House Republicans Denigrate Atheist Chaplains in Military, Saying They Would Make a ‘Mockery of the Chaplaincy’

In 2012, there were no chaplains for atheists in the military while Christians had all they needed and then some:

It’s hard to understate how big a deal this is. Forget the terminology for a second — chaplains provide an important service and foxhole atheists, like everybody else, could use them:

Military chaplains, most of whom are Protestant Christians, are assigned many secular advising duties, including marriage, family and suicide counseling, [said Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers President Jason] Torpy… They touch so many parts of service members’ lives, he says, they can help improve what he sees as an environment of exclusion.

While some might wonder what role atheists could fill in the chaplaincy, Torpy says they would be able to do the same job as any other chaplain who assists someone with different beliefs.

“There are individuals that, they don’t have those traditional religious perspectives, and some of those individuals want to serve as officers in the military,” he says. “That’s how they want to serve the nation, to do chaplain work, and they can do that in a way that Christians can’t do it.”

It’s long overdue, but non-religious chaplains had a chance to be included in the Army Chaplains Corps thanks to Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ).

Yesterday, Andrews (an Episcopalian) suggested an amendment (PDF) to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that would bring Humanist, ethical culturist, or atheist chaplains to the military:

The Secretary of Defense shall provide for the appointment, as officers in the Chaplain Corps of the Armed Forces, of persons who are certified or ordained by non-theistic organizations and institutions, such as humanist, ethical culturalist, or atheist.

The Secular Coalition for America strongly supported this wording:

“Chaplains for nontheistic military service members are absolutely crucial for so many men and women who are serving our country,” said Edwina Rogers, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America. “Religious chaplains are ill equipped to handle the problems of nontheistic service members and unfortunately, seeking psychiatric help can stigmatize a service member for the rest of their career.”

“Military members sacrifice for all Americans — they fight of all of us regardless of our personal religious beliefs or lack thereof,” Rogers said. “So why then should they be discriminated against on the basis of their beliefs? All they are asking for are the same accommodations made to other service members and they absolutely deserve it.

This was an amendment that no reasonable person would object to.

So, of course, Republicans objected to it:

They don’t believe anything,” said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) “I can’t imagine an atheist accompanying a notification team as they go into some family’s home to let them have the worst news of their life and this guy says, ‘You know, that’s it — your son’s just worms, I mean, worm food.’”

“This I think would make a mockery of the chaplaincy,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.). “The last thing in the world we would want to see was a young soldier who may be dying and they’re at a field hospital and the chaplain is standing over that person saying to them, ‘If you die here, there is no hope for you in the future.’”

That’s complete bullshit. Humanist chaplains would not be there to rip on religious people or their families. They would provide advice and counseling services for soldiers who already don’t believe in God and need help that doesn’t involve the supernatural. If a religious person needed help, that’s fine, too. Trained chaplains know their job is to help people wherever they’re coming from, not to proselytize and convert those people to the chaplain’s faith.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) and Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), and Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) also spoke out against the amendment.

At least Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) had the good sense to defend atheist chaplains:

To say that an atheist or a humanist doesn’t believe anything is just ignorant. They have very, very developed beliefs and value systems and there are many, many of them serving in the military, including [deceased atheist soldier] Pat Tillman!… The response to [Andrews'] amendment makes me feel all the more the necessity of it. So basically, if you are an atheist or a Humanist in the military, the military’s response is ‘We got nothin’ for you. There’s no hope for you.’ [Atheists] believe in a system of values. And that system of values is worth as much to them as our Christianity is to us.

You can see the full debate here (from 2:00 to 18:25):

Immediately after the discussion, there was a voice vote on passing the amendment which you can see at the end of the video clip.

The GOP majority, in unison, yelled out “No!”

Rep. Andrews requested a roll call vote (taking place at 57:33) so people could get on the record as for or against the amendment.

Every single Republican member of the committee voted against it, as did Democrats Mike McIntyre (NC), Jim Cooper (TN), Del. Madeleine Bordallo (Guam), John Garamendi (CA), Carol Shea-Porter (NH), Dan Maffei (NY), Derek Kilmer (WA), William Enyart (IL), Pete Gallego (TX).

Democrat Rick Larsen (WA) did not vote.

After a final vote of 43-18, the amendment failed.

Humanist chaplains are still banned from the military thanks to a Congressional committee blinded by religiously-tainted glasses.

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.

  • Free

    Heres the definition:

    chap·lain (chpln)

    n. Abbr. Ch.

    1. A member of the clergy attached to a chapel.

    2.

    a. A member of the clergy who conducts religious services for an institution, such as a prison or hospital.

    b. A member of the clergy who is connected with a royal court or an aristocratic household.

    3. A member of the clergy attached to a branch of the armed forces.

    Ok. So why the argument. It is clear by definition that the role of Chaplain would fall under religious connotation. Is this what atheists want to be grouped with. Just another religion (which is true by definition as well)? There are roles for atheists in the military in the various family counseling centers and organizations that support the troops.

    Change the name and expectation. A Chaplain, pastor, preacher, bishop are names given to the role of vocational religious leaders. And this is what atheists want? Ok.

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

      And your response shows why humanist chaplains are so desperately needed. The military chaplains fill roles that go far beyond your simple dictionary definition. They are counselors, mediators, a shoulder to cry on. Going to see a psychiatrist can kill a military career, but there is no stigma attached to having a chat with the chaplain. An evangelical soldier can find that support easily, from most of the chaplain corps. Yet, when a non-religious soldier needs those very human services, they are usually faced with a chaplain who will tell them that everything they think is wrong and that they are going to hell. Their issues and concerns will be pooh-poohed and derided, because they don’t happen to believe in the correct invisible man in the sky.
      And you would say “go to a family counseling center”. I don’t think those exist in the mountains of Afghanistan, or the other dangerous and remote places we send our troops, and that’s where soldiers are most likely to need someone to help them work out an ethical problem, or deal with stress or grief. The military is supposed to provide for our troops when they are deployed, and they are failing on this issue.

