Soldiers push for a chaplain for atheists

I know: it sounds like a headline from The Onion.  But it’s true.

From the New York Times:

In the military, there are more than 3,000 chaplains who minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of active duty troops, regardless of their faiths. The vast majority are Christians, a few are Jews or Muslims, one is a Buddhist. A Hindu, possibly even a Wiccan may join their ranks soon.

But an atheist?

Strange as it sounds, groups representing atheists and secular humanists are pushing for the appointment of one of their own to the chaplaincy, hoping to give voice to what they say is a large — and largely underground — population of nonbelievers in the military.

Joining the chaplain corps is part of a broader campaign by atheists to win official acceptance in the military. Such recognition would make it easier for them to raise money and meet on military bases. It would help ensure that chaplains, religious or atheist, would distribute their literature, advertise their events and advocate for them with commanders.

But winning the appointment of an atheist chaplain will require support from senior chaplains, a tall order. Many chaplains are skeptical: Do atheists belong to a “faith group,” a requirement for a chaplain candidate? Can they provide support to religious troops of all faiths, a fundamental responsibility for chaplains?

Jason Torpy, a former Army captain who is president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, said humanist chaplains would do everything religious chaplains do, including counsel troops and help them follow their faiths. But just as a Protestant chaplain would not preside over a Catholic service, a humanist might not lead a religious ceremony, though he might help organize it.

“Humanism fills the same role for atheists that Christianity does for Christians and Judaism does for Jews,” Mr. Torpy said in an interview. “It answers questions of ultimate concern; it directs our values.”

Mr. Torpy has asked to meet the chiefs of chaplains for each of the armed forces, which have their own corps, to discuss his proposal. The chiefs have yet to comment.

At the same time, an atheist group at Fort Bragg called Military Atheists and Secular Humanists, or MASH, has asked the Army to appoint an atheist lay leader at the base. A new MASH chapter at Fort Campbell, Ky., is planning to do the same as are atheists at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

Such lay leaders can lead “services” in lieu of chaplains and have access to meeting rooms, including chapels.

Chaplains at Fort Bragg near here have seemed open to the idea, if somewhat perplexed by it.

“You’re not a faith group; you’re a lack-of-faith group,” First Lt. Samantha Nicoll, an active atheist at Fort Bragg, recalled a chaplain friend’s saying about the idea. “But I said, ‘What else is there for us?’ ”

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Comments

  1. [[[“You’re not a faith group; you’re a lack-of-faith group,” First Lt. Samantha Nicoll, an active atheist at Fort Bragg, recalled a chaplain friend’s saying about the idea. “But I said, ‘What else is there for us?’ ”]]]

    Well they got psychologists right? And psychiatry. With this I do not mean they are crazy, but psycologista and psychiatrist deal with the mind and the brain… and for an atheist there is nothng else.

    For atheists there’s no spirituality, but only the mind (e for some not even the mind but only the physical brain) then they should go where their ‘non-faith’ directs them when they “non-physical” (ie “psychological”) troubles: to a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

    That would be the ONLY LOGICAL thing to do.

    Since atheists refute any spirituality (and if they do not they are incoherent and pradoxal and really should see a psychologist) they also do not need a ‘chaplain’.

    [[[“Humanism fills the same role for atheists that Christianity does for Christians and Judaism does for Jews,” Mr. Torpy said in an interview. “It answers questions of ultimate concern; it directs our values.”]]]

    Not really. Christianity or Judaismo o Islam are more than a “philosophy” or a ‘set on answers on ultima questions’ or ‘set of moral rules’.

    Sure we have those as well, but religion goes beyond those things as well.

    [[[Jason Torpy, a former Army captain who is president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, said humanist chaplains would do everything religious chaplains do, including counsel troops and help them follow their faiths. ]]]

    Again why should they need a ‘chaplain’ and not a *psychologist*?

    So now atheists have ‘faiths’? Yet they claim very laudly that they do not have any faith (actually usually they claim to be superior just for that reason).

    Of course Torpy is just being the average incoherent atheist, accepting and refuting values and concepts arbitrarily when it suit him best.

    ———-

    Yes I know my tone is harsh, yet I have not even shown the wrongs of secular humanism, but only pointed out that the riquest of Torpy and the like is quite irrational.

  2. Allan Wafkowski says:

    Mr. Torpy is engaging in political theater. He may not know it, but why would he. He appears to be impervious to any kind of rational thinking.

