Soldiers Required to Say 'Fear God' in Army Unit

Jason Torpy of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) has a rather disturbing report about an Army unit currently stationed in Kuwait where soldiers are required to loudly say “fear God” when saluting a superior officer. And the division leadership doesn’t see why that’s a problem at all.

In Kuwait at 2-34 Armor battalion, the official call and response is “Fear God / Dreadnaught”. That means every person in the unit is expected* to loudly say “Fear God” and salute whenever passing a senior officer. If the statement were “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) or “Om Muniye” (Hail Vedics), would Christians be happy to say it many times a day? They wouldn’t be happy and they shouldn’t be forced to adopt someone else’s belief. The “Fear God” motto leaves out anyone who doesn’t believe in a personal God. What is particularly troubling is that this “Fear God” motto is not part of official heraldry and has been added by local commanders to the call/response, t-shirts, and even to the official unit crest. Commanders have for years set aside official policy and neutrality toward religion in favor of using their position to promote their personal religious beliefs. How have local EO representatives, lawyers, chaplains, and lateral/higher commanders let this go for even one day?

A spokesperson for 1st Armored Division and 2-34 Armor discussed the issue and declared that professing a belief and fear of God in this manner should be no big deal to atheists…

The use of “Fear God” does not require anyone who uses the word “God” to actually believe in or worship any god or higher power. The word “God” to those who do not believe is just a word. Just as a chapel to some folks is just a building and the Bible or Koran just books. Accordingly, its use does not violate AR 600-20 (Army Command Policy) or other Army regulation or law.

MAAF reiterated that yes, it does matter. And also that a unit motto of “Allahu Akbar” would not be “just a word” to Christians who don’t believe in Allah. Fear of government-mandated religion isn’t about the truth of the religious beliefs, it’s about the believers in power and what they might do to unbelievers. This attempt to deflect the problem by misrepresenting the beliefs of nontheists, turns a blind eye to the command climate and conveniently promotes religion in general and Christianity in particular.

What a pathetic and disingenuous argument from the division spokesman. I hope both MAAF and MRFF are all over this and putting pressure on the Pentagon to fix it.

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  • scienceavenger

    The use of “Fear God” does not require anyone who uses the word “God” to actually believe in or worship any god or higher power. The word “God” to those who do not believe is just a word.

    You mean its a sound without meaning? Fine, then it shouldn’t matter to you if they substitute one nonsense sound for another right? They should be allowed to say “Fear Dorp!” as long as they do it with enough military manliness.

    They only reason you insist that they say it is because it DOES have meaning. Duh. “Words mean things” – Rush Limbaugh.

  • Alverant

    So what happens if a solder says “Hail Hydra” or “Allahu Akbar” to a higher officer (I refuse to call them superior) or even decides to say nothing?

  • Doug Little

    Fear God

    Why? Is it up to something that should be feared? Doesn’t sound like a deity that you want to know.

  • steve78b

    I don’t fear him. I outrank him. Doesn’t dreadnought mean “fear nothing”?????

    I was an atheist, not in a foxhole, but in a bunker. Several of them. In Iraq with a couple of chaplains that blubbered and whined while rockets and mortars came in. Wasn’t skeered at all.

    Still an atheist.

  • DaveL

    The use of “Fear God” does not require anyone who uses the word “God” to actually believe in or worship any god or higher power.

    Just like how the Romans didn’t require Christians to actually believe in their civic religion, they just required a token obeisance. So I guess it was totally cool what the Romans did to the Christians who refused, right?

  • Modusoperandi


  • mck9

    The word “God” to those who do not believe is just a word.

    In other words, it’s “ceremonial deism,” just like “under God” and “in God we trust,” or any other affirmation of faith that theists want to force from everyone’s lips.

    By judicial fiat, and in defiance of all logic and reason, the courts have held that religious language is officially and legally stripped of religious meaning if repeated enough times under governmental auspices.

    Coming soon to a courthouse lawn near you, right next to the Ten Commandments: the Lord’s Prayer, the Nicene Creed, and Hail Mary Full of Grace, all as ceremonial deism of course. But not Allahu Akbar. That would be religious.

  • eric

    @4 – yes exactly; this is a play on words. They should still change it, but given the play on word nature of it, I don’t see it as much of a violation. It’s like complaining when a teacher says “In God we Trust…all others pay cash.” Sure, the God part is a bit of a problem, but the point of that statement is the joke. The point of this military slogan is obviously to say “fear nothing” with a little religious joke added for effect.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    The alternative I suggest “Fear Iron Chariots.”

