Here’s a much more serious issue than a goddamned cracker: it’s the steady accumulation of military power in religious hands. It’s not overt policy, but we should be worried that there is an increasing association between religiosity and military service — an association between credulity and obscene amounts of physical power. Jeremy Hall is discovering this first-hand.
Hall grew up reading the Bible every night and saying grace at dinner. Then, after his first tour of duty, he met some friends who were atheist and decided to read the Bible again. He read the whole Bible, and had so many unanswered questions, he says, he decided to embrace atheism.
In the army, he says, that cost him dearly.
Hall says he was denied a promotion because of his beliefs, and felt his life was in jeopardy. He says the army assigned him a full-time bodyguard because of threats.
At Thanksgiving, Hall refused to pray with his table and says an officer told him to go sit somewhere else.
Also, after he was nearly killed when his humvee was attacked, he says a fellow soldier asked him, “do you believe in Jesus now?”
Hall says he was ostracized because he didn’t embrace fundamentalist Christianity.
The excuses for denying Hall promotions are familiar:
He also said he missed out on promotions because he is an atheist.
“I was told because I can’t put my personal beliefs aside and pray with troops I wouldn’t make a good leader,” Hall said.
I recall hearing similar sentiments used to justify denying gay soldiers promotions, or even existence in the military. It sounds like our military is staffed with intolerant wimps and losers who cannot cope with the idea prospect the man in the trench next to them might have different interests and ideas, and that the much valued “unit cohesion” of our military is tissue thin and fragile.
Of course the military leadership is in denial (this should also trouble everyone: shouldn’t our military be first and foremost a pragmatic organization that is equipped to cope with reality?).
Religious discrimination is a violation of the First Amendment and is also against military policy. The Pentagon refused to discuss specifics of Hall’s case — citing the litigation. But Deputy Undersecretary Bill Carr said complaints of evangelizing are “relatively rare.” He also said the Pentagon is not pushing one faith among troops.
“If an atheist chose to follow their convictions, absolutely that’s acceptable,” said Carr. “And that’s a point of religious accommodation in department policy, one may hold whatever faith, or may hold no faith.”
R i g h t. You all remember that story about Christian Embassy actively proselytizing? The Christian Right has been pushing its way into the military for decades. The Campus Crusade for Christ has been working hard to indoctrinate new members of the military — you should be horrified at the priest in this video who proudly states that the US Air Force Academy, with their help, turns out “government-paid missionaries” for Christ.
Look around and this conflation of religious (specifically Christian) values and military service is everywhere.
Weinstein [of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation] said he doesn’t buy it and points to a promotional video by a group called Christian Embassy. The video, which shows U.S. generals in uniform, was shot inside the Pentagon. The generals were subsequently reprimanded.
Another group, the Officers’ Christian Fellowship, has representatives on nearly all military bases worldwide. Its vision, which is spelled out on the organization’s Web site, reads, “A spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform empowered by the Holy Spirit.”
Now the government has no right to tell its soldiers that they may not believe whatever they want; we can’t disallow religion among soldiers. But there is a huge difference between that and actively promoting religious belief in the military, which is what they are doing by allowing these lying priests free access to soldiers.
I’ve been reading a book called Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews — A History(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) by James Carroll (truth be told, it’s a very bad book, infuriatingly written with much self-indulgence and repetitive, pointless emphasis by the author on his deep Catholic indoctrination, which means he is blind to a lot of the big picture — but he doles out enough interesting ideas to keep me going, so far). It makes the complementary point that this isn’t just bad for the culture, but it’s bad for the religion — that many of the worst excesses of historical discrimination and oppression are the product of not just religion alone, but that dangerous combination of religion coupled to the machinery of the state. Look here, now, in America…it’s happening to us.