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
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.
- More from the Poobah about religion and atheism (omnipotentpoobah.com)
- More from the Poobah about the military (omnipotentpoobah.com)
- A Christian Soldier on the Spiritual Fitness Test [Dispatches from the Culture Wars] (scienceblogs.com)
- The Separability Of Metaethics From Questions Of Theism (camelswithhammers.com)
- How Many Secularists and Non-Secularists Can Dance on the Head of a Pin? (omnipotentpoobah.com)
- Ask Richard: Christian Concerned About Her Husband’s “Fundamentalist” Atheism (friendlyatheist.com)
- Being Personally Moral Is Not Enough, Atheists Need A Coherent Metaethics (camelswithhammers.com)
- What should I ask an Atheist? (friendlyatheist.com)
- Atheists angry over Army’s ‘Spiritual Fitness’ test ()