Atheist Resigns from West Point Due to Anti-Atheist Discrimination and Promotion of Religion

Blake Page, the president of the West Point Secular Student Alliance, has been making headlines this week after he wrote on Huffington Post that he was resigning from the famed military school six months prior to graduation because he “could no longer be part of a culture that promotes prayers and religious activities and disrespects nonreligious cadets.”

Blake Page

… I have been in a position to hear countless cadets recount their personal stories of frustration in dealing with the ongoing oppressive and unconstitutional bigotry they face for being non-religious. Cadets often come to me to seek assistance, guidance and reassurance in response to instances of debasing harassment. Many here are regularly told they do not deserve a place in the military. They are shown through policy that the Constitution guarantees their freedom of, but not from religion. Many are publically chastised for seeking out a community of likeminded people because it is such a common belief that Humanism and other non-religious philosophies are inherently immoral and worse.

It is pathetic that so many leaders in the military are comfortable with both subtly and brutally discriminating against non-religious members. Perhaps with enough external pressure brought to bear by continued civil rights activism, America’s military leadership will one day soon be forced to realize that non-religious soldiers are not enemies of the state to be shunned, ridiculed and marginalized, but rather patriotic, honorable Americans to be respected as equals.

Yesterday, Page appeared on CNN (alongside Mikey Weinstein) to talk about his article:

For what it’s worth, West Point has accepted Page’s resignation and given him an “honorable discharge,” which means he won’t have to pay the school for the cost of his education.

While I applaud Page for taking this strong stand — what a way to bring the issue into public discourse — keep in mind there may also be additional reasons for his leaving school. In the CNN interview, he explains that he went to West Point, not because he cared much for the school but because he wanted to become an officer. Unfortunately, he was recently told that his clinical depression and anxiety ruled out the possibility of ever becoming a second lieutenant.

There’s also pushback from other atheists at the school saying that the rampant religiosity that Page talks about at West Point isn’t as awful as he makes it out to be:

Maj. Nicholas Utzig, the faculty adviser to the [Secular Student Alliance] club, said he doesn’t doubt some of the moments Page described, but he doesn’t believe there is systematic discrimination against nonreligious cadets.

“I think it represents his own personal experience and perhaps it might not be as universal as he suggests,” said Utzig, who teaches English literature.

One of Page’s secularist classmates went further, calling his characterization of West Point unfair.

“I think it’s true that the majority of West Point cadets are of a very conservative, Christian orientation,” said senior cadet Andrew Houchin. “I don’t think that’s unique to West Point. But more broadly, I’ve never had that even be a problem with those of us who are secular.”

Even if individual cadets don’t treat atheists with malice, Page points out that the school has promoted religion over non-religion on a number of occasions:

Examples of these policies include mandatory prayer, the maintenance of the 3rd Regiment Shield, awarding extra passes to Plebes who take part in religious retreats and chapel choirs, as well as informal policies such as the open disrespect of non-religious new cadets and incentivizing participation in religious activities through the chain of command.

Another student — a Christian — Charles Clymer, said that while he had seen instances of homophobia and sexism, he had never seen systematic anti-atheist bigotry:

I never, not even once, witnessed, heard about, or even thought it implied that non-religious cadets face discrimination of any kind at the Academy. I saw widespread homophobia and sexism but never any negative sentiment towards those cadets who identified as Athiest or Agnostic. In fact, the closest thing I ever observed that looked like a pro-Christian bias were the few cadets who believed Islam is evil, and that was a very small fraction of our class. The vast majority of Christian cadets treated non-Christian cadets with respect insofar as their beliefs are concerned.

Rock Beyond Belief founder Justin Griffith points out, though, that Clymer isn’t the expert he makes himself out to be:

Citing dubious and unnamed sources, Charles frames the story as if nobody ever had any complaints at the academy and Page is making it up. Charles left years ago due to health issues, but still weighed in as if he’s an expert.

Another Christian student, B.J. Garrison, added on his own Huffington Post piece that he, too, had never seen systematic discrimination on the basis of religion at the Academy:

Many faiths and denominations are openly welcomed at the Academy. For Cadets and officers alike, there is a Catholic chapel, a synagogue, and an interfaith center for Muslim and other religious services. But more to the point here, no one is forced to attend anything. This fact may seem surprising from a place that makes you eat no less than six meals a week in a family-style mess hall with people you make or may not like. This is not the hand of a draconian hierarchy at work.

I’m hard-pressed to fully trust the Christian students’ perceptions since we know atheists have been discriminated against by the military in many ways. That doesn’t mean every officer at the school is a bigot; it doesn’t mean the school intentionally has it out for atheists. But Page isn’t completely off the mark. There is pro-religion bias present in the military and West Point itself and we’ve seen it in play.

Page is doing everyone a service by bringing these issues to a wider audience.

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.

  • jeffj900

    What is most important to make clear to the public at large, and in the military community, is that our soldier’s task is in defending the Constitution, not the Bible. Freedom of thought must be emphasized over any religion, while at the same time every religious belief must be respected, in order for our military community to properly reflect American values.

  • bernardaB

    By saying that not ” every officer at the school is a bigot” is a pretty weak excuse. That implies that many, and even most, are bigots. “With guns in their hands and God on their side” as Bob Dylan says. Or, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

  • David

    We live in a pluralistic society. This does not mean that every individual is going to warmly embrace every other individual. I suspect Blake Page is trying to turn his thin skin / weak character into a civil rights issue. When a person finds himself in the minority and facing personal problems, that person should look for inner strength to carry through, not start some public activist campaign to make himself feel better. To those who might feel inclined to jump on this band wagon, I say, Caveat Emptor. 

  • Erik Harris

    I think it’s great that Page is bringing military religious discrimination into the public arena, but I can’t help but feel that he’s using it as a scapegoat. As you point out above (and as the article I read about this yesterday morning also said), his poor mental health disqualifies him from being an officer.  In one quote in the article I read yesterday, he bounced from one topic to another in a single sentence, as if to equate his poor mental health with religious discrimination. He comes off as someone who’s saying “I can’t make it in the military due to my health, so I’m going to come up with something to complain about, and blame THAT for my problems.”

    My fear is that if I, as an atheist, get that impression about him, there’s a good chance that the religious majority will also get that impression of him. If that’s the case, will he be helping or HURTING the cause of making the military less overtly religious?

  • mrschili

    Is there some way of finding how how Page is doing financially?  I understand (though from unreliable sources) that the government may stick him with a rather large tuition bill.  If that’s true, will there be a fund set up that we can all contribute to to help this brave young man out?

  • m6wg4bxw

    Soldiership and skepticism seem incompatible to me, though I admit to nearly categorical ignorance of military service.

  • The Godless Monster

     I agree. What this appears to be is a classic case of: “You can’t fire me, I quit!”
    He may very well indeed be an active atheist and his allegations may have merit,  but I have trouble getting past the fact that he was disqualified for a commission for medical reasons prior to his quitting.
    Right or wrong, he’s not a good spokesperson for “the cause” from a PR standpoint.

  • The Godless Monster


    “Soldiership and skepticism seem incompatible to me…”

    Ex military/private military here. Can you elaborate on that? Not offended in the least, but I’m well aware that you aren’t the only person that feels this way and I’m trying to understand this particular viewpoint.

  • Tom

    He won’t be on the hook for any tuition bill because he didn’t quit or resign.  He received an honorable discharge because it was determined that he couldn’t fulfill his contractual obligation due to a medical condition.

    Now, if he had actually resigned of his own volition while being fully capable of service then he would be on the hook for the tuition, but that’s not what happened.

  • Tom

    Current soldier and atheist here.  I can only speak for the Infantry, but skepticism and soldiering aren’t incompatible by any means.  You have to follow orders, of course, but then that’s the job.  I would even say that a healthy skepticism is a Very Good Thing for an effective soldier, especially an effective NCO, to have in his or her toolbox.

  • Tom

    Soldiers know that.  I often get the feeling that people picture most soldiers as bible-thumping Christian robots and that’s simply not the case.  Even among overtly religious soldiers (the vast minority, from my experience) their faith system isn’t the basis, purpose or foundation of their service.

    On an institutional level, I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve felt as though faith has made me feel uncomfortable and in that situation (it only actually took the single finger, but I used my middle one for good measure) I had the freedom to walk out without repercussions.

    I can’t, of course, speak for all soldiers because each unit will be different and low level leadership, especially in a deployment situation, have a lot of control over the environment, but in my experience discrimination due to being an atheist has been nearly non-existent.

  • m6wg4bxw

    Certainly. My perception is that being a soldier requires strict obedience to the commanding authority. And though a soldier might find fault in an order, his /her duty is to carry it out anyway. I doubt there is much room or tolerance for skeptical inquiry about military commands, except among the leaders.

    Perhaps it’s dissent and disobedience, rather than skepticism, that I see as incompatible. While both of these can result from skeptical inquiry, they aren’t necessarily part of it.

    Again, I freely admit ignorance about what actually occurs in military ranks. Additionally, I acknowledge that my opinion might be colored by my personal difficulties with authority.

  • SphericalBunny

    Whilst Page’s mental issues may well have coloured his views on his experiences, please be aware that there’s a world of difference between ‘thin skin / weak character’ and mental illness.

  • mrschili

     Thank you for the clarification, Tom; now I have information to respond with when I see people talking about this on facebook.

  • m6wg4bxw

    Thanks for the response. I elaborated a bit on my perspective in a reply to The Godless Monster, if you’re interested.

  • The Godless Monster

     Thanks for the explanation. I can see how one might think that being in the military requires checking ones brains at the door, but that not really the case…most of the time, at least. At the end of the day, it’s just another job. There’s a lot of folks who work in the world who have to blindly follow orders. Does that make them mindless dummies? I don’t think so and I’m sure you don’t either. :-)
    I can recall 3 times in which I confronted an officer for giving my subordinates directives/instructions that were clearly against regulations and/or just plain unsafe or unsound. Did he hate me? Yes, but (luckily) he backed down every single time. It’s important to follow authority, but it’s just as important to follow the rules. Bad things can happen when rules aren’t followed.

    “Perhaps it’s dissent and disobedience, rather than skepticism, that I
    see as incompatible. While both of these can result from skeptical
    inquiry, they aren’t necessarily part of it….”


  • Cecelia Baines

    Boil it down and push away every talking head trying to distract from the main issue and you are left with a former cadet who felt the need to quit because of religious persecution.

    All the other prognostications are straw men and red herrings trying to keep the average slob from seeing the main issue.

  • jeffj900

    That’s good news. I’ve read a few times of officers actively encouraging group prayer, and of one unit in Afghanistan using Christian symbolism to represent their mission in Afghanistan, and even distributing Bibles in Pashtun. I hope these case are anomalies and not a growing trend.

  • Zugswang

    I agree that a lot of the backlash that he’s seeing from Christians is not necessarily because of dishonesty or bigotry (though some of it clearly is).  I think a lot of it stems from the cognitive bias of making generalizations from personal experience, which leads to blind spots caused by privilege. 

    When you’re in the majority (or the majority that has power/influence) you have many unenumerated privileges other groups don’t get, and that you may never have specifically asked for, and so you don’t consciously know you’re getting special treatment.  You never know that those who are different than you are, in fact, being discriminated against, because so much of today’s institutionalized discrimination quietly happens on paper or behind office doors.  And those times where you do see it, it may be something subtle, or you may dismiss something bigger (like a Christian rock concert) by thinking, “Surely this institution that I feel lucky an proud to be a part of would never do something so obviously wrong,” or “Oh, if the atheists wanted one, they could have one, too.” And they would have no idea what an uphill battle that people like Justin Griffith had to fight just to have something even marginally equivalent.

    It’s like getting a cancer diagnosis; everything was sunshine and gumdrops until that day you saw blood in your urine and the doctor tells you that you have a malignant tumor that spread from your kidneys, and had likely been there for the last 2 years (which is exactly how my friend found out; he died 12 years ago last week).  Or maybe it’s like seeing a lump on your back that you initially ignore because you don’t think it’s a problem, until your doctor tells you it’s a benign tumor that needs to be removed before it spreads (which is what happened to my dad a much longer time ago).

    And this is precisely why what Mr. Page is doing is so important.  All these people are coming in to say “I never saw any discrimination”, and it is probably true in most instances, but it takes people like Mr. Page to say “Yes, it happens, this is how it happens, and we’re not doing enough to fix it.  If we don’t stop it now, it’s going to spread and become much more difficult to treat.”

  • Zugswang

     Perhaps he’s not the best example to speak out against it, but if we
    waited around for the perfect candidate, then we could be waiting for a
    while.  Maybe he should have mentioned that in his resignation in
    the interest of full disclosure, but even if it wasn’t the case, those
    who actively want to silence him (or some of the people who simply don’t
    believe him), would still manufacture underlying motives to fit their
    own narratives.

    Madalyn Murray O’Hair wasn’t an ideal spokesperson for atheism, but her activism was still extremely important to the nascent atheist movement in this country.

