Ignorant Columnist Unleashes Tirade Against ‘Angry Atheists’ Without Doing Any Research on the Issues

Upon hearing that atheists are trying to get Humanist chaplains in the military, the National Post‘s Rex Murphy had something of a meltdown. He wrote a long tirade about this is just another hallmark of the “Angry Atheist” brigade:

Rex Murphy

I think the late Christopher Hitchens’ screed against Mother Teresa, his unmanly attempt to pulverize the reputation of the Albanian nun who gave her life to tending Calcutta’s dying poor, was the low point of his otherwise stellar output…

Hitchens’ grim, self-advertising equal, Richard Dawkins, is a very bundle of anger and aggressiveness

They can be very prickly on this stuff. They have mastered the art of bewailing their discomfort at a breach of that great standby in such matters, their “human rights.” Actually, of course, the comforts of religion, for believers, are not “human” rights at all, but the mercies of a benevolent God…

Regarding Hitchens and Dawkins, what Murphy ignores is that the atheists were (and are) more interested in the Truth than they were being politically correct. When the facts lean one way and the majority of people lean the other, of course you’re going to come off as frustrating. I don’t see them as angry. I see them as appalled by how oblivious a lot of people can be.

Okay, so Murphy plays the stereotypes and writes a lazy man’s column. But he really goes off the deep end when he writes about military atheists:

a group of forlorn and (by their measure) much put-upon atheists are making angry demands that atheists in the military be granted their own chaplain.

… as usual, the professional non-believers see themselves as much put-upon and ignored. They claim, in fact, to be (within the Army) more numerous than “Jews or Hindus or Buddhists or Muslims.”

It’s very telling they make this comparison, for here, as in much else of modern atheism, they betray the need to be seen in the very category of those they derogate: a religious one. Why should those who don’t believe at all clamour for the same structures, assists and services of those who in fact do believe? Funny, you never hear them wishing for their own Hell.

The ignorance in these statements is really something.

Look, here’s one reason it’s important for military atheists to have chaplains: They go through the same emotions and tribulations that all soldiers deal with, including stress and death and ethical dilemmas.

Religious soldiers wanting guidance through all that can go to chaplains who speak the language of faith. Their conversations remain confidential.

Atheist soldiers don’t have the option of speaking to non-religious chaplains, so they have to see psychiatrists or counselors instead. Those conversations aren’t confidential, and those meetings are put in their file. That comes with its own stigma. When it comes time for something like a promotion, a soldier whose file includes “meeting with a psychiatrist,” no matter the reason, is automatically at a disadvantage.

That’s why we need atheist equivalents of chaplains.

It’s not because atheism is a religion and it’s silly to argue that “atheist chaplain” sounds like an oxymoron. Atheists in the military are just like other soldiers and they deserve to have the same resources as religious ones.

And what does Murphy say about all that?

[Military atheists] unwittingly manifest an admiration and hunger for religion and its many solaces, and proffer anger as a cover for envy.

On the actual question itself, that of chaplains for non-believers, there is little need to pronounce. It is ludicrous. Only those seeing through a glass, darkly, could make such a claim in the first place.

Murphy didn’t do his research. He didn’t bother to speak to any atheists in the military who’s fighting for this resource. He just assumed he knew enough about the subject, threw some prejudice in the mix, and shat out this column.

If he cared anything about the truth, he would apologize in his next column… but that would require him to admit he did something wrong, so I’m not expecting anything.

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.

  • Brian

    “if he cared anything about the truth” then he would probably be an atheist to begin with.

  • GodlessPoutine

    Thanks for covering this!

    Rex is a character that has become more and more colourful over the passing decades. He seems to have taken up a new mantle and made it his life goal to promote Christianity and fight against the “secularisation” of Canada.

    http://canadianatheist.com/2013/03/02/rex-murphy-live/

    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/04/06/rex-murphy-tvs-the-bible-is-teaching-our-civilizations-great-code/

    There’s a bit of a showdown brewing up here in Canada between a mostly secular majority (at least in the cities) and an embattled and threatened religious establishment who are feeling their privileged place in society wither away day by day.

