Show Your Support for Atheists in the Military!

Rock Beyond Belief is this weekend, the first ever atheist rally on a military base, in response to all the Evangelical rallies on military bases. It’s common for atheist groups to be banned from military facilities; Christians can have clubs and meet on base, atheists can’t. This is just one of many ways atheists are discriminated against in the military. If you want that to change, one thing you can do is show up to be counted at this weekend’s rally. A large show of numbers will demonstrate that atheists have support and clout and aren’t just a tiny fringe group they can stomp on and ignore. It’s at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Saturday (31 March 2012) from noon to 8:30pm. Directions, how to get in, and everything you need to know is on the event’s website (linked above). And it’s free to all. You do not have to be military to go.

As a veteran myself, I’ve blogged about the importance of supporting atheists in the military before (veterans and active duty should all join the MAAF: see my blog Atheists in Foxholes). The military is pretty much the last place where the government freely and openly treats atheists as second class citizens, and violates the separation of church & state regularly by giving unqualified support to Christian movements, activities and organizations. It’s all a bit scary really. I know posting about this just a few days before the event may seem a bit last minute, but the organizers asked for one final push to make sure as many people show as we can get, and I’m happy to oblige. Make the time, make the last minute arrangements, visit even for a little bit. If you can. And maybe it will make a difference.


  1. Clarissa says

    I despise the Military. They turned my brother into a vegetable, and have left him in the lurch.

    They can’t even win their hired gun wars; atheists who serve are as stupid as fundies who serve. Fools all.

    I wish there was a hell for the leaders who have done this to us.

    Post that, Herr Doktor.

    • says


      If you want that to change, you have to support people keen to change it. That means making it possible for atheists (as humanists) to ascend the ranks of military command and make better decisions about military actions and the care of veterans. The Christians, as you just note, clearly aren’t doing right by our fellow citizens. So let’s get more of our people in charge there. Step one, is getting our people accepted and supported there.

  2. Rocky Chalk says

    Richard, I respect you and your scholarship. But I can’t support the instrument of evil and immoral American foreign policy, and that is what the U.S. military is, and anyone who makes the decision to join the military is choosing to participate and contribute to the murder of innocent people, all for lies and bullshit. So, i refuse to support anyone in the military, whether they are atheist, Christian, or whatever. I should make an exception to that, though. Current military personnel who are applying for conscientious objection are people I can support.

    • says

      There will always have to be a military (and of course, no matter what, there always will be one). So your aim should be to work toward making it not an instrument of evil. Avoiding any effort to govern it or change its leadership or zeitgeist is guaranteed to fail at that aim.

      Moreover, you are essentially saying it’s okay for the separation of church and state to be torn down and eradicated in the military, that the military should be governed by Evangelical Christians, and atheists mistreated and persecuted within its ranks.

      Doesn’t that actually not only fail to achieve your aim, but in fact produce and support the very evil you claim to be against? Apathy is the very glove into which evil fits its hand. And here you are, handing it the glove.

    • James says

      The military take orders from the Civilians.

      You are going to have to change the Politics of this country to change the military…being a hired gun in a war machine is not going to enable you to do this.

      As far as caring for soldiers and military competence, I have seen no historical evidence that atheists are better at this than anyone else.

    • says

      That’s not really true. The military brass make all the real decisions about rules of engagement, not just what they are, but also training soldiers to follow them, and enforcing them. The level of responsibility and discipline is a function of officer behavior (e.g. the events at Abu Ghraib would be impossible under a more rational officer). How prisoners of war are treated, how interrogations are conducted, whether the laws and treaties are followed in any combat zone, whether mishaps and violations are covered up or exposed and corrected, all these things are decisions made by military personnel. In fact military justice is entirely in the hands of the military brass. So if you want whistle-blowers to be protected, you need people in the officer corps who believe in doing that–it’s actually legal: under the UCMJ, it is lawful to disobey an illegal order, but that law has to be respected to count, and its officers who make that call. That includes disobeying illegal orders from the President or Congress. And above all, under sane Presidents (like Clinton or Obama), military advisers actually create most policy and make most decisions to engage (by informing the President as to the wisdom and complications in doing so; sane Presidents listen, lunatics like Bush ignore them–case in point, Clinton ignored them in Somalia, learned his lesson, and never ignored them again; Bush simply never listened to them at all, no matter how bad things got; but it takes both here, so getting a sane President in is not enough, you also need a rational, moral military officer corps).

