Rock Beyond Belief Draws Near…

In anticipation of the Rock Beyond Belief event taking place at the end of March at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Sgt Justin Griffith is in the spotlight as the organizer.

Thankfully, he’s an excellent spokesperson, too: an activist who risks his life for our country, knowing that there’s no afterlife awaiting him:

Scheduled for 31 March, Rock Beyond Belief comes two years after another controversial concert at Fort Bragg, “Rock The Fort”.

Sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, Rock the Fort was billed as an “evangelical event” with Christian bands, family activities, and an emphasis on spreading the gospel to the entire community.

Despite attracting criticism for hosting the event, the top brass at Fort Bragg said they would be willing do the same for an event thrown by a different religious group.

“So the next day, I raised my hand and said, ‘Fort Bragg, I’ve got an event’,” says Mr Griffith.

The concert was originally scheduled for 2011, but was postponed until his group could secure the same location as Rock The Fort: an outdoor field capable of hosting thousands of people, in view of the Main Post Chapel.

Though the Rock Beyond Belief concert is the most public of Mr Griffith’ s efforts to make the military more accepting of atheists, it is not his only one.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he says.

He’s also working to ensure that servicemembers can have “atheist” listed on their official military records.

“It took me a year and a half to get my records changed to atheist. When I told them I was atheist, they put ‘no religious preference’,” he says. “I told them that’s unacceptable. I do have a preference, and that’s atheism.”

I’m honored to be one of the speakers at the event. I plan to spend my time on stage screaming, “I’m not worthy! I’m nooooot wooooooorthy!”

But if there are any other messages you’d like me to pass along to the troops, please leave them in the comments.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Derring Do

    I’d like to pass along my thanks to ALL members of the military, as always without regard to race, sexual orientation, etc., etc.  Great event to draw attention to “non-religion” as a viable choice.  Wish we could attend, too.  

    • Smacky15

      I’d like for everyone in the military to know that they, not a religious dogma or nonexistent exceptionalism, represent what is great about America. America remains great because of the men and women willing to stand up and fight and be selfless in a time of great selfishness.

  • Nordog

    Not sure what he means by the sign.  If he means that chaplains are never in hot zones, or even exposed to enemy fire, that’s simply not true.

    • Yukimi

      I don’t think it means that. I think it’s simplt a play of the sentence: “No atheists in foxholes” and also perhaps(?) a social denounce of atheist chaplancies?

      • Yukimi

        of the lack of*

      • Annie

        It is a play on “There are no atheists in foxholes.”  Justin does a great job of explaining the sign on his blog,  http://freethoughtblogs.com/rockbeyondbelief/  I don’t remember in which entry he talks about this, but it could probably be easily located. 

    • Anonymous

       I heard Justin on the Magic Sandwich Show yesterday, and he said that chaplains are specifically banned from combat situations. In fact it’s explicitly stated as a matter of international law that chaplains are noncombatants and cannot directly participate in hostilities. This would obviously exclude them from foxholes, hence the sign.
      He did say that given the type of warfare the US army is currently engaged in, where “front lines” aren’t always very clear and even places like the old Green Zone in Iraq can be a target, that some chaplains can end up caught in the middle of a fight. However this is either accidental or (s0metimes) because the chaplain was violating explicit rules banning their presence wherever shit went down.

      • Nordog

        Interesting, I’d like to learn more about the regulations on this.

        Of course, being a noncombatant is not the same thing as not being in the middle of a battle (as you basically indicated).

        In any event, I’ve read of chaplains who’ve been killed in combat situations.  Presumably they were in the metaphoric foxhole at some point.

  • Marcie

    I think this is so great!  I only know a few service members but am eternally grateful for their service and the service of their families who often suffer more.  Most the the military people I know are quite religious and possibly even more than a little prejudice.  Not sure if this is the norm or just the people I happen to know but at any rate, I’m glad Rock Beyond Belief is moving forward!!

    Totally off subject but does he look like PeeWee Herman to anyone else?

  • Nordog

    “…Rock the Fort was billed as an “evangelical event” with Christian bands…”

    FTR, that just makes me cringe.

  • Anonymous

    I would like to congratulate Justin for having the courage to stand up to the ‘moral majority’ and organize an event that reflects the views of America’s great untapped minority:  Atheists.  I would love to attend Rock Beyond Belief if only to see Dan Barker speak again and see Jeffrey Lewis perform. 

    However, I think it would be appropriate to offer criticism as well.  The headlining band, Aiden, is an awful, awful music group.  Because of the nature of their music and live performances, I feel that their presence will be a turn-off not only for the media, but for some atheists as well.  For those unfamiliar with their music, please hear my case:

    - On all fronts, they’re inconsistent.
    I really do believe they’re atheists, but why would they use pentagrams to promote their image?  My answer is that they have to use mild shock value to draw crowds since the music doesn’t speak for itself.  Since their first record in 2004, they have claimed to be post-hardcore, rock ‘n roll, dance alternative and horror punk.  They are none of the above.  I wouldn’t deny that they have their own sound, but much like their image, it can only be described as an uncomfortable blend of everything counterculture.

    - Aiden is ostentatious.
    The speakers coming to Rock Beyond Belief are very well-versed in their particular discourse.  Aiden is not.  Those that will be granted forum at Fort Bragg have spent decades exacting their rhetoric so that their stances are beyond reproach.  Aiden has not.  I have seen them live numerous times, and they’ve gone on tirades about religion every time.  Here’s the thing though, the jabs at organized religion never went beyond singer Wil Francis’ personal doubts about the Bible or calling Jesus a cunt.  Their songs regarding faith encourage rebellion instead of offering structured counterpoints to dangerous institutions.  See for yourself – Atheism is as much a part of their act as the eyeliner they wear.  Non-believers deserve better than this.

    - They are stagnant artists
    After 6 studio albums in 8 years (I know, right..), their trite lyrics and music have, on the whole, not changed.  The music too closely reflects that of AFI and the Misfits.  Many of the lyrics revolve around ‘death’ and all the variants of the word, Hell and isolation.  Their lyrics don’t reflect esteemed songwriters, but angsty teens that fight with their parents.  And, unfortunately, that’s how a lot of people view atheists:  As angry, young and uninformed.  Aiden perpetuates this stereotype.


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