  • David

    The article never mentioned “mental illness.”  Has Page been diagnosed with some form of a mental illness? Also, if there is a world of difference between ‘thin skin / weak character’ then it must be pretty easy to test for that difference. What exactly is the test you do to distinguish between character flaws that prohibit one from being a strong leader and some form of mental illness?

  • Baby_Raptor

    “Unfortunately,he was recently told that his clinical depression and anxiety ruled out the possibility of ever becoming a second lieutenant.”

    Read the article before you run your mouth?

  • m6wg4bxw

    I haven’t considered being a soldier as simply a job. You’re right that it’s probably not unlike most other jobs; orders are orders. However, I perceive the military environment as particularly hostile to dissent and objection, regardless of whatever allowances may exist to express them. I expect both formal and social punishment in response, though I don’t actually know the penalty for a soldier’s refusal to obey an order. If it exists, it must surely dissuade soldier feedback.

    But, once more, I must qualify my opinions and perception by declaring my gross ignorance of the subject. I appreciate you sharing your perspective.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Atheist ex-Army here. And the man I was dating for most of my 4 years was a non-practicing Pagan slowly turning Atheist. 

  • David

    I read that, but I did not connect that to “mental illness.” Thank you for enlightening me.  Okay, so this guy with a mental disorder is accusing the academy of discriminating against people like him. I get it.  Thank you. That sounds so much better than saying a sissy is complaining about discrimination.

  • David

    In my experience, everybody is a bigot against something.  It is called having a world view.  A world view is developed over a long period of time and it causes you to filter information and interpret it in a certain way.  Your world view makes you just as much a bigot as the people you consider to be bigots.  So it would make for more peace if everyone just dropped the epithets and discussed issues using knowledge and reason.

  • Blake Page

    Tom, I’ve clarified this many times to many people.  I was told that I could not commission, however I was on track to graduate.  Many officers here strongly encouraged me to continue on to graduation even with the understanding that I would be leaving West Point as a civilian (with a West Point diploma).  I did strictly resign under my own volition, and there was a very real risk of recoupment which was made clear the from the moment I submitted my letter of resignation.  Does this clear things up for you?

  • Cao

    I hope more people realize that he was only doing this as an easy way out. There was a significant chance that he would’ve been separated regardless, so this kind of publicity stunt has allowed him to be released without any commitment or debt. In short, Blake Page is a huge piece of shit and this discussion on religion is only a smokescreen for his departure. I understand that debate over religion in public institutions and the military is important.  BUT given the context in which Page has brought it to the public-eye, I urge you to take his claims with a huge grain of salt. And also, HuffPost sucks.

  • Richard Wade

    David, you’re thinking clumsily. Missing the information about clinical depression and anxiety is an honest mistake, but even if that fact were not part of this situation, when you characterized Page as being thin-skinned and having weak character, you didn’t think that out carefully. Thin skin and weak character would more likely cause him to just quietly leave West Point, not to take the very difficult path of publicly denouncing and fighting the discrimination he describes. He knew ahead of time that he would be subjected to public revulsion, condemnation, and slander. Yours is just a tiny example. Yet he has chosen to follow that path. That does not indicate thin skin and weak character.

    Then when you learned that Page has been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, you continued to think clumsily by making a remark where you imply a dismissal of any credibility for anything he claims. Once again, you’re not thinking this out carefully. Clinical depression is not a psychotic disorder or a personality disorder. It does not in any way indicate that the person is unable to accurately perceive reality or unable to reliably report what he perceives.

    Please consider that your current thinking on this matter is like a bull in a china shop.

  • Coyotenose

     Methinks the Dominionist doth protest too much.

    And that he doesn’t have a clue what the word “bigot” means and is falling into ridiculousness while struggling desperately for a defense.

  • Michael

    So someone having psychological issues makes them a piece of s—? I would think having an attitude like you do makes you one.

  • Blake Page

    I’m doing very well financially, and although I appreciate the gesture, I wouldn’t want people to send me their money.  All I’m looking for is a legitimate, respectful intellectual dialogue about the separation of church and state in our country.  The best thing anyone interested can do to help me is focus on the issues at hand and find workable solutions.  I’m an insignificantly small piece of the population.  Although I’ve started some debate, the debate shouldn’t focus on me personally.  And like so many people have already said in their comments here, I really am not an ideal representative of the demographic.  I have some serious personal flaws that can’t be ignored, but those are personal and irrelevant when it comes to reason and law.

  • David

    Are you kidding me? Blake made it clear that he has the support of 150 in his group, plus clearly plenty more beyond this. This is NOT a hard move for an activist like him to make.  My comment pertained to his not being tolerant of religious people who like to pray over their meals or express their religious ideas. I consider it mighty thin skinned of all atheists who complain about religion in the public arena.

    In regards to my comments about his mental disorder, it pertained more to how someone who preferred that I characterize his character issues as a mental illness rather than as a character flaw. I suppose because the highly esteemed medical community invents a diagnosis, that means I am suppose to have sympathy for him because of his mental illness.  We did this same thing with alcoholics in years past.  Did you notice that nobody has yet explained the test that distinguishes the “world of difference” between the two characterizations?  I would say that there is not a whole world of difference after all.  It is all verbal manipulation for the weak minded. Political posturing if you will.

    In any case, the point is that there are some people who want to take this opportunity to hold some candle light vigil for this poor afflicted soul.  We all are supposed to mourn the poor atheists who have suffered at the hands of religious bigots at West Point.  Those that do not join the atheist party line are thinking clumsily.  In my mind, all this blabber is from a feminization of our society, an emasculating of the men of our society, which clearly makes people like you perceive me to be a bull in a china shop.

    Look, this issue in society can be approached different ways.  We can either strip the rights of the religious, or we can strip the rights of the atheists.  Or a third way is that we all just allow people to be persuaded in their own minds of the truth.  We become tolerant of the ideas and expressions of others, whether religious or not.  If someone prays at a meal, fine. If someone abstains, fine. Let each be persuaded in his own mind regarding how he chooses to think and live.

  • bernardaB

     If I were to accept your analysis, which I don’t, I would say your world view is that of an ignorant ass who cannot understand the subject.  You didn’t in any way respond to my remarks.

  • David

    A bigot is a prejudiced person (meaning having a belief or attitude formed before hand) who is not tolerant of those with opinions different from their own.  For example, a bigot is an atheist who characterizes a theist as not having a clue, thinking clumsily, being an ignorant ass, without understanding, unsympathetic, homophobe, etc.  Get the picture? 

  • David

    Blake, do you understand how you could be viewed by the religious as being intolerant of their world view and belief system?  

    The establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution is about freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. Your approach seems to lead us more in the direction of an atheistic state like North Korea.

  • Wren Combs

    How is that leading us to an atheistic state?  (And I’m not so sure why that would be a bad thing)

  • Wren Combs

    He isn’t thinking clumsily, he is (as shown below) an ass.

  • David

    The group Blake is associated with throws around epithets like islamophobic to characterize Christians like Franklin Graham. They are proud of destroying the liberty of Christians to participate in a Pentagon Prayer Breakfast. Such amounts to the censorship of religious activity for those who serve in the military. If one interprets our Constitution according to the modern atheist propaganda of Freedom FROM Religion, then one is basically just arguing for an atheistic nation. 

    Our Constitution is NOT about being atheistic. It is about freedom for everyone, including those in the military, to acknowledge God or not acknowledge God, to worship God or not worship God, to be a missionary for God or not be a missionary for God. Freedom and liberty is the key, not censorship of all that is religious.

  • Kari Lynn

    Please do not use gendered insults. Thanks.

  • Robert

    People have that freedom. The government does not. That’s the whole point. The military is a branch of the government, it can’t be seen as favoring any religion, even if it elevates mutliple sects. It must be neutral. If the government an achieve this then individual people will experience freedom of religion as intended. If it can’t, then some people will inevitably be restricted in their freedoms.

  • David

    The government is run by PEOPLE. If people in government have the freedom you say they do, then you can never strip government of religious expression and activity. The best you can do is make it so that the government does not show undo favoritism toward one establishment of religion over another.

    When President Obama gives a State of the Union address in his official capacity as President, and he ends it with “God bless America,” is that government favoring religion?

  • Glasofruix

     The government is not “people”, it’s an entity that has obligations, one of them is to stay out of religious bullshit, read your fucking constitution.

  • David

    Everyone experiences bias and bigotry from others.  Christians experience it just like atheists do.  Instead of trying to change institutions and government to do more censorship, people need to be more thick skinned and just express what they think. The better ideas will win over time, as long as we leave the government out of forcing people on how to think.

  • David

    You have misinterpreted the Constitution. It says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Your response is far away from this Constitutional sentiment.

  • Glasofruix

     It means the government can’t promote a religion nor forbid the exercise of one, ergo “hands off, fuckers”. You’re the one having hard times understanding simple texts, knowing that the constitution was written in a way even idiots could understand it.

  • David

    When you tell a chaplain that the government forbids him from leading the troops in prayer, that is prohibiting the free exercise of religion.  Is it not?

  • Glasofruix

     Moving up for clarity:
    When you tell a chaplain that the government forbids him from leading
    the troops in prayer, that is prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
     Is it not?

    Nope. In this case the government is enforcing the constitution by not promoting a particular brand of religion. The chaplain is still free to practice his nonsense outside of his government provided job.

    You’re still not getting the whole “separation of church and state” stuff, aren’t you?

    The goverment’s primary task is to uphold the constitution, which clearly states the aforementionned separation of church and state, it DOESN’T matter if the people who actually form the goverment believe in pink ponies, they’re supposed to leave their personnal beliefs at the door when they are wearing the public hat.

  • Zugswang

    I see you haven’t been paying that much attention, or you’d understand that we’re trying to make it so that we are actually able to express our ideas without being unjustly punished for it.  High ranking officials in all branches of the military punishing their subordinates for not sharing their narrow, personal religious beliefs and using religious affiliation as a proxy for recognizing ability honestly is a very real problem.

    Perhaps find out exactly what we’re trying to do before you put forth an argument, and leave your false equivalences and faulty assumptions out of it.

  • Robert

    Thanks Glasofruix. I agree with everything you’ve said. The government cannot take a captive audience (a bunch of soldiers) and have someone preach at them. If the preacher does it of his own accord… well he can’t go on government property and do it and he shouldn’t do it to a government branch. He’s welcome to do it to those people as individuals when they visit his church or are not representing the government in any way.

  • David

    We basically disagree on the meaning of the separation of church and state.  When the Constitution was ratified, there were entire states that endorsed particular establishments of religion. It cannot possibly mean what you claim it means. The historical background is that they came from a theocracy (England) which used a Divine Right principle in a most egregious way. When the Catholics came to power, they killed the Protestants, and when the Protestants came to power, they killed the Catholics… and on and on.  Our Constitution was drafted to protect us from that, not from religion per se.  It is unreasonable to suggest that people leave their convictions and conscience at the door.  You are basically saying that a religious person cannot serve in government, which is a form of a religious test in a way. Read the Constitution itself without all the atheist propaganda clouding your judgement. Try to take an unbiased approach without preconceived notions of what it means. Put it in historical context. Perhaps you will be able to read it the way the author intended you to read it.

  • David Starner

     Apparently he would have been released without any commitment or debt in any case. It was a little loud–he gave up his degree for this?–but I don’t see how being loud or flamboyant makes you a piece of shit. Salt may be called for, but when is it not? You have the opinions of several people on this post; weigh them all carefully.

  • David

    I read the article and watched the interview. The gripe seemed to be about voluntary chapel, extra passes for chapel, mandatory prayer before meals in a few situations, the third Regiment Shield, and social pressure in the form of disrespect, ridicule, shunning, etc. I have not heard anything about any military personnel being punished for not sharing a religious viewpoint.  It seems like Blake would bring something like that out to the forefront. I would certainly join him in objecting to something like that.  Can you give me an actual example of what you are talking about? 

  • Robert

    Religious and non-religious people can serve in government. They should never use their government positions to help spread their approach to religion.

  • Glasofruix

       You are basically saying that a religious person cannot serve in government

    Um no. They can serve in government but they cannot proselytize their mythology nor force others to obey their religious rules, your people aren’t exactly respecting that.
    The separation of church and state guarantees religious freedom, which also includes the lack of religion. There is no “atheist propaganda” clouding my judgement, i operate on logic and facts, i can’t say the same about you. You make me thing about those people trying to rewrite the history to their liking, that doesn’t put you in a good position.

  • David

    Impossible.  You cannot separate the person from his public office.  When Barack Obama says, “God bless America,” he is furthering a belief in God with just that simple statement. There is no way for him to ever say that and not be seen as the President of the United States saying it.

  • David

    People in government should be free to acknowledge God without fear that government is going to remove them from office, fine them, or imprison them for doing so.

  • Robert

    Moving up again cause this comment format is silly.

    “When Barack Obama says, “God bless America,” he is furthering a belief in God with just that simple statement.”