      • Free

        Does the name Michael Aquino mean anything? Not sure if the office of Chaplain include just Christians who are telling people they are going to hell. But, the military do employ the religious for this role as the definition and military articles state. You can’t oppose religion on one hand and then step into a religious role. Maybe the military should simple have counselors like high school. Everybody can help. Just not sure if Athiest Clergy sounds right.

      • guestpest

        “They are counselors, mediators, a shoulder to cry on.”

        Then why couldn’t they just call them Counselors?

    • asonge

      HAR HAR IF WE CALL IT CHAPLAINS ATHEISM WILL BE A RELIGION!

      Bad argument is bad.

      Chaplains fill a role. They do actually do things. They provide support and counseling services, as well as plan events for soldier’s well-being. Religious folk tend to talk about spooky spiritual stuff, but really there’s something to supporting someone’s mental health and well being by supporting their personal philosophy…helping them maintain meaning in their lives and helping them work through personal crises. Because religions tend to do a lot of that in the US, there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of the infrastructure the government put in place to support the troops. That means humanist/atheist celebrants are going to best achieve their goals in supporting non-believing troops through their difficulties by being members of the chaplaincy.

      But I guess definitions of words and getting confused with a religion is more important than helping someone.

      • jflcroft

        My goodness. How delighted am I that I’m not the one who has to make this argument. I feel like something has changed in oour movement for good! =D

      • Free

        Helping is most important. I was simply wondering what is an atheist to do when they must wear religious titles. Should the titles change? Or is precedent set that atheists wear clergy titles. I am a veteran and grew up in a multi-generational veteran family. I am aware of the programs, groups and organizations that are available via the military. Atheists can share a role in these. Is the Chaplain position, as defined by Websters above wrong? Should there be a different office for what I hear you saying as atheist social workers etc… in the military? Definitions are important unless atheism is to be defined the religion of humanism and nothing more.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Did you even read the article? Here, let me quote the pertinent part for you:

      “Military chaplains, most of whom are Protestant Christians, are assigned many secular advising duties, including marriage, family and suicide counseling, [said Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers President Jason] Torpy… They touch so many parts of service members’ lives, he says, they can help improve what he sees as an environment of exclusion.”

      • Stev84

        Here is a recent article on the Army website about this:

        http://www.army.mil/article/104564/Chaplains_qualified_to_provide_more_than_spiritual_guidance/

        Due to the lack of mental health providers in the last 10 years, they’ve been given a huge amount of secular responsibilities. In some ways they always did a few of those things, but it was unofficial. Now it’s official and part of their regular job description.

      • Scott_In_OH

        Military chaplains, most of whom are Protestant Christians

        Uh oh. Aren’t the Republicans afraid they’ll tell all the dying Catholic soldiers they’re going to hell for worshiping idols?

        • Earl G.

          I think Republicans only like Catholics when the Catholics are bashing nontheists or restricting access to birth control.

    • atoswald

      “Is this what atheists want to be grouped with. Just another religion (which is true by definition as well)?”
      Free, would you care to elaborate on this statement?

    • C Peterson

      While I’d argue your definition is incomplete, it really doesn’t matter. We don’t limit what we do by the dictionary. When we do something new, we expand the definition of the word!

      What a sad, impoverished world we would live in if our actions had never evolved beyond our vocabulary!

    • baal

      Arguments by definition tend to be awful. If you’re going to sway people to your point of view, you must address the context, the issue at hand, what your solution is and what change is needed (or must not happen) to fix the problem. It helps if you can show empathy towards whom ever is hurting as well*.

      *and really, all religion stuff aside, would it kill you christian trolls to care about people now and then?

    • GCT

      Just another religion (which is true by definition as well)?

      Actually, going by the definition, atheism cannot be considered a religion. But, I do like it when Xians try to attack atheism by calling it another religion, as if being in a religion is bad….nice own goal.

      • allein

        Yeah, that’s my favorite thing about those types of arguments. They’re just saying “See? You’re just as irrational as I am, so there!”

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Don’t thump the dictionary they way some people thump the Bible. Don’t rely only on argument from authority presumed to be valid just because it’s in a book. Dictionaries are obsolete the day they’re printed. Language evolves just as society and culture evolve. Meanings of words are broad social conventions, not unchanging absolutes. Over time, words lose their old meanings, and if they don’t go extinct, they gain new meanings. New words are coined to express ideas that were not thought of before, or old words are adopted because their old meaning has some relationship with the new idea.

      An old definition for the word “conversation” was the sex act. The first
      two definitions in most current dictionaries for the word “intercourse” are conversation and exchange of ideas, and only the third definition is the sex act.

      Reality is not constrained by the tattered pages of a dictionary or a Bible. Reality doesn’t give a crap about our ideas that can never keep up with it, and can never adequately describe it.

      • Free

        Great point. However, it is a slow process in changing terms and definitions. I was just wondering what the game plan would be for an atheist in seeking reform of the word and position when it holds a clear religious connotation and is seek as a clergy position. Not sure is that is water for and atheist to swim in. Wasn’t seeking to thump anything actually. I do think, however, that the dictionary is a reliable tool for etymology. Reality as you define it (though not Websters definition) sounds a lot like the definition of God.

    • kaydenpat

      Your 3rd cited definition has no religious connotation.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Typical Republican. Assume the very worst about something they don’t agree with and phrase it in the scariest, most offensive way possible.

    After all, why treat anyone who doesn’t agree with you with respect?

    • randomfactor

      I’ve come to the realization that both sides really DO “do the same thing.”

      They assume the other side is like them.

      Dems assume that Republicans are merely misinformed and can be persuaded by evidence and logic. ‘Pubs assume that Democrats are selfish jerks who can’t be trusted not to shiv you in a dark alley.

      Mirror neurons for the loss, this time.

  • Jason Tippitt

    Hi Hemant, would you happen to have a link listing every Congresscritter who voted on this piece of legislation, and how they voted?

    • Ryan Jean

      The vote was of the House Armed Services Committee. Current members can be found here:

      http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/members

      All Republicans voted against. For the Democrats, the following voted against:
      Mike McIntyre (NC)
      Jim Cooper (TN)
      Del. Madeleine Bordallo (Guam)
      John Garamendi (CA)
      Carol Shea-Porter (NH)
      Dan Maffei (NY)
      Derek Kilmer (WA)
      William Enyart (IL)
      Pete Gallego (TX)

      • kaydenpat

        I’m curious why Dems in blue states voted against this.

