Marine Corps Training Document Suggests That Atheists Are Suicide Risks

The United States Marine Corps’ training manual for commanders (PDF) has a very interesting section regarding how to recognize when soldiers are at risk for suicide. They should look out for soldiers who recently suffered a breakup, soldiers whose family history includes members who committed suicide, soldiers who have serious financial concerns, soldiers who have lost their spiritual faith, soldiers who have a past or current substance abuse problem, soldiers who—-wait, what?!

The manual cited “lack or loss of spiritual faith” as a subset of one of the 11 factors that could increase the risk of suicide. Specifically it was a subset of the “Guidance/Moral Compass” category, a detail that’s equally problematic.

The factor would put all atheist soldiers on The List; that sort of stigma could eventually prevent them from getting promotions or certain assignments:

Of course, losing spiritual faith is only a bad thing if you didn’t want to lose it. Someone who has lost all hope could indeed be at risk, but an atheist who has no religious faith but does have a positive outlook on life and a strong support network is likely not a risk. The manual, as it stands, doesn’t make any sort of differentiation between those two groups of people.

… [MRFF's Blake] Page argues that this logic is flawed, because studies that come to the conclusion that religion reduces dangerous behavior “only measure religiosity through religious service attendance. This is a failed conclusion, because attending a regular social activity of any sort produces the same external community of support that a religious community provides.

Exactly — because community itself matters more than the type of community you’re a part of.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is ready to sue the Marines if they don’t change that statement:

The whole concept of judging service members based on their spirituality is completely unconstitutional,” says Mikey Weinstein, a former Air Force officer and founder and president of MRFF. “This country was founded on a very critical principle — the Founding Framers looked at the horrors that occurred throughout history by mixing religion and war, and they said, ‘We’re going to separate church and state.’ And that means they cannot test for religion in the military.”

This isn’t the first time a military branch has done something like this. Just a few years ago, the Army required soldiers to take a test that measured their “Spiritual Fitness” and atheists who answered honestly were told that:

Spiritual fitness is an area of possible difficulty for you. You may lack a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. At times, it is hard for you to make sense of what is happening to you and others around you. You may not feel connected to something larger than yourself. You may question your beliefs, principles, and values.

In short: They were deemed “unfit” by that measure.

More recently, atheists were denied access to like-minded chaplains who could help them when they were going through rough times.

Atheism should be a non-issue in the military. Foxhole atheists, like all soldiers, deserve to be treated fairly by the government. There’s nothing inherently “risky” or dangerous about not believing in God, and the military should acknowledge that in its materials.

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.

  • David

    For the last time, atheists believe there is nothing beyond death. So the only life we live is all the more precious. So I doubt suicide is a big risk among atheists.

    • Art_Vandelay

      It’s the old, impenetrable logic of the pious. “If this is your only shot at existence, you may as well kill yourself.” You can’t get something more backwards. I’d think religious people who think this life is the equivalent of wiping your feet on the mat before you walk inside the mansion would be far more reckless with their natural life.

      • newavocation

        And religious people are far more reckless with the life of others too. I remember reading a story from Montaigne about when the Catholics had filled all the wells in the area with the bodies of Protestants and proclaimed that the killing of the Protestants was alright since god didn’t stop them.

    • Michael W Busch

      Your first two sentences are true. Your last one is wrong. As others have said, there are social problems which can act as stressors to increase the rates of suicide in many groups – and large parts of in US culture right now, atheists are one such group. We need to change the culture.

      • UWIR

        You think that David does not, in fact, doubt that suicide is a big risk among atheists?

        What does “atheists are one such group” mean? You didn’t identify previously identify any category of groups for atheists to be “such”. Did you means that atheists are a social problem?

        • Michael W Busch

          In large parts of US culture right now, atheists are one of many groups where social problems (discrimination, in particular) can act as stressors to increase the rate of suicide. I had thought that was clear from what I had written.

          You think that David does not, in fact, doubt that suicide is a big risk among atheists?

          No. He did after all say “I doubt suicide is a big risk among atheists.”. But he is wrong to say so – at least for certain situations that are currently far too common.

      • enuma

        The last sentence also assumes that a person who is in that kind of pain is capable of rationally analyzing his or her choices.