    • Sheldon

      Hi, Poutine!

  • Carl

    I wish we would stop using the term “chaplain.” It just creates unnecessary misunderstandings and it is a cloudy description of the type of supportive people we are trying to establish in the military. We should be using a title such as Humanist Adviser or Humanist Counselor.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Yes, I agree. Or Humanist Advocate.

    • Hat Stealer

      That’s the thing though. Chaplains are ideal for the military, because they can tell soldiers that they’re fighting God’s war against the unholy, unjust insurgents. I realize that secular soldiers ought to receive support too, but there’s something I find contradictory about sending people with Humanist morals off to support a war. It just doesn’t rub right with me.

      • Carl

        I’m an atheist and quite anti-religious, but I do acknowledge the fact that there are religious people who are also humanists as well as being anti-war. On the flip side, there are atheists who are very supportive of the military, as obviously represented by those atheists who have voluntarily enlisted. I just hate the phrase “chaplain” because of the overtly religious connotation. Humanist Counselors, Advocates, or whatever you want to call them (other than chaplain), should be able to be there to support Atheist and Humanist soldiers on a personal level without necessarily endorsing the actions of our military.

        What I ultimately would like to see is the ability for ALL military personnel to have discreet access to mental health counselors without the fear of being criticized or having a negative affect on their personnel file. Right now we have unqualified religious chaplains who are dealing with some very serious mental health issues all under the cloak of religious confidentiality. This is probably one of many contributing reasons why we have so many veterans who are suffering from mental health problems.

    • Len

      Why Humanist Counselor? Why not just Counselor?

      Of course, that would require the religious counselors to be honest. Why do I not really see that happening?

  • shane

    >> He just assumed he knew enough about the subject, threw some prejudice in the mix, and shat out this column.

    That pretty much describes most – if not all – of Rex’s editorials.

  • Brandie Lynn Winchester

    Why does everyone assume that these people are Angry, that really frustrates me, we lack belief in their religious structures and therefor are angry because we fight for the same level of compassion and understanding that a religious person is granted, yet you don’t see us bombing a public square or fighting wars in the name of our cause, yet we are the angry ones. We stand up for our right to not believe and our right to not have to send our children to schools that endorse religion, or fight for our country without their beliefs being pushed on us, yet we are angry…. I think we should start referring to these type of people as the angry theist.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      I AM angry when I hear people say things that are not true and then dare anyone to challenge them. Yes, that makes me angry and I won’t deny it. Anyone who cares about the truth should be outraged and the shameless lying that is allowed to go on in our culture, our politics and our so-called news.

      • Brandie Lynn Winchester

        But you can have an adult debate with a person without acting angry and getting all upset to the point that we are the ones being labeled as angry, I am upset by the attitude that I receive from some so called believers, but their is a reason we celebrate Martin Luther King day, because the way to win, to beat them, to prove our point is to be the better people, to show them that the ones with hate and judgment in their hearts are those who claim to be close to god. By getting angry and being rude to those who are blind less followers of faith is the quickest way to prove them right about atheist and then our side our incite is shut out not to be heard.

        • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

          Agreed. If we let our anger get the best of us it can lead to saying and doing stupid things which make things worse rather than better.

    • allein

      The problem is not with them saying we’re angry; a lot of people are, indeed, angry and that is what spurs them to fight all those things you list. The problem is their implication that our anger is never justified, which is really what they’re saying when they go on about “angry atheists.”

      • Len

        Yes. Except that it usually is justified. Very justified.

  • the moother

    Obviously no difference between disdaining something with no evidence and believing in something with no evidence.

    It’s pretty obvious that these assholes are making everything up as they go along… but that’s what religion’s all about, innit.

  • Rene Belloq 12 inch dick

    I don’t think its anger so much as it is pity, humor, contempt, sarcasm and self-defense.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Funny how you never see Joe Klein making hateful, ignorant statements about atheists without doing any resear– Oh wait. Never mind.

    • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

      Somehow, I suspect this will never get old

      • Quintin van Zuijlen

        If Joe Klein does ever appologise, it’ll have to. Not looking like it though.

        • Hat Stealer

          Funny how you never see Joe Klein apologizing.

      • Bdole

        unlike Joe Klein.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    “I think the late Christopher Hitchens’ screed against Mother Teresa, his unmanly attempt to pulverize the reputation of the Albanian nun who gave her life to tending Calcutta’s dying poor, was the low point of his otherwise stellar output…”

    This writer needs to do his research. Any person that would deny pain medication to those painfully dying does not deserve to be respected.

    • Miss_Beara

      Her reputation deserved to be pulverized. She gave nothing to the dying poor while she and her followers received actual medical care.

      • baal

        Right, she was flown half way around the world to the Mayo Clinic for treatment.

      • Connor Stafford

        You know what I love about that?

        The fact that she’s still done just that much more than any of you will ever do to help anybody in your pathetic lives.

        I believe there’s a word for when people like you criticize those who have done what you’ve never done before. Oh wait, what is it now…oh yeah! Hypocrisy.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      Not only that, when she became ill she jetted to the world’s top doctors to get first-rate care. Meanwhile she allowed the people she supposedly cared about to lie in agony and pain as if there were some sort of spiritual benefit to their suffering. She was a hypocrite. Ask the people of Calcutta what they thought of her and her “ministry.”

      • Without Malice

        She was quite fond of saying that suffering was good for the soul, as long as it wasn’t her doing the suffering.

        • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

          What a sick, twisted religion that celebrates that abhorrent view of human suffering.

    • Crazy Russian

      So, criticizing Hitchens is fine, but god forbid you criticize Mother Teresa. I see how it is.

    • Without Malice

      Hitch was right about the “blessed” Mother Teresa. Even before Hitch came along she was causing scandal in the church and was the subject of an article in one of the major magazines (Time, Life, I can’t remember exactly which) about young Indian nuns or wannabe nuns who were being used as nothing more than slaves. This back in the 60′s.

  • Frank

    Apparently some cant handle the truth.

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

      and the truth is 42

    • RobMcCune

      Like Rex Murphy and Frank.

    • Matt D

      Hence the reason you spend time on this blog. You can’t handle the truth, so you diminish it by painting those that speak it as false.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Funny, you never hear them wishing for their own Hell.

    I don’t even know what that means, but there’s definitely a Joe Klein joke in there somewhere.

    • Len

      Well, it’s because atheism is a religion and all religions have a hell, so atheists should have one too but they don’t want one even though it’s a religion but not – obviously – one that qualifies to be respected under the US constitution where it says stuff about freedom of religion (“except atheism” – what do you mean you haven’t seen that qualifier before?) because it isn’t a Real Religion (TM) except when we have to be able to say something about what one atheist said once about something else to prove our point about this. Obvious really.

  • AxeGrrl

    Any shred of respect I might have had for Rex Murphy went poof when he said that he just ‘can’t understand’ the passionate dislike/negative feelings that some of us have for our current prime minister, Stephen Harper…….

    Anyone who works for a news corporation and can’t understand why Stephen Harper’s actions as PM have inspired anger has to be wilfully ignorant.

    • Dawn

      I think he’s stiffening into hidebound old age. Either that or he’s angling for a Senate seat. Seems to be a thing with prominent Canadian journalists these days…

      • anthrosciguy

        Rex used to be a better curmudgeon 20 years ago. He’s been slipping into “yells at cloud” territory for some time now. That’s why he’s in the National Post.

        • Canadian Atheist, eh!

          Yup. Really, don’t expect an apology.

    • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

      I’m with you, AxeGrrl. I used to like Murphy’s off-the-wall rants on The National but now I don’t think I’ll even be able to listen to his voice.

  • mikespeir

    And what’s this guy’s excuse for being angry?

    • Matt

      When Christians are angry it’s called Conviction(tm).

      • mikespeir

        Ah, yes! I’d forgotten.

  • Miss_Beara

    That is an awful lot of anger (and ignorance) towards a group of people that are suppose to be angry.

