The Military Was Right to Take Down ‘No Atheists in Foxholes’ Column

Chaplain Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes, who works at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, wrote an article for his “Chaplain’s Corner” column recently in which he talked about the origin of the phrase “no atheist in foxholes.” While the column has since been removed from the website, the text is still around:

Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes

Many have heard the familiar phrase, “There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole.”

Where did this come from?

Research I verified in an interview with former World War II prisoner of war Roy Bodine (my friend) indicates the phrase has been credited to Father William Cummings.

With the pending surrender of allied forces to the Japanese, Cummings uttered the famous phrase “There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole.”

Everyone expresses some form of faith every day, whether it is religious or secular.

Some express faith by believing when they get up in the morning they will arrive at work in one piece, thankful they have been given another opportunity to enjoy the majesty of the day; or express relief the doctor’s results were negative.

While I have no issue with Reyes trying to find the origins of that phrase, the fact is: that statement is just untrue. And to perpetuate it by saying everyone has faith in something just reinforces a harmful myth. Of course there are atheists in foxholes, and when they’re under attack in a war, they don’t start looking to God for help. To argue otherwise, or to redefine “faith” to mean faith in yourself or fellow soldiers, is disingenuous.

I don’t think Reyes intentionally set out to denigrate atheists, but that’s what he ended up doing.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, on behalf of its members, felt the column made a pro-religion, anti-atheist argument, which military personnel shouldn’t be doing in their professional capacities, so they sent an email on Tuesday to Air Force Col. Brian Duffy, who quickly removed the column from the JBER website.

“I am required to ensure information published is balanced,” Duffy said. “In this case between constitutional protections for free exercise of religion with the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion.

“There was no valid purpose in including ‘No Atheists In Fox Holes’ as part of that story,” MRFF’s Blake Page claimed. “This is a saying used for decades now to [denigrate] and disrespect nonreligious service members.”

Page’s letter to Duffy made very clear how this was not an indictment of Reyes’ faith but a call for respect:

The most basic level of respect we can afford to others is to call them by their chosen name and identify them as they choose to be identified. I do not have faith. Several of the 42 clients currently assigned to JBER who requested the MRFF intercede in this instance do not have faith, and they still proudly defend their country in uniform. Lt. Col. Reyes has both violated that fundamental level of respect and current Air Force regulation. As the current commander of JBER, as the officer appointed to care for the 42 service members who have reached out to us, it is your duty to see to it that this behavior is corrected. Lt. Col. Reyes must be appropriately reprimanded, and his ‘No atheists in foxholes’ article must be removed from the post website.

After the column was removed, all hell broke loose. Mostly because conservatives argued that there were forces discriminating against Christians:

“We have religious liberty as one of our key foundational issues,” [the Alaska Family Council's Jim] Minnery said. “This is a direct assault on that in our view.”

[Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty executive director Ron] Crews said the incident is yet another example of chaplains facing attacks for expressing their religious beliefs.

“Chaplains have religious liberty as well to speak to issues,” he told Fox News. “[MRFF's Mikey] Weinstein appears to want to silence any speech of faith in the military. It is a sad day for the Air Force and for our country when officers obey every command from Weinstein to silence even chaplains from talking about their faith.

Gen. Jerry Boykin (Ret.) told Fox News the action taken by the Air Force is “discrimination against Christians.”

The issue isn’t that chaplains can’t express their faith. The issue is that Reyes perpetuated a lie about atheist soldiers. His column was uncalled for and inadvertently inflammatory.

Page noted in his letter that it was as offensive as saying there’s “no such thing as a mentally fit homosexual” or “no such thing as an American Muslim, or a combat effective female.”

You know what might have fixed this situation? If Reyes had simply acknowledged that there are atheists in foxholes — and they don’t have faith in a higher power. But he didn’t do that.

