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The Atheist Foxhole (Rumsfeld "marginalized" religion in military)
American Spectator ^ | Feb 06 | Angelo Codevilla

Posted on 02/24/2006 9:39:55 PM PST by churchillbuff

-----Editor's note: As reported in the Washington Times, the U.S. Air Force last Wednesday "released revised guidelines on religious observance that say chaplains need not recite prayers incompatible with their beliefs... The move won tepid praise from evangelicals, who see the move as progress but not close to a guarantee that they can pray 'in Jesus' name.'" This action follows in the wake of strong critical reaction to guidelines issued by the Pentagon last summer, as described in this article from our February issue.----

THE ATHEIST FOXHOLE by Angelo Codevilla

Arguably the worst, most gratuitous, most ominous act inflicted on America in living memory was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's August 29, 2005 promulgation of guidelines for religious expression in the U.S. Air Force -- intended as a model for the rest of the armed forces. Their essence is to forbid anyone in uniform from giving "the reasonable perception that [the Armed Forces, and hence the U.S. government] support any religion over other religions or the idea of religion over the choice of no religious affiliation." However, they place no restriction on anyone who might advocate atheism, or mock, or restrict, or cause discomfort to, the religiously observant in any setting. Indeed they are all about placing the U.S. government's weight against talking about the presence, or praying for the guidance or protection, of God. Meanwhile, the Air Force and other services require their members to take instruction in "sensitive" thought and behavior amounting to a secular religion.

Marginalizing religion among people likely to be shot at is always a bad idea. But discouraging religion in forces once headed by George Washington, whose current members come from the most devout sectors of the modern world's most devout country, at the behest of people scarcely present in those forces, shows incompetence more than evil. Stalin's rules for the Red Army in World War II were more God-friendly than Rumsfeld's.

Until recently, traditions and the habits of servicemen combined with common sense to exempt the Armed Forces from the U.S. government's longstanding Kulturkampf against religion in America. Anyone going up to the Secretary of the Air Force's Pentagon office would pass by a huge mural of an Air Force family going to church, with the words, "Here I am Lord, send me." Cadets at the Naval Academy still pray collectively before common meals. Young men away from home for the first time -- at least those who do not simply drink and whore -- find religious practice a lifeline that keeps them connected to normal human life. The advent of the "All Volunteer Force" in the 1970s increased the proportion of practicing Christians among both officers and enlisted. Since 9/11, the "foxhole factor" has come into play: The number of atheists is inversely proportional to that of bullets flying. In short, there have been the very opposite of popular pressures for secularization.

THE EXCUSE THAT THE MOST recent restrictions on religion are being forced by the courts is insincere. Yes, one Mikey Weinstein filed a suit alleging that the longstanding patterns of behavior at the Air Force Academy amounted to "severe, systemic and pervasive" religious discrimination. But no ruling of the Supreme Court has invalidated them. Nor has any law done so. Yet a few officers wanted to have less Christianity there, and key officials in the Rumsfeld Pentagon agreed. Nor does the excuse wash that the restrictions are necessary for the maintenance of good military order. The pragmatic way to ensure unit cohesion is surely not to displease the many for the sake of the few.

The guidelines are more radical than they seem. "Public prayer," they direct, "should not normally be included" -- read, is banned -- except in "extraordinary circumstances." The only ones they cite are "mass casualties, preparation for imminent combat, and natural disasters" (emphasis mine). In essence, the Bush Pentagon lets the name of God be invoked only when absolutely necessary to provide the equivalent of a shot of booze, or of a mood-altering drug. Practically, it treats religion as Marx described it: "the opiate of the masses." Prima faciae, even opening a routine meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance flouts the guidelines, because it affirms that America is anything but indifferent to God.

Worse, the guidelines also permit prayer where, "consistent with longstanding military tradition," there are "change of command, promotion ceremonies, or significant celebrations..." -- but only if such "prayer" is emptied of "specific beliefs" and intended "to add a heightened sense of seriousness or solemnity." How patent unseriousness may add seriousness is part of the Bush White House's closely guarded formula for success. It may not have realized that it outdid the judges who had tried to outlaw the Pledge of Allegiance.

THE GUIDELINES PLACE special restrictions and responsibilities on chaplains. Heretofore they had been allowed, even encouraged, to shepherd men of their own denomination, urge members of other denominations to be faithful to them, and to try to bring the godless to God. Now they are to help restrict their flock's own urges to proselytize, to restrict their own and their flock's religious practices to the guidelines, and above all to give no one the impression that God exists and that it matters. To chaplains who wear the uniform, these are orders. But these orders raise the most fundamental questions of all: What is the chaplain doing in uniform? For whom is he working? To what end?

A chaplain's job has always been inherently problematic. On the one hand he must do nothing to impair his flock's ability to do their military jobs. On the other, he cannot simply be yet another voice urging people to do what they're told regardless of what they might think. His authority comes from God, on whose behalf he cares for the things that are most important to each individual. For Christian chaplains, Jesus' words "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's" have offered a practical solution to this conflict. In America, a nation explicitly "under God," the chaplains could counsel people to follow the faith's dictates fully, while obeying orders wholeheartedly because the two did not conflict.