  • Chris Wallace

    Yikes, look at that picture…I make it a point to never listen to anyone with that degree of crazy-eye.

  • Dawn

    Rex is a weird and special case. His editorials do seem to be, uh, shat out. But then he hosts a national call-in show on CBC radio and is one of the most balanced, calm and reasonable moderators I’ve ever heard.
    I think his natural place is as a diplomat in the middle but he fights it constantly, armed with the world’s thickest thesaurus, in his editorials.

  • Tel

    Why should those who don’t believe at all clamour for the same structures, assists and services of those who in fact do believe?

    Because we’re people too?

    • AnarchyRules

      They’re more like drones going through the motions of life.

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

        Citation needed.

      • Artor

        Seriously? Is that your schtick? Please help yourself to a big glass of shut the fuck up.

      • Matt D

        Does pretending we are machines help you hate us more, coward?

  • Priscilla Troop

    First you say military atheista are interested in the truth but then you make an inaccurate claim without checking out if it’s true or not and this is what is making the atheist community look like a gang of misinformed and antagonistic individuals, so here’s the truth:

    1. Seeing a Psychiatrist is absolutely confidential and is protected under HIPPA. Command is not informed about treatment unless it affects the service members ability to perform their duties.

    2. Seeing a military counselor is confidential and no notes are taken so there is nothing to put in a service members file. The only thing a military counselor would divulge to Command is if a service member threatened them-selves or others or reported abuse either in the work place or at home.

    3. Secular soldiers can utilize the Chaplaincy for counseling purposes just as religious soldiers can. If long term counseling is needed they would be referred to another organization or agency.

    4. A Chaplains primary duty is provide religious services to religious service members. They are permitted act as counselor a only in an advisory capacity not as a therapist.

    There is already an established method for any demographic to be represented through the Chaplaincy. If the AHS wishes to endorse a humanist DFGL, they can but they have to establish the difference between what a Secular humanist and a Christian/Jewish/Buddhist/ etc. humanist is. What are the tenets of secular humanism and how are they practiced that qualify it as a religion? There already are several atheist groups at military installations that practice humanism through charity and outreach programs such as Volunteer Beyond Belief and offer social support to secular service members outside the Chaplaincy.

    I’m not against the idea of Humanist Chaplains but the argument for an ‘atheist’ Chaplain is nonsensical as it is not a religion so there are no religious services a Secular Humanist Chaplain could provide and that’s the wall atheists will continue to run into.

  • demetrios b.

    Thank you Hemant Mehta for sharing your voice on this. Rex Murphy is more like entertainment (ala World Wrestling Entertainment) than a legitimate source for our news. The thoughts that you have shared, meaningfully touches on what I thought of, too, from listening to this Rex tirade.

  • ORAXX

    Given the way Christians behaved when they held the power of life and death, it’s surprising that atheists aren’t a whole lot angrier than they are. Of course, most of what gets labeled as ‘angry atheism’ amounts to no more than non believers failing to show religion the deference, religious people think they are automatically entitled to.

  • saganhill

    Can we stop calling “counselors” chaplains please? There is a big difference between the two. Atheist chaplains is an oxymoron. Non-sequitur.

  • MarkTemporis

    The more obvious solution is to hold military psychiatrists to the same confidentiality chaplains are afforded. Are there not other secular positions within the military that aren’t allowed to rat out their clients? I can’t see how JAG or the Medical corps could possibly work otherwise.

  • Mira

    I have had horrible experiences with psychiatrists in the military. A good friend of mine right now is dealing with the fact that he can’t go to a psychiatrist without getting stigmatised–and possibly thrown out–and he’s forced to deal with chaplains that may or may not be helpful because of their religious beliefs.
    Not all chaplains will insist on god helping, or on their faith being the answer, since they know that not all servicemembers are religious. However, that’s just a lucky break, and you can’t assume that the chaplain is going to hear you say “I’m an atheist” and then cater to your non-religious views.
    I think we ought to have non-religious chaplains, just because even the religious folk sometimes want someone to say “hey, that’s really shitty. Let’s talk about it” instead of “god has a plan.”