    Yes. It’s a reflection of religious privilege though that most people don’t bat an eye at this.

    These aren’t easy questions. If a president wants to go to church with his family that’s fine and I acknowledge that individual people will have trouble separating the personal from the presidential with such high office, but picking this as a hypothetical is taking us away from the already concrete examples we were talking about where the distinctions should be clearer and slightly easier to make.

  • David

    It seems to me that you are ignorant of history if you think I rewrite it. I also think you are being imprecise with your words when you use a word like “force.” In this context, that usually means under the threat of punishment like flogging, fines, or prison if they do not accept a belief system. It seems to me you just object to hearing someone express their belief system in the military, and you call it force if as part of your job you are listening to it the same way you might listen to an instructor teach a class.

  • Robert

    Up again: “you use a word like “force.” In this context, that usually means under the threat of punishment like flogging, fines, or prison if they do not accept a belief system.”If you limit force to mean that you’re being far too black and white and not really thinking about the consequences for people who are not like you.

    First of all it’s forced because it’s a captive audience. Alternatives like leaving and stating that you would not like to be exposed to this are suboptimal because they carry stigma. Stigma is enough to characterize such examples as forcing people to endure something they shouldn’t have to.

  • Glasofruix

    And it’s a bad bad thing, but if he doesn’t say it i can’t imagine the shitstorm you people will initiate.

  • Glasofruix

     Well, this will not happen any time soon. I’m fine with them expressing their delusion in a personnal way, but certainly not as a government’s official.

  • Glasofruix

     Moving up again:
    In this context, that usually means under the threat of punishment like
    flogging, fines, or prison if they do not accept a belief system.

    Well, it’s certainly is under way when i see how you yanks treat people who don’t believe in christian nonsense. And according to previous news about the american army, soldiers ARE actually being forcefully subjected to religion, and one particular brand of it, which is unconstitutionnal.

  • Blacksheep

    People should be free to express their religious beliefs without fear of government censorship. That’s freedom of religious expression. The clause is not meant to rid us of religion, but rather to protect its free expression.

  • Blacksheep

    I have found that many atheists on this forum have chosen to interpret the constitution in a way that would ban religious expression.

  • Glasofruix

     And i agree on that. You are free to PERSONNALY express your beliefs, you are however not free to express a religious preference while representing your government, your constitution clearly forbids that. There is a clear distinction between, private practice of pink unicorn worshipping and official endorsement of said activity by the government. Whatever you might say, when a person works in the public office, he (or she) represents evryone, not only the members of his (or her) club.

  • Glasofruix

      In my mind, all this blabber is from a feminization of our society, an emasculating of the men of our society,

    Ok, can we just stop here, label you as a white priviledged male asshole and move on?

  • Glasofruix

     I live in a secular country with a socialist government (no, not France), so according to him, i live in North Korea. Also, we have gay marriage and we’re still above water level, you can’t explain that.

  • Silo Mowbray

    “We can either strip the rights of the religious, or we can strip the
    rights of the atheists.  Or a third way is that we all just allow people
    to be persuaded in their own minds of the truth.”


    You might want to tell your theist buddies about that idea. They sure as hell don’t like following the rules in the U.S. The very idea of Church-State separation has them clutching their pearls.

  • Glasofruix

      The better ideas will win over time, as long as we leave the government out of forcing people on how to think.

    Have you been sleeping the whole presidential circus lately? The GOP candidates were all about making the government to force people to adhere to their particular set of beliefs. If it’s not forcing people on how to think, i don’t know what it is…

  • Rusty Yates

    Freedom of and from religion is more sacred than any religion.

  • David

    In discussions of law, liberty, and government, the word force traditionally refers to the powers of government to punish. In a historical context, the church only received these kinds of powers to punish those with religious views through alliances with state powers.  Such led to burning people at the stake because they did not believe in the Trinity or doctrines like Transubstantiation. It soon became clear to philosophers that the mind needed to be free to be persuaded, and that people professed beliefs in ideas, not because of persuasion, but because of their fear of the use of force.  Thus was born the concept of liberty that included the separation of church and state powers.  I do not think it is proper for you to change the academic longstanding use of this word, but if you do, then at least provide for me an alternative term for the traditional meaning.  

    In regards to your metaphorical “captive audience,” a audience in numbers primarily through social peer pressure or stemming from a duty of employment, surely you are aware that this situation applies to all manner of ideas and philosophies and not just religious ones.  To be logically consistent, you would have to then exclude government from addressing concepts that religious people would find objectionable, like homosexuality, abortion, atheism, etc.  The only way to properly deal with this is to allow conversation from both sides, even though some are going to find certain sides objectionable. Leadership should use their proper judgment not to allow such events to distract too much from the primary objectives of the government agency.

    I think we should err on the side of liberty for those individuals operating in government, and those who perceive offense just need to toughen up and look for their opportunity to present the other side of the issue.

  • the moother

    Sorry, but 

    every religious belief must be respected

    is off the mark.

    Pastafarians should be subject to cruel riducule for their rediculous beliefs… as should xians, jews, muslims and all the rest….

  • David

    I am looking for consistent logic on this issue, and I think the innocuous prayer of Obama at the end of a State of the Union address provides us with a foundation by which to investigate the entire issue more fully.  It is indeed a reflection of religious privilege. Very good!  But that is exactly my point. He should be free to speak this forth if his heart and mind consider it a good deed.  It is much like when someone sneezes and another person says, “God bless you.”  These expressions come from personal conviction, and a person should not be forbidden from making them just because their job happens to be in government. 

    Religious conviction might likewise cause a military commander to want to instill a respect for God in his soldiers.  He believes with all his heart that it makes them better soldiers when they are out there putting their lives on the line. He wants them not just fighting for Country, but for God and Country. Another commander might have a conviction that it is his duty to God to let others know that it is his faith in God that gives him the ability to do what he has done in his life. He does not want to be ashamed of his testimony. These are strong convictions that should not be glossed over simply because of some errant reading of our Constitution.  Some people literally are put into a position of violating their conscience.  Some think that they are violating their oath of office to uphold the Constitution if they do not acknowledge God.  Are we as a society really prepared to censor the speech of these men simply because an atheist in the audience might be offended?

  • David

    Above water level?  Do you live in Amsterdam?  If so, I will be visiting in April. :-)

  • David

    I love it when people from other countries lecture us about our own Constitution.  It is indeed constitutional to expose soldiers to religion.  It would not be constitutional to make it a crime if they failed to join some religious sect.

  • David

    So far, the government has not fired their chaplains.  I think there are thousands that they have hired and trained. You saying that they cannot do the job that they were hired to do? Do you think that the religious soldiers serving might not find comfort or solace in a priest or pastor when their buddy gets killed right before their eyes? You really want to get rid of all this?  Let’s not be heartless in our atheism now.  It is one thing not to believe, but it is another to force your unbelief upon your neighbor.

  • David

    I think you have relied upon misinformation from the Democrats about what the GOP want to do. I am part of the GOP.  We do not want to force anyone to adhere to a particular set of beliefs. We are the party of liberty and freedom. We came into existence with the cause of freeing the slaves.

  • David

    I think officers encouraging soldiers to have group prayer is a very good thing.  It would especially be good before and after battle. 

  • jeffj900

    Okay. Why not walk into a group of soldiers and disrespect their religion. See what happens. Be my guest.

    I don’t mean that we all need to be deferential to religions. I think religion is idiotic. But in the military, where discipline and cooperation is essential to top performance and often to life or death, people need to respect one another, regardless of their religion. They don’t need to be worried about each other’s religion in order to do their jobs.

    And when I said every religious belief must be respected, I implicitly include atheism in that, and I was specifically talking about in a military context. We don’t need a situation where Christians are disrespecting atheists, Muslims, and Jews in our military.

  • mobathome

    Don’t feed the troll.

  • jeffj900

    I don’t think officers need to encourage that. Soldiers who want to pray can, others should not be forced or made to feel excluded if they don’t want to pray. Prayer is kind of stupid and useless. We shouldn’t have officers violating the constitution.

    I suppose you would change your tune if a Muslim officer encouraged the unit to face mecca, bow down, and pray in Arabic to Allah. Your reaction to that is exactly how atheists feel about an officer encouraging soldiers to pray.

    The idea that God wants one side or the other to kill their enemy more effectively is just one more in the long line of absurdities associated with religion.

  • Tom

    Thank you for the clarification.

    Just out of my own curiosity, at what point in your education did they inform you that you wouldn’t be able to commission due to medical reasons?  I’m enlisted so I don’t have a vast knowledge about the goings-on at West Point.

  • Tyrrlin Flamestrike

    Let me speak here as an Army Veteran…

    “Religious conviction might likewise cause a military commander to want to instill a respect for God in his soldiers.  He believes with all his heart that it makes them better soldiers when they are out there putting their lives on the line. He wants them not just fighting for Country, but for God and Country. ”

    And that commander can (and probably will) be brought up on religious discrimination charges.  As a commander, he doesn’t have the right to speak to his unit like that, because he is representing the chain of command for whichever branch of service we’re talking about.  (Now, if he wanted to attend church or go to Bible study with his family and friends in his off-duty time, no problems.)

    There is one thing most people who have never served in the Armed Forces do NOT understand: as a Servicemember, you give up an awful lot of your Constitutional rights in order to allow others to have them.  As a Soldier, I gave up my right to free speech and freedom of movement, could be told what to wear, when to eat, where to live, and who I could and could not have a relationship with. I had people inspect my personal living space on a daily basis at times.  It’s all part of raising your right hand and taking the oath of enlistment (or commission).

    If you serve in the government, you become a representative of the government and cannot always freely speak your mind.

  • Zugswang

    Here’s one of many:

    If you’re really interested in seeing more cases like this, I’d recommend paying the MRFF’s website a visit.  As you’ll see in the article, it isn’t just non-theists that suffer this kind of unjust punishment in the military.

  • Robert

    That’s disgusting and immoral. The commander represents the government, therefore wordas that come out of his mouth when exercising a commanding officer function represent the government. He is not expressing his opinion, he is expressing the opinion of the military (which is a branch of the gov’t).

    This is very similar to basic corporate behavior. A company higher-up shouldn’t sit someone down in their office and preach. If they can find a reasonable way to do it off company time, then great. They are free to do so.

  • Robert

    Coercion would be a more acceptable word in legal settings I guess? But we’re not in one so trying to limit “forced” to a specific set of circumstances instead of understanding it as most people in the conversation would takes us away from the issue.I agree this situation applies to many philosophies. As a society we choose to include and tolerate, not exclude. So equating philosophies and facts as you did above is disingenuous. You don’t get to decide whether homosexuality is normal for example, and teachign people facts (some people are homosexual) is not a philosophy that excludes others.

    In the end you are engaging in a lot of equivocation and definitional nitpicking in order to do one thing – maintain privilege instead of allowing equality.

  • Duke OfOmnium

    As a taxpayer, I’d be kind of pissed about this if he weren’t otherwise disqualified from being an Army officer.   Without denying his perceptions, other non-believers at West Point don’t seem to have the same problems that he has.  And let’s face it, we don’t want officers deciding that they can bail out of their obligations because they happen to dislike the conditions.

  • Zugswang

    “We do not want to force anyone to adhere to a particular set of beliefs.”

    Your party wants to pass (and has passed) laws that narrowly define marriage, limit abortions based on artificial definitions of personhood and human life, and (along with many Democrats) have consistently supported the suspension of many enumerated citizens’ rights by relying upon the excuse that it is in the interests of national security.

    You’ll excuse me if I have a hard time believing that the founding principles of the Republican party haven’t been severely tortured and corrupted by the so-called Southern Strategy, and by so many of the modern-day GOP’s praetorian membership.

  • Glasofruix

     And i love it when a foreigner knows your own laws way better than yourself. Your army is part of the government and therefore should be religion free. Now if INDIVIDUALS inside that army want to express their beliefs on THEIR OWN behalf, they are free to do so, otherwise it’s a violation of the constitution.

  • Glasofruix

    I don’t need to hear your democrats speaking about the GOP, it’s sickening enough to hear one of your GOP clowns speaking by himself. I mean, really? Santorum, Paul, Romney… that’s some military grade stupid, that would’ve been funny if they weren’t serious.

  • Templarboy

    David-What you are missing is the rulings of the SCOTUS.  Looking blindly at the Constitution and making stuff up does not trump the legal history since it was written.  The SCOTUS said the Gov’t can’t promote or support religion.  That should be enough for you.  Pray in church if you must but don’t make me pay for your evangelical mission.

  • Kiwi_Dave

     If the  troops  are ordered to attend the prayer, they they are most certainly not freely exercising theirsing their religion freely.

    Replace the word chaplain with imam ce the word ‘chaplain’ with ‘imam’ and see how y ur a ‘chaplain’ with ‘imam’ and see how your argument works.

  • the moother

    If I was in a trench with someone who believes that the earth is 6000 years old then I’d seriously question whether they were fighting on the side of cognizance or of dissonance.