    • Nermin

      lol…so true. Great point!

    • Blacksheep

      It doesn’t say “atheists”, who presumably have thought out and are settled in their position on faith. It uses the word “lack” and “loss”, both negatives.

  • C Peterson

    It may well be true that atheists in the military have a higher than average suicide risk. I don’t know… it would seem that’s a question that could be explored with conventional types of analysis.

    It wouldn’t surprise me, however. Atheists in the military are in an environment that is inherently hostile towards their beliefs, and highly judgmental of their character. That isn’t healthy.

    Homosexuals have a higher than average risk of suicide, a fact that has nothing to do with homosexuality, and everything to do with society’s response to homosexuals. In the same way, atheist soldiers may have a higher risk of suicide, but for reasons that have nothing to do with atheism.

    • http://gristleoflife.wordpress.com/ Analog Kid

      This.

  • TychaBrahe

    “Lack of spiritual faith” should definitely be removed. But “loss of spiritual faith” is an issue. I’m not talking about someone giving up faith, a conscious decision. I’m talking about someone who has a strong belief in God but begins to believe that God has turned away from him, that God intends him to die, that he or she no longer matters to God. It is a real problem among people of faith when they get depressed.

    It’s like the difference between “childless” and “childfree.” A woman who is unable to conceive or who has miscarriage after miscarriage is in an entirely different place from a woman who has decided she does not want to have children.

  • CodeMonkeys

    I’m a little torn on this one. I have a friend, previously religious, who sunk into a very deep depression, after he tried doing what he knew best and turning to religion to solve his depression, and finding no help or solace from a God that had either abandoned him or a God that had never existed in the first place. Shaking someone to their core like that, as well as when in a religious environment too… yeah, that can worsen depression.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Below are some potential risk indicators derived from scientific studies on risky behavior which could be considered on FPCs

    Citation fucking needed!

    Whenever I see the phrase “scientific studies” used like this I think it is as credible as “scientifically proven effective” written on a box of detergent. What is the data supporting this assertion? What kind and size of sample? Where, when and who collected the data, if it exists at all?

    Religionists spend a lot of time denying the conclusions of science, or saying that science doesn’t answer “all the questions,” and generally dismissing a rational, methodical way of thinking, but then they evoke “scientific studies” whenever they want to lend credibility to subscribing to their unscientific beliefs.

    • EmpiricalPierce

      Funny how we never see Joe Klein offering citations for his claims.

    • A3Kr0n

      You swore :-)

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Yeah, sometimes I get more angry than other times. As a psychotherapist, I know there’s a lot of bullshit in psychology, but it’s not all bullshit, and when somebody pretends to know what they’re talking about, they discredit the legitimate parts of the field and reduce our ability to help people.

        I looked over that whole PDF document. No footnotes, no citations, no bibliography. Some of the “risk factors” listed are worded in an amateurish way. Psychologists have a jargon like in any profession, and they’re careful to be precise when using certain terms or describing certain behaviors. For instance, risk factor 7-d, “Lack of self-control.” is vague and not a clinical term. I would expect to see the more precise “Lack of impulse control.” Risk factor 9-d “Anti-social,” is absurdly ambiguous. Does that mean the lay meaning, “doesn’t socialize much,” or the clinical meaning referring to specific maladaptive and even dangerous antisocial behaviors as in Antisocial Personality Disorder?

        The word “depression” is nowhere to be found in the document. In a manual regarding suicide, that is just bizarre. That’s like a manual about preventing infection not mentioning bacteria. Only one of the classic checklist of symptoms of depression is mentioned, 6-h, “A sense of hopelessness.”

        There’s a hodge podge quality to the whole thing, as if much was lifted from possibly legitimate and credible lists of risk factors, while other parts seem to have been just added in by whoever wrote this, just because they thought they ought to.

        • rtanen

          I am glad to hear that some psychology is good. However, if the profession wants to look better, it really needs to listen to communities of neuro-divergent people such as the autistic community. Lack of automatic eye contact and self-stimming are coping mechanisms, not problems that need to be fixed.