One MRFF member, writing a sample letter to Reyes, made this exact point:

I fully respect your faith and your right to worship and believe as you do, I also support your right to your own opinions on religion and morality, and I definitely understand your role as a chaplain. However, I do ask that you be more careful in the future not to denigrate those with different opinions and beliefs through official Air Force channels; instead, use a non-military, non-government website where you make it abundantly clear that you are not expressing the opinions of the Air Force and are not speaking in an official capacity as an Air Force officer.

That’s all this is about: Treating all soldiers with respect, no matter what they believe. It wasn’t wrong for the chaplain to write about the offending phrase, nor was it wrong for the chaplain to acknowledge his own faith. This wasn’t about atheists being “offended” or the military trying to be “politically correct,” no matter how conservatives try to spin this.

Reyes crossed the line when he tried to argue that there are indeed “no atheists in foxholes” because we all have faith. We don’t. He was wrong.

Unlike Page, I don’t believe Reyes should be reprimanded because I don’t think he purposely set out to hurt atheists. He wasn’t espousing “faith based hate.” Rather, it was just ignorance at play.

I do think, however, that Reyes owes atheist soldiers an apology.

For what it’s worth, atheists make up a little less than 1% of the military, while 23% are categorized as having “no religious preference.” No matter how you slice it, there are atheists in foxholes, and there are more of them than any other non-Christian denomination.

(From left) Sgt. Mike Aguilar, SPC Christopher Carr, SPC Jeremy Hall, SPC Tony Hernandez, and SPC Dustin Chalker

(Thanks to Jen for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

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

  • Rain

    Everyone expresses some form of faith every day, whether it is religious or secular.

    Presumably that is supposed to make himself feel better about faith in nothing? Or is it simply an equivocation between “normal” faith and pretend faith (with a capital “F”) in a deity? Who knows. I don’t think he even knows.

  • Joe Geiger

    I can’t recall where I read it, but my favorite retort to this is that “The statement ‘There are no atheists in foxholes is not an argument against atheists — it’s an argument against foxholes”

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    I’ve always considered the quotation to be rather dubious for theism. Regardless of its truth value, it essentially declares that people overcome with the fear of injury and death are mentally weakened sufficiently to disregard reason and try anything, including an appeal to a deity. It’s not as if these supposed foxhole theists call upon the gods because the gods answer them — they do it out of sheer desperation.

    This seems damning of both the gods and the decision-making of desperate people.

    • trj

      Indeed, that has always been my take on that adage as well. It illustrates people’s propensity to believe, which at best says nothing about the truth of what they believe, and at worst indicates that we shouldn’t put much trust in people’s beliefs.

      Basically, “no atheists in foxholes” is another way of saying “people will believe anything”.

    • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

      It’s essentially another form of what I like to call vulture evangelism. Wait until somebody is at bottom and desperate, when reason can be easily set aside, then pounce. It’s vile.

  • Ogre Magi

    “I don’t think Reyes intentionally set out to denigrate atheists,”
    Why would you not think that he was? Christians are always trying to denigrate us!
    That is why we need to return the favor as often as we can!

    • The Other Weirdo

      Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth? Do that long enough and eventually you end up with Romeo and Juliette where everyone dies.

    • Mr. Pantaloons

      Because this should NOT be turned into an “us vs. them” at every opportunity. That’s just juvenile. Harm done by faith is just as often attributed to a simple, naive lack of self-examination as it is from premeditated activism. The more compassionate thing to do would be to give an individual the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise, instead of just going on a warpath and creating the same persecution complex mainstream Christianity runs on.

      Automatically demonizing every Christian as having uniform intent is just as childish and xenophobic as the “no atheists in foxholes” sentiment, and you don’t do atheism any favors by pretending the moral high ground is only good for acting the same way.

      • PSG

        I agree with this.
        Someone’s personal faith is of little concern to me unless or until it directly affects my life or the life of others, by way of threat and legislation. My lack of faith should not oppress them, either.
        Harm none, no harm done.

        • Ogre Magi

          I am gay, and I live in the bible belt. I am harmed by them pretty frequently

      • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

        So saying “Dude, you’re wrong” is juvenile?