But what can a Christian chaplain under the guidelines say when he reads, or someone asks him about, the Gospel's charge to "go out among all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father..."? Or what can a Jewish one say when several of his flock are disciplined for gathering together in prayer at the times prescribed by the Law? The free exercise of religion involves speaking and acting in public. Clergymen's stock in trade must be to urge religious practice in everyday life. What can they say, what can serious Christians or Jews think, about an organization in which they risk their lives while demanding that they behave in ways that they believe endanger their immortal souls? It becomes difficult for them to say, I belong here.

It is inherently difficult to believe that one is serving God by working in an organization that will penalize you for speaking his name. But does not one serve God by serving His America? Not if America insists that those who love God shut up about it while those who mock him may do so at will. Whose America is it anyway? It cannot belong equally to people whose views of it are incompatible with one another. The Air Force cadets who charged that a critical mass of evangelicals at the Academy had created an environment they could not stand, and the captain featured in the New York Times article that supported them, had every right to tell themselves and the world something like "this isn't me, and this is not my idea of America." And, because their views of America coincided with those of powerful people in Washington, the Bush administration promulgated guidelines congenial to them. But, by the very same token, these guidelines frame an environment unacceptable to serious Christians and Jews.

THE ALL VOLUNTEER FORCE lives by attracting people. Its character, and its size, depend on who finds military service attractive. There may exist a pool of young people big enough to fill America's military who combine appetite for physical challenges, tolerance for danger, a spirit of self- sacrifice, discipline, and patriotism, but who don't really care whether America is "under God" or not, who get along just fine without the Ten Commandments, are more bothered by piety than by homosexuality, and are inspired by "sensitivity" training. And perhaps the social changes forced upon the U.S. military in recent years will bring such people out of the woodwork and into uniform. Maybe America will end up with atheist foxholes. But surely these changes tell the families who now actually fill the Armed Forces that maybe the kinds of people who are making the rules should also be doing the fighting.

Angelo M. Codevilla is professor of international relations at Boston University, a Claremont Institute fellow, and a senior editor of The American Spectator. His intellectual history of U.S. foreign relations will be published by Yale University Press.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Government
KEYWORDS: agnosticism; army; atheism; chaplain; dod; faith; hijackedreligion; ifitsbadchurchyposts; nazis; rumsfeld; wardchurchillbuff
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1 posted on 02/24/2006 9:39:57 PM PST by churchillbuff
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To: churchillbuff

Rumsfield is a closet Muslim, everybody knows that. Rove too!

2 posted on 02/24/2006 9:47:25 PM PST by bybybill (If the Rats win, we are doomed)
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To: churchillbuff

I served, and There was one time, when a brand new chaplain maid the rounds, and I (being an atheist) joked about being a wiccan, I was willing to make such a silly statement cuz at the time (it was a VERY brief period of time) I was a bit of a golden boy, and I SWEAR TO GOD! (if there is one) This young, asian baptist 2lou chaplain arrived at my dorm (yeah, It's not that bad a life) and asked if wanted to talk, at which point he handed me his FRIGGEN PHONE! and there was a friggen dude claiming to be a wiccan on the phone.

I immediately hung up and appologized to the chaplain, and then he sat down, had a beer and we talked.

Chaplains are servicemembers just like others, they chose to not prosceletize (spelling?) their faith, ONLY so they can serve the needs of the men and women who serve their nation. Like I mentioned, I'm not a believe, but it is JUST as noble, and altruistic on the parts of chaplains to NOT force those they counsel into a particular faith, in fact, they tend to go out of their way to connect their "flock," though it is not the same flock they envision, with their shepherd.

and, unlike all other officer Corps, it is the chaplins who are at their best at their earliest.

3 posted on 02/24/2006 9:48:32 PM PST by wickedpinto (The road map to peace is a straight line down an Israeli rifle.)
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To: churchillbuff
This whole chain of events and their associated outcomes have been disappointing to observe.
4 posted on 02/24/2006 9:49:36 PM PST by Texas_Jarhead
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To: churchillbuff
The number of atheists is inversely proportional to that of bullets flying.

Stopped right there..Flat out wrong if not a outright falsehood


The old adage that there are “no atheists in foxholes” does not appear to apply as much as it used to. It turns out that the active duty troops in the American armed forces are somewhat less religious than the population as a whole.

Americans over all are 78 percent Christian, 1.3 percent Jewish, .5 percent Moslem, .4 percent Hindu, 13 percent unknown or none and the rest various other sects and faiths. But the troops are 55 percent Christian, .3 percent Moslem, .27 percent Jewish, .04 percent Hindu, .24 percent Buddhist and 34 percent unknown or no preference.

Part of this may be a generational thing, as the troops are younger than the population as a whole. People become more religious as they get older. Another factor is probably education, as the high education standards for recruits means those in uniform have several years more formal education than their civilian peers. More literate too, as people in uniform read at a level a full year ahead of civilians. As people become more educated, they tend to be less religious.

5 posted on 02/24/2006 9:52:58 PM PST by qam1 (There's been a huge party. All plates and the bottles are empty, all that's left is the bill to pay)
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To: bybybill

Less chaplins, more troops.

