Mainstream Press Recognizes Military Atheists

This was supposed to be the weekend when Richard Dawkins, Dan Barker, Margaret Downey, Baba Brinkman, and a handful of other atheists (including myself) were supposed to speak at Rock Beyond Belief, a concert supporting atheists in the military, taking place at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

That effort was stopped when Fort Bragg officials restricted the event to a smaller venue and offered no financial support — as opposed to the larger venue with ample financial support that was offered for a similar Christian event.

The event may be rescheduled, but for the time being, the cancellation has served as a jumping point for some well-deserved press about “foxhole atheists.” An Associated Press article by Tom Breen is making the rounds in newspapers and on websites across the country:

“We exist, we’re here, we’re normal,” said Sgt. Justin Griffith, chief organizer of Military Atheists and Secular Humanists, or MASH. “We’re also in foxholes. That’s a big one, right there.”

“People look at you differently if you say you’re an atheist in the Army,” said Lt. Samantha Nicoll, a West Point graduate who in January attended her first meeting of MASH. “That’s extremely taboo. I get a lot of questions if I let it slip in conversation.”

It is difficult to pin down how many nonbelievers are in the military, in part because some soldiers lose their faith or convert to a different one. But a report last June by the Pentagon’s Military Leadership Diversity Commission concluded that about 20 to 25 percent of military personnel have no religious preference. Up to 3.6 percent identify themselves as humanist — a catchall that can refer to a nonreligious ethical philosophy.

“Granted, most soldiers are Christian, but I’d like to see some secular kind of spiritual and emotional support,” said Sgt. Adam Jennings, a Special Forces medic who has been in the Army for 11 years and served in combat in Afghanistan. “I want a place where I can go and be part of a close-knit community.”

That’s what Rock Beyond Belief and the military atheist groups are all about — giving atheists a place for community in a place where that community is so vital. And it would be nice to have our government recognize these groups in some “official” way, as they do so easily when it comes to religious groups.

One bonus to press like this is that it might help columnists recognize that there are, indeed, atheists in foxholes.

(Thanks to everyone for the link!)

  • Shoves

    Strage thing this side of the pond- MOST Bristish soldiers admit to being atheists. We’re not scared to admit it to our mates, as we’re not brainwashed like the US military is.

    Funny, as our government acts like the USA’s bitches most of the time as well. But the forces don’t.

  • John McCready

    Is this “MASH” the same as the “Miitary Atheists and Freethinkers” which is attached to American Atheists?

  • Frederick Green

    MASH is separate from but somewhat related to the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF). Congrats to Justin and to the courageous foxhole atheists and Fort Bragg.

  • Scott

    I am a military atheist (field grade officer, Army, Infantry). I love the phrase “There are no atheists in foxholes.” I think it is a true statement, and one we as a community should embrace. Here’s why…

    A foxhole is a chest-deep hole in the ground, used as a defensive position. A religious person may cower in a foxhole, praying to his imaginary friend to make everything okay, but an atheist has no such delusions. An atheist knows, if the mission is going to get accomplished, he’s going to have to get out of the foxhole and do something about it, himself.

  • JJR

    Good for British troops, yet they are fighting for a nation (UK) that does not have separation of Church and State insofar as the Monarch is also head of the CoE.

    Off fighting ostensibly for “God, Queen, and Country”, right? ;-)

  • Marty

    I served 20 years in the Army/Army Reserve. I was proselytized to countless times. It’s disgusting. But I never stood up for my non-belief. It was just too hard feeling so alone.

  • Roxane

    Scott’s wonderful statement to the contrary notwithstanding, I’d like to thank all of our military atheists–in or out of foxholes!–for your service. You really are defending my rights and beliefs.

  • http://thespiritualskeptic.com Keri

    “A religious person may cower in a foxhole, praying to his imaginary friend to make everything okay, but an atheist has no such delusions.”

    @Scott What a great thought! I never considered it that way. =)

  • Mihangel apYrs

    JJR

    it’s lip-service (not a blowjob!)

    constitutionally we’re a monarchy with the head of state also the head o the church of England.

    It has as much meaning as the all-seeing eye on the dollar bill – decorative but little meaning

  • L.Long

    Part of the problem with military and atheist is of intelligence. Atheism is closely linked to skepticism which is closely linked to looking at BS as BS. And the one thing the military can not stand is someone looking at their BS and knowing it for what it is. In all the well known stories all the smart people are suspect or evil or eventually made to look evil. Muscle bond Herc is well known and his smarter brother is relatively unknown, Arthur and his knights are heroes but Merlin is a manipulating warlock, the french knights are heroes but Joan is a witch. Thor is cool but Loki is a meanie. The snake caused our fall. Simplistic but you get the general idea, the military will in general not like atheists.

  • Richard P.

    all things considered, I would rather an atheist watch my back, than xian stabbing it.

    One thing about this is, any self-respecting military personnel will to look at themselves and decide whether or not they agree to the decision made. People seeking the truth, and there are some, I would think, will have to wonder what their leaders are so afraid of. If it was true, that speakers or people weren’t going to show up, it would have been better to let it happen. I believe people will question this fear and see the hypocrisy. Some will come to the conclusion that they can not be part of it.

    When you have right on your side, even the losses can be victories. Y’all lost the chance to unite together physically. The actions of the leaders will speak for itself. The hypocrisy of the situation will slap any one connected to this situation, that is a seeker, in the face. As what happened to so many of us, this fear and hypocrisy will drive them away. A few more numbers will be silently turned to reasons side. Until they just can’t stand it any more, then even they will no longer be silent.

    We need to breed more….

  • Matt H.

    This is just a personal opinion… but I’ve always regarded military atheists with more respect than their christian comrades. I think they put more value in human life, because they realize there is no afterlife. That makes them more compassionate. That makes them braver when they climb out of their foxhole and charge the front knowing they might die.

  • Sandra

    Well whatever about valuing their own life – as atheists I also hopes it helps them value the lives of those on the receiving end of all those American bombs and bullets. It’s surely easier to blast men, women and children into oblivion when you labour under the delusion that God will sort it all out in the next life.

  • http://www.bluefrogdesignstudios.com/thebluefrogsays/ The Big Blue Frog

    RE: Scott’s comment – Does the US military even use foxholes anymore? I was under the impression, perhaps mistaken, that the Army had taken “foxholes” out of their SOP, as so much of our combat is now urban in nature, and it was recognized that, as one of my friends said, “foxholes are a place where you wait to die.”

  • http://selfra.blogspot.com dantresomi

    it was my time in the military between 1990 and 1996 where I met the most atheists/agnostics.


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