    • rtanen

      Totally agree, but all these studies are behind paywalls, so while a citation might weed out the most ridiculous claims, someone could cite a study that didn’t match their assertion and it would be expensive to call their bluff. Still, somebody would be willing to pay money to try and call it, so it would be nice.

      • Michael W Busch

        all these studies are behind paywalls

        Depends on the study – open access is spreading, although not as fast as I personally think it should. And paywalls are what institutional subscriptions were invented for (university librarians are our friends).

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

        For most, at least the abstract itself (and sometimes table of contents and figures) will dangle out beyond the paywall as a lure. Plus, atheists disproportionately tend young, with thus a large fraction in college; many university library systems have subscriptions that allow getting the study from behind the paywall. And academics and the young are pretty casual about such file sharing.

        Whacking Google Scholar with atheist suicide correlation turns up plenty of papers (most though not all relevant), suggesting atheism is a factor, but (to my eye) more mediating than causal. YMMV.

  • busterggi

    Really, lack of faith leads to suicide???

    Has someone told Al Queda or the Taliban that?

    • nice_marmot

      Not to mention this little gem: “…studies that come to the conclusion that religion reduces dangerous behavior…”

    • Dave

      Now that’s funny! Of course the Taliban only recruits atheist suicide bombers. Religious people are too pro life.

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

      “Correlation is not causation”.

      Rejection of religious faith would appear to tend to nullify religious prohibitions against suicide. Most atheists find other reasons for why it’s a bad idea once they’ve given up “God says don’t do that”; however, the new reasons may not be such absolute proscriptions, resulting in a marginally higher probability of deciding to suicide.

      Of course, when a religion endorses or even prescribes suicide (Shinto seppuku? Jonestown?), the effect would tend the other direction; atheists might find other reasons to consider it a good idea, but would tend less likely than the devout.

  • Tainda

    Just speaking for myself but knowing this is the only life makes me less inclined to end it.

  • WallofSleep
  • Jason Myers

    That’s not a training manual for commanders. That’s a training manual by one commander specifically for the people in his command.

    It’s also not (anymore?) on the public listing of orders for TECOM.
    https://www.tecom.usmc.mil/Pages/OandD.aspx

    • Art_Vandelay

      Every commander in the Marines gets to make up his own rules? How is something like that not standardized?

      • Jason Myers

        To an extent, yes.
        It works just like the relationship between Federal and State laws, except without the silly democratic elections. Colonel Dudebro can make the order that all everyone parades around in their underwear on Fridays, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lawful order. Colonel Dudebro can’t override General ManDude’s uniform regulations.

        Usually it’s a Colonel says “Formation at 0700, Tomorrow”, Captain says “formation at 6:30″, Lieutenant says “Formation at 0600″, Gunny says “Formation at 05:30″, Sergeant says “Formation at 0500″, Lance Corporal says “God Damnit”

        • Art_Vandelay

          That doesn’t seem very organized. No wonder it took us 10 years to get OBL.

          (Totally kidding)

  • Annette

    I don’t have that much of a problem with identifying “loss” of faith as an indicator.
    Granted, some folks won’t have any problems with it. Some people won’t have any depressive problems after a break-up, but still quite a number do, so it’s not unreasonable to have it on the list. Same as “loss of faith.” For some people, their faith is their reason for living, it’s the foundation that gives their life meaning. The loss of this can be very profound and result emotional upheaval.

    As a former evangelical missionary and now-atheist, I can tell you that it was hard. Even knowing that this was it, in terms of living, having my reasons for what I thought the most important hopes and joys in my life just vanish. . . well, just imagine!

    It takes time. And for some, you’re darned right I can see it as something to be aware of–LOSS of faith. For some people it’s a dramatic, painful loss–sometimes even greater than losing a loved one. Can it be a factor in potential depression and suicide, I think so.

    Just like any major life stressor, losing faith . . .for some, it’s Very Tough.

  • joey

    Isn’t it reasonable to think that many religious people who undergo suffering (whether it is physical, emotional, mental) do NOT consider suicide precisely because of their religious beliefs?

    • Spuddie

      Not really. Religious prohibition on suicide never prevented it before. No reason to consider it can now.

      • joey

        I question your logic. So cases of suicide among religious believers means that there are no cases where religious beliefs prevented suicide?