        I have faith no one here is calling this guy out for a playground fight, instead we’re critiquing his words.

        Criticism of words and ideas is not juvenile, it’s an adult response to bad ideas.

        And not every Xian is being demonized. In fact, one Xian, the author, is having his ideas critiqued. How is that demonizing?

        • Mr. Pantaloons

          Criticism of words and ideas is perfectly fine. But presuming to know the intention behind them for an entire person, with no other information, is just arrogant.

          His point isn’t helped by lumping in *all* Christians (as implied) as a kind and ALWAYS trying to denigrate us. Even CS Lewis spent much of his publications exploring the validity of his own beliefs.

          • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

            “presuming to know the intention behind them for an entire person, with no other information, is just arrogant”

            So you’d then also agree stating “there are no atheists in foxholes” is an equally arrogant statement on the part of the author?

            Glad to know you are at least consistent.

            Listen, it’s a very simple concept to follow: words have meaning and when someone writes something that defends “there are no atheists in foxholes,” a reasonable reader will criticize those words. That is what’s happening here. Feel free to tone troll elsewhere.

            • Mr. Pantaloons

              So you’d then also agree stating “there are no atheists in foxholes” is an equally arrogant statement on the part of the author?

              That’s exactly what I said in my first comment. I never disputed that. My point is that interpreting the “no atheists in foxholes” comment as malicious, when it could simply be ignorance or complacent naivete on the part of this particular individual, is misguided and equally self-righteous. Kind of like your conflation of being interested in motivation – you know, one of the core bases of morality – with trolling.

              And Ogre Magi’s comment, that “all Christians are ALWAYS trying to denigrate us!” is about as far from reasonable as it gets. There’s a difference between simple and simplistic.

              • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

                You need to improve your reading skills:

                OM stated “Christians are always trying to denigrate us!”

                There was no “all Christians” in his statement. Perhaps if he said “all” you’d have a point. But it looks like you are implying he meant “all.” Isn’t that what you shouldn’t do?

                The road to hell & all that.

                Additionally, you sought to limit criticism because it doesn’t fit your preferred methodology when you called it juvenile and put forth what OM should have done, which is the definition of tone trolling.

                • Mr. Pantaloons

                  Not specifying which Christians implies all Christians. It’s the same as saying “black people are criminals” or “Muslims are terrorists.” If you don’t say which, then it’s taken to mean all.

                  I’m not limiting criticism, I am more than happy to point out the flaws of the “atheists in foxholes.” But saying that Christians are “always” denigrating is just as misguided, and “we need to return the favor whenever possible” is even more so. Saying that every case, or even this case in particular, is outright deliberately hostile without additional context IS bad methodology even if your bias is completely justified.

  • Matt Potter

    It’s another example of Christians taking a word, in this case faith, and trying to apply it to atheists/secularists to make it seem we’re the same. When in fact our
    ‘faith’ is nowhere near the same usage. To have faith the world is less than 10,000 years old or any of the other ridiculous beliefs is the definition of faith(without evidence). Saying there’s a sort of faith required to believe I’ll ‘arrive to work in one piece’ and trying to equate the two is nothing less than a blatantly lie. I believe it was Matt Dillahunty on the Atheist Experience who responded to a similar accusation by a Christian that we all have faith. He told the caller that he did not have faith but something more along the line of reasonable expectations.

    • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

      Yup. It’s weapons-grade projection. And I think it intrinsically indicates that at least some level a degree of uncomfortableness at the idea.

      • raerants

        Or if not uncomfortableness, then lack of comprehension. An inability to conceive of that notion.

        • McAtheist

          If not ‘uncomfortableness’, why not use ‘discomfort’, it’s less cumbersome, and oh, it’s a real word. I hope my note is taken in the friendly spirit it was intended and causes no uncomfortableness, disharmoniousness or aggravatedness to Mr Cynic.

          Although I do agree with his point about the intrinsicallness and indictiveness at the level of the disthoughtfulness of the idea.