    Just as I am weary of colleagues that believe in biblical nonsense (and my fears are mostly justify by their actions), I would have less trust in a soldier with mush between his ears.

    There is no valid argument to exempt the military as a forum for undoing millennia of religious indoctrination.

  • Baby_Raptor

    It’s not bigotry if it’s true.

    Also, no belief system is owed tolerance. When a person’s beliefs openly call for the hatred of people and the complete disregard of their rights, as does Christianity, then it doesn’t deserve tolerance or respect. It deserves to be treated like the pile of shit it is. No good person treats their fellow humans like that. 

  • Baby_Raptor

    You cannot have freedom of religion without freedom from religion. 

    Also, the separation of church and state begs to differ. Or are you now going to claim that the Constitution doesn’t say that either? 

  • David

    Encouraging group prayer is not forcing group prayer.  If a commanding officer tells his troops, “those of you that believe in God should pray together,” that is not forcing anybody. It simply means he respects and agrees with them praying to God. He is expressing his viewpoint that it would be good for them to do that. This does NOT violate the Constitution. It would violate the free exercise clause of the Constitution to forbid that officer from expressing his opinion.

    I would love for a Muslim officer to encourage the same thing. For you to think otherwise simply shows how you are prejudice against my viewpoint, like so many others in this forum. As I said before, bigotry happens on both sides.

    It seems really out of place to me that you would take an authoritative position on what God wants if you do not believe in God. Such stems from bigotry against theists that borders on outright hatred.

  • David

    This is the typical response of atheists when the ability to think objectively and logically about issues fails them.

  • David

    Your bigotry against a young earth believer is astounding to me. What does it matter to you if the guy in the trench with you believes that the earth is 6000 years old? How does that affect his performance? He might actually perform better at covering your back than an atheist who believed the earth is 4.5 billion years old. Maybe he just does not accept the assumptions of radiometric dating, or maybe he just hasn’t studied that aspect of dating and relies on other evidence. Whatever the case, it is no reason for you to hate him, to disrespect him, or to think that he cannot perform his duty as a soldier just because his opinion on the age of the earth differs from yours.

  • David

    Very interesting article, but it clearly only shows one side of the issue. The author took a lot of time before publishing the article, but for whatever reason (probably personal bias), she chose not to include the perspective of the commanding officers. I am not convinced that keeping these soldiers on duty was punishment for not attending the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness event. Here is one reply from Jeremiah MacRoberts:  

    Comprehensive Soldier Fitness and its subordinate Master Resiliency Training are a program are designed in conjunction with UPenn. What you have here is the intersection of two unrelated things. Initial Entry Training soldiers are ALWAYS on lockdown (conditions described are not punishment, just their general living conditions) and the NCOs (various ranking sergeants who’s actions are not Army Policy) are held to extremely high accountability standards. As someone who is Cadre trained (trains IET soldiers) and a Chaplain (familiar with Spiritual Fitness as part of CSF/MRT) I can assure you this was NCOs attempt at managing conflicting orders: 1) keep trainees accounted for and under their training conditions and 2) allow soldiers to participate in an event Spiritual Fitness (CSF/MRT) event. The problem here is NOT the Concert or the CSF Program, it is the unrealistic standard of accountability and lockdown that IET soldiers face every day. The NCOs know this too, they didn’t take them to the concert to force Christianity on them, they took them to the concert because they wanted a break from their rigorous overseeing and wanted to give the soldier trainees a break from it as well. I can tell you more about Spiritual Fitness/ CSF and MRT (which is a multi-faith and non-faith approach to soldier support, Spiritual is one of 5 dimensions), but this is long enough already.

  • David

    I was thinking he was referring to a religious belief system being forced upon everyone. These issues you mention have always had a legal standing, and the thrust of change has not been coming from the GOP, but from the secular activists.  What you describe are actions seeking to stop what many in my party believe are a dangerous direction in the changes of existing laws.

    What the secular activists are doing to destroy marriage is clearly as evil a thing as I have ever seen in my lifetime. The family structure has been a very important foundation of civilization, and starting in the 1960′s with the feminist movement, the invention of “The Pill”, the promotion of sexual proclivities like homosexuality, culminating in the faux of “homosexual marriage” being an equal rights issue, a proper rational and logical understanding of gender diversity and marriage has been damaged almost beyond repair. The future has yet to be written, but I foresee a weakened civilization with the loss of a strong family structure.

    In regards to abortion, there are the rights of the unborn potential life to consider, as well as the rights of the mother.  Some in the GOP base the definition of life on a scientific definition, but ironically, for religious reasons, I differ from them on that definition. I do not believe that life exists at the moment of conception. There is more to consider than just science. I think Romney’s personal perspective of lettings States decide on the matter was a balanced approach. The fact that he planned to do nothing about trying to change the current federal legal position on the matter, it is clear that the GOP was not forcing anything in regards to abortion.

    In regards to the Patriot Act and similar issues, I am probably more aligned with the individual liberty side.  In like manner, I have always been disagreeable with many in my party on immigration issues.  We need immigration reform, but I favor amnesty and paths to legality for the people living here.  I also favor easier methods of immigration.  I consider these issues as debatable issues with the party that are likely to change with more dialogue. I do not see these as examples of forcing a system of belief upon others.  Some people in the party are simply more fearful of terrorists than others, and they are willing to sacrifice liberty for safety. We all sacrifice liberty for security, but where we draw that line is not always in the same place. My personal perspective is to take more risk concerning personal safety and to err on the side of personal liberty.

  • David

    You obviously do not understand Christianity. The Christian philosophy teaches selflessness and love, and to love your neighbor as yourself. We teach to respect the rights of others, and to use words rather than hatred and violence to persuade others of truth.  The concepts of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, tolerance, etc. come from Christian philosophy. The tenor of hatred coming from your post toward Christianity is the fruit of atheism.

  • Zugswang

     You know, I really hoped that you wouldn’t rely on faulty assumptions and baseless accusations, followed by dismissal of clear evidence by proxy definitions.  But, lo and behold, you did not fail to do precisely as I hoped you wouldn’t, because I really would have liked to have a respectful and substantive exchange between two individuals with divergent viewpoints.  Instead, this only further convinces me that you’re not arguing in good faith, but rather, you’re engaging in a rhetorical exercise that serves only to reinforce your own beliefs.

    And I’m sure you would try to say that it is sound skepticism, but the fact is, you’ve chosen to wholly dismiss one person’s statements on the grounds of “probably personal bias,” and take someone else at his word for reasons you haven’t even bothered to enumerate.

    This does very little to convince me that you’re really trying to better inform yourself about this issue (which you’ve managed to demonstrate, regardless of where you stand on this issue, as something you haven’t had a great deal of exposure to) or have a substantive discussion examining the validity of this subject.  It would seem you’ve come in here for no other reason than to make backhanded insults and empty criticisms of people with whom you disagree, not only based on your responses to me, but in your replies to other people on this post, as well.

  • David

    You are the one playing word games by using words like “force” and “coercion” so broadly. Any rational discussion needs to start with clearly defined terms so that communication can take place. When you depart from legal and traditional definitions without offering clear definitions of your own, you are simply being intellectually lazy. This is the problem with atheism, it leads to non-rational approaches to truth and relies too much on dogmatism and indoctrination techniques. People just follow the party line so to speak. 

    In regards to homosexuality, I believe that I have the right to hold to the opinion that homosexuality is a perversion of natural sexuality. Clear evidence and rational thought have led me to my belief system.  I have the right to think that I should warn others that they would be succumbing to deception if they go down that path of homosexuality that promises greater sensual pleasure and a fulfilled life; instead they will find a wounded conscience, depression, perhaps a greater tendency towards materialism, drugs, and ultimately a greater chance to commit suicide.  

    The real civil rights issue here is not that homosexuals should be free to practice their sex the way they want to practice it, but that homosexuals are criminalizing my right to believe and express my views that warn others of the dangers and evil of homosexual behavior. These hate crime laws are the real evil in society, policing what we think and say through the use of real force, real jail time and fines, not this peer pressure kind of force being talked about by you and Blake Page. If you want to talk about civil rights and equality, Christians are the real ones being attacked on this issue, not the homosexuals. How can anyone who loves liberty and concepts of equality support this kind of censorship of speech and thinking?

  • David

    Your viewpoint expressed here is oppressive to a free society. People in government should speak favorably about religion, whether on company time or not,  if in their mind it is good for the morale and psychological health of the troops under his command.  President Washington, in his official capacity as commander in chief, argued that religion was indispensable to government:

    “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

    Your atheistic new theory about people not being free to think and speak according to the convictions of their heart and mind whenever they are on “company time” just flat out does not work. It is oppressive. This is a major flaw of the atheistic system of thinking, not acknowledging that government is OF the people and BY the people, and religious freedom cannot exist if we censor those intellectual convictions of those who are part of government simply because their convictions are considered religious.

  • David

    Zugswang, you wrote, “you’ve chosen to wholly dismiss one person’s statements…”

    No, I have not wholly dismissed the issue at all. I am actually researching it a bit more and I do appreciate you bringing it to my attention. However, I have learned in counseling situations that when I hear one side of a dispute, always get the other side of the dispute’s perspective. Sometimes one hears a wife complain about the abuses of her husband, and a whole perspective takes shape of how evil that husband is. Then later, when you talk to the husband, an entirely different perspective emerges. So I have learned to listen to both sides of a dispute to get at the truth. Courts do this all the time. It is the fair way to evaluate the situation. I am sorry that you perceive such an approach to truth as being disingenuous.  As you are disappointed in me for having this approach of hearing all parties involved, I am disappointed that you cannot look past your own world view enough to recognize that I am discussing these issues in good faith.  I just process the information differently than you do because of my having a different intellectual background from you.

    The military is a little different than a normal job. These guys are “on duty” and whether this event with Barlow Girls represented a benefit to those who wanted to go while “on duty” or that being “on duty” was a punishment for those who chose not to go, is clearly a difference of opinion.  What is presented does make me concerned about what exactly is going on, but I really don’t have enough information from the article to make a clear judgment about this situation.  That’s all that I was trying to communicate in my last post. If you know of another example that might be more clear, one that attempts to present the perspective of the officers involved as well as those under his command, I would be most interested in reading it. 

  • David

    I will agree with you that I am not posting here to learn so much as to express my beliefs and principles in a logical way. The title of the blog “friendly atheist” intrigued me as I don’t meet too many friendly atheists. There also was mention by Blake of wanting to open up dialogue about church and state issues.  Unfortunately, it seems that rather than dialogue, most of the atheists here just want to ridicule and bully me away. Perhaps rational dialogue is not possible with the atheists here?  I don’t know. Maybe there is no atheist who can rationally articulate his opinion in a consistent rational way that would actually work to the benefit of society.

  • David

    “You cannot have freedom of religion without freedom from religion.”

    This statement makes no logical sense.  If you have freedom from religion, you have no religion, you are separated from religion; therefore, you cannot have freedom of religion because you have no religion.  The only way a person has freedom of religion is to embrace religion as a valid system of organizing knowledge and thinking. 

    The Constitution seeks to secure this liberty for us by two clauses in the First Amendment. The first clause is the establishment clause, which says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. This means that the federal government will not follow the example of England in making the Church of England the official Church of the nation.  Instead, the federal government will respect the rights for different churches to exist in the country, and it will not favor one particular establishment of religion over another. The second clause is the free exercise clause, which says, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  This second clause basically prohibits Congress from passing laws that would criminalize religious exercises, which usually includes speech and assembly. Hence, the rest of the Amendment expands the matter to include all manner of speech and assemblies.  I believe this includes prayers given by the commander in chief (the President), prayers in Congress, government concerts or prayer breakfasts, etc.   It is this last part that is somewhat open for interpretation and the crux of the debate here.  My main argument is that government is run by people, some of whom have religious convictions. To stifle their right to express their convictions just because they work for the government and are suppose to be so-called “neutral” is oppressive. Furthermore, such a position is logically impossible unless only atheists were allowed to work in government.  A secondary argument I would make (but have not yet done so here in this forum) is that oaths form part of the glue of government, and a basis of oaths lies in an acknowledgment of God… which is a religious sentiment.  To argue that government officials cannot acknowledge or engage in oaths of office that involve their God (such as Presidents and other government officials saying in their oath of office, “so help me God”) is dangerous and foolish.

  • David

    It doesn’t matter whether it is an imam or a chaplain. Why would that make any difference?  As a Christian, I personally would like to go to prayer with the imam, because it is different from my own cultural background.

    Look, some would welcome such an assembly to pray and others would not.  So what. If you have the assembly to pray, some are going to be offended, and if you forbid any assemblies to pray, some are going to be offended over that.  Some might not like being sent into battle, putting their life on the line, and they are not allowed to pray with their spiritual brothers in the military because the rules do not allow it!  The solution is not to make rules one way or the other.  The soldiers need to be mature enough to put up with things they don’t like and that perhaps they do not agree with.  That is what it means to live in a pluralistic society.  The atheist should bear with the religious, and the religious should bear with the atheist. Why would this not be a valid approach?  Why does the atheist always seem to take the position of, “it should be my way or the highway”?

