This Is How People React to Atheist Soldiers?

How hard is it to be an atheist soldier?

Even at a Memorial Day parade, they can’t get respect…

Thesaintsrevenge was among other Foxhole Atheists marching in the Annville Memorial Day Parade 2011 in Pennsylvania. The PA Nonbelievers were there. So was Jason Torpy of the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers (MAAF).

And some of the spectators were not happy to see them

It gets particularly nasty at the 8:23 mark.

There’s also a telling exchange at the 9:42 mark, too:

Thesaintsrevenge: Support your atheists in foxholes!

Lady: Sorry, we believe.

Thesaintsrevenge: That’s ok, but support the veteran atheists, too!

Lady: No.

Thesaintsrevenge: No? Really? They give their life and you won’t support them? C’mon… Where’s the love?

As you can see from the video, shouts of “Support your atheists in foxholes!” were met with a lot of epithets and overall nastiness. These people don’t represent all Christians, obviously, but the fact that anyone serving in the military would get that sort of reaction from people who otherwise appreciate the troops? It’s pretty disgusting.

We can have a discussion about whether the atheists should have brought their children on the route with them or whether you think they were egging on the spectators, but none of that is an excuse for the way they were treated.

  • Kristian

    I didn’t get much of that in the Navy and I never hid that I was an Atheist. It was right on my dog-tags. I did have an exchange once with a Christian who said he was saddened and scared for this country because people like me were able to serve in the military.

  • http://twitter.com/JMRooker Rooker

    That’s alright. Those soldiers will still happily defend the rights of bigots like these to express their hatred of everyone not like themselves.

  • http://agoldstardad@wordpress.com Fozzy

    Personally.. I think they are trying too hard to be contrary and dragging the kids along mimics the militant Christians a bit too much. Carry the signs, thank the troops and observe (not celebrate) memorial day. The “Happy Memorial day” thing frankly irritates me.

  • schism

    These people don’t represent all Christians

    I keep hearing that, but I see behavior like in the video far more often than not. I’d call that a conundrum, but I’m quite sure that’s giving people too much credit.

  • Kari

    My boyfriend is about to come home from the Navy. He’s agnostic. My dad identifies as an atheist. He was in the First Infantry Division(Big Red One) in Vietnam. To think that someone would be that much of a jack ass to someone who put their lives on the line for them makes my blood boil.
    I’m proud of my dad and my boyfriend. My boyfriend is very brave for choosing to go and my dad is brave for not running away from the draft. They have nothing to look forward to if they are/were killed in action and that, in my opinion, makes them braver.

  • Staceyjw

    DISGUSTING display of hatred.

    Why shouldn’t they bring their kids? Is it inappropriate to have kids in a parade? If not, there is no reason to not bring them. You know atheist have families, as do soldiers and atheist soldiers- even if the public didn’t need to see this (they do), they can march with their kids if they want. It’s THEIR day, they have EARNED the right to show off their kids!

    Christians DO NOT have the monopoly on FAMILY TIME and KIDS! I’m an atheist and feminist and take my kid everywhere I go, pretty much.

  • Dan

    @schism Keep in mind that out of the (what looked to be) hundreds of people they passed in this parade, only a few were complete assholes to them.

  • http://agoldstardad@wordpress.com Fozzy

    Kids in my opinion do not belong is something that is so obviously antagonistic. This is no different that my disgust of the religiously themed floats and organizations who blatantly brainwash and peer pressure children into things that they have no way of understanding. The adults (especially the veterans) who want to do this.. more power to them but leave the children out of the mix.

  • Tom

    Apple and Praise? ok….

  • Tom

    I am an atheist serving in the US Army as an infantry soldier. Most of the other guys in platoon know that I’m an atheist and I know that they are predominantly Christian and the amazing part about this situation is that it is not and has not once caused a problem. Through deployments and training, hanging out and just enjoying each other’s company my atheism was never a cause for conflict or the source of insults.