          • Theory_of_I

            But…did you really study at the GWB institute of mangled etymology? — tell the truth now.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I read about this two days ago over at The Blaze and the amount of butt hurt posted in the comments was amazing. This comment though takes the cake.

    Stelex Jul. 24, 2013

    “”Very simple solve…….I was an atheist for a while, thought I knew it all. I’m agnostic now…….just give me 5 minutes unfettered with an atheist and he’ll soon convert or at least be agnostic. The other thing I’d love to see is everyone of the atheists on their death bed. 9 out or 10 would be begging for forgiveness at the last minute. In my opinion and atheist is a maggot.””

    • The Other Weirdo

      That’s cute. Makes me want to pat that person on the head, hand them a soft cookie and send them back to the corner, cooing, “There’s a good boy.”

    • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

      Agnosticism — the fence of indecision separating theism and maggotry

      • PSG

        I once had a distant family member explain to me that her children were baptized not because she was so devoutly religious, but because, “You never know…”

        It was an uncomfortable moment. Not because I doubted my own reasoning, but hers.
        A blind faith in just-in-case?

        • revyloution

          It’s always shocking when someone trots out Pascals Gambit as a real argument for belief in god. It’s even more shocking to hear that it sometimes works.

    • PSG

      I’ll never understand why the faithful or hawing think we will be afraid of something we don’t believe in, or why we will submit at the moment of crisis?
      I have sat bedside and watched my mother die. I have suffered a miscarriage. I have had a tornado blow by the house.
      None of these miserable events caused me to reach out to a something or someone – it hadn’t changed my mind.
      Why my own end should bring about this spiritual inspiration, especially as an act of desperation, seems so bizarre and unthoughtful.

      • RobertoTheChi

        I know what you mean. I almost died (twice) and the thought of god never crossed my mind. A lot of bad things have happened to me in my life and not once did I call out to a god. I know I’m not a minority in this. The no atheists in foxholes really annoys me to no end.

  • martinrc

    “Some express faith by believing when they get up in the morning they will arrive at work in one piece, thankful they have been given another opportunity to enjoy the majesty of the day; or express relief the doctor’s results were negative.” Ahh, this old argument.

    No I do not have faith I will get up in the morning. I conclude I will get up in the morning based on the mounds of evidence including every other morning where I got up. Obviously, I also know there will be one day where I don’t wake up, because people eventually die and don’t wake up.
    No I do not have faith I will arrive at work in one piece. In order to operate a motor vehicle, the law demands that extensive training takes place. This is why a majority of the people on the road operate it in a safe manner. I also while driving keep an eye out on my surroundings because I know its unsafe, and many times in the morning I have to avoid being hit, not because of faith, but because of conclusions I make based on driving patterns. And the fact is, people die in auto accidence every day, and yes many times on their way to work .

    So sorry, I don’t have faith, I have conclusions based on evidence, much of it being repeated patterns of the same conclusion happening day after day. What is worse, if you are trying to apply it to soldiers in the foxhole, applying faith to their survival beliefs instead of the hard work and trust in their fellow soldiers who are watching their backs and fighting alongside them, its basically insulting not just atheist soldiers, but the theistic ones as well, saying their tireless work and training have nothing to do with their survival rate. Way to not only insult atheists, but to spit on all the soldiers fighting to protect your cushy “chaplain” job.

  • http://knottiesniche.com/ Knottie

    My son served in Iraq. He was an atheist. As were most of his unit . As for “believing in something” they believed in each other and their training. When my son was hit by an EFP he did not call out for God or for his Mom He called out for his MEDIC . and his dying words were not a plea to God but concern for the others in the vehicle. So Yes all military members believe in something… their band of brothers. .

    • PSG

      My sincere condolences for your loss, and respect for his service.

    • Whirlwitch

      From his last words and actions, it is clear your son was a good soldier and a good man. My greatest sympathies for the loss of him.

    • ShoeUnited

      I’m sorry you lost him.