    Or maybe he knows what he is doing, and it is darker than it appears at first glance. If non-belief is made the equal to belief (nothing = something) then something can be made to mean nothing. Everything is everything, something is nothing, nothing is everything–the curse of modern man. Nicely Orwellian.

  3. A ‘chaplain’ for atheists are called psychiatrists;
    shrinks to you and me.
    They have always been for the non-relgious men
    who want someone to listen to their problems. You get
    no blessings, no real comfort but they make a great
    living at doing absolutely nothing.

  4. It’s funny..how you think I’m “Psychologically Damaged” because, I don’t believe in what you’ve been taught to believe. I believed it once too. Then, I started thinking for myself. “Gods”..have been around as long as man, and so are the “Myths” about them, that were “Created” by man to appease them. How funny is this? The “story” of
    “Creationism”..has been around for approximately 3,000 years..+/- a century or two..

    “In The Beginning” according to some bibles..5-6 thousand years ago..Your “God” was bored..so he “Created” an entire universe to play with. Then..he got bored with that..and “Created ” man. He “Created” man..”In His Own Image And Likeness.” Adam..had a Belly Button..so I guess his “Creator” did too. That would indicate..they both had Mothers. Lucifer.. He didn’t like the idea of him..or the other angles bowing down to a piece of earthy carbon and water..so he calls for a war over it. Mind you..a war in heaven, and “God” allows it. Lucifer is outgunned..2-1 and loses. Good..has triumphed over Evil.
    This..is the really cool part.. God..decides..that he’s got to save face..and kick Lucifer out of heaven..but..he’s got to give him a Severance Package. He lets him retain all of his Supernatural Powers..and he’s still holds a Title Of Royalty. Back here..Adam now has a wife..and Adam and god are “Buds”.. Adam and Eve..never did anything to offend their “Creator.” Just for fun..their “Creator” thought it great sport..to cast Lucifer down to earth..and “Create” evil among his new “Creations” Then.. Sporting..kinda guy that he is..he makes a “Bet” with Lucifer..to see if he can get his new “Creations” to disobey him. They do..so the “Story” goes..and that’s why we all live the Human Condition now. Why would a “Loving God” do that? Why..would he create evil..where there was none?

    Fast forward..Two Thousand Years.. The Sun doesn’t revolve around the Earth..the World is Round..and man has walked on the Moon. Even more impressive.. He returned to Earth in a Spacecraft. Compared to your Bible..The Science Of Evolution is just in it’s formative years. The Earth..is scientifically proven to be 4.576 Billion Years Old. They have uncovered “modern” human remains..that are scientifically proven to be 200,000 years old. How is that possible? How..when your bible tells you the Earth your god
    “Created” didn’t even exist 200,000 years ago. The one he “Created” in Six Days. “God”..never wrote a word down. Man..wrote Parables and attributed their thoughts on how to get along to a higher being. These men..wrote the Parables in a Reward/Punishment way. It was a way of keeping order in an unorganized world.

    My point.. Look how far man has come in such a short period of his existence to disprove the myths of gods. For me.. Not believing in a god..is not a licence to go through life being a total bastard..because I won’t have to pay for it in hell. On the contrary.. I feel empowered. The good I do..is because it’s the right thing to do.

    I’m not doing good..or on my knees..trying to cut a deal with god..so I can get into his heaven when I..Cross Over The Rainbow. I understand the need for Religion in our world. It gives people comfort..believing there is a god..and they’ll be rewarded for being/doing good. They’ll see their loved ones again..and everyone will be whole.
    Nice..

    Now.. Tell me again.. I’m what..”Psychologically Damaged”?

    Maybe.. But at least I can think for myself.

  5. Exactly, Allen.
    Orwellian to the core.
    I hope that there is someone in the chain of command who will have the courage to do what is right and just say “No” to this foolish, vain and blind request.

  6. Jim Dotter says:

    Harry, you do know the first proponent of the Big Bang Theory was… wait for it… wait for it:

    Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître.

    Yes, that’s right a Catholic Priest.

  7. Laura.. Atheism..is as much a “Religious Belief”..as the ones you believe in. Only the “foolish, vain and blind” would turn their backs to Scientific Evidence and hang onto myths..

  8. Jim.. The wait is over.. Thanks to modern science..You can still hear it echoing through the universe it created..

    I was raised a Catholic.. I went to Catholic School for 12 years. Thinking back.. With the exception of my first 3-4 years of training to become a..Kamikaze Pilot..for the Catholic Church.. I doubt if I ever believed there was a god..