  • janiceintoronto

    Whereas you should be saying, “FEAR CANADIANS”

    Ohhh, I like that…

  • Crimson Clupeidae

    Yeah, since it’s considered so darn meaningless, why have it?

    I would like to see what happens if a soldier were brave enough to say “No gods” instead.

  • moarscienceplz

    The word “God” to those who do not believe is just a word.

    By that logic, “fear” is also just a word and can be substituted by another word. So, “Fuck God” should be an acceptable alternative, and one I personally would not object to.


  • marcus

    Look they can just kind of mumble “Fuck Dorp” and probably get away with (most of the time) so what’s the problem?

  • phillipbrown

    “Hail Caesar!”

  • dingojack

    “Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant”.


  • dingojack

    ” ο δε ειπεν αυτοις αποδοτε τοινυν τα καισαρος καισαρι και τα του θεου τω θεω”. – ΚΑΤΑ ΛΟΥΚΑΝ 20:25

    1550 Stephanus New Testament.

    😉 Dingo.


    CASCA: Nay, an I tell you that, Ill ne’er look you i’ the

    face again: but those that understood him smiled at

    one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own

    part, it was Greek to me.

  • magistramarla


    Did I ever mention that a man who knows both Latin and Greek is very sexy?

    That’s why my hubby took both languages along with me when we were dating.

    It worked for him!

  • dingojack

    magistramarla – How about someone who can cut and paste Greek and/or Latin*? Kinda sexy?

    😉 Dingo


    * Or someone who can quote Suetonius, Shakespeare and the Bible?

  • lofgren

    I agree with eric @8. Actually as an atheist I suspect this would not pose much of a problem for me, because I don’t believe in god so to me it’s just a little joke. I suspect those of other religions might feel a bit differently, though.

  • Bob Dowling

    It’s the army. Shouldn’t the correct response be “Fear us”?

  • skinnercitycyclist

    I knew some pretty stupid people when I was in the Army (1980-1984), including my insane Green Beret Bn Commander, but this is a new low.

    And, Eric,

    The point of this military slogan is obviously to say “fear nothing” with a little religious joke added for effect.

    In that case, isn’t this another horrific persecution of Christians by holding their sacred beliefs up to mockery? Alert the Thomas More Law Center and the ACLJ!

  • eamick

    The word “fear” can mean honor or venerate. It’s far more likely that “fear God” is in the sense of “honor God”, especially since the reply is “be afraid of nothing”.

  • D. C. Sessions

    No, no, no. “Fear God, be afraid of nothing” is simple logic:

    “Afraid of nothing” = “Fear nothing” = “Fear God”


    “God” == “nothing.”

  • sharonb

    Not to excuse it or anything, but Google Baron Fisher, and “fear God and dread naught.”

    Dreadnaughts = battleships.

    Tanks = land battleships.

    I think that is the connection here.

  • raven

    The word “fear” can mean honor or venerate

    Huh??? What!!!

    Merrian-Webster dictionary:

    1fear verb ˈfir

    : to be afraid of (something or someone)

    : to expect or worry about (something bad or unpleasant)

    : to be afraid and worried

    Full Definition of FEAR transitive verb

    1. archaic: frighten

    2. archaic: to feel fear in (oneself)

    3: to have a reverential awe of

    4.: to be afraid of : expect with alarm

    Technically it can mean awe. But it is more or less never used this way outside of religious contexts. I didn’t even know this until I looked it up on Google.

    1. Even as a xian I would have had trouble with this. Why should I fear my imaginary Sky Friend? Supposedly he loves us. We would have said “Love god”. Doesn’t have the same ominous macho ring to it but is more theologically correct.

    2. This is just more xian territorial marking, them pissing on another fire hydrant. I find it outrageous that they force people to say this and somewhat insulting both to the people forced to say it and to the idea of the gods. In terms of team building the fundie xians will be happy and everyone else will be pissed off but afraid to say anything so they just resent it, assume their officers are morons, and hope they get transferred back to the states.

    3. I dont’ see that it is going to last too much longer either. Until the first officer with a brain sees it. (Might be optimistic here though, assuming that there are any.)

  • speed0spank

    I really hate that cop out of “well, you don’t have to mean it!”. Its like AA or NA where they say your “higher power” can be a bush or a pencil for all they care, and then expect you to sit there relinquishing your problems to said bush or pencil. Huh? Words do mean things, people.