    I can say with absolute certainty that I have more faith in many of my buddies than most of those people maligning foxhole atheists do in their gods. Similarly, a buddy of mine might be praying to god, but he knows that I’m going to be the one dragging his ass to safety when the time comes – atheist or no.

    The real rub for me is that these godly people who are so fervently celebrating the troops can not really be cognizant of what it is that they’re asking us to do. Our job is ugly, not godly. It is based explicitly on reality and reasoned, measured, calculated action. We fight neither with nor for a god.

    And yet, that’s all it takes to engender such hatred from people I’ve never met. I really don’t like the classic “I’m keeping you safe” image, but the fact is that I’m doing the bad stuff that these people want done, and for that they’ll sing my praises – so long as I agree with their superstition. If I don’t, they hate me despite the sacrifices that have been made by myself and my loved ones? Despite years willingly given up, time and innocence lost to fight for a nation we share, these people hate me? That’s absurd. Wear the uniform, do what I do, face what I’m asked to face, and then tell me that it matters a damn whether I believe in your god.

  • SlipperyWhenWet

    Absolutely disgusting.

  • Alex

    It would have been interesting if they gave out candy to see if the parents would let the kids take it from atheists.

  • Maverick

    Christian Theology:

    Jesus died for you: All praise and worship be unto him.
    Atheist soldiers risk their lives and die for you: $@#% YOU!!!

  • Jeff

    About what one would expect. Look at the place. Its main street would be anyone else’s back road. It makes Mayberry look sophisticated.

  • http://kristenmomof3.xanga.com/ Kristen

    That isn’t far from where I live and I have to say I am not shocked at all sadly.

    The Pa Nonbelievers should Walk in the Ephrata Pa parade.

  • http://www.angryvince.com Angry Vince

    Bigotry in small town America? What next: the sky is blue, water is wet and…
    Ah, just ran out of irony.

  • Walter

    I think they should have prepared actual float all dressed up in multiple, large US flags, with big mock up of US Constitution with First Amendment displayed in large letters, with big sign “Support Atheists in Foxholes” running around it, and as they were driving it they should play “America, oh beautiful”, and while approaching the main stand they should play our national anthem, so those assholes in the stand who ignored them would have to stand up and salute. Just thought that a little esthetic advice would be nice. :))
    We have to be everywhere “ordinary” Americans are and display symbols that mark us as patriotic citizens.
    And after someone will estimate how many atheists died for this republic we should be proudly bringing this number up at every occasion. Whoever has this number please sound off.

  • Vanessa

    I actually don’t have an issue with them bringing their kids in the parade. I mean, to a kid, being in a parade is pretty freaking sweet. Not to mention, what else were they supposed to do with the kids while they were doing the parade thing?

    I can’t believe how disrespectful some people are. You don’t even care that they’re fighting for your freedom if they don’t believe in your god? Rawr.

  • Bronwyn

    Wow, Tom, thank you for your service. You are most eloquent; everyone I know in military service (just a few, but I meet them in my job with DHS) Basically tell me the same, especially those who have been deployed to dangerous area. Your fellow troops are human beings, and you do what you can to keep their backs. I am grateful for what you do.

    It’s sad when people conflate small town behaviour with all small town people. I encountered it when I lived in the country, and there is a lot of it, but not everyone is small minded and bigoted. I tend towards it myself, after having a very bad experience in Redding California. I still feel funny (weird) when people who would never say n*gg*r are more than happy to call people trailer trash or white trash, and I have been guilty of this as well. I guess what I’m trying to say is we can’t assume anything about anyone. we can only try to have a conversation. I learned last week that that isn’t always possible when someone is so stuck that they just parrot lines and don’t address what you are saying.

    Good people exist all over, right? Or am I too naieve?

  • http://dubitoergo.blogspot.com Tom Foss

    All atheists have rabies?

  • Annie

    @Tom- Thank you for your service.

