The mandatory program measures soldier fitness in a variety of dimensions to help them cope with the rigors of combat. It’s spiritual dimension has a wealth of information for believers. However, it implies that only believers need or can be helped in this dimension. In short, non-theists need not apply.
There’s nothing wrong with measuring and grading this dimension. It is critical to overcoming battlefield trauma. Whatever gets you through the terrors of war is great. But grading and providing solely religious-based feedback can demoralize non-believers and deprive them of helpful information in much the same way DADT chose to simply ignore the presence of gays. Non-theists are similarly marginalized.
Clean Toilets or Go to Chruch?
And, this ignoring of other than religious – more often than not non-Christian points of view – is larger than this program.
As a young airman in basic training during the 1970s everyone was offered two choices each Sunday – attend church or stay in the barracks and clean toilets.
Hmm…clean toilets or escape the tedium of 24×7 training for an hour singing and laughing with friends? Which shall I choose?
To the Air Force’s credit, the services were non-denominational and mentioned God only once or twice per service. There were two prayers, both of which were generic enough to interpret in any way, including as a non-theist statement. Services were comprised of signing vaguely religious, up tempo, and “modern” songs. To escape cleaning toilets with a toothbrush most atheists saw it as a good trade.
Nods to religion for the rest of my Air Force career were limited to my dog tags – which you could label as atheist, any religion, or not applicable. I entered “Granitellism” a faux belief that race car driver Andy Granitelli was God because he could pick up a screwdriver covered in oil. It didn’t cause an eyebrow to flutter.
It seems there has been a steady movement backward since those days.
In addition to CSFP, the Air Force Academy has suffered a long-standing bias against all but Christians and despite several Pentagon attempts to change, it continues. Individual unit commanders sometimes cross the same line and chaplains – which in my day did more social work than God’s work – have upped the ante.
Service members sometimes refuse to attend nondenominational services conducted by Islamic chaplains or vice versa. The Navy has squabbled over building mosques on large bases. National cemeteries banned atheist and multi-theist symbols on graves until recently because they “offended” the religious.
Generally speaking, non-thesists haven’t made unreasonable demands for accommodation just as gays haven’t. When services build chapels and mosques there isn’t a clamor for an atheist house for contemplation. Asking for a symbol on a veteran’s grave is hardly a big thing. But, the CSFP goes a step beyond.
By refusing to include non-theists in CSFP the Army denies help to those service members, even though they remained atheists while in the foxholes…arm to arm with straight, gay, and minority soldiers.
The military is all about releasing some individuality to serve a greater purpose, a non-religious purpose. The Army used to call this, “An Army of One”. It degrades the contributions of non-believers because they didn’t give up an individual right guaranteed by the Constitution, and at least nominally by military training.
It’s simply wrong for the military to tout individual rights during training while denying those rights when the bullets fly.
After all, bullets don’t have an opinion about God.
- Annoying Atheists (dangeroustalk.net)
- I Guess There Are Atheists In Foxholes (outsidethebeltway.com)
- Is There a Better Word Than ‘Anti-Theist’? (friendlyatheist.com)
- Don’t believe in God? Read this | Fred Edwords (guardian.co.uk)
- Atheists: Make a Donation This Holiday Season (friendlyatheist.com)
- How useful is faith for obtaining knowledge? (atheistexperience.blogspot.com)
- Maybe there are more atheists in foxholes! (secularnewsdaily.com)
- There Are No Atheists in Trapped Mines, Says Bill Donohue (friendlyatheist.com)
- At War: Where Did God Go in Afghanistan? An Atheist Writes. (atwar.blogs.nytimes.com)