  • Lee Miller

    The real issue is how do we keep our heads from exploding while all this idiocy is going on. OMG.

  • GodlessPoutine

    Wow… did that proposal ever get those Republican’s goats. I had a hard time figuring out if they were furious, deeply threatened – or both – by the proposal.

  • Coolred

    Does that congressman actually believe that an atheist chaplain would face the family while they are devastated and say…sorry, he’s worm food. What can ya do?

    Seriously messed up thinking.

    • griffox

      yes. I’m sure he does. After all, Atheists are morally depraved, God deniers with no reason to be ethical or empathetic. Right? At least Christians have the threat of eternal torture to keep them from raping and killing people. What reason do Atheists have? (I wish this was hyperbole)

      • kagekiri

        Yeah, that might as well be a modern translation of Romans 2. It’s flipping Biblical.

        I’ve had my parents say they couldn’t trust me to continue to love them and take care of them because I told them I was an atheist, citing lack of an absolute moral standard or threat of punishment as reasons why I’d basically leave them to die in a gutter.

        And people wonder how anti-theists are created…

        • phantomreader42

          Did you reply that you won’t leave them to die in a gutter for those reasons, but because they’re bigoted assholes who lie about you to your face without remorse?

          • kagekiri

            No, because shit, I still love them, even when they’re stabbing me in the face emotionally.

            I did lose (more) respect for them, and the fact that they thought that hurting me with an obvious lie and emotional manipulation was more important than questioning their faith just makes me hate their faith all the more.

            • Matt D

              I’m sorry kagekiri, that sounds like a painful experience.

        • griffox

          I’m sorry. Maybe they’ll come to their senses, when they see that you haven’t become a monster. My dad didn’t become an Atheist until he was about 50.

  • Conuly

    Is this how Christian chaplains do their job, they go to a house and say “your son may be in a better place, but there is a not so insignificant chance that he is burning for all eternity with no chance of parole!” or “well, if you die now, you’d better hope you picked the right branch of Christianity, because- wait, you’re a Buddhist? Oh, sorry to hear that, because devil worshippers rot in hell!”? Like, seriously, is that the level of professionalism that these representatives expect?

    If so, all the more reason we need other options!

    • phantomreader42

      Considering the fundie nutjobs infesting the military and the GOP, that’s about the level of professionalism I’d expect.

    • Golfie98

      I assume they do given the examples above. If they think a humanist chaplain is going to tell a parent that their son/daughter is worm food it is because theist chaplains are telling people, who are not their particular flavour of religion, that their loved one is toast. They must comforting dying atheist soldiers by asking if they feel the temperature rising.

    • christinaak

      It looks like the courts will have to make this happen since Congress is full of idiots (i.e. conservative Republicans).

  • Ryan Jean

    I’m one of the military’s Humanist Lay Leader candidates*. I have Humanist Celebrant ordination/certification from the Humanist Society (American Humanist Association) and sponsorship through Jason Torpy / MAAF. For going on two years I’ve been working on this, and the Army appears no closer to accepting me than they did at the beginning. My efforts were profiled here in late 2011. Needless to say, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to consider the issue.

    For a long time, I was undecided on whether we should work to have Humanist Chaplains, or focus exclusively on Lay Leader recognition, such as my own efforts. I took the position that I didn’t think recognition of Humanist Chaplains should be a high priority, but that I can understand why some would want to push for it.

    Since then, my position has changed. I now firmly think the military needs both Humanist Chaplains and Lay Leaders desperately.

    I also think that the military’s efforts to resist any non-theist recognition underscore how important this issue is. So why the change of heart? As has been mentioned here and many other places, Military Chaplains take on more secular duties than religious ones. They act as counselors, as advisers, as a release valve for stress in a military unit that formal leadership channels can never fully address. They put on training and workshops and public events for service members of all stripes and ranks, and often for their families as well. They have a direct line through leadership channels by virtue of their integration on virtually every Commander’s staff above Comapny-level. They control or direct a large pool of money that is legally distinct from all other operational funds to provide for these services. Of course, they also provide for the free exercise of religion, and while I wholeheartedly disagree with the religions themselves, I cannot help but stand up for the rights of others to worship as they see fit (for junior members living on base or deployed members of any rank, free exercise would not be easy without the Chaplaincy).

    The demographics of America are changing, and the younger generation — which makes up the majority of the military at any given time — is increasingly disinterested in the bankruptcy of religion and religious authority. The Chaplaincy MUST adjust, or it will become an anchor on the well-being of the force. To adjust sufficiently will require not just individuals like myself to step up as Lay Leaders, but the integration of Humanist ideas and values into the very heart of the Chaplaincy itself.

    There will be challenges, however, aside from the push-back we’re already getting. One of the requirements now to become a Chaplain is a Master’s Degree or higher in Theology/Religion/Religious Studies with at least 72 graduate credit hours, not to mention the ordainment from a religious body. The amendment would have allowed non-theistic entities with equivalents to religious ordination (such as mine from Humanist Society) to be sufficient for that side of the equation, but there aren’t exactly many Humanist celebrants that meet the degree requirements AND would want to join the service. Then again, maybe if the law changes to where they’re allowed in, we’ll see more Humanists attain Religious Studies degrees for that purpose…

    * Which, due to the Army’s need to be different from other services, calls them “Distinctive Faith-Group Leaders”

    • baal

      Thank you for efforts in addressing the imbalance!

  • edb3803

    If those nine Democrats had voted in favor, the final vote would have been much closer, at 34-27. Shame on them for not standing up for something important that would have helped so many people in our military, just because it has to do with atheism.

    Why do Americans despise atheists so much???