    If I saw a Christian group coming towards me in a parade, I would wave at them just as I do the Hari Krishnas, the float for the Jewish student center, etc. There’s more to that anger than just being different. When we stand tall and say “I don’t believe and I’m fine if you know that”, I think the religious people who have the least faith are the ones that get angry. Some of them would like to hop over that imaginary fence that separates us, but they have way too much invested in their belief system.

    As for kids in a parade, hell ya I would take my child. But, I would also not be saying anything to try and start a debate in the middle of the street. “Support ALL our troops!” would have been my chant. Most of them will be able to read the sign.

  • jbrock

    Is it possible that conservatives/evangelicals freak out over the presence of atheists in the military because they see it as a betrayal by the only secular institution they’re inclined to respect? Perhaps the logic runs something like this: “Liberals hate us Christians. Liberals also hate soldiers. Therefore the Armed Forces are doing God’s Work. Therefore atheists should not be allowed in the Armed Forces.”

    Sure, that logic fails in three or four places and on more than one level, but I don’t think one would have too look too hard or too far to find multiple implicit–or even explicit–examples of it.

  • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com/ gloomcookie613

    I live a whopping 30 minute drive from that place and I’m not surprised in the slightest that so many reacted so poorly. This area might not be in the Bible Belt, but they’re just as backassward in so many ways.

    That said, while I appreciate their coming out and supporting the troops, they could have gone about it in a much less inflammatory way. There was no need to shout more than “Happy Memorial Day” or as Annie said above, “Support ALL the troops!” Keep the banners, signs, and t-shirts; it’s your organization supporting the troops, but without being confrontational douchebags. The “look at me, look at me!” shouting is just childish and so very… religious in spirit.

    I don’t like when Christians pummel me with needless godbot talk, so why in the world would I subject them to it? What? Because they do it to us we should do it to them? How very Old Testament and how very wrong. We need to show people that we are smarter, more polite, kinder, more compassionate, and certainly show that we have better manners! Why sink to the level of those who despise and belittle us?

    It’s nice to see fellow PA atheists out and about in the community, but I think there comes a point where being so militant actually hurts the cause.

    Think about it, we can’t stand the religious who act confrontational and abrasive, it downright chaps most of our asses when they do it, but then we act in the same manner and expect the other side to give ground and take us seriously?

    We’re smarter than religious tactics, how about we start acting like it?

  • Parse

    I’m not really surprised by this. Saddened, yes, but not surprised. After all, same thing happened last year.

    Annville is the sort of small town where bigotry thrives. The name “Pennsyltucky” isn’t exactly undeserved.

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio Lantz

    Thanks, I showed this to my atheist son. He didn’t know the expression, “There are NO atheists in foxholes.”
    So this helped him learn again that common sense is often wrong.

  • http://luckyatheist.blogspot.com Michael Caton

    When something like this happens, it’s always cool to check in with someone you happen to know from that state, leave a nice comment on a blog or local Facebook page, do whatever you can to show atheist solidarity. Next year I predict less comments from the jackasses on the sidelines. (Which is where jackasses are usually found.) The year after that no one will pay attention.

    PA is my home state, and my dad was an atheist and a Commander in the United States Navy. Not surprisingly I had a bit of a visceral reaction to this. Thanks to Hemant for posting – let’s show PA our support.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/108749041516784525981 Larro

    Why not leave them to their foxholes?

    Taking one step away from an authoritative god must be more difficult than stepping away from the authority of man.

  • http://agoldstardad@wordpress.com Fozzy

    I would have joined them.. I’m a Army Infantry veteran (no combat time) and lost an atheist son in Iraq who was fighting for his fellow humans against other religious nuts. It’s very sad that these people cannot see how similar they are with those they despise.

  • Catsmeat

    Please no ! Not “This beautiful Atheist Baby”.
    The child is merely the child of Atheist parents.
    Hopefully when he’s old enough he’ll make up his own mind, without being indoctrinated into either religion or atheism.

  • NotYou007

    Tom Says: Apple and Praise? ok….

    I wish parents would really think about their children before naming them. Naming your kid after a fruit is not cool nor is naming them Praise.