  9. What about the satanists? Aren`t they going to get their own chaplain?

    Or will they as usual work together with the atheists, since they are on the same team?

  10. GABRIEL.. You don’t know anything about Atheism. My best guess..”Satanists” believe in a deity..Satan. I personally don’t believe in him..or line up with people who do. With the exception of one reply.. This is a very unchristian site.. as far as judging others religious beliefs go.. Is that what your god taught you to do? If so.. He sounds Satanic..

  11. Gays in the miltary, now atheist chaplains. The emperor has no clothes. It’s time to admit what the military really is-a jobs program with uniforms. We taxpayers have given the government trillions and trillions of dollars to run our Department of Defense and still they couldn’t defend us against 19 men with box cutters. Billions and billions of dollars of steel cutting the waves and still our navy couldn’t protect that retired couple who lost thier lives to a handful of Somali pirates.
    Remembering what Ike told us about how every battleship, every tank built steals from the poor and yet our veterans reap six figure pensions while working for the same contractors they bought from while in the service. Maybe it’s about time we all lose our faith in the military as serving any useful purpose.

  12. “Kamikaze Pilot..for the Catholic Church” Lol thats a good one. Now the atheists will be claiming Catholics were responsible for Stalin and Mao’s purges and his willing henchmen. Wait history says they were atheists. Maybe then they will claim Hitler was a Catholic and thats why the Catholic Church is to blame. Personally I think they know they are disingenous to make that claim as Hitler imprisoned and murdered Catholics by the thousands for obeying the dictates of the Church. Then again I suppose history isn’t the strong point of those atheists who reason so irrationally. Oh well Banzai. Wait I didn’t say that did I? I suppose to some I might have well said it and meant it since that is what they want to believe. I suppose to some that is all they really care about and don’t want to be bothered with the details. Oh well. ..

  13. You can see it now, atheist soldiers and chaplain preparing last moments before battle.

    “Comrade Chaplain (well I could hardly call him Father), what is the meaning of life.”

    “There is no meaning to life my son.”

    “Oh.” A moments hesitation. “Then why are we fighting this war.”

    “No reason, son.”

    “Oh” replied the soldier.

    “What will happen to me if I die.”

    “You’ll be dead, son”

    “Thanks Comrade Chaplain. I didn’t know that. Will you give me last rights Comrade Chaplain?”

    “Certainly.” Taking his copy of Stephen Hawkins latest book he begins to read. “In the beginning there was the Big Bang. A Catholic priest taught us that, but no matter. Then the universe developed from all that dust and to that dust you will return. May mother earth and all that dust watch over you and keep you safe. I know bless you in the name of the meaningless universe, meaningless life, and all meaningless.”

    “Thank you Comrade Chaplain.” A little more hesitation.

    “Comrade Chaplain,” the atheist soldier says as he considers the meaninglessness of life, the universe, and his war. “From whence came the Big Bang?”

    “I’m unsure my son. Just wait a moment and I’ll go ask the Catholic Chaplain. He seems to know a lot about that.”

  14. Hi, Harry.

    It is possible to know God and have a personal relationship with him.

    The tradition of the Catholic Church has consistently embraced the power of human reason to experience and understand the world. The principles of thought underlying empirical science have their origins in the uniquely Christian belief that God created man with a free and rational mind, not only to make great scientific discoveries and solve material problems, but finally to arrive at a greater understanding of the universe’s Creator.

    Embracing Catholic faith does not mean turning one’s back on scientific progress. Rather, faith is a prerequisite for practicing science at all. At some point, even a secular humanist must appeal to articles of belief in order to justify his basic assumptions. At the same time, religious faith does not necessitate ignoring scientific findings pertaining to the ordering of the world. There is no contradiction between science and the Bible when the senses and genres of Scripture are properly considered.

    Your point regarding man’s tradition of myth-building is important. The life of Jesus is the concrete historical event to which all the yearnings of human myth point. Yet Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection cannot be glibly dismissed as pure legends due to the overwhelming historical testimony to their reality, both in and out of the New Testament.

    I urge you, as a reasonable person, to reexamine your atheistic position in a spirit of fidelity to truth, no matter where the journey leads. There are few who truly despise the Catholic faith, but there are sadly many who misunderstand it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, available for free online, is a peerless resource for helping to alleviate the misunderstandings under which you apparently labor.

