Washington Times doesn’t Get Secularism

It’s kind of weird when a relatively mainstream newspaper posts something like this.

But then I realised I was confusing the Washington Times with the Post. The Washington Times used to be sponsored by the Moonies and is a rather mad paper.

There are no atheists in foxholes, but there are plenty of friends of atheism at the Pentagon. The Obama administration has encouraged a mighty revival of nothing where the generals plot strategy at the temple of death and destruction.

There are plenty of atheists in foxholes.

Incidentally? At no point has a Hindu gone into a foxhole and come out a Christian. In fact at no point during the History of Warfare have we seen people swap faiths to Christianity when being subject to stress if they don’t consider it to be legitimate. Unless of course we are to count the inquisition which was more “Accept Jesus or Suffer just like him”.

And I have been to the Pentagon. You make it sound like the Temple of Doom when it’s more an edifice dedicated to the fine art of the application of the Laws of Newton to turn things into smaller pieces or put holes in them.

It’s a Temple of Boom.

The flaming heart suggests we invade Iraq!

A report Tuesday by the Family Research Council documents a pattern of hostility from military brass toward the free expression of religious beliefs by the rank-and-file in uniform. These are the men who put their lives on the line in the foxholes to preserve the freedom denied to them.

The Family Research Council also opposes the right of women to healthcare and wants to hunt homosexuals for sport. If we pointed out that slavery is legal in the Bible then the odds are even that the FRC would push for the ownership of humans as property.

I am well aware through reading Rock Beyond Belief that the opposite is true. I have also had contact with ex-service men from a variety of services. There is a rather amusing joke that the “Christian” Great Britain has a better and more secular army than the “Secular” USA. In many cases soldiers have been forced to attend mainly Christian revival meetings and a lot of evangelical Christian “missionary” work occurs within the army.

Now we have to go back to the notion of a Foxhole Atheist.

Why do people “find god” in a foxhole? When the crash of shell and the whinge of bullet and the sweat and blood and urine and shit and fear assail your nostrils. Why does one find god there?


IF we are to believe the religious? God either moves in mysterious ways (I move in mysterious ways. Especially after a few spirits). Or that in times of great need, god will come and save you.

And here we have a confirmation bias. At the lowest point and at our most fearful we are not rational. Fear does not make one rational about things. In that we make a bargain that if we “live” we will do x, y and z. It’s part of mortality.

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Bargaining? But who do we bargain with? War is the ingenious use of Newton’s laws to turn living people into dead ones. Never do you see more innovation than when it comes to findiing a new way to advance the pointed stick. So much so that war is out of our control. A lot of the weapons that you fear are down to blind luck. They are not the personal round of the sniper. It is not the bullet with your name on it but the artillery shell with “To whom it may concern” that the foxholer fears.

And in this uncontrolled environment you think of those who are said to control the uncontrollable.

For this we must look at 1 story and 2 real life occurrences of fox holers.

I love Blackadder. I don’t get America’s fascination with Mr. Bean, because Rowan Atkinson is infinitely superior in Blackadder. And the show ends in effect as a series with Blackadder goes Forth. For those who are unaware, Blackadder had a star studded cast. Atkinson, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie were regulars. The show went from silliness in Season 1 to  some of the finest satire. Season 4 was widely regarded to be the best. In a rarity the changing historical background allowed for Blackadder to remain fresh and it only got better.

Throughout Season 4 the theme is the frightful waste of war particularly World War 1. In that they go over the top. Edmund tries to get out of it. He tries everything from pretending to be mad to becoming a cook and each time it fails. The entire thing is about the futility and waste. In this lowest of low, and desperation a smart man would prefer to shoot himself in the foot or engage  in some bizarre scheme to get out. In the end he was willing to be sectioned iin a WW1 era asylum rather than face death.

Suddenly believing in magic is nothing but a testament to the horror of war. It is why we must not glorify it. Warfare is the breakdown of peace. We must prepare for it, but not treat it like a pleasure.