    The parents might find these names cool and different but your child’s name is about them, not you.

  • Fuzzymuffinz

    He’s kind of annoying and the shirts (“I’m going nowhere when I die”) send out the wrong message. The “Happy Memorial Day” thing is a little irritating.
    That’s still no excuse for being so rude and callous. It’s amazing how so many people despise us, and for no good reason, either.

  • Jonathan

    Please no ! Not “This beautiful Atheist Baby”.
    The child is merely the child of Atheist parents.

    All babies are by definition atheists as they are not able to make an informed decision about belief in god(s). They lack belief, ergo they are atheists.

  • Tracy

    @Tom Well said. When I walk down the street I feel safe. Thank you to you and your fellow soldiers for protecting us so we don’t have to face the same ugliness you do. The irony of this whole situation is that if the world had fewer believers, chances are really good that there would be less of a need for soldiers.

  • http://purl.org/NET/JesseW/SundryStuff/ Jesse Weinstein

    Regarding the various requests for atheists to behave better than Christians, to “not stoop to their tactics” (paraphrase) and so forth.

    I disagree. We atheists are not necessarily any kinder, more polite, or more understanding than anyone else. All that we are, are people who don’t believe in some of the popular delusions, and who get hassled (and worse) for it. Not believing in things that arn’t true is generally helpful in being a better person, and being more kind and so forth, but it’s not a panacea. Some of us are confrontational; some of us are quiet; some of us are Friendly (like our host here); some of us are mocking. All we are is clearer eyed about supernatural claims — that’s all.

  • Dan

    This is beside the main point, but honestly this is about the worst display of parade-ness I have ever seen. Everything in a parade should be flashy, impressive, or at least throw out something sugary. I think they were ignored by the bandstand because there was just nothing there to see other than a bunch of people with bumper stickers and a red SUV.

    I wonder what the religious groups there looked like – did they have live music and/or candy? If this was the first atheists I had ever (knowingly) met, I would think they were awfully boring and non-cool.

  • Jamie

    I wish parents would really think about their children before naming them. Naming your kid after a fruit is not cool nor is naming them Praise.

    The parents might find these names cool and different but your child’s name is about them, not you.

    Totally agree, cause you know naming your kid Frank or Jane is “about them”…..oh and is actually “cool”.

  • J S Brown

    Atheists in the military shouldn’t have a more difficult time there than the religious, or any other group, yet they do. Creating a group to gain visibility for themselves is certainly a good effort. Some oblivious people will be enlightened by it. However… I dislike how this guy tried to sell atheism along with being a veteran. When the people objected to atheism, he misrepresented them as if they didn’t support veterans, which isn’t necessarily so. Being a veteran doesn’t mean you get a free pass for your opinions and actions. The respect they earned is for their service to this country and its citizens, and I think it ends there.

  • Dan

    These people don’t represent all Christians, obviously…

    But they are Christian themselves, so they represent them that much. You got to wonder how many other Christians agree with not only what Christians in this video feel, but also agree with their actions and would do the same thing.

  • Peter

    Why didn’t this make Fox News? If it had been a town with atheists shouting down and disrespecting christians in a parade it would have been made mincemeat fodder for the faithful.

    • S_carter2000

      Come on, Fox are a right wing ( Think, Mormans are a cult ) channel. Do you honestly think they would report on an anti Athiest event

      • You’re Doing It Wrong

        Read more than the first sentence of Peter’s comment, then read your comment.  He was saying exactly what you said, but was more articulate.

        Think before you comment, your ignorance makes all of us look bad.

  • TomS

    “Happy Memorial Day!” made me cringe. Memorial Day is an inherently solemn occasion.

  • satanhimself

    Memorial Day SHOULD be a solemn occasion, but don’t blame the atheists. It was changed by the Feds from Decoration Day, May 30 (decorate the cemeteries with flags) to Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) so that Fed employees could have a 3-day weekend (and go to the beach, etc…..not honor fallen soldiers). The Annville parade is NOT a solemn parade, but includes clowns, dancers, rock music, and the ubiquitous Shriners in their little funny cars. The organizers set the festive mood, NOT the atheists. A solemn parade would get very sparse participation. From my viewpoint, when I die (for whatever the reason) I want the living to HAVE FUN while they are still alive, not be all somber about my death–sheesh what a waste of life time.