    • JohnH2

      Well, it might not help that when someone says something atheists don’t like some of them threaten physical violence and even in an recent example on this site thermonuclear warfare against the entire state, as regularly occurs, being threats of violence, on this site (sure they are jokes, because joking somehow makes such statements better and joking about weapons of mass destruction is legitimate). Or that when a blogger says something that is disliked it gets passed around leading to a massive influx of atheists at the site, who will never visit again, and if any of them have anything remotely constructive to say it is lost the the hundreds of comments filled with profanity, insults, and threats of violence being very much akin to 1984′s two minutes of hate. Or that atheists generally appear utterly incapable of recognizing that the worldview that there is no God is a worldview which may or may not actually correspond to reality (and readily insult the intelligence of everyone that disagrees); everyone already knows (given atheism) that atheists think their worldview corresponds to reality, but guess what? Religious people disagree and likewise feel their worldview corresponds to reality.

      Obviously, there is also a fear of the other and a lack of understanding on the other sides as well. (being the Theist, esp. the Christian side, I am sorry if this wasn’t clear, but I was attempting to provide a partial answer to the question that was asked.)

      • Space Cadet

        It wouldn’t be right for atheists to paint a picture of Christianity based on the actions of the Westboro Baptists. Likewise, it isn’t right for you to paint a picture of Atheism based off a few knuckleheads on the internet.

        • JohnH2

          “wouldn’t” implies that this particular site doesn’t constantly paint pictures of Christianity based on the actions of a few knuckleheads. It implies that the popular atheist books don’t do so and that prominent atheists also don’t do so.

          • Space Cadet

            I didn’t realize that’s what we did here. All along I thought the knuckleheads we comment about are largely elected officials and others in positions of power and influence. Thanks for the summary of every post ever made here, ever.

          • griffox

            Well, when things like this are constantly occurring in our government, we really can’t be blamed for venting our frustration on a blog for Atheists. It just so happens that the minority of Christian extremists dominate the public sphere. Maybe most Christians aren’t like that, but then they should be just as irritated as we are about the “knuckleheads.”

            Also, the majority of comments I see here are intelligent, well thought out arguments that, while sometimes relying on sarcasm, usually refrain from baseless insults or threats of violence. Sure, there are some immature people on the internet who come to make threats and name call, but many of those come here to make fun of Atheists. I don’t assume that all non-Atheists are sitting at their computers calling for death to the unbelievers just because I’ve seen comments on the internet.

          • Matt D

            Well, every side points fingers at the other, so dwelling on who looks worse than the other does not matter. No matter one’s perception of Atheists, Hindu, Muslims, Mormons, Taoist, Zeusians (etc), that does not serve to address the real question. What is truth.
            And that’s something we should all strive for, regardless of how childish each group acts to outsiders, the truth is not a concept we ignore because we don’t like the “other guys” attitude.

          • Sven2547

            It implies that the popular atheist books don’t do so and that prominent atheists also don’t do so.

            Spoken like someone who has never actually read a “popular atheist book”.

            • JohnH2

              Like “The God Delusion” or “The Moral Landscape” or “The End of Faith”? I have read them.

              • GCT

                It helps if you read for comprehension.

                But, hey, point out one instance of them calling for violence.

      • baal

        Welcome JohnH2! I don’t recognize the nym so welcome. I invite you to stay and read the comments here for a while. While some are not ok, you’ll find most atheists here are pretty decent. You’ll also see case after case after waaaaaaay too many cases of christians using their historic social dominance to bully and harass non-believers over and over and over again.

        I don’t doubt that atheists act shitty on christian sites but a good many of us don’t. And while our numbers are growing, y’all still have the majority of the secular power.

        Lastly, I don’t believe in ghosts, visitations from space aliens, and various gods including the FSM*, Thor, Eris, YHWH, and Lachsimi. In no case has a supernatural power been a better explanation than a scientific one and the usual burden of proof is on the person making the extraordinary claim.

        *I blaspheme!

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          He’s been here. A couple of days ago he was upset because someone made an offhand comment about nuking a state (because he doesn’t understand typical rhetorical exaggeration, unless of course someone he likes is doing it, then it’s magically fine.) Then he went to other blogs to continue obsessing over it. And two days later, he’s still obsessing over it.

          • JohnH2

            I actually have been on the Patheos atheist channel for some time, but I have avoided commenting on “friendly atheist”; mentioning the previous thread in other blog was relevant to the discussion on that other blog.

            • GCT

              Well, however long you’ve been here, you certainly haven’t learned anything except how to be a bigot.

            • Matt D

              Well, it is certainly easier to live up to the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” if you practice spying on peoples conversations without engaging them.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        And even after having it explained to you, you’re still too incompetent to grasp exaggeration for effect. Saying “I’ll shoot you” is a legitimate threat. Saying “I’ll nuke you off the planet” is a sign that the speaker isn’t even vaguely serious. Obsessing over it doesn’t magically change accepted rhetorical tools just because you want to malign someone.

        Another sterling example for my hypothesis that anyone who brings up Orwell to criticize their opponents isn’t actually familiar with his work or the context. It was two minutes’ hate, and no, the fictional event didn’t in any way resemble what you’re ignorantly trying to conflate with it. Maybe you should try talking about “groupthink” or “doublespeak” next.

        If you don’t think that bigots shouldn’t be criticized publicly, that’s a sickness in your head. You might want to tend to it.

        Or that atheists appear utterly incapable of recognizing that the
        worldview that there is no God is a worldview which may or may not
        actually correspond to reality

        Evidence of GTFO, as the acronym goes. Pretending false equivalency doesn’t fool anyone here. You have no argument. Demanding that you be assumed to have one is childish.everyone already knows (given atheism) that atheists think their worldview corresponds to reality,
        You’re projecting, Moron Mormon. It’s your ilk that demand everyone be constantly made aware of your belief in magic and be legally required to give deference to it. Vocal atheism is a reaction to assault. You’re the aggressors, and now you’re doing what every bully and thug does when challenged: demand the victim be more civil.

        • JohnH2

          What a great example of pretty much everything I was talking about. You really nailed the demonstration so I applaud your efforts.

          • ShoeUnited

            Someone who is angry that you’re acting victimized when you’re attacking is your proof of victimization?

            • GCT

              It doesn’t matter what we say. JohnH2 will claim it’s a victory for him and his bigotries.

          • Space Cadet

            How, exactly? C.L. Honeycutt didn’t threaten you, which was your first point. Xe is on an atheist site, not a theist site, which was your second point. Your third point, I think, was that atheists are incapable of admitting they might be wrong, which is laughable, and C.L. Honeycutt made no such claim.