I am also a fan of Louie Zamperini.

He attributes his survival to a god. I must point out that others did not survive. Either his god works in mysterious ways or his god plays favourites. He became an Evangelical Christian while fighting PTSD.

His story is remarkable because it demonstrates human endurance. He was not a religious man when he underwent the experience. He did so as an agnostic or a lapsed Christian. He only really picked up Christianity later in life when he remembered his foxhole moment. He attributed his survival to the actions of a god. Without thinking about why others did not make it.

His foxhole moment? Stuck in a holed life raft getting strafed by a Japanese bomber while fending off sharks. At that point of no control he made a promise to a non-existent being that is said to control the uncontrollable that if he survived he would believe. He forgot all about that until he suffered the worst of PTSD. For him the fantasy keeps him functional.

The third is from a story I heard Hitchens tell. Of a man in a Concentration Camp. An atheist Jew overhearing  another Jewish man pray to be spared from the gas chamber. The atheist points out that should the man’s prayer be granted, a God would have to doom another man to death for the prayer of the first. And is that a just god?

The foxhole conversion is not a testament to the strength of “god” but of the fallacy of belief in a time of great stress. It is a tragedy of warfare. To embellish it and give it value is to think of war as glorious rather than a glorious waste of life. To embellish it leads to thinking of war as fun and as profitable rather than something that we must try and use only as a last resort. We must be reluctant warriors.

The Christian Right ignore the LGBT soldiers and the atheists because it suits them. Otherwise it’s hard to depict those two groups as cowards. It’s the same reason why they claim that we don’t do charity. Because if we ensure that people don’t see any heroes from that group they will believe that Atheists are all selfish cowards and it will be just so much easier to ignore us.

The report cites more than three-dozen examples of the “pressures to impose a secular, anti-religious culture on our nation’s military services.” The culture has grown, like e coli in a petri dish, under President Obama.

The Family Research Council are just hacked off that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment suddenly applies to them. And that they can no longer simply gain state sponsorship for evangelical bullshit in the US Army.

There is nothing stopping soldiers from believing, It’s just that the belief cannot impinge on that of others. A Muslim soldier may do the rites of Ramadan in a secular army (outside of Combat. Islam has rules with regards to proxy fasting) but in a secular army you won’t be forced to join him. It’s the same with Christianity.

An Army master sergeant was punished for serving sandwiches from Chick-fil-A at his own promotion party. Because the owners of Chick-fil-A are outspoken in support of traditional marriage, the sergeant was “investigated, reprimanded, threatened with judicial action, and given a bad efficiency report.”

Yes. For the same reason that the Sergeant would not be allowed to flog sandwiches made by the KKK. The owners of this institution have funded a campaign to deny the basic rights of other human beings.

Now you may hate black people. That’s “fine” I suppose.  That’s your right. Your prejudices are stupid but you are entitled to them.

You are not entitled to ensuring the rest of us share your prejudice.

The US Army is an equal opportunity employer, at least on paper. To provide a safe environment for all involved the US Army must be discrimination free.

That means no Sandwiches Made Out of Hate. Bring food in from McDonalds just like everyone else.

A painting depicting a policeman with a Scripture citation and the image of a cross was removed from the dining hall of an Air Force base in Idaho an hour after a single enlisted man complained. An Air Forceofficer was told to he couldn’t keep a Bible in his desk. Fox News reported that his superiors were concerned that it would “appear that he was condoning a particular religion.” Airmen could express their beliefs only as long as it didn’t “make others uncomfortable.”

Yes and that’s fine. Seriously? It’s the US Army not the Young Men’s Christian Association which I must point out is a lot more secular and gay friendly than this.

And that painting just sounds all sorts of terrible.

I am sure if we had a picture of Mohammed visiting Jerusalem a lot more people would have complained.

The First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of speech and religion seems not to apply in the modern military, choked with political correctness enforced by intimidated admirals and cowed generals who have little understanding of the Constitution or history or the law. When an atheist fidgets, the generals look for a place to hide.

