Soldier Fitness Tracker: How Would It Grade Pat Tillman?

An Atheist Hero

DENIGRATION IS A FINE WAY TO TREAT A HERO - Many patriotic people stake a claim on Pat Tillman's heroism. However, it turns out he's an atheist (hero) in a foxhole denigrated, along with his family, by some Christians for his beliefs. Click photo for more >>

In joining the military, young troops give up some basic Constitutional rights given the civilian population. The vagaries of war sometimes require it. The military is not a democracy and that’s as it should be.

However, there are some rights they don’t and shouldn’t give up, including the right to worship or not worship as they see fit. A slew of recent events and complaints about the religious components of the Army’s mandatory Soldier Fitness Tracker (SFT) test show abuses that cannot stand.

I’m not a militant atheist. I’m not particularly troubled by most of the many Christian symbols and deeds that appear in clearly secular places. Whether you want to worship Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, or rocks and trees is none of my concern. I even say Merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays on occasion.

In God Some of Us Don’t Trust

Just Another Atheist Braving Danger for the Christians Back Home

However, I strongly believe that one’s rights stop at the point where they infringe upon others’. Scribbling “In God We Trust” on a dollar doesn’t make it  worth less. It doesn’t infringe on my right to spend the dollar as I see fit. I prefer to see it as a label that identifies God’s cash when it goes into a collection plate or tithe, even though you’d think an omniscent being could figure it out on their own. No harm and no huge foul. More of a bum call actually, but nothing to get dangerously huffy over.

War is Hell, even if Hell is a religious construct. It’s a dark place that breaks bodies and minds and that’s why I’m not against SFT in principle. Everyone could use a little help on the battlefield. If God is your answer, who am I to deprive you of that comfort? If God isn’t, who are you to deprive me of that comfort?

My objection stems from non-Christians and non-theists being tested against a purely Christian scale. Not only are they deemed failures if they don’t answer questions “properly”, but they receive help clearly not right for them. In effect, they get no help at all. Worse yet, they’re compelled to see the chaplain about arrangements for being “born again” or attending Christian concerts.

The problem is less SFT than the measuring metrics used, how the Army interprets the results,  and whether or what kind of emotional support the non-Christians may need. There’s nothing in the test that can’t be remedied with more attention to the needs of all soldiers, not just the select few.

The Army is No Theocracy
As a group, it’s probably safe to say that the majority of those agreeing with such Christianization of the military are the same ones who prattle on about DADT victims being such grave dangers to “unit cohesion and morale”. Doesn’t it seem a soldier labeled a failure, told their beliefs are wrong, and deprived of support offered to Christian soldiers wouldn’t have such great morale and possibly feel alienated enough to damage unit cohesion? The Army may not be a democracy, but it’s not a theocracy either.

American Christians represent a far greater portion of the population than non-theists, polytheists, and non-christians combined. Yet, their constant hosannas are about their rights being lost to the Great Godless Hordes – even to the point that the new Alabama governor publicly suggests his relationship with Christian constituents is greater than his relationship with other Alabamans.

Christians’ insistent imposition of their beliefs on other Americans is exactly what drives the more militant Atheists to distraction. Christians have built a slippery slope not unlike the NRA‘s where many Atheists feel the need to fight every new slight as though it means the death of the Constitution and their inevitable excommunication as Americans. And we’re all – Christians and non-Christians alike – going for a long slide if it continues.

My Christian friends – this isn’t persecution of you, but by you.

Enhanced by Zemanta

What Do the Religious Know? It Turns Out, Not So Much

Jesus Christ!

DUH-O! - Athesists and agnostics are found to be the most knowledgeable about religion, but that's no reason for atheists and agnostics to break out the confetti and dance on the table in celebration.

I’ve debated hundreds of religious people over their preferred Tome of Enlightenment™ and found it interesting that a new poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life validates my own anecdotal evidence – that some of the most pious are also some of the most ignorant of their own religion.

In fact, the study finds that not only do religious people often exhibit a shocking ignorance of their Bible, Quran, Torah, et al, but agnostics and atheists like me actually know more about them than those who depend on them for their moral guidance.

I’m what you might call a friendly atheist. I don’t get too worked up over many things believers think they’re divinely empowered to do, because in many cases, it doesn’t really matter. For example, is a dollar with “In God we Trust” worth less than a dollar without?

Believers as Aggressive SOBs?
On the other side of the fence, agnostics and atheists sometimes look at the religioned as aggressively ignorant SOBs who won’t stop discriminating against their fellow humans until they get to dance around the infidels nailed to the biggest cross around. But, that doesn’t mean everyone on both sides is an argumentative crapweasel intent on converting their opposites to a life of enlightenment and wisdom with extreme prejudice.

However, I can get worked up when it comes to believers imposing their beliefs on not only atheists and agnostics, but believers of religions not their own. It’s as harebrained for Muslims to assume Christians are, to a person, supporters of the most insane beliefs about Islam as Christians feeling divinely justified in depriving Muslims if all manner of Constitutional rights.

As a former Christian, I’ve come to believe the Bible is a wonderful work of literature, and on the whole, not a bad checklist for leading a morally good life. I know, and support, that others may differ. The biggest differences I have with most Christians are that I see the Bible as the work of man and where we’ll each end up when we die. I try to stay tolerant of views that oppose my own because that’s the compact I’ve made with myself – to allow believers the freedom to believe anything they want, so long as they respect my freedom to not believe.

I don’t believe I have the corner on biblical wisdom by virtue of answering more questions on a survey form, but I do think there is meaning – even non-biblical meaning – in how believers sometimes conduct their own religions.

Because My Bible Tells Me So
In all my personal religious debates I’ve ended up in the same place. I offer logical and scientific reasoning to explain things and, faced with the disagreement, almost every Christian explains away events or beliefs by saying, the Bible tells me so.

I have a feeling that part of this rhetorical impasse comes as a result of selective readings of religious texts – in other words, believers simply pretending Biblical quotes to the contrary aren’t there…when it’s convenient. The result is a disincentive to learn more about their religions. After all, if you only believe that parts of a religious text apply or that they apply differently to those you don’t like, what’s the point in digging further to find the inconvenient and inconsistent things hiding in the dense text?

There are many believers who dig hard and try to reach a level of religious understanding that clearly many of the people in this survey have no use for. And there are plenty of hypocritical muttonheads among the non-believers. I’d caution the non-believers to not do any fist-pumps over the survey though.

The poor showing of the believers isn’t doing believers OR non-believers any good. Without finding some middle ground where we can all learn to coexist, our philosophical culture wars and quite real hot, shooting wars, will continue unabated.

And, that is a situation that science can’t tolerate and isn’t what God wants.

Enhanced by Zemanta