      By contrast, if all of the above is left in the hands of fundamentalist Evangelical Christians, well, you do the math…

  3. Tim says

    It’s common for atheist groups to be banned from military facilities; Christians can have clubs and meet on base, atheists can’t.

    I’m an atheist and I don’t believe this at all. Where is proof of this? A quick google comes up with not being allowed to register as a religious group or to use facilities specifically for religious groups, but that applies to all secular groups.

    Or here: “I’ve never encountered any problems being an atheist in the military”

    Where is the evidence of this claim being true?

    • says

      First, “Christian Fighter Pilot” is a dubious source. It has been reported at FtB repeatedly that he has consistently misrepresented the facts and is himself a constant harasser of military atheists and their rights, events, and organizations: cf. e.g. here and here).

      Instead, consult someone who has actually tried to get atheist meetings allowed on base: here and here and here.

      Indeed, it is getting atheism to be recognized as a religious preference that is precisely the issue.

      (And nice try quote mining; anyone who goes there will see what the usual experience of atheists in the military is! Even that one quote is pulled from a longer statement that reveals exactly the kind of relegation to secondary status atheists face in the military: having to sit through a religious invocation at their own change of command ceremony! The most the military will do is make the mandated prayers and invocations to God non-sectarian.)

  4. Tim says

    No idea who “Christian Fighter Pilot” is, but one of the few posts that comes up on google as I said.

    If false, reference the evidence but his debunking seems quite logical.

    I read many of the people on military atheist and most noted small annoyances like you just did, and nothing about being banned and not allowed to have a clubs or meet on base as you claimed.

    Once again, “Where is the evidence of this claim being true?” You gave none, you only tried to discredit the question which makes your claim look even more dubious.

  5. Tim says

    Obviously you didn’t read them because they say exactly what I said in my first post, about atheists wanting to be recognized as a religion and use those facilities – which means your “evidence” accords exactly with what the guy said whom you instead try to discredit as a “dubious source”.

    Your sources say:

    -“fighting to get ‘humanist’ on the military’s official list of recognized religious preferences”
    -“apply as a lay leader”
    -“we want to use the chapels”

    Why attack people rather than provide honest evidence of your claim? You pretend like atheists can’t meet but I bet they can, exactly as a Chinese language study group can meet if they want to – though they can’t use the chapels and be recognized as a religious preference either. Sounds fair to me.

    Such silly claims discredit and take away from more serious claims, like basic Christian church integration into the military.

    • says

      Chinese language study is not a religious preference. You do not get time off in a day to go to Chinese language study. You do get time off in a day to go to chapel. You don’t get to have a Chinese language military ceremony, but you should get to have a humanist/nonreligious military ceremony. When you need counseling with priest-confessional privacy, they won’t let you ask for your Chinese language instructor, nor respect your rights to privacy and counsel with them, but they will do so with any religious rep…except a humanist. Likewise dogtags and paperwork and everything else. Moreover, you can’t have a Chinese language group on base unless you go through all the paperwork to establish it (and even then it may get declined, at the whim of the CO, since you don’t have a right to have such a group meet on base); whereas you don’t have to do any of that to have a religious preference group meeting on base (you have a right to that). Humanists and atheists should get the same rights and privileges. And since Buddhists and Wiccans can use the chapel, why shouldn’t humanists and atheists? Excluding them declares their religious preference invalid, which is plain bigotry.

  6. Tim says

    You’re a smart guy so all these non-sequiturs must be deliberate, right?