It’s always embarrassing when Brits have a better knowledge of American law than “true patriots”.

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.

Half a truth is half a lie. The rule is clear, the excessive usage of Christian imagery and indeed the US Army’s fascination with Christianity as the norm is against the First Amendment. To invoke it is like shooting yourself in the foot. Ironically another action associated with foxholes.

The jihad against religion, specifically the Christian faith, is led by the falsely named Military Religious Freedom Foundation, created by one Mikey Weinstein. The Family Research Council suggests that Mr. Weinstein has the Pentagon on his speed-dial, making it easy to call a general every time he sees a soldier making the sign of the cross or appearing to be on the verge of silent prayer.

It’s because Obama (like myself) is a Secret Muslim. We get together and apply Taqiyah to each other and then eat Bacon Sandwiches to fool everyone. It’s fucking sweet. If you want to be a Secret Muslim? It’s simple. Pick a Secret Muslim Name (Mine is Ibn Sina, a Islamic Golden Age polymath of fucking everything and father of modern medicine. I hear Suleiman the Magnificent is up for grabs….).

I like this notion that Mikey Weinstein (is he a secret Jew? If that’s the case is Obama a secret Muslim Jew? Because his first name is very clearly Barrack? Maybe he is a secret MILITARY Muslim Jew because his first name is Barrack? It’s like fucking Inception here!) is running around only picking on Christians who are quietly reading the Bible rather than say “People explicitly turning main traffic areas and offices into Christian environments and pushing a religious ethos onto others”.

Four decades ago, Madalyn Murray O’Hair took glee in being called “the most-hated woman in America” for her role in the abolition of prayer in the public schools. This was an early step in the fundamental transformation of society.

I wish they abolished prayer in schools and actively taught Americans what the First Amendment really means.

The Founders never expected this. Not long after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, its author, Thomas Jefferson, drafted a bill for Virginia’s General Assembly to protect religious liberty. “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious Worship place or Ministry whatsoever,” he wrote. The evangelical atheists conveniently forget the rest of it: a citizen shall not “otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

Ah! I see the Washington Times is late to Atheist Fisticuffs.

Dear Christians of America. Stop Bringing up Thomas Jefferson as a reason for doing anything, doing so makes you look stupid since he was not very religious and a staunch secularist.

And also the Washington Times is kind of mad in it’s interpretation of Jefferson’s statement. He chose to ignore the first part of Thomas Jefferson’s statement of being compelled to support of frequent a religious group and then promptly tried to apply the second.

At no point has the US Army forced anyone to not be Christian. There are Christian spaces and Chapels and groups. When Atheists and other religions tried to form similar spaces and groups they were opposed vehemently by Christians. In fact the problem is that the US Army is forcing these groups to utilise the Christian Spaces and Programs which voids the very statement of Thomas Jefferson.

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. – Jefferson

Also? Quoting Jefferson is stupid when trying to defend the establishment of Christianity as a state religion.

The House and Senate Armed Services committees last month voted to restore this instruction to the generals with an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, protecting service members’ right to practice religious beliefs as long as they don’t interfere with the constitutional liberties of others. Such a measure shouldn’t even be necessary, but Mr. Obama naturally threatens a veto. If lonely atheists want more company in their foxhole, they should get it without the government’s help.

Yes it is necessary. Because Christians keep forgetting it.

It’s like saying “It’s not necessary to tell people to wear a seatbelt”. When seatbelts were first introduced people refused to wear them. Only when enforced did they do so.

And a quick check on Wikipedia says this wasn’t even warranted. That issues such as torture and indefinite holding and wars on Iran were bigger things to worry about than Christians being told to keep their Bibles out of daily life.

We shouldn’t have to tell people to respect others beliefs but Christianity has a long track record of not doing so. So it is necessary.

Your argument is one of “I wish atheists stopped whinging so we can read our Bibles in peace! Who needs secularism!”.