            So, please, point out how that comment reinforces your first comment. In detail.

            • JohnH2

              CL explicitly defends such threats (as being non-serious and acceptable), therefore implicitly is expressing such threats.

              CL is on a atheist site,true, but is responding to a comment by me which CL dislikes and is doing so with insults, mild profanity, and insults to my intelligence.

              CL likewise, for the third point, assumes that I have no supporting evidence for my beliefs and that there can be none, thus explicitly demonstrating that point.

              • GCT

                A) They aren’t threats, they are hyperbole. I know that’s a big word, but perhaps you should look it up. No one is actually advocating to nuke a US state. Well, no one on this site. The only people who may be advocating that are religious.

                B) You’re going to complain about that after you went on a bigoted tirade against all of us? When do we get to complain about the treatment that you’ve shown towards us and claim that it means all Xians are violent, rude, etc?

                C) You don’t have supporting evidence. It’s not an assumption, it’s a conclusion based on the fact that no one has been able to provide supporting evidence throughout the history of religion. You’re welcome to try to support your religious ideas, but you’ll have to do better than everyone who has previously tried before you has done.

              • Space Cadet

                Explaining the difference between a direct threat and an exaggerated threat is not the same as implicitly expressing, or condoning, either one.

                Your initial post was filled with strawmen. Why you think that should be replied to with respect is beyond me.

                Instead of complaining that CL is making assumptions about your beliefs, lay them out. If you don’t present your beliefs then we have no choice but to make assumptions.

                • JohnH2

                  Space Cadet,

                  My first point should not have been the general you, and the last one needed a generally so as not to be universals, I have fixed that and am sorry for the unintentional over generalization. I do not think they are straw men otherwise. I was not attempting to be insulting but to answer the asked question as truthfully as possible.

                  Everyone is free to assume that my beliefs are wrong, that is not the problem but is to be expected. Assuming however that there is no and can be no supporting evidence for my beliefs is the problem.

                  It should not be expected that in every interaction with those of differing beliefs that every individual should explain the entirety of their beliefs, nor why they believe as they do. There are appropriate places and times to do so. Ridicule is not a counter-argument nor does it provide new evidence in either direction about the beliefs being ridiculed.

                  If you are asking what I believe then I suggest Mormon.org, if you are asking why I believe it then I suggest following the procedure laid out in Alma 32 and Moroni 10:3-5. If you are asking for external evidence then I express my desire, again, that this discussion be elsewhere than friendlyatheist, and will ask what type of evidence is desired and for what reason it is desired?

                • GCT

                  My first point should not have been the general you, and the last one needed a generally so as not to be universals, I have fixed that and am sorry for the unintentional over generalization. I do not think they are straw men otherwise. I was not attempting to be insulting but to answer the asked question as truthfully as possible.

                  No, I don’t think you are sorry. You laid out a bunch of bigoted nonsense to express why you hate us.

                  Everyone is free to assume that my beliefs are wrong, that is not the problem but is to be expected. Assuming however that there is no and can be no supporting evidence for my beliefs is the problem.

                  No one is assuming that, no matter how much you ignore what we say and continue to make that erroneous claim. But, please keep displaying your religious privilege.

                  Ridicule is not a counter-argument nor does it provide new evidence in either direction about the beliefs being ridiculed.

                  No, it’s not a counter-argument, but it’s not inappropriate for clearly ridiculous ideas that have already been shown to be so many times over.

                  If you are asking what I believe then I suggest Mormon.org, if you are asking why I believe it then I suggest following the procedure laid out in Alma 32 and Moroni 10:3-5.

                  Wow…I think we’re done here.

                • JET

                  Not really a reply and I am not going to participate in a theological argument. I would just like to point out to anyone interested that Alma 32 and Moroni 10:3-5 basically state that if you choose to humble yourself before God, he will give you the truth. If you prepare yourself to hear the word, you will hear the word. If you don’t hear the word and receive the truth from God, then you didn’t adequately humble and prepare yourself. You’re welcome, from someone who never was able to humble and prepare myself enough to receive the word and the truth.

                • Space Cadet

                  This, from your first post…

                  Or that atheists generally appear utterly incapable of recognizing that the worldview that there is no God is a worldview which may or may not actually correspond to reality

                  …is a straw man. I hate to bring up Dawkins because of the whole “Pope of Atheism” canard, but his ‘spectrum of theistic probability’ is useful in refuting this argument that atheist believe 100% that there is no god. I can’t and won’t speak for all atheists, but in my interactions in both cyber- and meat-space, the vast majority of atheists don’t hold the 100% position.

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_of_theistic_probability#Dawkins.27_formulation

                  #6, “Very low probability, but short of zero.” is where I am and where most atheists I know are. The ‘short of zero’ part is very important, since that is what refutes your straw man. We know that we don’t know everything, and that to make a claim as strong as position #7 would be folly since we don’t have complete knowledge. The reason that we’re at #6, though, is because of the evidence, or rather the lack thereof.

                  It should not be expected that in every interaction with those of
                  differing beliefs that every individual should explain the entirety of
                  their beliefs, nor why they believe as they do

                  Given the content of your first post I’ll say that’s fair and drop the question of evidence.

      • GCT

        I can see you are stuffed full of religious privilege and don’t mind lying about atheists. You are the one who is generalizing. You are the one who is spewing bigoted nonsense. You are the one that we should look at in horror, not us atheists who don’t conform to your prejudiced and bigoted portrayals.

        Or that atheists appear utterly incapable of recognizing that the worldview that there is no God is a worldview which may or may not actually correspond to reality (and readily insult the intelligence of everyone that disagrees); everyone already knows (given atheism) that atheists think their worldview corresponds to reality, but guess what? Religious people disagree and likewise feel their worldview corresponds to reality.

        Apart from the fact that many Xians will claim that atheists are lying when we say we don’t believe in god, I don’t think anyone here thinks you’re insincere when you claim a god belief. If you didn’t think you were right, you’d believe something else. Likewise for all of us. The problem comes when you are asked to support your beliefs. We both know that you cannot do this. In that case, it’s very hard to claim that your beliefs correspond with reality, while my non-beliefs are akin to the null hypothesis and therefore are the rational position.

