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:
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.
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.