Military Chaplain Leaves Off ‘So Help Me God’ from Atheist Soldier’s Oath

Justin Griffith, the Military Director for American Atheists and the guy behind next spring’s Rock Beyond Belief gathering, recently re-enlisted in the military.

When he took his oath, the Christian chaplain overseeing the service respectfully left off “So help me god” :)

It’s reminiscent of Megan Hurwitt godless pledge when she was inducted into the Texas Army National Guard.

Bravo to Justin and all the other foxhole atheists for being a strong presence in the military!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • M Vanroy

    We also have to give a Bravo to the chaplain for respecting the soldier’s wishes.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    Definitely the right thing for the chaplain to do, and such behavior should be encouraged and covered extensively (and positively) by the atheist community. I’m incredibly curious as to what denomination the chaplain is.

    • Erp

      I looked.  I’m not sure of his current denomination but Colonel Michael Strohm’s training is Southern Baptist.   The emphasis should also be on this being a senior chaplain, one who has the ear of senior officers and oversees a lot of other chaplains.

      • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

        Interesting, thanks for checking!

  • Anonymous

    If no one pointed it out, how many people would never notice the absence of the religious bit? Yet when nonbelievers suggest leaving it out so as to be inclusive to all, religious or not, you’d think we were proposing to say “I will support and defend the Little Red Book from all enemies foreign and domestic”.

  • M Brandt

    I’m really impressed with this chaplain.  In my opinion though, the oath just doesn’t flow as well without a final statement.  I prefer to replace “so help me god” with “on my honor”, or something similar.

    • Jake

      I’ve heard “that is my solemn oath” as a replacement, and it works quite well.

  • Brit

    Bravo to the Chaplain? We need to start congratulating people on being a decent human now?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Reed/692599362 Paul Reed

      When it’s a relative rarity, yeah.

    • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

      Yes. in the same way you give anyone doing the right thing positive feedback. The chaplain did the right thing in an environment not always amenable to that. of COURSE you give him a thumbs-up for it. That’s just leadership 101, reinforcement of good behavior.

  • http://twitter.com/nora_anne Nora

    That part of the oath is definitely not mandatory. When I reswore my oath, I just did not repeat that part (we did it in groups of 6 as lots of us were promoted around the same time). Unfortunately it was still printed on the written oath I had to sign as part of my record. I wanted to one-line it, but I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

    Rally ’round the Braggpole!   (Mar.31)

  • 59 norris

    This is of course a nice story, so please don’t get me wrong.  I just don’t see it as much of a story.

    (An aside: when I enlisted, and the two times I re-enlisted, I was agnostic-almost-atheist, yet I gave no thought to saying the oath to include the “so-help-me” bit at the end.  It meant nothing to me either way.)

    This would have been a big story if the chaplain had refused to leave off the end.  I doubt any officer administering the oath would have a problem with leaving it off when requested.  Well, a given individual officer might have a personal problem but he would keep it to himself.  I’ve been out of the service for many years, but even when I was in the “political correctness” atmosphere was making itself very evident (especially with regards to women being assigned to ships (I was USN)).  So the “feelings” of service people, especially regarding these sorts of personal issues (i.e. swearing an oath to a god one holds does not exist) were seen as important to respect.

    I don’t ever recall actually signing an oath, with or without the God part.  I swore an oath three times, but I signed contracts.

    As a dreaded “theist” I find this to story to have been and it should have been:  a good country retained a good soldier and everyone’s happy.

    Still, I don’t think this is much of a story.  Now, if there are any service people being coerced into saying the last bit, let’s hear about that.  That would be a story, and story that’s needs attention.

    • Anonymous

      Religious coercion and proselytizing is very widespread in the US military. Particularly  in the Army and Air Force. The chaplaincy is dominated by evangelical Christians, thousands of officers are organized in para-church groups and cadets at the service academies (mostly the AF academy) are forced into evangelical churches. Soldiers are mandatoryily tested for their “spiritual fitness”, which sounds neutral in theory, but is actually just a guise for getting them to believe in god. It’s a real problem.

      This particular soldier was at the center of an incident where the Army spent tons of money for a concert by Christian bands that was heavily promoted by the base commander. Then soldiers where punished when they didn’t want to attend. He then tried to get a secular event going. That’s why he made a big deal out of his atheism during the ceremony

      • 59 norris

        Steve, thanks for the reply.  I for one find the situation you described to be, ah, a wretched one.  My experience in the Navy was nothing like that.  Given the situation described there should be an organized legal challenge.  There is, isn’t there?

        Hey, I’m a Christian and all, but the description you gave is of a situation that needs to be put down hard.  Am I repeating myself here?

        How do they get away with it?

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

    This chaplain should be told about clergyproject.com

  • http://www.christianfighterpilot.com/blog JD

    Tend to agree with one of the comments above.  Non-story.  Where’s the list of Chaplains who have re-enlisted guys and tried to force them to include the phrase?


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