    Veterans Day gets very little voluntary participation because it’s often during midweek and during cold weather. That’s why Veterans Day ceremonies often are forced into public schools that day.

  • Walter

    @gloomcookie613. I totally agree with you.

  • Alexis

    Well, I’ve seen a couple of hate message against atheists but we really have to ask ourselves how long the parade was and how many hate message they received. I didn’t see that much hate apart from 2-3 messages in this video really…

  • L

    I agree that the responses of the anti-atheists in the crowd were unnecessarily and excessively rude and belligerent. I mean, really, telling someone to burn his child is just disgusting, no matter who’s talking to whom.

    However, the guy with the camera really did seem to be poking these people with the proverbial stick; I’m 100% atheist and I was finding him to be grating and obnoxious halfway through the video. I’d love to repeat this experiment with someone different behind the camera, and see if the same reactions are elicited; something tells me this guy’s demeanor and voice are just more irritating than average.

    Still, though, the childish, knee-jerk rudeness from the crowd is deplorable. These guys put their necks on the line to save your hypocritical butts.

  • vel

    I live about 12 miles from Annville and lived in PA my whole life. And unfortunately in PA, this isnt’ that suprising. There is a reason we’re called Pennsyltucky.

    and sorry gloomcookie but I won’t stop rocking the boat no matter how many people say such sad things like:”It’s nice to see fellow PA atheists out and about in the community, but I think there comes a point where being so militant actually hurts the cause.” People said that many times, to those who got feisty for civil rights. How many more years would that fight have gone on if no one said “enough is enough!”

  • http://www.eselby.com/blog Ed Selby

    Well that’s 12:54 of my life I’ll never get back. That could have EASILY been edited down to 3 or 4 minutes. But I digress…

    First rant – Memorial Day is for honoring those soldiers who have died in service to our country. Veterans Day is for honoring still living soldiers. The two frequently get mixed up.

    My grandfathers are remembered on Memorial Day (with no parade) at quiet ceremonies in their respective cemetaries.

    My uncle (and others) is honored on Veterans Day with a big parade.

    Second Rant – this one is on me. I am generally uncomfortable with evangelical atheism. But then I thought, I’ll bet there are at LEAST three church groups in that parade – not to mention Boy & Cub Scouts – handing out literature about their god and their organizations. Bad me.

    Third Rant – stupid hypocritical “christians”.

    • You’re Still Doing It Wrong

      About those 13 wasted minutes of your life…

      Some of us may have wanted to see more than just pissed off Christians.  Some find it helpful to see all of the different reactions, to get some context of how the general public reacts to atheists.  Just showing the haters would only give a piece of the puzzle, seeing all the folks asking for stickers and pamphlets has just as much meaning as the negative aspects of the video. 

      Also, two different times are mentioned right by the video that you can advance to for hate jollies.

      Lastly, you’d better make it 14 minutes wasted, as you took the time to write a comment… about your wasted time.  10 points for irony!

  • Adnihilo

    I appreciate your group attempting to get some respect for what you’ve done in the military, however as an atheist knowing there’s no life in the ‘hereafter’, don’t ya think an atheist would be more rational, respected and respectable by not taking an opportunity to sign up to kill others or waste their own life in US wars for corporations? [excluding the conscripted of course] What if no one signed up to fight wars for politicians and the corporations they represent?

    The honorable US Marine Corp Major General Smedley Butler knew ‘War is a Racket’ fought for corporations even back in the early part of the 20th century “I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers.”
    http://www.warisaracket.org/dedication.html

    • http://twitter.com/captwasabi captwasabi

      Sigh. Another pacifist asshole who thinks if we ask the bad man nicely enough they will just go away.

