What services could military chaplains provide to atheists? Should they be handing out books by Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins?
Every military chaplain has to agree to provide mentorship and support to every service member. That’s part of the job description, even though 98 percent of them are Christians. They should be able to give general instruction in an open way and point the person in the right direction. At the very least, chaplains should be able to say, “I have someone you can talk to,” even if it’s a civilian or someone off post. They should know about national organizations and local groups that can help troops get to where they need to be.
That brings to mind the saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. When you faced danger with the Army in Iraq, what were the thoughts that ran through your mind?
I should say, first off, that I was not a running firefight Army ranger. But I was in Baghdad when a mortar attack started to come down, exploding all around us. I was with two others, who also happened to be atheists. They were my friends and we were all together when the attack happened. We sought cover beside a building as the mortars exploded. There was a bunker 50 feet away through the open, so we busied ourselves deciding whether it was safer to stay in partial cover beside the building or run across in the open to get to better cover in a bunker. We decided to stay. And it was all right.
So there are atheists in foxholes. Sometimes we get hit, and sometimes we don’t. In either case, we’re worrying about how to complete the mission…
This weekend, Jason will be speaking at The United States Military Academy’s 12th Annual Diversity Leadership Conference at West Point — I’m glad the USMA is reaching out to Jason and they couldn’t have selected a better representative of our community:
He will be speaking on reforms necessary to better provide for atheists and humanists in the military.
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