    In the absence of God, what is right is reduced to a matter of arbitrary consensus. I hope and pray that your obvious concern for the good will lead you to knowledge of the good’s true Author.

  15. @Harry Mansfield Despite fundamental voices to the contrary (ie creationists), science is in no way antithetical to the faith. I sleep peacefully at night knowing that I may well have had ancestors 200,000 years old. (If our faith relied on the earth being 6000 years old, know that I and many other reasonable people would have left long ago.)

    Further, God did not create evil. God only created good, as God is good. As man is a limited being, his actions can fall short of the good that man intends–his actions can lack something. That lack is what is called evil. God cannot create what does not itself have existence.

    Finally, by doing good, we see ourselves aligning ourselves to the will of God (who again is good). Heaven, which is not the worldly paradise many picture it as, is rather being in the presence of God. This is not a reward, but merely the necessary outcome of doing good. We should do good because we love, not because we are seeking something out of it. (Big difference there, for in the love I’m referring to we seek the good of another, while seeking reward is seeking the good for oneself.) Reward is the wrong motivation for doing good, and I think we can agree on that.

    Finally, I would recommend that you read some Aristotle. “On the Soul”. It is a good foundation for Aquinas’ definition of God, a definition that it seems you (and many other atheists, for that matter–and heck, most Christians too) don’t seem to have a firm grasp of. *Namely, that a being necessarily exists that is uncaused, immaterial and unable to be surpassed.* (In all honesty, I don’t quite understand it either…) Also, I’d love to hear your reply, so don’t hesitate to answer! (Friendly request, however–if you wouldn’t mind, I would have an easier time following your argument if you closed your sentences with one period. And I much want to be able to follow your argument.)

  16. Harry-
    Your response seems to propose a straw-man, dualistic argument: you can’t be both religious and scientific. There are ample numbers of religious who are also scientists. They are simply humble, and acknowledge the fact that we are creatures which rationally implies that there is a Creator, a Prime Mover.
    As for the other issue of a this push for an “atheistic” chaplain in the military, rarely have I been humored by such illogical drivel. “No” is the only rational response to such a request.

  17. Re: chaplains — The real point here is that a chaplain can counsel people without reporting them to the CO, and has a lot of leeway in going out and about. Chaplains can also give special privileges to people who need their help, and activities connected to worship are usually allowed by the CO in circumstances when other forms of “recreation” or pastime are not permitted.

    A psychologist or psychiatrist in the Army does have to report talking to people, under certain circumstances, and is bound by the normal disciplinary rules for military doctors, etc. Same thing for JAG lawyers — there’s no real professional confidentiality, at least not in the same sense as in civilian life.

    So basically, military atheists want some of the goodies associated with military freedom of religion. To a certain extent, they have a point; but they also seem to want privileges not extended to members of other minority religions (ie, to have a “chaplain” of their own “faith”, instead of just getting help from J. Random Chaplain like other people have to do).

  18. Harry,
    You make the ultimate mistake. You take what man’s understanding of God is over thousands of years, then make a conclusion, that because we as men got it mixed up that there is then no God.
    You want to put you faith in science, which is still just the way man understands the world and the universe. There are still and will remain vast gaps in our knowlege of how all,was greated, including us.
    Albert Einstien, could be said to be one of the greatest scientific minds of all time, recongized the existance of God. He understood that everything around us could not have happened without a greater mind than ours to put in all in place.
    His description of our knowlege about science was that of a small child entering a vast library of all knowledge, we haven’t gotten past the children’s section in our knowlege.
    Science is a gift from God, so we can understand .

  19. Thanks..SamTASTIC..

    First..the …. are the way I write. It should be easy to follow. When I end a sentence with.. The following one will start with a Capital Letter.. It’s just my style..

    Second.. I’m not arguing..with you or anyone else about Religion. I’m simply expressing my opinion. Actually.. I do find the need for a Atheist Chaplin a little ridicules. What could another Atheist council another Atheist about..in their time of need. The quality of the soil they may be laid to rest in..or the color of the flowers placed on their grave..

    ” Despite fundamental voices to the contrary (ie creationists), science is in no way antithetical to the faith. I sleep peacefully at night knowing that I may well have had ancestors 200,000 years old. (If our faith relied on the earth being 6000 years old, know that I and many other reasonable people would have left long ago.)
    No..it’s not.. But..Religion is antithetical to science. Stem Cell Research is a good example of Religion interfering in man’s progress to cure the ills that plague mankind.”

