic religions are blood thirsty war mongers. Read the old testament, new testament and the quran and it’s abundantly obvious. “Suffer not a witch to live” “If a man lays with another man as he would a woman he is an abomination and must be struck down, his blood is on his own hands”…the quran even has a line that says to make war on those who don’t believe unless they are willing to pay a tax and live as a third class citizen. Either live poor or die. So much for being peaceful religions huh?

  36. Dr. Susannah

    August 7, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Reading through the comments is an interesting exercise. It seems to me that semantics are playing a role in the back-and-forth arguments about this issue. Religion itself is simply a set of rules by which to live. By this definition, any particular set of beliefs (no matter how weird) can be a religion. And in my experience, people who embrace rules>/i> as the operation of their religion tend to become dogmatic about their particular framework. If one listens carefully, there is a similar tone to the rantings of any fundamentalist proselytiser be s/he Baptist, Muslim, Atheist, Wiccan, or Whatever. There is a difference. Additionally, it seems from the postings that some use the term ‘atheist’ when they really appear to mean ‘agnostic.’
    Faith, however, is another matter entirely.
    Several posters pointed out that having decided for themselves what they believe, they simply shrug their shoulders at what others believe, not taking personal offence at another’s choice to put their trust in something at odds with, or different from, their own faith.
    And so it should be.
    Atheism is a choice to believe that God doesn’t exist. That takes faith in the same way that believing God does exist requires faith.

    What?! Something in common? *sarcasmalert*

    30 years into a career which has combined psychology and theology, it is my experience, personally and professionally, that individuals who embraces a personal FAITH have the capacity to meet others’ needs appropriately, without judgment or agenda. In other words, to empathise and to be a support/comfort/wise counsellor for anyone …period. Conversely, it is also my experience, personally and professionally, that an individual who embraces RELIGION tends to be inflexible, dogmatic, and unable to enter into or understand the choice of others to embrace a different framework. A generalisation, I admit, but so far, one that has remained essentially accurate on three continents across diverse cultures and different faith-systems.

    Not being military or American, I might be missing something here, but Humanism is in fact a faith system. If an individual wishes to be a part of the military chaplaincy as a Humanistic Chaplain, s/he should be required to meet the same criteria as any other identified faith system.

    A final observation: I’ve learned over the years that many Humanists are agnostic not atheist, and it is not necessarily accurate to say that all atheists are humanists. Some people have simply defined their lives by a negative (‘God does not exist’) without embracing an alternative positive belief framework. This is religion (a life rule), and not surprisingly, seems to result in the same strident and angry viciousness characteristic of fundamentalists of any stripe.

    • leftoftheboom

      August 7, 2013 at 11:52 am

      Well spoken.

    • Dr. Susannah

      August 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      Oops. I forgot the closing html code. Sorry about that.

      I also meant to say there is a difference between being agnostic and being atheist. The ‘cut&paste’ editing didn’t end so well.

  37. SrA_Tom

    August 15, 2013 at 2:22 am

    Look, Humanism is a belief, plain and simple. It sounds to me like someone is coming up with a religion substitute for athiests, which seems to me, unnecessary. Why does an athiest, who has a lack of belief, need to have a substitute for something he doesn’t have…? I honestly don’t see the need for an athiest chaplain. In my experience, chaplains do a great job of keeping their faith out of counseling. I’m protestant, and I have sought counsel from Catholic chaplains, Baptist chaplains, and even been counseled by a Buddhist chaplain. None of them tried to convert me to their faith, or even brought it up. Sound counsel is sound counsel.

  38. Nick

    November 19, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    The same old, same old. Non-belief is a belief system? really? Talk about a false-equivalency. The role of the chaplain is not to be a dominant religious power, but a supporter of the troops. If the troops are indeed of multiple faiths, how can an established dogma of prominence support them?

    For instance, if I truly believe inside of my heart that you’ll go somewhere else when you die than me, don’t you think that would introduce some kind of inherent, unconscious bias? Also- I love the in-congruency claims made about the “beliefs of humanists.” Well, there are many in-congruencies in the Christian faith, and that doesn’t stop them from being represented. And what about the in-congruencies in all faiths, which are not only accounted for, but supported in their entirety?

    The truth here, is that the obvious attack is to not allow representation, and I saw it first-hand while serving. While I was a pagan, I had dog-tags made and was told, “Don’t tell me to print pagan or wiccan on your dog tags.” Now, that’s support, isn’t it? I laid it on thick for a reason…dogma and prominent claims of a god being superior will not allow for full love and support of all people…which I really believe ought to be the focus of a chaplain serving in the military.

    Why would you suppose that someone who didn’t believe in all the claims of religion could support all of them? This is a false claim, being that they are all easily learned and studies have shown that in fact, atheists know more about religion than religious people do. The fact of the matter is no one could better represent all faiths more than a person with none, and this is simple logical sense.

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