    • Sean13banger

      Ma’am, respectfully, I don’t think you know entirely what you’re talking about. I have the deepest condolences for you and your son, don’t get me wrong. However, it’s not exactly fair of you to use his situation and his dying words to prove your point. Just because he did not verbally express his desire for a deity to save him, does not mean that it wasn’t in the back of his mind. The phrase simply shows the desperation of combat. Just because he was an atheist, doesn’t mean that in his dying moments, he didn’t wish there was some sort of God or higher power to save him. Its just human nature. “There’s no atheists in foxholes” simply shows that when a person gets desperate enough they look for some, ANY, way out, with disregard to reason. It’s NOT meant to say that your son bled out on the ground expecting God to save him. Stop reading so much into it.

      • Quintin van Zuijlen

        If it’s not fair to use one’s son’s situation and dying words to make a point, then certainly it’s not fair to speculate on what a person you don’t know at all might have thought or wished, then to conclude that indeed in his dying moments he did think and wish those things, insinuating thereby that he denied his own identity and making the opposite point. It’s unfair, illogical and above all extremely offensive. You are denying someone’s identity, all that’s left now he’s dead.

      • ~SoACTing

        How exactly have you arrived at the conclusion that “it’s just human nature” for someone in their dying moments to wish for some sort of god or higher power to save them??

        Would you conclude the same thing would happen by people who live in a predominately atheistic culture??

        ~ SoACTing

      • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

        While plenty of us recognize that this saying can be used metaphorically, that doesn’t make it any less stupid.

      • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

        Just because you haven’t verbally declared Odin as the All-Father doesn’t mean that it isn’t in the back of your mind. When you face death, be sure to call out to him and his valkyries will come for you.

      • Obazervazi

        In summary: “I am Christian and therefore psychic.”

    • AnarchyRules

      Ma’am, no offense, but you weren’t there. You have no idea what your son was thinking. Mother’s intuition can only go so far.

      • http://knottiesniche.com/ Knottie

        I have spoken to every man that was there that day and I knew my son well. So yes I KNOW what was in my son’s thinking

        • AnarchyRules

          Stop kidding yourself. I have as much knowledge as to what he was thinking as you do, sorry.

          • http://knottiesniche.com/ Knottie

            You don’t even know his name so.. yeah shove off.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            Foul, disingenuous trash.

  • Stev84

    Some of those secular uses of the term “faith” are really just using the wrong word. People can say things like “I faith that so and so will be there for me when I need help”, but the correct word for that is “trust”. And there is at least some evidence you will be helped. Most importantly you actually know that the person exists.

  • JD

    Chaplain Reyes did not make the claim that “there are no atheists in foxholes,” contrary to some caricatures. And the “faith” examples he used weren’t religious in nature. You’re offended by someone saying people have ‘faith they’re going to make it to work in one piece..?’

    It seems like some atheists are picking up the persecution complex they claim religious people have — and they see offense at every turn.

  • Atheistiana

    Leave it to the Christians (who responded negatively to the removal of the post) to be offended for not being able to denigrate another group of people. Par for the course and all that. We can’t expect anything different when the “rules” on the other side never change.

  • rg57

    But everyone DOES have faith in at least two things:

    1. That the world is real, and is not any of our imaginations.
    2. That induction will continue to work tomorrow, and every day after that.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      *trust.

    • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

      It’s not faith. It’s an expectation that’s backed up by a reasonable level of evidence and reason. Faith is the absence of evidence. It’s a blind assertion, a poor argument groping in the dark for any lifeline to keep it from drowning in ice-cold logic.

      Even IF we accept your above assertion, that still doesn’t make religious faith any better, since you’re already taking your above two articles of faith as a baseline and tacking on a secondary, unnecessary article of faith. In your argument you need both articles because otherwise you can’t engage in rational discourse. Faith in god is a superfluous addition, vulnerable to a judicious application of Occam’s Razor.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      #2 is not necessarily itself a proposition taken without priors (“of faith”), but rather may be held as a consequence inferred from more basic priors (which may themselves be consequences, or may be taken directly as axioms). Using the term “faith” both to the taking of a primary axiom and the taking of an inference is an equivocation, which appears to generally correlate to mendacity or stupidity.