  • David

    This would be true only for atheists. Don’t ignore the rights of the rest of society just so you can feel good about yourself.

  • David

    The “persecution” you speak of is not real persecution, such as flogging or criminal prosecution for his atheism. In fact, Blake was allowed to lead several atheist groups at West Point to further his belief system. The persecution you speak of is social peer pressure and the like.  Big deal.  I have no doubt that existed there.  Everybody suffers that, especially Christians.  Do you really think Blake respected the belief system of others better than the majority respected his belief system?  The straw man and red herring is trying to make this a civil rights abuse case.  Blake said he wanted to open up dialogue about church / state issues, but he never responded to my effort to talk with him about it. Maybe he just wants to present a situation to get everyone fighting with one another because there is no rational case to be made for the value of atheism?

    What happened here is that Blake’s position within the military was coming to an end.  He wanted to become an officer, but that goal was not in sight.  So, rather than finishing out quietly and receiving his degree, he wrote a letter to the Huffington Post with an emotive headline about quitting West Point, resulting in all the gullible secularists falling over themselves to have another argument to make for pushing for a more atheistic government and society.  When rational arguments fail, use emotional arguments with complicated, difficult to verify, facts.  This apparently has become the atheist way.

  • David

    What you express here is the current indoctrination that happens not just in the military, but in all positions touched by government.  My daughter worked in a position at a state university, and she was threatened with being fired and received a reprimand in her permanent record for expressing her views about homosexuality on her private time. She was told that as an employee of the university, she represented the university 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  In a workshop, she was presented with a situation where student was expressing same sex feelings about another student and asked how she would respond.  Part of her response was giving contact info for both the LGBT affairs and a Christian based organization on campus for an alternative perspective. They threw a fit about that.  As Christians, we should not cower to these false indoctrination efforts about what our Constitution says. It is arbitrary for us to relinquish these kinds of rights, and we lose them only if we believe the false dogma rather than stand up and make our case.  Certainly in any employment situation, whether for government or otherwise, we relinquish certain liberties in order to fulfill our duty.  It is basically just part of contracting with someone.  But we should not think that just because a belief system is deemed to be religious it therefore makes it illegal if it has anything to do with government.  This concept is dogma that comes from the atheists and secularists in society who presently represent the ruling class at our public institutions.  There is a better way, but some people might have to pay a price again to make that way clear. It is sad to think that a person expressing his convictions, with the intent of helping his fellow soldiers have courage and determination, would be brought up on religious discrimination charges. What a sad society and culture secularism and atheism is producing for us.

  • David

    I think SCOTUS decisions have been leaning in the wrong direction on this one.  They are tripped up by the 14th Amendment, passed hastily after the Civil War, which probably needs to be repealed in part.  SCOTUS got it wrong in Dred Scott decision. They are not infallible. 

  • David

    SCOTUS has not ruled exactly the way you have described: “can’t promote or support religion.” It has ruled in favor of allowing prayer with publicly funded government activity, and it has supported hiring chaplains in the military to help with religious activity in the military.

  • jeffj900

    Now that you have explained that you don’t discriminate between Islam and Christianity, I accept that I was wrong in my assumption of an extremely common stereotype. I posed it as a question in hopes that it might give you cause to think. You’d be surprised how many Christians see things in a Manichean way and have never actually put themselves in the place of a Muslim or considered how they would think or feel differently had they been born in a Muslim country rather than a Christian one. I wonder if believing that birth is God’s plan, rather than biological accident, leads to this common lack of empathy.

    That question gets at the complications that arise if a public group that has not gathered for religious purposes, such as soldiers together in the military, tries to become a vehicle for fulfilling all the religious needs of each person equally. The world is rapidly becoming smaller and religious diversity in this land is increasing. The simplistic days when you can make the parochial assumption that everyone is Christian are behind us. So the choices are to leave religion as a purely private matter, or to try to equally accommodate all religious differences, including atheism, in an equal and balanced fashion. I think the latter approach becomes too burdensome as religious diversity increases, so why bother? Everyone can respectfully get along as human beings without reference to religion.

    I hardly think that qualifies as bigotry. I don’t hate you, or hate Christians. I do hate the fact that the world has a vast majority, billions of people, who are convinced of something that to the best of my knowledge is a delusion invented by relatively primitive and ignorant humans thousands of years ago. This is very annoying that the idea of God has so much respect and power, and I hope that changes. I believe it is changing and slowly will continue to change. But I don’t hate you or the people who believe it. I used to be one of them, so I understand.

    In your scenario distinguishing prayer as encouragement as opposed to mandatory command, I would hope that the encouragement doesn’t end up endorsing discrimination against those who don’t comply. To be fair, such encouragement should also encourage those who don’t believe to not pray, without any prejudicial negative connotations, either implicit or explicit. For example: “Those of you who wish to pray are free to do so, or you are free not to, your choice”, as opposed to “those with a heart and soul and goodness can pray”. It lingers in the air without being said that those who choose not to are worthless animals. Actually we are all animals with a great deal of worth, including the ability to invent vast cultural systems like religion. This is a blatant imaginary case, but such implicit bias against atheists is everywhere, the assumption that goes without saying is everywhere, the implication that all good people pray, leaving obvious conclusions to be drawn about those who don’t. I don’t pray because I think it is a completely useless waste of time, just like doing a rain dance or turning about three times throwing salt over your shoulder are a waste of time. It’s not that I don’t understand and respect the motives of those who do pray. But I think it is a bit sad that their earnest good will is based on a false conception. Some aspects of prayer are like meditation. One steels one’s self and focuses the mind to meet a challenge. It is psyching yourself up, or concentrating your mental resources on a danger or task or other difficulty that must be faced. Everyone does this in one way or another, but it’s a conversation with one’s self. There is no deity listening in, and no supernatural favors are granted.

  • jeffj900

    By the way, I didn’t really address the issue of this last paragraph: “It seems really out of place to me that you would take an authoritative position on what God wants if you do not believe in God. Such stems from bigotry against theists that borders on outright hatred.”

    When I take a position on God, it is not authoritative. It’s my position, take it or leave it. Judging truth based on authority, a dangerous fallacy, is for the religious to contend with. It’s their way of receiving truth unexamined, not the way of a rational person who thinks for themselves.

    We are all surrounded by people making statements about God. It’s no challenge to know what people think and say about God. I’m no exception to that simply because I don’t believe God exists. I’ve read the Bible plenty, and studied history, so I know the role God plays traditionally in war. This is no mystery that requires a sincere religious believer to know about it or to have an opinion about it. It’s not bigotry to call out hypocrisy and unconscious paradox reflected in people’s behavior.

    Either one thinks God accepts and supports one’s killing of an enemy, or one doesn’t think this. Usually religious believers who support a war feel obligated to justify it in terms of their God’s will. There are also many religious believers who take a more expansive view that we are all God’s children, and God can’t help but disapprove of brother killing brother. Such groups are pacifist and oppose war, like the Quakers for example. As a humanist, I side more with the latter case, that humans killing humans is tragic and wrong, even though sadly in a morally ambiguous world it sometimes can’t be avoided. Certainly one must defend one’s self and defend the weak. I think the tragedies are mostly caused by the confusion and misunderstanding created by the first group of people, the religious justifiers who blinded by their faith and their uncompromising sense of absolute correctness can’t see things in more than one way.

    The religious don’t own the word or idea “God”, any more than they own “table”, “sun”, “bread”, or “wine”. These are English words for human use, a fact which I will make use of without hesitation.

  • Tom

    I’m not sure you understand how a modern fighting force in our current engagements works.  The notion of there being a period of time before a battle, The Battle, and then the post battle is a very archaic and romanticized view of the whole endeavor.  It brings to mind the stories of the Napoleonic wars and the Great Game.

    It’s not like that today.

    Here’s how it works, in brief, from a soldier’s perspective:  Today is Saturday.  On Saturday your platoon is on the patrol rotation so you know a patrol is coming soon.  When the orders come down you get your hit times (the time you have to accomplish a certain task by) and the information that’s available in order to start rehearsals.  You’re also doing PCCs and PCIs – basically that means you’re checking your gear – and, if there’s time, grabbing some food.  Once all the details have been sorted out by leadership you have a final briefing and roll out on the mission.  Once it’s done, you get back on the base and de-brief.  After that you drop your gear and start checking everything so that all of your equipment is clean and serviceable for the next mission.  Once that’s done you grab some food.  After that, if you have time, you grab some rack.  Then it just starts over.

    Now, there are plenty of soldiers who find time for their personal observations during that process.  I know a guy who would sit down and pray when he got a chance and I knew a guy who just sort of casually, quietly prayed for himself.  I also knew a guy who would make sure to masturbate before every mission – that was just his thing.  Personally, I used the time to make sure that all of my and my guy’s gear was straight because to my secular, atheist mind a triple check on your equipment is more useful than a conversation with an imaginary friend.  That being said, there were definitely guys who wouldn’t be combat effective if they hadn’t prayed because they wouldn’t be in the right frame of mind.

    To directly address what you’re saying, though, an officer encouraging group prayer in that situation is a stupid, irresponsible waste of time that would get people killed because it would take away from the precious few moments you have to ensure that the items that will actually keep you alive – the items designed, built and maintained by the power of the human mind and human determination – are able to function effectively when you need them to.

  • TCC

    Even that encouragement to pray is likely to make those who don’t pray feel isolated and set apart. If soldiers were encouraged to pray individually if they so pleased, then that wouldn’t have the same effect of alienating non-religious or non-Christian soldiers.

    And you should also know that free exercise has to be balanced with non-establishment of religion. As a public school teacher, my speech is restricted in regards to religion in order to prevent church-state entanglement, since I’m functioning as an agent of the government in my role. I suspect that similar concerns might apply here.

  • TCC

    That’s some nice hagiography you’ve done there, but if (for instance) tolerance comes from Christian philosophy, it would be nice to know why it took so long for that concept to take hold and why so many Christians still fight it even today. And hatred and violence? Still the MO of a lot of Christians today.

    I’m not going to pigeonhole all Christians in this way, but the origin of a lot of those concepts either 1) did not uniquely originate from Christian philosophy (insofar as there is a single “Christian philosophy”) or 2) came from a non-Christian source and were accepted by some Christians and non-Christians alike.

  • TCC

    You should re-read the Ninth Commandment, friend.

  • TCC

    Leading the troops in prayer is a completely different beast than providing voluntary, private counseling on an individual basis. Suggesting that chaplains should perform anything that could be construed as proselytizing or coercion of soldiers would be forcing belief on them. That’s what we don’t want.

  • Robert

    I’m sorry, but it’s hard to take a Christian seriously when they invoke oppression. Once again what you’re worried about isn’t oppression, it’s having other elevated to a similar status as you. This is difficult to recognize when you’re the one the status quo favors (I speak from experience here) but is really all it boils down to.

    And if you’re going to pick a Washington quote in which he fears morality cannot be upheld without religion… well, you’ve kind of shot yourself in the foot. Plenty of Founding Fathers disagree with his positions above and the idea I picked out is clearly a demonstration of government entanglement in religion.

  • Robert

    Wow, what a distorted view of reality you have. I agree that you have the right to express your views. You won’t go to jail for expressing them.

    Hate crime laws target actual assaults and other such crimes, so unless you’re committing assaults on homosexuals you’re fine. But then, this is how people in power scare their peers into believeing the big bad homos or liberals or whoever are about to change the world they live in.

    I very much doubt that clear evidence and rational thought can bring anyone to the positions you express above. The idea that homosexuality is about promising greater sensual pleasure is a disturbing one, often infused by projection or fear, but never by factuals understandings of what relationships mean as a whole.

    If you were (or are) in a government position you should not have the right to express your view in any way that it can be considered the view of a government official as opposed to a private person.

    Your understanding of things (Christians are the victims here!) is so far removed from reality that I fear this conversation can only go downhill from here. Suffice it to say that I live in the 21st century and hope to help bring other people into it too. Please don’t drag us backwards.

  • Robert

    Oaths are not required to be made before any gods. That many people do so personally or as a matter of tradition does not prevent others from taking oaths without invoking gods.

    The only potential problem there is that there may be some stigma attached to taking an oath without invoking a higher power in communities which are made up almost exclusively of devout believers.

  • Kiwi Dave

    “The solution is not to make rules one way or the other.”

    If that means those who want to gather and pray can, and those who don’t want to gather and pray need not, without any penalty or imposition on either group, then fine – we agree.

    However, religious belief is sometimes imposed by people in official positions, paid for by all taxpayers, against the wishes of those being opposed upon, which is why some rules are necessary

  • Robert

    We don’t want to legislate beliefs or force anyone to believe as we do.

    Oh, wait, those beliefs? Yeah we totally want to force those on you cause it’s good for you.

