The Cross Did Not Come Down Because One Atheist Complained

This is a guest post by Jason Torpy. Jason is the President of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF).

FOX News Channel recently invited Master Sergeant Kathleen Johnson of American Atheists and Jordan Sekulow of the Christian advocacy group ACLJ to comment on the recent removal of a 6-foot cross on an Army chapel in Afghanistan. An Army chaplain posted this cross in direct violation of Army Regulation 165-1 (PDF), which governs Army chaplain operations.

The regulation states that Army chapels should be general-purpose and have no permanent symbols of any one religion. Only during worship services when sectarian symbols are in use for those who choose to be involved should religious symbols be displayed. When not in use, they are to be stored properly.

This all sounds reasonable unless you want to use government facilities to trumpet your personal religious beliefs — and if you have no problem inciting the local Muslim population to religious violence.

Johnson rightfully points out that maintaining government neutrality toward religion is no attack on Christianity. Sekulow, on the other hand, shows his true colors, dishonestly picking and choosing his statistics during his prepared remarks.

He states that atheists are concerned about the level of evangelicals in the military, referring directly to MAAF demographics showing that 66% of military chaplains are evangelical, despite evangelicals making up less than 19% of the general military population. Yet in the same interview, he also claims that 90% of the military is Christian, when the same MAAF demographics show that less than 70% of the military self-identifies as Christian.

More information on the Cross in question is here. This isn’t the first story we’ve heard like this one. We’ve seen this scene play out before, whether it’s the Camp Pendleton Cross, Mojave Desert Cross, Soledad Cross, Utah State Trooper crosses, and other attempts to appropriate Christian privileges using the service and sacrifice of US military personnel.

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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Garneau/100001037513758 Jonathan Garneau

    One thing I’ve never understood was why would a Christian join the Military? The bible specifically says “Thou shalt not kill”. So by killing ANYONE they are doing sin, causing them to go to what they call “Hell”. But hey, what do I know? I’m just some stupid atheist who’s the son of an Orthodox Catholic priest.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      On the original 10 Commandments stone tablets, “Thou shalt not kill” was followed by an asterisk. The notation at the bottom, carved in much smaller text, said, “Unless God sayeth so, which is frequently.” 

      Although the original tablets are lost to us, the ability to rationalize killing has been faithfully preserved.

      • Secular Planet

        A better translation is, “You shall not murder.” Killing in war is generally not considered murder, not even today and most certainly not then.

        • The Captain

          A better translation is, “You shall not murder.”
          Better? Or more convenient?

          • rhodent

            In fairness, it is indeed a better translation.  Of course, that does beg the question of why the commandment was worded the way it was.

            • Guest

               The Constitution was written in different English than the type we speak today, hence all the debates as to what the Founding Fathers meant. Maybe in language back then kill/murder were one in the same, differentiation coming in later years? You gotta think with your head once in awhile….

          • Bob

            Well Captain, you could always go away and look it up before allowing your knee to jerk… 

    • Erp

      A few Christian denominations are pacifist (Religious Society of Friends, Brethren, Mennonites, …) though some others feel that only those vowed to religious life should not fight  (e.g., priests, nuns, monks).   Note that pacifists sometimes do join the military in wartime (or face the option  of prison/firing squad)  in roles that don’t require killing though often had a high risk of being killed (battlefield medics or bomb disposal squad); other times they don’t have a choice and are just executed.   BTW two US Medal of Honor recipients were pacifists (both medics for retrieving wounded under fire). 

    • JimG

      Church fathers really worked overtime to come up with evasive non-answers to that question when Christians started seeing numerous converts in the Roman army and first had a shot at seizing real power. Some of the rationalizing done to please Constantine is alternately horrifying and hilarious.

    • Gerry

      Listen to George Carlin on the Ten Commandments. That should answer your questions! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-RGN21TSGk

    • Guest

       Not a very well thought out statement….

  • Bluebury

    What I find baffling about 24 hour news channels is that they can babble about whatever nonsense they feel like for hours (re: Obama not mentioning god during his youtube Thanksgiving speech) but they allow someone with an actual important differing opinion 20 seconds to make her point.  She might have actually made a solid case and broadened some Fox viewers’ perceptions (doubtful) had she been given a few minutes to speak her piece.
    Whats the freaking point of having news running 24 hours if we don’t actually show interesting discussions between differing opinions? 

    • http://synackaon.myopenid.com/ Syn

      You think people want to be made to think about opposing viewpoints to their own? What planet are you from? Can I emigrate there?