        • JohnH2

          “We both know that you cannot do this”
          Thus demonstrating my point; I have no desire to present evidence on this blog; but regularly do so in comments on other blogs here.

          • GCT

            This doesn’t demonstrate your point in the least. Your point was that we don’t understand that theists think they are right. I’ve readily admitted that you think you are right as do all other theists and non-theists alike. Again, if we thought we were wrong about something, then we would change what we believed.

            The problem for you is that you can’t defend your religious beliefs. No one can. That’s why no one has been able to present a rational argument for god belief at any time in the whole history of religion. Your evasion, however, is noted. Let’s not pretend that it supports the argument I was responding to (are those goal posts heavy?)

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        And hey, because it deserves a reply all its own: Why is it when you see a thread about a congressman vilely slandering millions of people with bigoted language and voting against them on the basis of bigotry, your first response is to blame his victims because some of them use MEAN WORDS when lashing back at those who act like said congressman? Does Jesus love victimizing, abusive bigotry now or something?

      • Amor DeCosmos

        Typical of Christians who try to comment here, this post is full of inaccuracies.

        “when someone says something you don’t like you threaten to physical violence” – In my experience, it is only Christians who do this. (Jennifer Alquhist)

        “when a blogger says something that is disliked it gets passed around”. Welcome to 2013 and the Internet. If people post outrageous remarks in a public forum, they have to be expect to be challenged. If ones ideas are stupid, they will be ridiculed. If one deson’t like their stupid ideas being ridiculed, maybe they should think more or quit blogging.

        ” very much akin to 1984″ ahhhh… a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public mind control,, under the control of a privileged Inner Party elite that persecutes all individualism and independent thinking as thoughtcrimes… Sounds like the kind of nation many Republican Christians are hoping for.

        “atheists appear utterly incapable of recognizing that the worldview that
        there is no God is a worldview which may or may not actually correspond
        to reality”. Firstly, atheism is not a world view any more than not believing in flying unicorns is a world view. Second, reality is based on facts and observation, faith is belief without facts. Which perspective is probably more likely, the one that can be proven, or the one that just has to be believed?

        “there is also a fear of the other and a lack of understanding”. Yes, we can’t understand why people feel the need to believe in an invisible supernatural deity that threatens you with hell if you don’t believe in Him. Yes, we are afraid that others who believe this will be allowed to make laws and govern us based on their supernatural beliefs.

      • Spuddie

        Are you done tone trolling or do you have something to actually say here besides flinging insults and broad generalizations at atheists?

        Frankly there is nothing in your post which is civil nor deserves a civil response.

      • Carmelita Spats

        Grow up. What you are seeking with your insufferable sniveling is respect for your supernatural enthusiasms and you won’t find that here. Your beliefs merit ZERO respect. The best you can hope for is “tolerance” and that is only granted once you understand the separation of private piety from PUBLIC policy. Violence? YOUR filthy cult would obligate rape victims to squat and squirt out the product of an assault. Violence? Your filthy cult has passed legislation which requires that if I seek an abortion I must undergo a MEDICALLY UNNECESSARY procedure called a “sonogram” whereby a lubricated wand is shoved up my vagina for NO REASON other than to placate pornographic Christian voyeurism. The day the state mandates that a stick be shoved up YOUR anus for NO REASON other than to placate Scientology’s belief in thetans, then you might understand the active malice involved in your Christoholic worldview. Your filthy cult destroys families by sustaining an artificial state of permanent bigotry against same sex couples. Profanity? Oh, my, yes…it’s called OBLIGATORY creationism taught in a SCIENCE class. Your religion deserves mockery.

  • edb3803

    If nothing else, Congress is at least talking about atheists and humanists.

    And many thanks go to Rob Andrews for introducing the legislation, and Adam Smith for standing up for atheists and humanists and explaining to the idiotic GOP that we actually do have moral values and beliefs.

    Humanism is the antithesis of nihilism. I don’t see how any humanist chaplain would have a nihilist attitude and call anyone ‘worm food’.

  • cipher

    This I think would make a mockery of the chaplaincy

    The way they’ve done with Christianity?

    • randomfactor

      And what have they got against mockery? They certainly employ it themselves (and unknowingly self-employ it).

      • kagekiri

        Technically, the Bible is against “mockers” (like in Psalms 1…damn that I still remember it)…unless the people you’re mocking are atheists, then all sorts of slander is perfectly kosher.

        • randomfactor

          And in a pinch, they no longer need to keep kosher anyway.

  • The Captain

    Most expected it from the GOP, but this is a good reminder that the Dems are not necessary our friends either.

  • jflcroft

    I remember not so long ago when members of our own community were equally dismissive of Humanist Chaplains. And now? How times change ;)

    • C Peterson

      It’s a matter of perspective. I don’t believe there should be any chaplains. So in that sense, I’m dismissive of humanist ones. But if we are going to have chaplains at all, it’s important that non-theistic ones be included.

      I don’t see anything unreasonable about that viewpoint.

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

      I’d be happy if every unit had a trained counselor instead of a Chaplain. But we can’t make that kind of change all at once, because there’s no way the military as it currently stands is going to dump the Chaplain Corps. I’ll take humanist chaplains as a step in the right direction.

  • tinker

    When I was 19 and in the US Army, I wanted to get married. At the time I was Christian so it didn’t seem to matter that the Chaplain I went to see was a Christian. We were required to attend a certain number of counseling sessions before we were married by this Chaplain (the only one that I had access to). We did not go through all of the counseling sessions and ended up getting married at a JP in Enterprise, AL. The reason? The first counseling session was full of his Baptist values and I was a Lutheran.

    Well that and I was young, stupid and in lust.

    In any case, Atheists do have a need of the Chaplaincy too. I did go to see a shrink (earlier, for another issue that ended up related to my religion but that is another discussion.) Seeing that professional kept me out of flight school.

  • Steven

    They believe these crazy things,” said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) “I can’t imagine an christian accompanying a notification team as they go into some family’s home to let them have the worst news of their life and this guy says, ‘You know, your son is burning in the fires of hell now because he didn’t accept our Lord Jesus into his heart.’”