    You claimed “Christians can have clubs and meet on base, atheists can’t”

    Again, that is totally false. They just can’t claim it is a religion and use religious facilities, EXACTLY as I said in the first post.

    Why not admit this and concentrate on something more serious? You’re making atheists look untrustworthy and whiny by pretending otherwise.

    We don’t need to use religious facilities and have religious “lay leader” consultations. Forget that nonsense. We’ll meet at the table next to the Chinese study group if we want, we want no association with religion at all!

  7. Tim says

    You’re not being direct and honest by trying to wriggle points at all cost.

    First you say absolutely they can’t meet, then when asked you only give evidence they can’t be classified as a religion and get the benefits of that, which no one disputes and I said in my first post! The macrame club can’t do that either. (And having no religion shouldn’t be classified as a religion anyway!)

    Start again: do you have any evidence at all that atheists can’t have clubs and meet on military bases in the exact same manner as any other non-religious club (macrame, Chinese language study, pedantic debate skills,…)???

    If yes, present it clearly; if not, say so and move on.

    • says

      I never said “absolutely they can’t meet.” That is your fantasy projected onto my words. You are saying atheists can meet if they deny they are a religious preference and file as a nonreligious interest group. Which is precisely the kind of bullshit technicality that is discriminatory against atheists. We have to deny who we are, just to play your game. Atheist groups as religious interest groups are literally banned from meeting. They can only get around that ban by denying they are a religious preference. If you wanted that distinction to be made, it’s been made. So what else is there to discuss?

    • Tim says

      >>I never said “absolutely they can’t meet.”

      Sure you did. You said:

      >>Christians can have clubs and meet on base, atheists can’t.

      That’s as absolute as it gets. Then on top you denied the obvious qualifiers when I raised them.

      So now you’ve finally confirmed as right everything I – and the source you tried to paint as dubious – said. And that the actual issue is trying to claim atheism is a religion, as I said. Why not just say that to start?

      >>Atheism is a religious preference.
      >>the discriminatory bullshit we are against
      >> your own bigoted dismissal of our religious beliefs and preferences.

      I’m am atheist. It’s obviously NOT a religion, it is the lack of a religion, and it isn’t discrimination. We’re treated equal to every other non-religious group.

      I – and I would think most atheists – want no part whatsoever of any contradictory claims to atheist “religious” counselling, or atheist “religious” facilities, and so forth.

      We simply want no part of religion at all, and attempts to claim it is a religion are absurd and incredibly counterproductive. Again, concentrate on real issues, like why Christianity is officially integrated into the military in ways.

      I’m truly shocked you think atheism is a religion and these are religious beliefs. -Though it does shine a stark light upon your refusal to examine the obvious mystical basis of some of your ethical claims, but that’s another matter.

  8. Tim says

    >>Humanists and atheists should get the same rights and privileges. And since Buddhists and Wiccans can use the chapel, why shouldn’t humanists and atheists? Excluding them declares their religious preference invalid, which is plain bigotry.

    Falsely claiming to be oppressed is counter-productive. Your complaint is NOT that atheists can’t meet as you’ve been pretending – they can set up a club under the exact same rules as any other non-religious group -, it is to establish themselves as a religion which is incredibly different.

    Here’s your fundamental error: atheism is not a religion. No religion isn’t a religion. Buddhism and paganism are. Atheists should NOT get the same rights and privileges.

    I – and most atheists I think – would strongly disagree with what you’re asking for! We don’t want our own “religious” ceremonies and “religious” counselors and “prayer time” off and all that bunk.

    The most you should ask for is to be excluded from any religious ceremonies and religious indoctrination, not to have your own.

    • says

      Atheism is a religious preference. So is humanism. The semantics of “only believers in the supernatural count and only they get special rights and privileges” is exactly the discriminatory bullshit we are against and that I am calling out. And here you are just proving my every point with your own bigoted dismissal of our religious beliefs and preferences.

      What you as an individual want is irrelevant. What is relevant is that there are thousands of atheists and humanists who do want to be recognized and treated as equals in the military. It is your dismissal of their rights that is the travesty.