However the moment someone discusses a Islamic Community Centre anywhere in New York with relations to the Twin Towers and you expect us to defeat the dreaded Ground Zero Mosque.

If I may suggest something to those who support this line of thought and indeed the Family Research Council.

Put down your Bibles and read the US Constitution. I don’t think Bible Classes are as necessary as classes on the American Constitution.


  1. gshelley says

    Good points, but it is important not to take what the FRC claims at face value. The couple I am familiar with are spun almost out of recognition, and I expect the others are similarly dishonest and misleading takes on what actually happened.

  2. says

    I hear Suleiman the Magnificent is up for grabs
    Sweeeeeeet. Sign me up if that or Osman Osmanli is open.

    Also? Quoting Jefferson is stupid when trying to defend the establishment of Christianity as a state religion.

    Check out Chris Rodda’s blog if you don’t already – The backlog has a ton of them trying to pretend this is nonsense and he was totes for the establishment of a Christian state religion.

  3. katzenklavier says

    As his books, speeches, and website: http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/ make clear, Mikey Weinstein battles mainly the inroads that end-times dominionists have made in US military culture these days.

    It is this specific subset of Christians which has engineered its influence in the military by infiltrating the chaplains corps and, most notably, the service academies. The accounts of religious indoctrination and hazing of soldiers, cadets, and junior officers are legion (and evidence-based).

    As noted above, when called on it these wing nuts are the first to dissimulate, whine, and cry “foul.”

  4. stever says

    I think that there have always been plenty of atheists in foxholes, but the surviving ones learned early to keep their heads down and their mouths shut. Can you think of an easier place to get away with murder than a battlefield?

  5. F says

    There are no atheists in foxholes

    If lonely atheists want more company in their foxhole,


  6. firsttimereader says

    Hi, 2 points.

    Firstly, I think series 2 of Blackadder (the Elizabethan one as I remember) is comparable to series 4. Not as thought provoking, but still damn funny.

    Secondly, I have a bit of a problem with people quoting the Jefferson line about US not being intrinsically a Christian nation. I suspect it’s a bit of diplomatic double speak. The guy was sucking up the north africans to get a deal. That phrase doesn’t appear in the Arabic version, and the deal was “re-done” not many years later without that contentious content, probably because by the later treaty the US was a bit more confident and didn’t feel the need to bullshit the north Africans. It’s interesting but I don’t think it’s that important in the debate, Just saying…I mean politicians making shit up to get a treaty signed, whoever heard of that!

  7. Corvus illustris says

    … intimidated admirals and cowed generals …

    … evangelical atheists …

    See also: invisible pink unicorns.

  8. firsttimereader says

    I forgot, good post, and nice that you link to a former FT Blogger. There has been some bad blood as I understand it, but if the guy writes good stuff, he should be promoted whichever “collective” he belongs to.

  9. firsttimereader says

    Oh, and a more general comment, the behavior of the Christians is sadly predictable isn’t it? Those people are so “entitled” they really think that they have a right to make people listen to prayers on army bases.

    Army atheist activists are indeed doing important work in the US, not in the UK though, nobody seems to give a monkey’s, as it does not, as one says, seem to affect the price of fish!

  10. says

    Justin and Paul were one of the people who gave me a lot of traffic and were the people who found out who I was before I was asked to write here. I assume it’s either them or Stephanie Zvan who made the recommendation. I don’t know of any bad blood or what have you between them and FTB.

  11. firsttimereader says


    Well there has been some disagreements as Justin describes in a recent post about the move. I suspect it’s one of those that will not reach a clear conclusion as to who is to blame.

    A long time ago, I had a brief involvement with far left political movements in the UK. What led me to leave was not disagreements with policy , it was the constant bickering, splitting, joining, power squabbles, smearing and all the rest. It was actually worse than that scene in the life of Brian regarding the People’s Front of Judea….

    I comment here because I see little of that in your content.

    Of course as you get a little older, you becomes less radical, it’s very hard to stop that happening.

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