  • TCC

    No, religious coercion from an authority in the government is oppressive to a free society. That you think religion should be hoisted on anyone who doesn’t want it in a situation where it manifestly does not matter (regardless of a specific leader’s opinion) is utterly in opposition to personal liberty. No person has the right to use the pulpit of government to promote religion. Period, end of story.

  • TCC

    The only way a person has freedom of religion is to embrace religion as a valid system of organizing knowledge and thinking.

    And there we see the underlying flaw in all of David’s church-state arguments.

  • TCC

    And no, David, the Establishment Clause does not merely prohibit the establishment of a religion (i.e. a state religion) but of religion more generally. The government should remain neutral in regards to religion or non-religion except when necessary to achieve other public goods (e.g. preventing the violation of other protected rights).

  • David

    That is your belief system, that no deity is listening. You can’t prove that, so you should not deny the belief system of another person who reports answers to prayer, someone who accomplishes success in life through the love, faith and hope that develops within him through prayer. 

    In regards to religious equality, I do not believe in religious equality in the sense that all religions are the same.  Same with gender equality.  Male and females obviously are different from each other in many physical and mental ways.  In a legal sense, we speak of their equality in the sense of their legal standing before the law.  We also speak of their equality in the sense of their relationship to each other, that one does not have any inherent goodness or higher standing over the other.  Nevertheless, this does not mean that some men are not better than others, nor would it mean that there cannot exist an evil man or an evil woman. And just as a person can be judged to be evil or good, so some religious ideas are bad and some are good.  Speaking of religious equality from a legal standpoint, and then transposing that concept into the social realm to lead people to think that all religious concepts are on an equal footing, that all religious concepts are equally valid to one another, well, this simply defies reality and is a most egregious error in thinking. Complete failure, actually.

    So while I might welcome a Muslim Chaplain to pray or to teach and share his perspective because I am most willing to hear it, that does not mean that I would automatically accept his prayers or teachings as good as any other religious one. My judgment of it merit would have to come after the experience. My expectation is that some Muslims will do much better than some Christians and some will not.

    You personally may not hate me. I don’t know.  You seem cordial enough in this forum.  However, I have seen in my lifetime that as government moves more toward secularism and atheism, atheism in society grows too, and the atheists in society feel more empowered because they feel like the force of government is on their side.  This does indeed foster a hatred toward Christians. I have seen many atheists ridicule Christians rather than argue their ideas logically.  They begin to stereotype constantly, such that if a political candidate is shown to be a Creationist, he is maligned on that basis alone as being unfit to run for any kind of political office.  This is bad fruit in atheism.  In many forums, the atheists constantly malign and hurl epithets at religious people, much like some white people did against blacks not too many years ago. It has happened often in this forum of the “friendly atheist” against me. 

    In terms of getting along with each other, surely we should be able to do that, whether religious or not.  However, a religion like Christianity can be helpful toward that purpose of getting along in that it teaches us to love one another, to not satisfy our carnal desires, to not seek a life of self gratification, but rather to deny oneself, and to sacrifice for the greater good of others.  What greater example of laying down one’s  life for others do we have than the path that Jesus Christ took to his death on a cross?

    In this story of Blake Page, the very idea of wanting to strip the military of all that is religious on “constitutional grounds,” or on “separation of church and state” grounds, creates huge problems. We are talking about young men going into battle.  A Christian young man finds great strength when his Christian commanding officer prays together with him.  When a group of Christian soldiers and officers pray together, it is great for morale, for building faith and hope in what they are doing together.  I don’t know what atheists exactly do, but they are free to have their associations and their literature and their concerts or breakfasts around their ideology or whatever.  Will some of them feel slighted by the Christians?  Probably.  That is life in a pluralistic society.

    Soldiers with faith also are made fun of by other soldiers who don’t believe.  I was watching Red Tails last night, and they depicted a chapel on the battle field, a religious man with a picture of Black Jesus when he flew missions, and another who drank alcohol to help him cope, and yet another who enjoyed pursuing women.  At one point all the men jeered the religious guy, associating his belief in Jesus with fairy tales.  In real life, this happens all the time, where the beliefs of the religious are questioned, where the religious is made to feel like less suitable because he has faith in someone he can’t prove to others. Often people characterize him as weak, as needing a crutch in life.  That is part of life, and the atheist as well as the Christian will experience these things because of our diversity.  We should embrace our diversity, not disparage it.

    Ultimately, look at this from a purely logical perspective.  If the atheists are successful in changing the interpretation of the Constitution to mean freedom FROM religion rather than freedom OF religion, what does this mean in regards to how people function in society?  Who gets the stamp of approval from the government in such a situation, the religious or the atheist?  Clearly it would be the atheists who feel that government is behind them, while the religious would be at a disadvantage.  The viewpoint would be that the government tolerates their primitive, stupid, imaginary beliefs and that real men, intelligent men, are simply not religious.  Well, all this goes against the very spirit of the Constitution in attempting to establish a government of all people, both religious and not religious.  Can’t you see that?

  • David

    Not sure I agree with your characterization.  It depends on the context of the word “belief.” Clearly the topic is not about forcing religious belief, as I had originally thought he meant.

    I am not an anarchist or lawless. I believe in laws, and that laws should be such as will result in the most peaceful and harmonious society possible.  Thus, there should be laws against stealing, murder, etc.  Is the GOP about advancing their political ideology in society?  Of course.  That’s what political parties do.  Is the GOP about forcing religious views upon others?  No. 

  • David

    TCC wrote: “the Establishment Clause does not merely prohibit the establishment of a religion (i.e. a state religion) but of religion more generally.”

    Wrong.  Read the clause again please.   The phrase does NOT say, “Congress shall make no law respecting religion” (which is how you seem to read it).  Rather, it says that Congress shall make no law respecting AN establishment of religion.  

    You have created an interpretation, then relied upon your inexact interpretation, and this has led you to erroneous conclusions.

    While some Supreme Court Justices have made the argument you make, ultimately we have to go back to what the Constitution actually says.  Furthermore, we have to understand the goal of the Constitution, which is to have a government which is not hostile toward religion.  Arguing that government must forbid employees of government from referencing God or saying prayers, or arguing that government must not reference God on our currency or in our pledge of allegiance to our country or oaths of office, all of this is hostile toward religion.  Therefore, any interpretation that leads us to his path is faulty in some way.  We should investigate where we made our mistake, and in your case, you made the mistake of overlooking the article “an” within the establishment clause of the Constitution. 

  • David

    Do you think that religion is an INVALID system of organizing knowledge and thinking?

  • David

    I’m not sure you understand what our founding fathers found problematic with oaths of office in the absence of religion. It is not social stigma within religious communities.  In fact, some religions within Christianity forbid taking any oaths based upon teachings of Jesus in this regard. The issue of oaths and religion is based upon the idea of conscience and a man’s sense of being faithful to his God.  What binds a man to his oath is his integrity, and that usually means his sense of accountability to his God.  

    Philosophers like John Locke, while arguing vehemently for liberty and toleration, considered atheism abhorrent because the glue that holds civilization together are promises and oaths, which in their mind required an internal perception about God. In fact, sometimes courts in this country would not admit into evidence the testimony of a witness if it became known that the witness was an atheist.  This was because the judge did not believe that the truthfulness of his testimony could be relied upon if he had no accountability toward God for what he would say.

    To move the pendulum so far the other way as to forbid an acknowledgment of God in regards to oaths would put us on a very perilous path toward more Bill Clinton’s (“I did not have sexual relations with that woman”) and Anthony Weiner’s.

  • David

    I assure you that what I have said is very real. Perhaps you have trouble understanding it because your views are not as subject to persecution as my views are. I have been arrested several times for expressing my viewpoints. I’m talking about being put in handcuffs by the police in this country for doing nothing more than  speaking about what I believe.  I have been spit upon and physically attacked by people many times.  I have friends who were forbidden by customs from entering Great Britain because their luggage had pins on them that looked like no smoking signs, but instead of a cigarette it had the word homo.  Michael Savage is a Jew, not a Christian, but he has been banned permanently from Great Britain simply for his belief system. He is treated like a violent terrorist even though he is not.  It is absurd! These kinds of things are real and happen all the time whether you want to believe it is real or not.

    The Rutgers University suicide case should be a huge wake-up call about the evil of hate crime laws.  A student there locked out of his room so his roommate could have a sexual tryst with an older man he met on Craig’s list. He went across the hall to another student’s room and pulled up his webcam for a minute.  Later that week, his roommate commits suicide.  Not charged with any connection to the suicide, New Jersey hate crime laws inflicted prison time and a $10,000 fine.  Sorry, but something is very wrong with this picture. When I was in college, it was the student having the sexual liaison who would be in trouble.

    As for my characterization of homosexuality being about sexual pleasure, my information comes from what homosexuals tell me, not from fear or projection. Even if you don’t talk to homosexuals, if you just look at it logically, the sexual actions of homosexuals have primarily the purpose of sexual pleasure.  There is no reproductive purpose.  Homosexuals tell me that there is no greater rush that I could experience if I would just try it.

    Part of the problem of discussions about homosexuality is the fact that homosexual is a term that really refers to one end of a sexual spectrum, but the word is bantered about as a distinct class of people like male and female or black and white.  In reality, the word “Gay” is a euphemism for certain sexual proclivities that a segment of our society considers perversion. The homosexual agenda is to mainstream all sexual behavior in general, and they are using a careful strategy of propaganda to accomplish that goal.  It is simply a furtherance of the sexual revolution. Is that good for society?  Well, it kind of becomes difficult to discuss when epithets like bigot, homophobe, racist, etc. are hurled at anyone who wants to discuss it from  another point of view. Hate crime laws make it even more difficult to discuss. Do you know how many times I have been told to shut up because of the hate crime laws that have been passed?  Even if I have never been charged with one, people use them as a stamp of approval by government that they are on the correct side of an ideological issue. Government gives a stamp of approval to homosexual advocates and a stamp of disapproval to sexual morality advocates.  People who have standards of sexual morality are now viewed as criminals. We are viewed as committing criminal acts if we simply speak about the value of sexual standards of morality.

    It is amazing to me that you think my comments are not in reality. It seems to me that either you are saying what you say for rhetorical reasons to marginalize what I have to say, or you have become so comfortable in your own existence and life that you do not understand the struggles of others who are different from you.

  • David

    I am not arguing for religious coercion from government.  I do not believe in that, as I have plainly stated.

    Nevertheless, government is run by people, some of whom are religious. Their convictions of truth, whether religious or not, ought to be freely shared without regard to whether that conviction might be termed religious or not.  Just because a President acknowledges God in his address to us does not coerce the country to follow a particular brand of religion.  Some may be more interested in his religion if he has respect and admiration for the President.  This holds true whether the President is a Christian or a Secular Humanist.  I do not consider such to be coercion.

  • David

    The idea that religion can be separated from government is impossible UNLESS government is run only by non-religious people (or hypocrites).  I think you have difficulty seeing that because you are not religious, so you expect everyone else can be just like you and the world would be a great place for everyone.

    If a person of true religious conviction functions in government, those convictions should be expected to be expressed at various times.  Yes, the government imprimatur exists, but so what. It exists when the secular humanist expresses his convictions. Such is not an unnecessary entanglement of religion.

    What crosses the line is if the President would use his position to preach and teach his religion to the nation.   If a Christian group invites the President to have breakfast with them, to pray, to share about his religious beliefs, even to teach about his religious convictions, that would be fine. 

    I have not shot myself in the foot by quoting a founding father. In my experience, atheists falsely quote them to further their cause in an untruthful way. There is no dispute that the founding fathers sought to limit religious entanglement in government, and I am in agreement with that sentiment.  However, the thrust of the founding fathers is not the same as the modern atheist. The fathers for the most part were not hostile toward religion in the way that modern atheism is.

    Let me frame this issue another way.  I think it is perfectly acceptable to have a secular humanist as President who would never mention God or religion.  Are you likewise as prepared to have a Christian President who often acknowledges God? If not, then you are not neutral in regards to religion in government.  Rather, your concept of “neutrality” is actually hostility toward religion and you think religion should be purged completely from government.

  • David

    I don’t deny that some will feel more isolated or set apart, but I say, so what!  That’s life.  Life is filled with feelings like this when groups of people do something else.  It is only peer pressure, and we should not address the issue through censorship, but rather through teaching how to deal with those feelings of isolation or insecurity.  The heightened morale caused in soldiers by their commander leading them in prayer should not be stifled because of a few soldiers who can’t relate to that action.

    In regards to public schools (I assume other than university level), I understand more of the sensitivity in that forum because children are still developing their minds and do not yet have the intellectual ability to start making up their own minds. Their responsible guardians (parents) are not there to observe what is being taught.  Nevertheless, I think often there is too much hypersensitivity about it as well.  If a secular humanist can freely teach my kids his philosophy on life, it seems to me that a Christian, Jew or Muslim teacher ought also to be free to explain his own convictions.  I don’t want any of them to turn their classroom into a religious training session, but I would hope that my children might benefit from understanding their teachers and how and why they think the way they do.  To forbid it, in my mind, is a missed opportunity in education.