    • Michael W Busch

      Is there any effort within the military to break down the stigma and all inappropriate consequences associated with seeing a counselor (be that counselor a psychiatrist or a psychologist)?

      • Mira

        I think that the military is a more condensed version of our own culture, so the biases and opinions of what we, in general, as a country hold sometimes much more strongly. Just like in our society, those with less education, and the older folks, generally think things like mental disorders are “silly” or make people unable to perform their jobs. Remember, the military is a subculture that still thinks transgenders are mentally unfit for duty. =/
        I can’t speak for the psychiatrists, of course. I’m sure some of them are working tirelessly to help people and help prevent stigmas. The military leadership is a big part of what needs to change.

  • Shandi

    Obviously he doesn’t care about researching and finding out the truth. If he did, he would be an atheist.

  • Drew M.

    I really don’t like seeing “truth” capitalized. It looks way too Christian-y.

  • AnarchyRules

    Atheists don’t have true emotions or feelings so they don’t really need chaplains. They join the military for one reason: killing people, it especially gives them a chance to kill religious people i.e. Muslims.

    • Amor DeCosmos

      I debated for quite awhile as to whether or not to bait this troll… I decided not to. He wins, though – because he made me think about it.

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

      Again: citation needed.

    • DesertSun59

      Speaking as an atheist who is a former US Marine, you are wrong. I was there and you were not. You have no idea what you’re talking about. It is the most ardent Christians that LOVE killing people. The more religious they are in the military, the MORE they talk about killing, the more they will kill, and the more they USE violence against their friends, family and anyone else who is not like them.

      I MOCK your claim because I know you are an idiot.

      • Michael W Busch

        AnarchyRules is not necessarily an idiot, and should not be called such. But xe is certainly horribly wrongly informed, and making claims that should be mocked.

    • Artor

      I’m going to assume that was meant with snark, but I still downvoted because that’s an asshole thing to say, even if trolling.

    • Michael W Busch

      Cut the nonsense.

      People join the military for many reasons, and I would hope that those who like killing for its own sake would not be recruited. This is regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof.

      And if you are making a joke: Not Funny.

    • baal

      AR strikes me as an ‘offensive troll.’

    • Matt D

      No, I’d join the military to support my country in a time of need, if we were ever in a position where people like you are in charge.

    • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

      Shame on you, AnarchyRules. You can speak about the “true emotions” of exactly one person on Earth: Yourself. Stop telling lies about people you’re never even met.

  • Carpinions

    Who is the prickly one? The one that raises an objection to an accepted (but incorrect) convention, or the one that takes issue that the objection was raised?

  • Rain

    Wait, isn’t that Art Carney?

  • LesterBallard

    Fuck “Mother Teresa”. She said that those poor wretched human beings had been blessed by god. Fuck her.

    • DesertSun59

      Hitchens was absolutely correct about her. And the Time magazine exposé of her proved it.

  • rg57

    Haha. Rex Murphy has always been Canada’s crazy uncle from away. But he’s interesting to look at, and speaks oddly enough, that you can ignore what he says. As it should be.

  • Art_Vandelay

    And go to the top of the comment section where you can predictably read the most inane paragraph ever written…

    Silly atheists want military chaplains. Let’s think of it this way, the world is like a big high school. The Christians are like soccer players, the Muslims the baseball players, the Hindus the hockey players, etc. Thee atheists are like the petulant anti jock types. Secretly jealous of the jocks’ popularity and comradery. While hating what the jocks are, the atheists can only be happy (and deep down they know, but just can’t admit it to themselves) if they do what humans have been doing since day one, coming together to contemplate our place in the universe. The atheists may not realize it, but every time they ape that which they deride, they become more like the derision.

  • AxePilot

    I like some of Rex’s stuff. But you’re right, either he got “lazy” on this, or he has gone unnoticed as a bigot (by me) all these years.