  • C Peterson

    All it will take will be one properly constructed legal action brought by an atheist in the military.

    The Republicans love to complain about courts making law, but that happens because Congress apparently can’t. Ultimately, they have a choice: craft the law legislatively, the way it’s supposed to work, or be forced into it judicially.

  • Marilee Harrison

    This is disappointing on so many levels. As a Humanist Celebrant, I was considering the possibility of chaplaincy after talking with Jason Torpy last week. This debate powerfully demonstrates the need, and motivates me to work for recognition of humanist chaplains.

  • Pluto Animus

    This fascist, Texas Republican Mike Conaway asswipe is even dumber than that:

    It was the Christian who informed atheist Pat Tillman’s family that he was “worm food”.

    Republicans is such vile, disgusting garbage. Isn’t there some sort of pesticide we can use to get rid of them?

    • Miss_Beara

      That is disgusting. That is some Jesus love right there.

      I am afraid to watch the documentary about him. I know I am going to be angry and/or cry.

  • Sven2547

    Going to a non-religious family and telling them their son/daughter is with Jesus is every bit as stupid as telling a Christian family their kid is worm food (which is not what an atheist chaplain would say anyway).

    It’s almost like Republicans love proclaiming how out-of-touch they are. There are more atheists in the US than Jews, Muslims, and Hindus combined, yet these idiots act like they’ve never met one.

    • Dick Springer

      I first heard about the “worm food” comment when an army colonel, showing typical evangelical Christian sensitivity, told the family of Pat Tillman that Pat was simply “worm food” because he was an atheist.

      • Stev84

        He also told them that they only demanded more information and investigation into the matter of his death, because as atheists they couldn’t make sense of it or cope with it.

  • JA

    Conway and Fleming are fucking retarded. Yeah, I get that they’re just spewing their crap for the shock value, but they are still idiots.

    That said, I wish they’d find another word to use for humanist/atheist chaplain equivalents. “Chaplain” is a religious term, and I can see fundies trying to use this against nonbelievers who say that atheism isn’t a religion with the fundies replying, “oh yeah, then why are there atheist chaplains in the military? atheism is a religion”. I can also see problems arising with said fundies then claiming that ‘secular environments’ are now religious in nature because there are ‘secular chaplains’, and demand that they get to practice their Christian ‘rights’ (including discrimination and bullying against gays, for example) with impunity.

    • GCT

      It’s already happened in the very first comment on this thread. And, please be careful of the ableist language.

    • Stev84

      The term may be unfortunate, but it’s not without precedent. There are some colleges with humanist chaplains.

  • Bdole

    I don’t care about atheist chaplains. We don’t have to ape the religious. What IS important for all faith and non-faiths is that the attitude below does a 180:

    “seeking psychiatric help can stigmatize a service member for the rest of their career.””
    I can’t believe that in a profession where you have a high likelihood of trauma – both physical and mental – that seeking psychiatric help would be taboo.
    If soldiers are seeing chaplains INSTEAD of seeking professional help, that’s a real problem.

    • Billy Bob

      This is basically my thoughts on this. The stigma on getting help with mental health is what needs to change.

    • David Kopp

      There’s what is, and what should be. We have to work with what is while striving for what should be. A wholesale social destigmatization of mental healthcare is a MUCH higher hurdle than some more diverse chaplains. And that’s already almost impossible. I agree, we shouldn’t stigmatize mental health. But it is that way… so what are we going to do about it?

  • Artor

    I don’t understand what important service military chaplains provide. If it’s counseling & therapy, wouldn’t that be better served by having actual, you know, counselors and therapists? People who professionally studied the field and have licenses? As far as I know, there is no requirement for military chaplains to have any training in the field of these important services they are supposed to provide.

    • ShoeUnited

      As hinted at in this article, chaplaincy is used as a go-between because of our own societal stigma (multiplied in the military) about going to professionals for help. It’s the kind of thing that can help those who don’t want to appear crazy to their commanding officers.

      It also can be used for other functions like (pre)marriage counseling.

  • ShoeUnited

    I am disappointed by this news. You would think that some of those people who voted against would have voted different if only to shut us atheists up. Even if I were religious, I would hope I would have been at least that sensible. The money allotted would have came out of the same basic budget and would only go to help serve a slice of the military community.

    This just makes me sad that all the rhetoric of bygone “Well I care for our men and women in arms” means even less than I figured they meant it. Shame on these congressional members for not even giving a passing glance at those that serve to protect.

  • Chuck Farley

    “Trained chaplains know their job is to help people wherever they’re coming from,
    not to proselytize and convert those people to the chaplain’s faith.”

    This may be true now, but it certainly wasn’t my experience while enlisted. I was forced against my will to talk to a chaplain about a personal problem. The proselytizing started almost intermediately, and when I told him I was an atheist he said, and I quote “We are going to see the doctor now, let’s see if you can fuck him around.” I though this was a nice touch.

  • randomfactor

    Which means (IIRC) that atheists/nones are also banned from using on-base meeting places which are dependent on the existence of a chaplain.

  • JET

    I can’t understand how the military justifies a chaplain of any particular denomination as being the ideal go-to person for everyone who falls under his jurisdiction. Is the military saying that a Baptist minister is the ideal person for a Jewish soldier or his family to talk to when he is faced with a crisis? Or that a Catholic priest is the best person for a Mormon to have a life discussion with? Or that an atheist is not even worthy of having his world view acknowledged when he’s facing a problem?
    In my ideal universe, overflowing with wishful thinking, the military would have “counselors.” Some of these counselors might have degrees from divinity colleges. Some of these counselors might have degrees in psychology or sociology. All of these counselors would be trained to recognize that there are world views other than their own that need to be addressed on an individual basis. Every one of these counselors should have a basic understanding of the tenets of the major religions (or lack thereof) they are likely to encounter, as well as a thorough understanding of good counseling practices, and be able to treat each individual case accordingly.
    If a Baptist minister cannot set aside his faith long enough to effectively counsel an atheist or any believer in a religion other than his own, he is unfit to serve in the capacity of a military counselor. Likewise, if an atheist counselor cannot set aside his world view long enough to effectively counsel a religious person, he is unfit for service.
    A counselor is someone who is there to help people, not to convert them.

