Skip to comments.Atheist groups push for military chaplains
Posted on 04/28/2011 1:27:29 PM PDT by NYer
As Deacon Greg Kandra says, it sounds like an Onion headline, but it's not: The New York Times reports that groups of atheists and secular humanists in the military are pushing to add some of their own to the ranks of military chaplains:
Joining the chaplain corps is part of a broader campaign by atheists to win official acceptance in the military. Such recognition would make it easier for them to raise money and meet on military bases. It would help ensure that chaplains, religious or atheist, would distribute their literature, advertise their events and advocate for them with commanders.
But winning the appointment of an atheist chaplain will require support from senior chaplains, a tall order. Many chaplains are skeptical: Do atheists belong to a “faith group,” a requirement for a chaplain candidate? Can they provide support to religious troops of all faiths, a fundamental responsibility for chaplains?
Jason Torpy, a former Army captain who is president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, said humanist chaplains would do everything religious chaplains do, including counsel troops and help them follow their faiths. But just as a Protestant chaplain would not preside over a Catholic service, a humanist might not lead a religious ceremony, though he might help organize it.
“Humanism fills the same role for atheists that Christianity does for Christians and Judaism does for Jews,” Mr. Torpy said in an interview. “It answers questions of ultimate concern; it directs our values.”
If we're simply talking about counselors for people of no particular faith, I don't see the problem. After all, as the article notes, the number of military personnel claiming to be atheist or agnostic is higher than the number of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists -- all groups that have chaplains. Being able to speak with someone who shares a similar worldview about the stresses and pressure of active duty can only be a good thing.
But are chaplains more than just glorified counselors, or people who "direct our values"? Can atheists be said to profess a common creed that requires a minister? The article notes that officers also have to have a graduate degree in theology to become a chaplain -- which seems like it might be somewhat problematic for an atheist...
The question here sounds like it's less about having a minister for people of no faith so much as opening up opportunities for these groups (access to meeting space, etc.) and pushing back against what they perceive as the "Christian beliefs [that] pervade military culture." But is there a better way to address those issues?
That's not a problem at all. I could get a graduate degree in Soviet Studies, but I'm not from there, nor do I agree with any part of the Soviet philosophy. Other more obvious problem abound though. Here I am trying to make people realize atheism isn't a religion, then you get idiots like these trying to make it into one.
Dude... if your belief system has what are essentially government-recognized "clergy"... it is a religion. LOL.
Too much logic there for some people.
That's what makes this request absurd. .
Don’t worry, they don’t have a prayer of this happening. /s
How wonderfully interesting. Now when certain nutbars claim something like this:
Then they have to back this push for atheists in the chaplain corps now don’t they?
Getting back to reality the answer to this: “Can atheists be said to profess a common creed that requires a minister?” is no, ergo atheism is not a religion.
That link is funny. For all the talk of atheism not being a religion you sure see a lot of atheists on that site defending their faith. They get really insulting about it too, reacting in a way that is remarkably similar to people whose beliefs are mocked and insulted.
Hmmmm...wouldn’t atheism have to be a “religion” to have “chaplins”?
As a military chaplain (retired), I can see a few problems with this. First, Congress (via military regulations) has determined that any chaplain must be endorsed to the chaplaincy by an agency representing their denominational ministers. IOW, they have to have sufficient organization to agree on a review board that looks at both denominational qualifications and physical/mental qualifications of those fit to serve on active duty. The atheists would have to come up with such an agency and some review process about qualifications of a group that doesn’t yet exist. (Not saying they can’t get that together, but it could take some time.)
2. The atheist chaplain would have to provide general religious support to those not of his faith group. IOW, he’d have to help the catholic soldier get catholic help, and the baptist soldier get baptist help, etc., etc. He would NOT be permitted to tell them to take a hike.
3. He is also required by law to conduct worship for his faith group. I don’t think there is any doctrinal consensus among atheists on what that would even begin to look like. Additionally, he’d have to arrange for such worship for those not in his faith group when in a job that requires him to be with soldiers.
4. He is to provide counsel to the commander on matters of morale as touched by religion. He is to provide/arrange counseling for families, individuals, etc. He is to conduct weddings, funerals, etc. All of these things would have to be redefined.
5. Finally, he is to be a symbol of hope in darkest hours that speak of death. His symbol would be “kiss your ass goodbye, ‘cause once you bite the dust here, it’s all over there, too.”
6. Finally, are the atheist groups sure they want to argue that they are officially an organized body of beliefs about deities....a religion?
That is not quite accurate. They have to have an advanced degree acceptable to their endorsing agency.
Mormons, for example, often have their advanced degrees in counseling and other subjects. I don't believe they have seminaries in the tradition of historic Christianity.
"Seminary" to a Mormon is more like a catechism gathering for the young.
First of all, thank you for your service.
I think there are two questions here: should the atheists have a chaplaincy, and are they ready? I think it is obvious that they are not ready, for some of the reasons you list: lack of organization, lack of a formulated doctrines of faith.
On helping other faith chaplains, I don’t think thay compare to a Baptist and a Catholic, but they can compare to Hindu and a Christian. In other words, “I don’t think your religion makes any sense but I can help carrying that heavy idol of yours”. I can easily imagine an atheist with a collegial attitude. Note that if it is a requirement of service, then belligerent types simply won’t apply or won’t stay long. Like in any other professional work, it requires professional attitude, and an atheist can be a good professional.
What they lack now can be developed. They can have a congress, establsh some principles, adopt some core statements, agree on some symbolism and bingo, they have their own set of bells and smells and are ready to go. After all, a military man does not have to choose a chaplain, — if he is of generally atheistic persuasion but does not like the work of the hypothetical congress, he is no worse than now.
But should they? The core question is, are they a worldview based on a faith or are they not? I think they are. Their faith is that there is no supernatural life. So far they have been insisting that Atheism is not a faith. But if they come around and admit that they are what they are based on a faith, I don’t think anyone should stand in their way.
Can an atheist give hope to a dying fellow atheist? The soviet Union had a rich experience with that, and there is evidence that it worked for them somewhat. In the war with Germany, there was a surge of Christian faith (and Stalin was smart enough to not suppress that), but also there were acts of heroism done for atheistic ideation to be sure. The usual line was advancing ideas by their death, rather than gaining eternal life. The dying soldier would be counceled that he served his country, saved many lives of others, or perhaps served the goals of Communism. An American Atheist would fashion a similar set in line with the American values. So, yeah, they can provide a measure of comfort.
I personally think that Atheists should be barred from the military, the Academe, or political office, but so long as they are considered legitimate in their stupid faith, they are legitimate in sustaining it in the military service.
will the Marxist atheistic Chaplin also have the ability to do an Objectivist atheistic service?
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