  • DesertSun59

    This is so amusing. So very amusing. You see, this is a PERFECT TEXTBOOK example of the extremely well documented phenomenon called psychological projection. A textbook example.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection

  • Todd

    He criticizes Hitchens for slamming Mother Teresa, I wonder if he’ll slam the research the university in his home country did that validates Hitchens work.

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-03/uom-mta022813.php

  • Ibis3

    This from a guy who’s made a living out of blowing Angry Rants over the airwaves? Rich.

  • sudon’t

    “Why should those who don’t believe at all clamour for the same structures, assists, and services of those who in fact do believe? ”

    I think he has a point here, if perhaps for the wrong reasons. And psychiatrists are little better than ministers, with their faith-based approach to medicine.
    I find the notion of aping religious institutions – creating atheist churches, humanist ministers, or praying to imaginary goddesses – to be absurd. How are we going to certify these secular priests? Are they going to go to atheist divinity school, or are they going to have psychology degrees, or what? It’s ridiculous.
    Let me suggest something that’s worked for me: If you find killing or getting shot at troubling, don’t volunteer for the military. If you need to socialize, cultivate some friends, or attend events that you’re interested in. I don’t know about you guys, but if I want to avoid alcohol or caffeine, I will have a soda or juice – not a non-alcoholic beer or de-caffeinated coffee.

    • 3lemenope

      I don’t know about you guys, but if I want to avoid alcohol or caffeine, I will have a soda or juice – not a non-alcoholic beer or de-caffeinated coffee.

      Everything else aside (and I’m pretty conflicted about the stuff you’re talking about in general), but I’ve felt *exactly* this way about decaffeinated and otherwise depleted culinary options. And I do understand, culturally, why they exist, but I still can’t *quite* get my head around the bizarreness of it all. The one that really threw me for a loop growing up was Caffeine-Free Diet Coke. Isn’t that just…bubbly brown water?

      • RobMcCune

        Mixed drinks with caffeine give me a weaker buzz, and a headache when I’m sobering up. Otherwise I pretty much agree with you.

    • RobMcCune

      Nice science denialism there Patton. I’m sure the military would love to try your elegant “no pussies” solution to the problem of PTSD. And while you’re shaking things things up I’m sure the entire fields of psychiatry and psychology desperately needs to know their their entire body of empirical studies is entirely faith based.

      • Michael W Busch

        I trust you were using the sexist slur only as an illustration of a toxic and bigoted culture?

        • RobMcCune

          Yes, hence the quotes and overall sarcastic tone.

  • Fred

    I didn’t know that Lotney “Sloth” Fratelli changed his name to Rex Murphy

  • WillBell

    I kind of liked Rex Murphy when I saw him on the National when I had CBC. :/

  • Denis Robert

    Rex Murphy is part of a class that is unfortunately far too common here in Canada: the pompous old-school Conservative. He’s right up there with Conrad Black in being an insufferable old prick with an overly developed admiration for their own “writing” abilities. For Murphy to point to anyone and claim they are “angry” is not the pot calling the kettle black; it’s the Black Hole calling the kettle black. The man has probably never smiled in his entire life, at least not without turning his nose up while doing so.
    He can be safely ignored. Even those who read him forget everything he says the minute they are done.

  • Oranje

    Holy crap; Rex Murphy is still alive? Makes me wish Double Exposure was still on the air.

  • baal

    “pulverize the reputation of the Albanian nun who gave her life to tending Calcutta’s dying poor”

    Or not tending to them as suffering brings you to christ and is noble and holy or some such bullshit.

  • Doreen Beisel

    By writing this column and getting such a nasty reaction from some atheists Murphy proved his point that intolerance and non-acceptance of others’ opinions is not strictly a Christian thing. You guys got played.

  • HappySheep888

    A chaplain is by definition – religious – so for atheists to
    have their own chaplain does not make sense. Certainly atheists have feelings
    and grieve and so forth but don’t they have access to psychologists and
    therapists who are often atheists themselves. Maybe atheists need to come up
    with a similar word for chaplain and get them. Please don’t co-opt the word chaplain.


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