  • Johnlevendowski

    -

    I recently had a go around w/ a Christian friend on FB about
    the whole “god’s army” comment that the atheist who’s trying to become a
    Layman  was told.  Now, He’s never been in the service and I did
    a tour in the Navy as well as work for the Dept of the Navy for 7 yrs as a
    civilian.  So I have a little experience in
    this.  He was trying to say that the
    phrase:  For God and Country was proof
    that the army was intended for God’s service. Despite me telling him that in
    the entire time that I was in and worked for the DoD, I’ve never seen that
    phrase emboldened anywhere nor had the higher ups use it; I had to explain to
    him that, given my experience dealing with Navy and Marines, that if one wanted
    to remain a Christian, they should stay out of the Military.  Sex, drinking, extortion, theft, fighting,
    etc.  All pretty common in the there.  I also explained how I’ve seen many
    self-proclaimed “Christian” Boot’s (fresh out of bootcamp) quickly give in and
    partake in above mentioned sins.  I’m not
    trying to disparage service members, just simply stating the facts based on my experience. 

    • guest

       z z z z z z

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Notice the typical Fox News ploy of phrasing an inflammatory title as a question: “Faith Under Fire?”

    This tactic allows anyone the ability to put any idea out there no matter how ridiculous, slanderous, unfounded or unfair it is. It’s a yes-or-no question, the answer to which is “NO,” but still the damaging suggestion has been successfully expressed to the public, and implanted into easily-deceived minds.

    “Are All Atheists Anti-American?”
    “Is Obama a Socialist?”  “–a Secret Muslim?”  “–the Anti-Christ?”
    “Is Science the Devil’s Deception?”
    “Is Global Warming a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy?”
    “Is the ACLU Run By Aliens From Space?”
    “Is Nancy Pelosi Sasquatch’s Love Child?”

    “–No, but we don’t give a crap, we just want to get people to think so. Ha ha.”

    • Michael

      Surely the important one ought to be “Were Fox journalists involved in the hacking of 9/11 victims which has come back to haunt their parent company?”

  • Dan W

    Wow Sekulow is an asshat. He’s got no logic or facts to back up his moronic arguments. All he does is spout talking points and spew lies. Oh, and interrupt Johnson when she makes her rational points. I guess this is what passes for intelligent debate on the “fair and balanced” Faux News.

  • Anonymous

    What pisses me off the most (there are so many to choose from) is that Mr. Christian Advocate gets to bitch, going first, Ms. American Atheist properly explains the rules and conditions, going second, and then Mr. Christian Advocate doesn’t address any of those pesky “regulations” AND GETS TO TALK LAST AND RAMBLE ABOUT THINGS UNRELATED .

    God Lover – “The atheists are stealing Christian children and drinking their blood! It’s the only way they can now get any sustenance.”

    Atheist – “Well that’s just silly…”

    God Lover – “No, it’s true. And your kind is also responsible for Justin Beiber and the death of JFK!”

    Anchor – “We could be here all night, folks. We wanna hear what you think about it on Twitter.  Guys, thanks for being here.  Coming up, Brown-Haired Guy Who is Not Steve Doocy, forms words…”

    Nice Fair-and-Balanced talking ratio, asshats…

    • MrModerate

       Remember to rinse with Listerine several times, you’ll need it after that poorly constructed stream of verbal diarrhea.

  • http://evolvedmonkeys.blogspot.com/ Mike Meyers

    I wonder why anyone with above average intelligence, common sense, and reason, would accept an invite on any Fox show. Fox panders to the extreme right wing and anyone with an intelligent argument never gets enough time, as we saw in the video, to state their opinion. 

    I used to work with someone who loved Rush Limbaugh and would want to have conversations about controversial subjects, such as gay rights, religion, etc. Myself and others like me would let him state his side of the argument, but as soon as it was our time, he would interrupt, such as Sekulow did in the above clip, or he would walk away. Fair and balanced my ass!

  • Achess

    “and if you have no problem inciting the local Muslim population to religious violence.”

    Euh… what? The fact that the local population might respond with violence is not a reason not to keep that cross up; the reason is that it is illegal.

  • Billy Hickson

    “GETS TO TALK LAST AND RAMBLE ABOUT THINGS UNRELATED ”
    Weyul, they both did speeyak. Seeum fayer and balunced to me. Hyuk.

  • T-Rex

    Notice Mr. Christian apologist couldn’t even let her respond to the first question without interrupting her? “God forbid” she gets equal time to voice her opinions or answer a question in full without being interrupted. FAUX news does the same thing to every atheist representative they have on that shitty channel. Atheists are never allowed to fully anser questions without being interrupted by the host or an apologist from the other side of the debate. NEVER! Atheists should just refuse to go on that channel. We’ll never get equal time or opportunity on this channel and are made to look stupid, although FAUX news usually fails at that task. F–K FAUX news and the empty heads employed by them.


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