      The Münchhausen trilemma leaves a requirement of at least some sense of “faith”, but does not require an interesting one.

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    Nice homophobia there, you dunce.

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    Can I also just point out that they’re not called “foxholes”? They’re called “fighting positions”. And nobody uses them anymore outside of the rifle range. I get that it’s a metaphor, but at least stop using archaic terminology.

    (This post brought to you by Army-nerd rage)

    • Sean13Banger

      Way to speak for the entire armed forces boyo. Glad you’ve been everywhere the military has at all times.

      • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

        I wasn’t pretending to speak for the entire force. You’ll notice I didn’t refer to myself as the authority on all things DoD-wide.

        But you know. Keep strolling around with that chip on your shoulder, gun bunny.

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    You’re either a massive troll, a massive bigot, or some combination therein.

    Flagged.

    • Ogre Magi

      Sounds like he is a true christian.

    • TheBlackCat13

      I am betting on the third.

  • Dave

    If there were more atheist their would probably be less foxholes.

    • same dave

      there

  • immovableobject

    In the heat of battle, some might hope for the protection of beneficent God and even resort to prayer. In this case prayer is less a sign of faith and more an act of desperation.

    Afterword, when the horrific carnage has had time to sink in, even some of the devout might question how a loving and kind creator would allow such suffering and death to occur. Then it is perhaps more comforting reject God’s existence altogether than to accept that he is a heartlessly cruel sadist.

    • LutherW

      It is not that some might do that, mostly religious. It is that many would not.

  • Mick

    “I don’t think Reyes intentionally set out to denigrate atheists”

    I think he did.

    As a Christian he would certainly accept as wise truthfulness, the words of Psalm 14:1, which says that atheists are corrupt fools who do abominable deeds and are incapable of doing anything good.

  • Gordon Campbell

    I thought the saying was, “There are no chaplains in foxholes”.

    • LutherW

      Except maybe if the choice is between staying in the foxhole or getting out and moving toward the enemy.

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        Not even then. Because of the status under international Law of War defining Chaplains as non-combatants, there can’t be a Chaplain in a foxhole. Even if a Chaplain who happened to be walking by a foxhole happened to trip and fall in, the foxhole would ipso facto become just another hole in the ground.

  • Mike De Fleuriot

    No “Turn the other cheek” Jesus in an ambush.

  • Sean13banger

    You all are SERIOUSLY reading too much into the phrase. It’s not “another example of Christians taking a word, in this case faith, and
    trying to apply it to atheists/secularists to make it seem we’re the
    same”. Its a turn of phrase for Christs sake, its been around for decades. Its about the soldier, while in a foxhole being rained down on by artillery, praying for God or Allah or some sort of deity to deliver them through. Its about the DESPERATION that is combat. There was no malicious intent or war on atheists as some of you believe. Some of you people need to see a proctologist and have the stick surgically removed from your ass.

    • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

      Even if there isn’t an active intent to belittle those without faith doesn’t mean the effect isn’t the same. It’s the same basic thing as somebody not considering themselves to be racist, but who go ahead and hold on to their purse tighter as an involuntary reflex as they pass a black man on the street. I’m no comparing the two to be roughly equivalent; this stupid saying won’t likely get us atheists shot for walking down the street wearing a hoodie, but the underlying principle remains.

      In the case of this tired-old saying, it’s irritating to atheists because it plays into an especially fatuous meme long-used by Christian evangelists that posits that atheists actually do believe in god deep down but choose to intentionally rebel against god so they can indulge in their own life seemingly free of control. It plays into it because the implication is that when the chips are down atheists acknowledge this and come groveling back.

      In short, just because YOU might not find it offensive doesn’t mean other people don’t. Sometimes shit just isn’t all about you.

    • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

      Yes, because in a desperate situation, it’s better to panic and behave irrationally (i.e. pray to a non-evidenced deity) than to follow training and trust to your companions.

    • Kodie

      It is not about the desperation. Christians like that phrase so much and use it all the time. It’s a platitude. They like to think everyone will convert out of desperation, admit a belief when they are faced with danger and possible death. The way you say it is an insult to theists. Theists would not use a phrase that kind of makes them sound like crybabies, wetting their pants, oh that’s when you know god is real, when you’re bargaining to live and wetting your pants? That also doesn’t make soldiers sound like they should. Soldiers who are Christians who are bargaining for life in their last seconds and wetting their pants don’t have faith, and they don’t sound prepared for combat either.

      Dissecting the phrase for its implications is different than understanding how well used it is and why people like to think it’s true.

    • Cossard

      A turn of phrase, eh? OK, let’s invent some new phrases. From now on, the phrase “All theists are child molesters” will be a harmless colloquialism for “What nice weather we’re having!” And that’s all it will mean, it certainly won’t in any way be an assertion that all theists are child molesters (though it will, coincidentally, consist of exactly the words one would use if one wished to say that they were). But since it won’t *mean* that, it would be absurd for theists to take offense and to read into the phrase something that simply isn’t there, such as a statement about theists with some sort of malicious intent behind it.

  • Smurfetteisonionflavoured

    Why are there chaplains in the military at all?

  • Savoy47

    This is an example of why Humanist Chaplains are needed. This Chaplain was not out to denigrate atheist service members. Even the possibility that his words could offend atheists never entered his mind. These Chaplains just lack any point of reference that allows them to connect human to human with an atheist let alone meet their needs. All they are capable of seeing is a lost soul. Our Service members deserve better!

    • btxd

      If by definition, atheist are non-theists and therefore choose to believe in no form of deity, then why have a humanist chaplain? Atheists have plenty of resources within the military to have their needs supported and met outside the chaplaincy. Chaplains represent a theistic perspective. They are to provide spiritual care and the opportunity for military members and their families to exercise their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. If an individual has no religious needs nor cares nothing of spiritual issues, then others like First Sergeants, Family Services, etc. will be in a better position to meet their needs. Atheists wanting a humanist chaplain is like a man demanding the services of a gynecologist.

  • Buu

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gS9mzg0p-I This is kinda what I think he was going for.

    • Buu

      Not to say he succeeded.

  • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

    He’s right! We all exhibit some form of faith!

    Why, just this morning, I said to myself “I believe I’ll have a glass of orange juice this morning!”

    I went to the fridge with full faith that orange juice would be there.

    Upon opening it, I found none. What a shock to my faith!

    Then I remembered it was my job to grocery shop this week and I forgot to put OJ on the list…

    Oh, wait, I think this guy doesn’t know what faith is….

  • DabUSAFretired

    As a retired USAF SNCO, I held faith in my leadership as I came up through the ranks that they knew what they were doing to get us through any situation. I held faith in my Instructors and the training I received during my time in service. I
    held faith in my fellow Airmen to help me when I needed it. As time progressed in the service I hope the Judgment, Training and Experience I learned over time benefited my Airmen. I hope that they held faith in me to get them through any situations, combat related or not during their time in service.

    As I read the article by Chaplain Lt Col Reyes I wonder what all the hoopla is about. What I saw in the writing was that of an Older Combat Veteran, Mr. Roy Bodine, retelling some of his experiences to a younger active duty Chaplain and Officer of how he endured and got through those tough times. From what I gathered from Bodine’s account is Father Cummings displayed his “faith” as he understood it, to help him and his fellow prisoners to get through their captivity. As the story relays service members in the “Hell Ships” had various degrees of faith or none at all. Father Cummings may have been a commanding figure or not, but he demonstrated something to all those around him which may have caused many to have hope or faith that this guy can
    help us get through this situation.