  • Glasofruix

      The idea that religion can be separated from government is impossible
    UNLESS government is run only by non-religious people (or hypocrites).

    I tend to disagree. Most european countries have a clear line separating church and state (more defined that what you have in the US), and it works fine. I’ve never heard our politicians babble about god, pink unicorns or whatnot during their work hours and some are known to be VERY religious.

  • Glasofruix


    Clear evidence and rational thought have led me to my belief system.

    Yeah, ok, fair game, but then:

    I have the right to think that I should warn others that they would
    be succumbing to deception if they go down that path of homosexuality
    that promises greater sensual pleasure and a fulfilled life; instead
    they will find a wounded conscience, depression, perhaps a greater
    tendency towards materialism, drugs, and ultimately a greater chance to
    commit suicide.  

    Arent’ you contradicting yourself here? You talk about how evidence and rational thought (lol) led you to believe in skyfairy and then you pull some shit straight out of your ass…

  • Glasofruix

     Oh wow, so you’ve basically told us that you’re part of the KKK and that you’re not happy how people treat you when you act like a giant asshole. Basically, you scream murder when your little hate group is not above everyone else.

  • Glasofruix

    Since it’s based on nothing more than myths and lies, pretty much, yes.

  • David

    The tenor of your comment seemed a bit arrogant to me.  Imagine if I told you that the very idea of you knowing what your father wanted you to do was absurd, but that previously I had told you that I had never met your father and don’t believe he ever even existed.  It is kind of confusing.  I’m not saying that you don’t have the right to question what might father said or my ability to know what he said, but to comment the way you did, putting any concept about it in the realm of the absurd, simply projects your disbelief in a way that stifles any kind of discussion.  For you, talking about God might be academic, but for some of us, we actually have a spiritual relationship with this person. We talk to him and he talks to us.  You might not understand that, but you should respect it enough not to address the topic in the way that you did.

    As for judging truth based on authority, such is NOT a dangerous fallacy.  I encourage you to think carefully about this.  Authority based learning is simply a lower stage of learning.  When we were small children, this was our most basic form of learning. We accepted what our parents taught us, and learned that going outside of that usually was harmful to us.  “Don’t touch the stove, it is hot.” Go against it, and we learn we should have accepted authority. As we grow older, hopefully we being to learn critical thinking and move beyond that stage of learning.  Nevertheless, it is not a fallacy.  There will always be members of our society who do not engage in critical thinking well, and some who cannot do it at all.  They are not less of a person in society because of that.  They may have to rely upon authority based learning, so it would be inappropriate to call it a fallacy.  It is simply a stage of learning, or a different method of learning.  For some stuck in this stage, it would be more profitable to help them follow the right authority figures rather than to write them off as being unable to learn.

  • David

    Which European countries are you talking about, and which politicians are VERY religious?  The U.S. becoming more like the European countries is exactly what has me concerned.  This conversation is starting to be like a college computer geek telling Bill Gates, “my way of doing things works fine, so you should seriously try it and not be so afraid to give it a go.”

  • Glasofruix

     Except that you’re (and the US in general) not Bill Gates, nor a computer geek, you’re the guy from the accounting trying to impose his way of one finger typing to everyone else in the company. The US are far from being the belly of the world, on some points you guys ressemble a third world country.

  • David

    The only Christians that I have observed teaching hatred and violence are anti-abortionists who teach it as a form of defense for the unborn.  They are a very small minority.  Most of what you hear about the MO of Christians being hatred and violence is propaganda from atheists.  

    Just look in this forum, in this very thread, a man says Christianity deserves no tolerance and no respect, and he calls it a pile of shit. Do you say one word of instruction about that?  No. Do you use this opportunity to foster tolerance in your fellow atheist?  No.  Instead, you take the opportunity to pile on the Christian and claim that if Christianity has embraced the idea of tolerance, it was some kind of accident and not unique.  

    The truth is that historically most all the arguments for tolerance appeal to God as the foundation for those concepts.  Can you even give me one source that does not?  The roots for tolerance go back beyond Christianity to Judaism.  You can find in the New Testament an example, a religious argument, made by professor Gamaliel in Acts 5.  These ideas have been around for many generations. They have not taken hold.  We will continue to have cycles of war and intolerance because not everybody in society aligns with good ideas.

    Even in this forum, so many atheists are angry at God and religion, and they falsely think religion is the cause of intolerance, yet they are among the most intolerant of everyone in our society but they cannot see it.

  • David

    No, not part of the KKK.  And I am not part of any hate group.  

    I think men having sexual relations with other men is a perversion of our sexuality.  The body was not made for fornication of any kind, much less homosexual acts.  I don’t think the penis belongs in another man’s anus or mouth.  That is my opinion and I have many reasons why I think this way.  

    I object to society calling my beliefs “hate crimes” and punishing me with imprisonment or fines without giving me any opportunity to articulate my beliefs.  I think young people would live a happier life in society if they chose intellectual and spiritual goals instead of sexual activity.

    I don’t remember you or anyone else saying that Blake has an “atheist persecution complex.”  It is interesting how Blake Page quits school because he felt disadvantaged by his peers and you complain with him that religion does not belong in government, but then I speak of actually being arrested in handcuffs and having to defend myself in court and you say that the problem is that I have a “christian persecution complex.”

  • David

    Finally we gt to the obvious crux of the issue.  You don’t want religion in government because you think all religion is based on nothing more than myths and lies.  If I held to that same premise, I would fight to get religion out of everything in society, not just government.  I wonder how much all the talk about “freedom of religion” around  this situation with Blake Page is subterfuge for these same sentiments.

    Our Constitution, which you have commented upon often, was not drafted by men with these same anti-religious sentiments.  They were men who recognized the role Christianity has played in shaping western society.  Thomas Jefferson perhaps come closest to you in not believing in the miracles of the Bible, but even he considered Jesus the greatest moral teacher who ever lived and was not ashamed to be called a Christian.  Your perception of religion as being stories like the tooth fairy or whatever is what clouds your judgment.  Therefore, your statements about separation of church and state issues lack credibility because you completely discount one side of that separation as being an invalid system.

  • Glasofruix

     Moving a bit up:
    No, not part of the KKK.

    You sure are entitled to your opinions, but when you try to deny rights to a group of people with the only basis your personnal beliefs, i call it hate. Same when you go and tell to other people that they are sinful and would burn in hell because of who they are or because they don’t stick to your particular branch of crazy. There are laws against the hate speech you spit in your comments, the same laws apply to atheistd who’d emit the idea to put every christian behind a fence until they die off.

    In case of Blake’s “persecution complex” it’s very real, many atheists suffer from ostricization, mockery or blatant discrimination, hovewer in your case you cry everytime the rules don’t bend your way.

  • Glasofruix

       Your perception of religion as being stories like the tooth fairy or whatever is what clouds your judgment.

    Since there is no proof or evidence supporting those stories it’s pretty much the same crap, yes. My judgement is not being clouded, i require a little more than “you should have faith” in order to accept something as being true.

  • TCC

     The heightened morale caused in soldiers by their commander leading them in prayer should not be stifled because of a few soldiers who can’t relate to that action.

    Let’s think about this for a minute: you’re saying that prayer should be allowed because it might heighten morale even though it alienates some minority of the unit.

    Assuming that morale among the religious (and let’s be honest, specifically the Christian) soldiers will be raised, why is it thus a good thing to decrease morale and unit cohesion with those who are excluded? Is prayer the only thing that would improve unit cohesion? If not, why couldn’t you do something that could raise morale among the whole group, not just the Christians?

    And saying that coping mechanisms should be taught? What do you have in mind here? Ultimately, the only coping mechanism for this that could be taught would be “Suck it up for the good of the unit.” That doesn’t recognize individual religious freedom; it singles out a group that isn’t the religious majority. Government can’t do that, either.

  • TCC

    The only Christians that I have observed teaching hatred and violence are anti-abortionists who teach it as a form of defense for the unborn.  They are a very small minority.

    You don’t get around much, apparently. (Did I mention that I was a Christian fairly recently and have been around churches my entire life? Don’t tell me about atheist propaganda; I have inside knowledge.)

    Just look in this forum, in this very thread, a man says Christianity deserves no tolerance and no respect, and he calls it a pile of shit. Do you say one word of instruction about that?

    Two things: 1) I didn’t see what you’re talking about, so don’t presume what I would or wouldn’t do. 2) If the person said that Christianity deserves no respect, then that’s not a problematic position. No position deserves respect; respect is given on the merits of that position. And a position can be judged independently of the people who hold that position, so it’s not saying necessarily that Christians therefore deserve no respect. If someone said that, I’d absolutely deny that assertion. (I’m married to a Christian, btw.)

    The truth is that historically most all the arguments for tolerance appeal to God as the foundation for those concepts.  Can you even give me one source that does not?

    Confucius, for starters.

  • TCC

    That’s irrelevant to the flaw in your position: freedom of religion does not require “embracing” religion as anything. Freedom of religion more generally fits under freedom of conscience, which is why the First Amendment has been correctly construed to cover religion and non-religion (both in terms of establishment and free exercise).

  • TCC

    Saying what you would do in such a case is irrelevant. You could easily rationalize the behavior of anti-abortion activists who bomb clinics by saying, “Well, if I thought abortion was murder, then I’d do anything in my power to stop the mass murder of infants in these clinics.” I might want religion to go away, but that doesn’t mean that I’m willing to sacrifice the First Amendment for it. There is a difference between desired outcomes and principle.

  • TCC

    The phrase does NOT say, “Congress shall make no law respecting religion” (which is how you seem to read it).  Rather, it says that Congress shall make no law respecting AN establishment of religion.

    It only seems that way because of your poor reading comprehension. Try again:

    …the Establishment Clause does not merely prohibit the establishment of a religion (i.e. a state religion) but of religion more generally.

    The choice of initial article here is incidental, since prohibiting the establishment of religion is the same thing as prohibiting an (i.e. any) establishment of religion. The absence of an article before “religion,” on the other hand, is a good indication that the First Amendment isn’t simply referring to a state religion.

    Furthermore, we have to understand the goal of the Constitution, which is to have a government which is not hostile toward religion.

    The goal of the Constitution was to be neutral toward religion, which it is. All of the things you mention are not examples of neutrality; they are instances of religious privilege. The government cannot promote (or discourage) religion or non-religion. This is a matter of equal protection.

  • TCC

    No person has the right to use the pulpit of government to promote religion. Period, end of story. That applies as much to teachers as to Congresspeople as to county clerks as to unit leaders in the military.

  • TCC

    I missed this before:

    If a secular humanist can freely teach my kids his philosophy on life, it seems to me that a Christian, Jew or Muslim teacher ought also to be free to explain his own convictions.

    I deny the antecedent of this conditional. As I have said, the government cannot endorse any religion or non-religion. It would be no more acceptable for a secular humanist than for a Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Zoroastrian, etc.

    Also, teachers are there to teach, not to share their personal views. I have long had the policy of not discussing my personal views on politics and religion with my students (despite the fact that they all want me to), even when I was a Christian. In my opinion, that’s how it should be: what a teacher personally believes is irrelevant as long as they teach according to best practices and the standards of their district/state. As far as I’m concerned, it should be a professional obligation to keep one’s personal views out of their teaching and teach as objectively as is humanly possible

  • AxeGrrl

    But if not every officer is a believer, then encouraging ‘group prayer’ would be divisive in nature and, as such, could be counterproductive to group solidarity……

    why would anyone want to encourage that?

    Can’t there be a group ‘huddle’ or something that emphasizes/underscores the goal(s) and principles they all share instead?

  • David

    Prayers do not necessarily decrease unit cohesion anymore than President Obama’s prayer at the end of his State of the Union speech.  Until recently, unbelievers have not really had these kinds of problems.  These issues have become more of a problem as we have encouraged a victim mentality for homosexuals and atheists in the military.  I suggest we dispense with the victim mentality. 

    It was interesting to watch the movie Red Tails in light of this current conversation. At one point, as the entire squadron was about to embark on a dangerous mission.  The commander had all the men huddled around him as he led them in prayer about the mission.  It was clear that not everybody was connecting 100% with that prayer, but those who didn’t hung in there and toward the end of the prayer, they added their own method of encouragement, shouting Yeah!, Let’s go, we fight, we fight, we fight… etc.  In the end, everybody expressed their emotions and thoughts, some through agreement in prayer, others through non-religious cheers.  The point is that we can all tolerate each other, and appreciate each other’s perspective, even when we don’t fully connect with that perspective or understand it.

  • David

    There is plenty of evidence, and although not objective proof, there is subjective proof. I require much more than “you should have faith” as well. Blind acceptance is dangerous.