    “Further, God did not create evil. God only created good, as God is good. As man is a limited being, his actions can fall short of the good that man intends–his actions can lack something. That lack is what is called evil. God cannot create what does not itself have existence.”

    Okay.. How would you or anyone else know if..”God Is Good”

    No one has ever met him. According to the Bible.. God created what did not exist..when he cast Lucifer down to earth.

    “Finally, by doing good, we see ourselves aligning ourselves to the will of God (who again is good). Heaven, which is not the worldly paradise many picture it as, is rather being in the presence of God. This is not a reward, but merely the necessary outcome of doing good. We should do good because we love, not because we are seeking something out of it. (Big difference there, for in the love I’m referring to we seek the good of another, while seeking reward is seeking the good for oneself.) Reward is the wrong motivation for doing good, and I think we can agree on that.”

    We can agree on that. Except where God comes into all of it.

    God..is an unknown. His existence cannot be proven. Quoting the words of mortal men..in no way proves he does exist.

    “Finally, I would recommend that you read some Aristotle. “On the Soul”. It is a good foundation for Aquinas’ definition of God, a definition that it seems you (and many other atheists, for that matter–and heck, most Christians too) don’t seem to have a firm grasp of. *Namely, that a being necessarily exists that is uncaused, immaterial and unable to be surpassed.* (In all honesty, I don’t quite understand it either…) Also, I’d love to hear your reply, so don’t hesitate to answer! (Friendly request, however–if you wouldn’t mind, I would have an easier time following your argument if you closed your sentences with one period. And I much want to be able to follow your argument.)”

    Sam.. I’ve read a lot of material on different religions. I had religion Classes 5 days a week for 12 years. I don’t need a reason as to “Why” I’m here. I am. That’s good enough for me.

    Here are the Ten Commandments:

    The 10 Commandments – God’s Revelation in the Old Testament
    The 10 Commandments are found in the Bible’s Old Testament at Exodus, Chapter 20. They were given directly by God to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai after He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt:

    “And God spoke all these words, saying: ‘I am the LORD your God…

    ONE: ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.’

    TWO: ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.’

    THREE: ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.’

    FOUR: ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.’

    FIVE: ‘Honor your father and your mother.’

    SIX: ‘You shall not murder.’

    SEVEN: ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

    EIGHT: ‘You shall not steal.’

    NINE: ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.’

    TEN: ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.’

    Now.. If you remove Commandments 1-3- and 4.. What kind of life would you be living if you held to the 7 other principles?

    That’s how I try and live my life. In a Logical way.

  20. Allan Wafkowski says:

    With people like Harry espousing atheism, I feel refreshingly secure in my Catholic faith.

    Like the old joke goes:

    Atheist: What’s so good about Christianity?

    Christian: Well, the most obvious benefit is that you’re not one of us.

  21. “They are simply humble, and acknowledge the fact that we are creatures which rationally implies that there is a Creator, a Prime Mover.”

    Laura.. What is Your rational for following that logic? Earth..is over 4 Billion years old..and all living things on earth evolved during nothing more than a series of coincidences that made life..any form of life..possible on earth.

  22. And.. Thankfully Alan.. You’re not one of us. You “espouse” criticism and bigotry. We don’t want your kind in our religion.

  23. Harry-
    Thanks for your response.
    The oldest carbon dated rocks on earth that I’m aware of are 3.8 billion years old. Moon rocks have been dated at 4.6 billion years at the oldest. We’re still counting. Our knowledge of our beautiful planet and solar system is evolving.
    The amino acid soup/lightninig bolt theory of how life began on our planet is as much a hypothesis as Genesis 1.
    One thing I know for sure right this instant is that I did not create myself. I also know that I cooperated in the creation of my children but did not in fact create them, de novo. Given the “clay” we can do lots, but we don’t create the “clay.”
    These are the facts of life as I know them at this moment in time. Thus, if I am a creature, then there is a Creator i.e. the Rational One who made the “clay.” I know the Creator is rational because the system created is elegantly rational. I see, as a rational creature, the logic of the system even if I don’t see the whole perfectly.
    These are the things I know.

  24. Laura.. That was very nicely put. I don’t agree with a lot of what you said..but I respect your opinion.

  25. pagansister says:

    Sounds like an excellent idea, and I hope it is carried out all branches of the military.

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