      Dude, there is no excuse for you stupidity.

  • satanhimself

    @Adnihilo, I hear what you are saying and tend to agree. I’m not sure I would be willing to serve unless there was a literal invasion of our land. That said, we are all voters and taxpayers, and the stuff our government does is OUR responsibility, so as long as our government recruits soldiers, and feels a need to have armed forces, I feel somewhat of a duty to thank them for doing something I personally am not willing to do, but that my government thinks is necessary.

  • http://nsh.humanists.ca Horst Klaus

    As an atheist, at my recent birthday party I had 7 devout Christians and 2 atheists enjoying each others company. My lady partner is also very religious – it proves that we can live in harmony, without hatred!

  • Pissed off Vet

    They had no right to march as Foxhole Atheist, being a Veteran is about fighting for the principals of Freedom not whether you are an Atheist Soldier or not, we are Veterans, we do not soil that image by making a political statement on a Day honoring ALL VETERANS and especially those who died. I don’t give a rats ass if you are atheist or not when you start politicizing it that makes me angry and I would not have just sat there, I would have got up and started kicking a few peoples asses whether they be Atheist or Not!! Memorial day is to honor our Dead and Wounded and all of them who made sacrifices, leave the damn politics out of it, ass holes.

    • Anonymous

      …right…like Jeff said, I highly doubt you’d be pissed about a religious veteran’s group marching in the parade, mostly because religious veteran’s groups DO march in these parades.

    • You’re Doing It Wrong

       They do have the right to march.  Those “principles of Freedom” you speak of also include the freedom of speech and the right to worship (or not to).  Half of the groups in our local Memorial Day parade (and most others) are church related.  Are you also bitching at those political assholes?  Not doing so would make you a hypocrite.

      Memorial Day being for “ALL VETERANS” is wrong, it’s to honor the dead.  Veterans Day is what you’re referring to.  Look it up, patriot.

      You “kicking a few peoples asses” (other veterans?) on a day of remembrance, in front of women and children, during a parade, surely wouldn’t be seen as honorable.  It’s disturbing that your gut reaction is violence, this implies that we need more atheists in parades.

      If they were “Foxhole Jews” or “Foxhole Mexicans” would you still be upset?  This is no different, there’s a name for such intolerance, it’s called bigotry.

      Think of all the theist garbage that atheist soldiers have to tolerate during their service, specifically, dealing with guys like you.  These days they’re only in wars because some crackpot thinks his god is better than… umm… ours?  Wait, atheists don’t believe in god so… ummm… yeah just punch that dick in the face when he gets home, how dare he march in a parade showing his true colors after putting his life on the line (or losing it) for the right to do just that.

      Ignorant comments like yours dishonor veterans and everything they’ve fought for.

  • Jeff

    we are Veterans, we do not soil that image by making a political statement on a Day honoring ALL VETERANS and especially those who died

    Right – so if a group calling itself “Born Again Christian Vets” had marched, you would have “started kicking a few peoples asses”?

  • superkooz

    MAAF 3:16– “for foxhole atheists so loved their country that they risked their lives to defend the freedom of assholes like this.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_32134257721 Lee C. Seligman, USNA ’60

    There is no excuse for ignorance and those people {i.e., the “amerikan taliban”, aka rabid, bigoted evangelicals intent on turning this country from a republic where all are [or should be welcome per the Constitution which we swear to protect and defend seem to have cornered the market into a theocracy where their narrow-minded bigotry is all that is permissable ! It is the reason why the Military Religious Freedom Foundation was established … interestingly enough, of it’s thousands of members and clients, approximately 95% of it’s clients are Christians, discriminated against and harassed and intimidated because they are the “wrong kind of Christians” … the Foundation is there to assist all, believers of all sorts AND non-believers, who experience such treatment … check it out and it’s Open Group page on Facebook

  • Eemeli

    I don’t get americans they and their strong belive that they can’t eaven support veterans I once was in parade with atheist who had died and it had as much support as anyone else.


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