Big Win! ‘Humanists’ Now Recognized by the US Army

Are you a nonbeliever in the US Army or know someone who is? Let them know you can now identify as “humanist” on dog tags and military records. Unfortunately the other four services still don’t allow this (absurdly), but you have a chance to change that if you or someone you know are serving in the other forces, because they can now make a request and cite the Army as precedent. And maybe those forces will change to recognize that humanists exist, too, and have the same rights as Christians, Jews, Muslims, or anyone else.

This is a major accomplishment by the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (in coordination with the ACLU). An official “Religious Preference” is important to military personnel not only because it allows their beliefs to be recognized on equality with any other belief system (and be counted in military statistics), but also because it can affect which chaplaincies get created and funded (and other related rights, such as access to chapel facilities, and everything else the religious get in the military), which is crucial for men and women in the service, who need these things in ways ordinary civilians do not.

The religious have the right to counsel from a chaplain, for example, to discuss problems or seek moral advice, and this comes with several privileges–such as, conversations with a chaplain are confidential (whereas, for example, albeit perversely, conversations with a psychotherapist often are not, even though that increasing lack of confidentiality destroys the medical efficacy of therapy). Chaplains can also act as advocates throughout the chain of command (most important for adherents of minority belief-systems facing discrimination or being ignored, but again just to be on equality with believers: believers can avail themselves of chaplain advocacy; atheists and humanists should have that same right). Chaplains can also facilitate requests for access to literature or family communications on the front lines. Everything they do for Christians can and should be available equally to atheists and humanists. And getting humanism recognized is the first crucial step toward that goal.

The MAAF is working to have a humanist chaplaincy finally created in the military to serve the military atheist and humanist community. There is no reason for the military not to do this, other than prejudice and immoral opposition from religious leaders. In other words, discrimination. One way to ensure the military cannot claim to be a religious body is if it officially recognizes non-religious chaplaincies. That’s precisely why religious leaders oppose this. Even though it would be an expression of fairness and equality under the law. So this recent victory with the Army, [Read more…]

I Support the SSA, MRFF and MAAF. So Can You, So Easy to Do!

Today I renewed my support for the Secular Student Alliance as a Bronze Member. Just a mere $35. Many of us in the US can afford that per year for the things we value most. So everyone who can do even so little as that, and believes in what the SSA does for our future, please Bronze up! (Or even more, if you can.) If you aren’t already jumping to, please check out why I think the SSA is important and why everyone should be supporting them even if only modestly.

I give small amounts like this to a large number of organizations, because every little bit helps. Two others I support that often get overlooked are the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF). I just gave each $35 as well. As I try to do every year. And I hope many of you can do something along the same lines. They also do extremely important and much needed work. As I’ve explained before (including why we need them both, because they do different things). If you want to join me in their support, you can donate here (MRFF) and here (MAAF). They request only $25 a year. I give a little more. But if you can only give the minimum, it helps.

Give Just a Little to the SSA, MAAF and MRFF

I was just filling out some checks and realized I should mention what I’m doing, because I think a lot of you might want to do the same. Last month I renewed my annual support for the Secular Student Alliance. I’ve long been promoting them, as an organization making a huge difference in supporting the growth of atheism and secularism and changing the future of this country (see The SSA Is Our Future and You Should Join the SSA). The SSA only asks from supporters a minimum of $35 a year (or just $10 from students). If you haven’t become an annual supporter already, I highly recommend you do.

But today I’m sending checks to two other organizations that are literally on the front lines doing battle for atheist freedom and against real vestiges of Christian tyranny in America: the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers (MAAF) and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). They each only ask for a minimum of $25 in support each year. I’m giving $35 to both. But even if you can only afford the minimum, it helps, a lot more than you might think. Not only do they do great and important things with the money (and these small donations add up to a lot, when a lot of us send them), but they also have a more influential voice the more people they can report as supporting them with actual money. So giving even the minimum is giving them a lot more power than just the dollars alone. You make a difference on very little expense.

I’ve written about the importance of such organizations before (in support of the MAAF: see Atheists in Foxholes). I’m a veteran myself, as are others here at Freethought Blogs (e.g. Justin Griffith of Rock Beyond Belief has worked for the MAAF and Chris Rodda of This Week in Christian Nationalism has worked for the MRFF). So, too, are several prominent figures in atheism and skepticism, from Harriet Hall of Science Based Medicine to Kathleen Johnson of American Atheists. The abuse of power by Christians in the U.S. military, against the rights of atheists and other religious minorities, is intense and appalling, and not many people are willing to stand up against it. The MAAF and MRFF do, legally and in every other way they can. They also provide a community, a resource for commiseration and advice, and a haven of sanity for oppressed religious minorities in the armed forces, a service much needed. Those who haven’t served or haven’t been culling the news for reports on all the abuses power by the Christian Right in our military might not realize how bad it is, and how much the MAAF and MRFF are needed (you can explore their websites to get up to speed on that, or read the many related posts here in Griffith’s and Rodda’s blogs, or get Mikey Weinstein’s book: see below).

If you don’t want the Christian Right to take over the military and influencing its procedures and decisions, if you don’t want atheists in our armed forces to feel oppressed and alone and forced to hide and put up with Christian rules and proselytizing, then you definitely should support the MAAF and MRFF. Just $25 a year for each is really affordable. The MRFF has a campaign on now that will give you a digital brick on their wall of separation between church and state for just that minimum of $25. Membership dues at the MAAF are the same, but you don’t have to join to donate every year.

The MAAF specifically serves atheists and nonbelievers and does a good job at that. Supporting the MAAF will directly benefit atheists in the military, most especially in providing them with a functioning and reliable community that can help atheists in the service in every way possible. The MRRF serves all religious minorities. They’ve fought cases against discriminatory practices affecting Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans…and they just as fiercely fight for atheists as well, not only directly, but in their general effort to promote religious neutrality and freedom in the services altogether. I’ve met Mikey Weinstein, the MRRF’s lead bullfighter, and he’s a delightfully terrifying badass with incredible principles. It’s partly due to his tenacity and unyielding fight for what’s right that the MRFF has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize–several times. His latest book No Snowflake in an Avalanche is the book to read if you want to learn all the ways the Christian Right is aiming to take over the military, and all the abuses of power they are all too often getting away with there (as well as to see how important the MRRF has been in fighting back, and thus why it definitely deserves your support).

So please join me, if you can, in sending all three organizations a little money their way each year, and give them one more person to add to their reported count of supporters. The SSA, MAAF, and MRFF all have convenient donation links on their websites.