  • David

    It is a reasonable assumption that you would have read the dialogue to which you were responding.  I responded to the denigrating post by Baby_Raptor, ending my post with, “The tenor of hatred coming from your post toward Christianity is the fruit of atheism.” and then you jumped in with ” nice hagiography you’ve done there…”  If in these two posts, you do not recognize that my post exemplified tolerance and his exemplified hostility, then I have little motivation to discuss further.

    In regards to Confucius, I had in mind an example of voices of atheists within Western civilization who effectively promoted their own tolerance philosophy.  Nevertheless, while Confucius emphasized personal relationship and authority in his philosophy, he clearly was a theist. You would have to explain more, because I don’t see his system as an example of tolerance being taught from an atheistic mindset.

  • David

    The problem is that because secular humanism is a non-theistic religion, it gets a free pass by most when it comes to government.  It is not a level playing field.

    In regards to your philosophy to keep your political and religious views private, that is your value system and that is fine for you, but this belief system you have should not be forced upon every other teacher.  Some think teachers should be free to be more supportive of all the issues that students deal with.  I think they have to be careful because of their authoritative position, but to shut out the students completely in this way is not a good thing.  I had teachers that did this, and I hated it. The teachers who had the most impact on my life opened up more to me and answered my questions, even when they were somewhat personal. This doesn’t mean that I necessarily adopted their ideas, but at least I had something to weigh and consider as I compared their way of thinking and living with other teachers and people that I met in life.

  • David

    I appreciate your perspective Tom, but don’t forget that not everyone thinks the way that you do.  Some will think that success in the mission depends not just upon properly maintained equipment, but also people being in the right frame of mind, and perhaps also feeling that their efforts that day were being blessed by God.  It also helps them to feel an emotional and spiritual bond with other soldiers, especially commanding officers, who think like they do. You seem like a solid person. Surely there could be a way for you not to be offended for them to engage in a brief minute or two in having a group prayer. It might be foolish in your eyes, but surely you understand that it is not foolish in everyone’s eyes.  I guess I don’t see it much different than sharing a meal with your favorite soldier, which I would assume you would not have objection about.

  • Baal

     What if the ‘conditions’ are a requirement to torture prisoners?  What if the ‘conditions’ are overlooking a senior officer’s rape of subordinates?  “What if the ‘conditions’ are anti-muslim bigotry?  What if the ‘conditions’ are ritual abuse of new recruits? 

    These ‘conditions’ aren’t all the same and don’t have the same considerations or solutions.  I agree that abuse or bigotry from Christians (followers of Christ) isn’t the worst wrong or most illegal act possible but his other solutions are limited.  Publicly shaming the institution may get it fixed.  He’s probably going to have a hard time finding employment, however. 

  • Baal

     The right of ‘the rest of society’ to have Evangelical Christianity as a mandatory requirement for being an officer?

  • Baal

     ” We (republicans) came into existence with the cause of freeing the slaves.”

    You’re asking me to point at you and laugh? 
    technically true, the Republicans of today post bill after bill for
    “penalty” enhancement and authored much of the war on drugs.  Both
    factors have disproportionally impacted minorities but especially black
    people.  Jailing more people than China in both per capita and absolute
    numbers is not freedom.  

  • jeffj900

    Many religious believers are top marksmen and brave soldiers, and in the moment of battle their abstract position on the age of the earth just doesn’t matter. A person may be stupid when evaluating geological time scales, yet still be lightning quick in reacting to their immediate environment, true in their aim, and courageous in the face of immediate danger. So I don’t think your point is particularly valid for the heat of battle. 

    But I agree with you when it comes to the deliberative decision makers. Generals and Presidents with faith seem to me more likely to make bad choices based on their belief. President Bush, who told the Jordanian foreign minister that God wanted him to invade Iraq, exemplifies this very disturbing danger. I think it’s scary that a majority of Americans have the opposite view about the relationship between rationality and sound decision making.You have reminded me of the story of Pat Tillman. He disproved that old canard that their are no atheists in foxholes. The soldier nearest Tillman when he was shot was private Bryan O’Neal, who later recounted that he was praying, and Tillman told him to stop praying and focus on the situation. Tillman was clear minded and told O’Neal “God can’t help us now”.

    One has to wonder whether this incident was similar to the many documented “fragging” cases from Vietnam. There may have been some soldiers who hated Tillman because he was an atheist, and because he was famous. The reports make it seem unlikely that those firing at Tillman were unable to determine he was friendly, unless they were absolutely panicked out of their wits to the point of being incoherently senseless and delusional.

    In the story at the link below it’s interesting to note the discrepancy between O’Neal’s eyewitness description of Tillman, and how he characterizes Tillman’s treatment of fellow soldiers, as opposed to the evidently religiously biased report of a chaplain who was not an eyewitness to the events, and never spoke with O’Neal.,2933,291294,00.html

  • jeffj900

    Tom’s description was entirely open to individual freedom to pray, and thus individual freedom to invoke whatever defensive or protective powers they believe their deity possesses.

    What is controversial here about your suggestions under the individual freedoms of the first amendment is your insistence on group prayer. This is coercive to non-Christians or atheists if an authoritative figure orders it or places any kind of priority on it as a recommendation. If small groups want to voluntarily engage in incantations together, fine, but what you are advocating is in violation of first amendment rights of those who don’t wish to pray.

    But there is also a religious problem with your point of view. If you read the entire Chapter 6 of the book of Matthew, you’ll see that Jesus himself disagrees with you. He considers praying in public to be a hypocritical action that receives no reward in the eyes of God, and only serves to boost one’s prestige in the eyes of other people by publicly displaying their piety for all to see. He is quite explicit in pointing out that there is no reward in heaven for group or public prayer. Jesus encourages a more personal, even secret relationship between an individual and God. 

    Group religious activities seem more related to the exercise of control over people by church authorities, and the consolidation of church power over groups of people.

  • jeffj900

    Calling secular humanism a religion is a very disingenuous propagandistic characterization. You simply can’t pretend that teaching the scientific facts as agreed upon by scientists in a science class is a form of religious indoctrination. That is utter garbage, and if you’re honest with yourself you should know better.

  • jeffj900

    “Until recently, unbelievers have not really had these kinds of problems.  These issues have become more of a problem as we have encouraged a victim mentality for homosexuals and atheists in the military.”

    You have bought into a mythology when you make these statements. You are pretending that homosexuality and atheism are modern inventions. You are painting over history with your own fictional inventions.

  • jeffj900

    Your father analogy is not apt in the slightest. I have no way of knowing what a person’s father wants unless they tell me or I have some other experience informing me.

    But what is written in the Bible, and what people commonly claim about God is not secret, it’s public information that is well known. I can comment on it all I want, and I don’t really care what you think about it. It is elementary logic that God can’t be both a loving God that created all humans, and a vengeful God commanding one group of humans to slaughter another group of humans. I’m applying simple logic that your argument flails and falls short of even touching upon. 

    So I feel fully justified in extrapolating from the common fact that any loving father would not want his children to kill one another, to the idea that if there were to exist a loving God that created all humans, he would not be very loving if he wanted his children to be killing each other. This is an elementary idea that anyone can easily understand. The idea that you could be offended by this leads me to believe you have some very unusual viewpoints about fathers and their children that aren’t normal for a typical human being. But religion does tend to twist human thinking into illogical contradictory conclusions, so you probably aren’t alone in this.

    In a war with Christians fighting Muslims, you can pretend all you want that a real Christian God wants the Christians to kill all the Muslims, who have a fake God. The Muslims are of course pretending that a Muslim Allah wants to help the Muslims to kill the Christians, who they believe have a fake God. They can’t both be right. Your perception of the Muslim error is exactly my perception of the Christian error and the Muslim error in this. The only rationally consistent view is that both sides are deluding themselves about the divine  influence, and that what really determines victory will be the extent that one side’s military capabilities, strategies, and tactics, enable them to physically dominate the other side.

    Regarding truth based on authority, I mean based on authority alone, with no other authenticating features. Religious authority has absolutely no way of knowing truth other than supposed revelation. I place no more confidence in revelation than I do in children’s fancy tales. Nazi’s possessed authority in their historical moment, so obviously more than simple authority is required to be worthy of trust.

    Religious authorities have repeatedly proven themselves to be completely unreliable and untrustworthy in everything they have ever taught about natural reality, including the causes of disease, the movements of celestial bodies, the causes of mental illness, the origins of the earth and life, the age of the planet, and countless other disastrously misinformed opinions about the real world, as opposed to the imaginary fictional world of religious symbols and stories.

  • jeffj900

    Your logic means nothing if you start from a faulty premise. Valid logic is not sound logic. Your claims about the Constitution are ahistorical inventions based on wishful thinking.

    Your faulty premise was the assumption that First Amendment does not grant freedom from religion. The establishment clause was meant precisely to grant this freedom from religion. It granted the freedom of Baptists to in no way fall under the government backed authority of the Congregationalists, whom they hated,  and it guaranteed that the Unitarians and the Quakers would be free from the meddling of the Lutherans or the Episcopalians. This same guarantee of freedom from religious domination or authority was intended by the founders in the First Amendment and extends to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, philosophers, agnostics, and atheists, as can clearly be inferred from the writings of Jefferson and Madison.  Atheists are not “changing” any meaning of the Constitution, they are asserting the freedoms that all Americans are and always have been guaranteed.

    The wisdom of denying all government sanction of any religion, other than tolerance that enables free private exercise of belief, is obvious to anyone with enough knowledge of history to understand the volatility that inevitably ensues when one sect or religion tries to assert any priority or authority over another, especially if that asserted authority has the backing of government power. Such a state of affairs is poisonous to ordinary civil order and peace.

  • Tom

    First, I like that you mentioned sharing a meal together.  If you read through my original timeline, you’ll notice that eating is not a priority at all, especially not in the “sitting down and sharing a meal” context.  You eat when you have time and if you don’t have time, well, you throw some food into your pockets or pouches to munch on when you’re hungry.  It’s more important to ensure that your equipment is maintained.  So sure, sitting down and praying is fine if it’s along the lines of sitting down and sharing a meal – something that’s done only when there’s ample time and every other mission-essential task has been completed.  Why would anyone have a problem with soldiers choosing to share in religious observation when everything else is done?  My problem is when that is done in a way that impedes the mission preparation, which is what you’re suggesting.

    Second, I specifically mentioned that I understand that some soldiers need to pray as part of their individual preparation in order to be able to be fully involved and combat capable in the mission.  Again, no problem with that.

    Finally – and I don’t intend to offend here, but I might – it seems as though you’re coming from a place of ignorance about this, which illustrates exactly why people who don’t have knowledge or experience on certain subjects should not be involved in their planning or implementation.  You say that prayer will help forge an emotional and spiritual bond among soldiers and you specifically mention commanding officers and then you go on to say “that think like they do” – this alone shows how little you understand the dynamics of a deployed combat unit.  I don’t think like hardly any of my fellow soldiers in many, many regards.  We disagree on a huge amount of stuff, from religion to politics to beer and women.  That’s all fine, and “thinking alike” in this circumstance has absolutely nothing to do with the bond that you forge.  If I wasn’t so certain that you know nothing about the reality of the situation I would be offended that you suggest as much.  The bond is one of shared experience and hardship and is tested in the knowledge and practice that another man would risk his life to keep you safe – and the realization that you would do the same.  Religion has nothing to do with it.  There’s a reason why we’re called Brothers in Arms and not Brothers in Faith.

    Again, I’m hoping that you understand that the fight we’re involved in isn’t a “blessed this day” sort of fight.  We’re not Henry V’s “happy few.”  The fight can, and does, come at you when you least expect it and when you’re least prepared.  When you do have a chance to plan and orchestrate a mission you’re on a compressed timeframe that limits how much you’re able to prepare.  Asking for some of that precious time to be taken away so that people can pray together in order to assuage the religious sentimentality of someone who’s not even involved in the conflict is more than ludicrous.  Group prayer before or after a mission is a waste of time.  We have chaplains who hold scheduled services for religious soldiers.

  • Nope

    “I don’t deny that some will feel more isolated or set apart, but I say, so what!  That’s life. ”

    Man, look at that steaming pile of Christian privilege.  

  • David

    Hi Tom.  Perhaps we are both talking past each other and misunderstanding each other somewhat.  I certainly do not advocate any prayer being done at a time or in a way that would impede mission preparation.  

    You perceive me to be ignorant, and next to you and your experience as a soldier, I am ignorant concerning certain details of soldier life, but your lack of spirituality also puts you in a place of ignorance about the value of prayer to some soldiers. My comments were made in light of what many soldiers have shared with me, of how much it meant to them to learn their commander shared their faith, and how much it meant when he prayed with them. I cannot convey properly to you in words the value they put on that. I have seen firsthand how enthusiastic it made them about being in the military, and how ready it made them for military service.You mentioned chaplains holding scheduled services. It is this kind of thing that I had understood was the objection.  This is primarily the right that I am talking about, the right of soldiers to assemble voluntarily to pray together.  Freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.  Do you object to the presence of military chaplains and these religious services that you mentioned?