6 posted on 02/24/2006 9:58:13 PM PST by Hidden Imam
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To: qam1
As people become more educated, they tend to be less religious.

Pure atheistic arrogance and hubris.

7 posted on 02/24/2006 9:58:51 PM PST by Right Brother
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To: Right Brother

It's called "statistics."

8 posted on 02/24/2006 10:01:11 PM PST by orionblamblam (A furore Normannorum libra nos, Domine)
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To: Right Brother

It's sort of like "As people become more educated, they tend to be less conservative."

9 posted on 02/24/2006 10:02:52 PM PST by Texas_Jarhead
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To: churchillbuff

The function of the chaplain is to guard the First Amendment Rights of the soldier. This has not been done. Chaplains who buck the lione officers are not supported by the chief of chaplains.

10 posted on 02/24/2006 10:06:39 PM PST by RobbyS ( CHIRHO)
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To: Right Brother

Depends on what is meant by "educated." One can be educated inb line with the doctrines of the Third Reich. Nazis also had contempt for Christianity and thought of themselves as "progressives."

11 posted on 02/24/2006 10:10:00 PM PST by RobbyS ( CHIRHO)
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To: Texas_Jarhead

True. Education is not synonymous with knowledge, hence the term "educated idiot".

12 posted on 02/24/2006 10:11:06 PM PST by Right Brother
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To: wickedpinto

In my opinion, if you are thinking about risking your eternal existence in the afterlife because you have conned yourself into believing that you have a better grasp on the Universe than Jesus Christ, C.S. Lewis, Einstein, Moses and Muhammed did, I would reccomend that you at least consult with someone that is equipped with the mental fortitude to spell out both sides of the arguement in a way that someone like yourself can understand.

The very fact that you call yourself an atheist when you are clearly agnostic at best tells me that you should do a little more research. I suggest God In the Docks by CS Lewis. It is not an attempt to sway you one way or the other, but a collection of debates that CS Lewis had with religious figures that took place while he was atheist. He then discusses the path he took as a result of those debates to becoming a man of faith. Just a thought.

13 posted on 02/24/2006 10:12:07 PM PST by willyd
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To: RobbyS

14 posted on 02/24/2006 10:13:01 PM PST by M203M4
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To: wickedpinto
but not close to a guarantee that they can pray 'in Jesus' name.'"

So, Christians are not allowed to pray in the Air Force.

What tolerance. But then, we Christians know that "because they hated me, they will hate you also"
15 posted on 02/24/2006 10:14:05 PM PST by Sweetjustusnow (Oust the IslamoCommies here and abroad.)
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To: RobbyS
The function of the chaplain is to guard the First Amendment Rights of the soldier

No - the function of the chaplain is to either "perform or provide religious support" to all members of the military, the families, retirees, and civilian employees. I know - I wrote the Religious Support Manual for the Army that was published in 1993-4 time frame

Chaplain, US Army, retired

16 posted on 02/24/2006 10:18:45 PM PST by LiteKeeper (Beware the secularization of America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
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To: willyd

Agnosticism requires an acknowledgement of a KNOWING lord. I don't believe that.

I don't intend to offend you Willy, to tell the truth, I envy you. Truth is I lack faith in a LOT more than just the divine. :)

However? I envy your faith (not cuz I'm superior, but because in fact I KNOW I'm a lesser man, who sometimes has bigger arguments, but an argument only gets you into a fight :) I'm an Atheist, because the "god" I hope for, is not a loving one, but an indifferent one, I PRAY, not for an eternal joy, and satisfaction in the presence of absolute goodness, but rather, I pray for the indifferent god of absolute and eternal blackness. Close my mind, and let me rest.

And I have read, I've Sought out meaning throughout most of my life, and the bible did not suite me, and I like to think I am a good person, I have done good things, FAR more than bad, and I have always regretted and appologized, not to god, but to the person I wronged. If there is a Christian god? he should still accept me, because I accept the teachings of Jesus, though I do not name him god or prophet.

If God is so fickle that he can't accpet that? then F him.

17 posted on 02/24/2006 10:25:02 PM PST by wickedpinto (The road map to peace is a straight line down an Israeli rifle.)
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To: qam1
"As people become more educated, they tend to be less religious."

I disagree.

18 posted on 02/24/2006 10:25:22 PM PST by sageb1 (This is the Final Crusade. There are only 2 sides. Pick one.)
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To: Sweetjustusnow

Of course.

Question? If you ever felt the urge to punch someone, but were affraid to get hit who would you punch?

The person who accepts the strike, and responds with love? or the person who doesn't give you the chance to lash out and kills your family?

That is why the MSM is full of crap, and why the anti-christian, CHRISTIAN motive of all aspects of the US government is intolerable.

19 posted on 02/24/2006 10:27:16 PM PST by wickedpinto (The road map to peace is a straight line down an Israeli rifle.)
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To: wickedpinto

Sounds like you have a lot of problems.

20 posted on 02/24/2006 10:27:52 PM PST by sageb1 (This is the Final Crusade. There are only 2 sides. Pick one.)
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