Caleb Dalton doesn’t quite get “Atheist” Chaplains.
That chaplains are religious is not surprising, since Merriam-Webster’s defines a military chaplain as “a priest or other . . . religious leader who performs religious services for a military group.” That military chaplains believe in some outside being is not surprising: after all, the chaplaincy’s motto is, Pro Deo et Patria (For God and Country).
Which god? There are non-Christian Chaplains in the Chaplaincy.
What is surprising is that prominent humanists like Jason Heap would apply to be chaplains.
Because Humanists and Atheists have “issues” of faith too. And it’s kind of biased to claim that a job has to belong exclusively to people who have an imaginary friend.
And let’s get this straight. I bet Dalton thinks some Chaplains do have imaginary friends rather than gods since there are Hindu and Muslim chaplains.
As a humanist, Heap does not recognize the existence of God or the truth of any religion. He has admitted to only being able to engage a member of the armed forces on a “philosophical” non-religious level, and that he would not be able to lead a person in prayer on the eve of battle or when dying on the field—presumably because he does not believe that anyone exists to pray to.
By that logic he is more likely to the value the life of those soldiers because there is only one life they have and no magic reward for perceived morality.
Current chaplains, however, can and do engage and assist the philosophical and moral needs of the estimated 0.67 percent of the military that self-identify as atheist or agnostic. As U. S. Representative and Air Force Chaplain Doug Collins noted during the brief <href=”#page=7″>house debate,
Except they don’t. Military Atheists have repeatedly been discriminated against. One of my first big links to my work was thanks to Justin Griffith and Paul Loebe’s Rock Beyond Belief because I made points about atheists in foxholes and all that malarky.
… if a chaplain is doing their job right, then all feel welcome. When I was in Iraq, I would go across and see everyone at night. I had many times those who profess no faith at all who would come to me and say, “Chaplain, I don’t believe there is a God, but I have a wife at home that I’m having trouble with. Can you talk to me?” That’s what a chaplain does.
Question? If a Catholic Priest is a Chaplain, what advice can he give about relationships having never been in one? Any advice this chaplain gives in this situation is purely textbook.
And there are GLBT soldiers, remind me again what the official religious line to these men and women is?
If a religious service member, however, asks an “atheist chaplain” to pray for him, the “chaplain” can’t.
But you can pray still and he can give advice, advice not grounded in mythology but hard reality. Sometimes that is what you need to hear most of all.
The primary job description of a chaplain involves religious duties. Whether it’s conducting religious services or providing advice pertaining to an individual’s religion, an atheist “chaplain” cannot fulfill those roles, and atheist members would, presumably, not desire those services. An atheist could only partially fulfill secondary chaplain roles, such as informal counsel, moral guidance, and comfort in battle (e.g., atheist chaplain applicant Mr. Heap would not pray for a dying soldier). A chaplain, however, can certainly meet those needs.
Then the role of the Chaplain needs to be expanded.
The military created the chaplaincy to meet the religious needs of service members, but, as noted above, chaplains also provide other services as well. While atheists and agnostics do not believe they have need of the religious services offered by chaplains, there is no doubt that they have need of a listening ear or a word of advice.
Except the current Chaplaincy has been often used to evangelise and many non-Christian soldiers feel uncomfortable with an inherent highly Christian trend through the armed forces that often runs roughshod over other faiths when the Armed Forces is supposed to be Secular. Secular Chaplains offers an alternative.
Thus the current chaplaincy offers these non-religious services on the same basis to armed forces members of any faith or no faith at all. An atheist “chaplain,” however, simply cannot offer the religious services required of a chaplain anymore than a square can declare itself to be circle.
As I said. Neither can Muslim Chaplains and Hindu Chaplains in the eyes of Dalton since they don’t believe in any “real” gods.
If they can give advice inspite of their clearly fake gods (unlike the Christian god who is built on a bedrock of hard evidence and science) then surely atheists and humanists can too!