    In reference to Chaplain Lt Col Reyes, I do not think he was trying to offend anyone. As an officer in his position, I believe he was trying to help the moral as well as encourage personnel at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. I also think he
    was offering a chance for the Airmen and Soldiers of JBER to use some critical thought of their own and figure out what (religious based or not) gets them through adverse situations (combat related or not). The question I see raised
    based on the Chaplains article, is what do we as members of the US Armed Forces have faith in?

    Finally, was the Chaplain trying to be condescending to anyone? I
    don’t think so, he was just trying to do his job, and tell a story of a fellow
    veteran and help those currently in the service of their country whatever their
    belief/non-belief system, nothing more, and nothing less.

    • Stev84

      When you say “faith”, you really mean “trust”. Trust, that unlike relying on god, wasn’t unwarranted or based on nothing.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Cornell Chronicle

    May 24, 2013

    No atheists in foxholes: WWII vets remain religious

  • inkedagent

    As Knotties sons squad leader, you can rest fucking assured that he died thinking of his comrades and not asking for a god. I will tell any of you motherfuckers off who try and say otherwise. Go ahead, test me.

  • Dave G.

    Ah yes, the belief that atheism is not a belief, but the great non-not-un-negative-not-un-nothing-not-thing. Yeah. And people laugh at Glenn Beck. Well, at least they were able to censor a person’s column, there is that. Nothing screams how true Animal Farm was than the post-liberal secular left.

  • Jerry Asbridge

    Did anyone actually bother to read the article? This was a huge overreaction by MRFF. What has our society come to when we take such offense at such an innocuous article. Most chaplains are not antagonistic to atheists and many provide counsel and support to all personnel regardless of belief. It would have been better to provide a response rather than a blanket censoring of the article. I can’t help but wonder if the MRFF has an agenda to muzzle or completely eliminate the chaplaincy.

  • MegaSchultz

    Once again, emotions have overcome logical thinking in an argument. Everyone has great sympathy for a parent whose child is killed or dies due to any cause. That does not justify denying believes the freedom of religion, which is what the chaplain was doing. We have a constitutional right to that; there is no “freedom of non-belief.” You don’t want to believe, fine, don’t. No one is going to force you. However, you are bound to give the same freedom to the vast majority of servicemen & women who DO believe & want to practice their faith. They didn’t join the military to be forced to live as atheists.

  • 1PierreMontagne1

    In matters so faith.

    An Athiest has to have to have faith that there is no God – to be otherwise is to doubt.

    • MrHS

      That’s not faith, just as scientists don’t need faith, just facts.

  • Richard Walker

    Mr. Mehta, you have a right to your opinions, but freedom is a two way street.

    You stated that, “The issue isn’t that chaplains can’t express their faith. The issue is that Reyes perpetuated a lie about atheist soldiers.”

    Ok. So you think that what he said is a lie. Does that mean that he doesn’t have the right to say it?

    You then stated that, “I don’t think he purposely set out to hurt atheists. He wasn’t espousing “faith based hate.” Rather, it was just ignorance at play.”

    Ok. So what happens when we have someone who is intentionally disrespecting others? Does that person suddenly not have the right to say it?

    Freedom is a two way street. It is a difficult pill to swallow sometimes, but the simple fact is that we are guaranteed, “Freedom of Speech,” not, “Freedom of Respectable Discussion.”

    Saying that he, “crossed the line,” by expressing his beliefs is to imply that only you and people you agree with have the right to enjoy unlimited freedom of speech. Others must be monitored, lest they say something disagreeable.

    His words may have been false. His words may have been defamatory. His words may have been insulting. But he has the right to say it–regardless of the intentions behind them.

    You disagree with the reverend and I respect that. But you need to learn to be more respectful to the rights of those with differing opinions.

  • rocco71

    This entire discussion is absurd. And anyone who thinks it is “harmful” to speculate that “everyone believes in something” is an outright idiot.

  • love

    whoa theres comments are way to mush to read. well some of them

  • love

    much*

  • love

    Flying is awesome! :)


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