  • Mario Strada

    The “Worm Food” remark, if I recall correctly, was actually made by a presumably religious Army officer to Pat Tillman’s mother back when they were unraveling the conspiracy to keep the whole thing quiet.

    It would have been nice to throw that back in the face of the congressman.

  • Skerticus

    Quote of the day: “If you die here, there is no hope for you in the future.” – Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).

    • Skerticus

      Oh, the irony. Fleming doesn’t even know he’s being literal.

  • patience is key

    In the early 90′s I was an Air Force Psychologist for 4 years. I identified myself at that time as “agnostic” (I still have my dog tags) and always found it interesting that Active Duty members who were Christian or of a religious orientation could go to “counseling” with an Active Duty Chaplin who had no obligation to violate confidentiality. I on the other hand was told if an Active duty member shared anything that was a violation of the UCMJ code (such things at that time as being gay, having an affair, etc..) I, as an active duty officer was obligated to report these “crimes” to commanders. At time I wondered where “would someone like me go” if they wanted to actually participate in treatment (e.g. stop having an affair, help with family or self acceptance). I am glad at least this is being discussed and considered. It unfortunately is taking a long time but it will get done.

  • James

    Yeaaaaaaaa! Looks like you jerk offs need to pray to you non religious chaplains. I would say I’d pray for you, but I won’t. Hahahaha! Loser!

    • Matt D

      Did you become religious to prevent being a loser? Because it isn’t working.

    • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

      That’s very loving and meek of you. Yeah, why don’t you go ahead and not bother praying for people your god is sending to an eternal hell for their finite thought crimes? I’d rather you spent the time learning to better yourself.

  • Rain

    “This I think would make a mockery of the chaplaincy,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).

    Why doesn’t he just go ahead and call it blasphemy? Same difference as mockery. Maybe he thinks he would look an ignorant medieval theocrat if he says the “b” word.

  • stop2wonder

    Hooray!! We’ve managed to force our beliefs on everyone else!! Religious liberty wins again!! God bless America!! Errr…I mean…yeah.

  • stop2wonder

    Someone should turn their argument around on them. Why do they think Christian Chaplains are capable of counseling other faiths but Atheist Chaplains can’t?

    Not only are they trying to paint Atheist Chaplains as an uncaring bunch, but unprofessional too.

  • skwerl

    What military chaplains tell grieving families is not the issue. Republicans are focusing on that to distract from the real problem….service members who are ALIVE and struggling during their service are frequently sent to speak to chaplains by their commanders, for counseling needs. When I was in the Navy I was having some domestic issues that were becoming obvious to my superiors, and I was made to chat with the base chaplain more than once. On a battlefield or at sea, the chaplain is the closest thing to a therapist that one might have.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I would much rather deal with a Humanist chaplain. I at least know that they will not try to convert me unlike the evangelicals. It is scary how much control those that believe in the rapture and in a fiery apocalypse have on the military.

  • Malcolm McLean

    The American Humanist Association has 15,000 members, so 0.005 percent of Americans are humanists. You can’t really justify a military chaplain on that basis.

    Humanists may claim to speak for all atheists, but it’s just a claim.

    • Stev84

      Jeezus tapdancing Christ. Not all humanists are officially registered.

      • Malcolm McLean

        You’ve got to ask what the term means. If someone is a member, then clearly they are a “humanist”. But for many people, the word just means “slightly fluffier version of atheist”. If you ask them, “what sort of authority do the Ameircan humanist association have over your life” the answer would be “I don’t recognise that they have any authority over me”. So the humanist chaplain is on a sticky wicket, he’s got to minister to someone who might use the term “humanist”, but doesn’t recognise that the chaplain has any sort of special status.

    • GCT

      You could actually look at the graphs provided in the OP before sticking your foot in your mouth…but that would require reading for comprehension before blasting off some ignorant rant.

      • Malcolm McLean

        18% of Americans are “evangelistic”, so 18% of chaplains should be the same. Presumably the criterion we’re using is “attends an evangelical-style religious service at least occasionally”. 0.005 Americans are humanists, using the criterion, “is a member of the American humanist association”. That seems reasonable, though it’s slightly favourable to humanists, because you’re counting nominal members who have no active involvement in meetings or other activities.
        So 0.005% of chaplains should be humanists.

        • GCT

          Again, why don’t you actually look at the data that’s been presented before sounding stupid. Also, look at the erroneous way you’re figuring out your data.

  • mhead110

    thanks for the coverage… I was looking for the roll call so I could write to those who opposed this amendment

  • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

    I’ve got military friends who tell me that the military is quickly becoming the last-ditch refuge for caveman-style evangelicals, and as Christianity’s privilege and dominance in the service is getting examined more critically, they are drilling down harder on the crazy. One of them is going to skip re-enlistment even though he really loves being part of the military just to get away from the whackjob Christians who are making his life and his service hell. I can tell you from personal experience that it was already bad 20 years ago when I was married to a fundagelical Army chaplain (I’m not exaggerating when I say that he considered the base his own personal mission field and was not shy at all about saying he was there to convert as many people as he humanly could), so if it’s gotten so much worse, I can’t even imagine how hard it is now for non-Christians to be there.

    Thank you for bringing home to me the need to write my congresscritters about this issue. Politicians do this sort of showboating for the benefit of their constituents–because they believe it’ll keep them in power. The more of us who make it clear that we won’t stand for religious predation upon our citizens in the armed services, the less justified our legislators will be in continuing their charade.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    The Republicans are right. There is no such thing as a humanist chaplain. Humanism is not a relgion. Either you belive in relgion or you don’t and if you don’t you don’t need chaplains. Get real and if you’re an atheist stop beling militant about it.

    • RYK87

      An atheist chaplain would serve more the role of a counselor or provider emotional support—things that people who are seeing their friends blown up could definitely benefit from. And I don’t see how wanting equal rights and equal representation is “extreme” or “militant.”

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        Don’t give me this nonsense about equal rights. They already have counselers in the military. A chaplin is a different position with different requirements, of which an atheist is unqualified to perform. Period.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X