        • Spuddie

          Plenty of Catholic people commit suicide despite the religious prohibition on it. I see no reason to expect other faiths are any different in this regard.

          I can think of cases where religious prohibition on suicide made people get creative about such things such as staging fatal accidents or “suicide by cop”.

          In the military there are plenty of opportunities for one to kill themselves intentionally without giving the impression of doing so.

          • joey_in_NC

            Plenty of Catholic people commit suicide despite the religious prohibition on it.

            And “plenty of Catholic people” have premarital sex despite the religious prohibition on it. Does that mean there are no Catholic people who choose not to engage in premarital sex due to their religious beliefs? Does that mean atheists are equally likely as Catholics not to have premarital sex?

            I can think of cases where religious prohibition on suicide made people get creative about such things such as staging fatal accidents or “suicide by cop”.

            Lol…in attempts to fool God? They must be really clever.

            • Spuddie

              And “plenty of Catholic people” have premarital sex despite the religious prohibition on it. Does that mean there are no Catholic people who chooses not to engage in premarital sex due to their religious beliefs? Does that mean atheists are equally likely as Catholics not to have in premarital sex?

              Well it certainly demolishes the notion that a tenet of religious belief in of itself has much of an effect on the practical lives of people. It seems most people ignore such things at will when they prove to be inconvenient. Nothing about the religion itself being an important factor for consideration. I am reminded of the Muslim toast (despite religionwide bans on alcohol), “Allah Sleeps”.

              “Lol…in attempts to fool God? They must be really clever.”

              Not too clever since they are trying to kill themselves. Not usually a clever act in of itself. Your incredulity is not much of a rebuttal.

              • joey_in_NC

                Well it certainly undermines the notion that a tenet of religious belief in of itself has much of an effect on the practical lives of people.

                My original reply to you had nothing to do about the thought that hypocrisy among religious people is completely non-existent, or that religious people will always follow the tenets of their faith 100% of the time for the rest of their lives.

                If you think religious belief doesn’t have “much of an effect on the practical lives of people”, then what the heck is the entire purpose of this blog?

                • Spuddie

                  Your premise is a religion which forbids suicide means many of its adherents will take it seriously as a matter of course. Truth of the matter is most do not take religion seriously when it comes to serious or practical matters. Those who follow such things “religiously” (excuse the pun) are usually in the small distinct minority.

                  “then what the heck is the entire purpose of this blog?”

                  Because the few odd people who do are really vocal, politically powerful, obnoxious and overbearing. =)

    • Michael W Busch

      Some religious people? Yes – people do different things for different reasons.

      Many religious people, as compared to the overall population? Not really, as Spuddie said.

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    While I completely agree with you that the manual should differentiate between atheists who have a positive outlook and those who don’t, I do think it is important for us to deal with the very real problem that atheism can be a risk for suicide.

    This is in part caused by the loss of community and the alienation that many recent de-converts experience from family and friends. But there are many other factors that make atheists at risk of suicide. As a community, we have to do better in addressing this. I personally have had two atheist friends (one prominent in our community) kill themselves. Another friend recently de-converted and is pretty depressed about it. My point is that we need to acknowledge a problem here and we need to address it.

    Obviously, not all atheists are suicidal. I’m quite happy with my lack of belief. :-)

  • Emily Fleming

    I can understand a recent loss of faith being a risk factor – that’s a big shift in self-identity, and can be accompanied by a loss of community support systems (especially if the faith you lost corresponded to a church that practices shunning – suddenly your friends won’t even talk to you!). That’s a lot of stress to bear.

    On the other hand, the selling point of the religions I’m familiar with seems to be mostly “When we are dead, it’s going to be AWESOME”, which doesn’t seem conducive to opting to continue life in the face of overwhelming pain.

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

      Most such religions explicitly include a proscription, saying suicide disqualifies you from getting to the awesome bits; or limiting the exceptions to very precise social circumstances.

  • joey

    “…but an atheist who has no religious faith but does have a positive
    outlook on life and a strong support network is likely not a risk.”

    And an atheist who has a negative outlook on life and doe not have a strong support network is probably a risk. “Strong support networks” can come and go, so the key is to always have a “positive outlook on life”. Religion can help with that, especially if you believe that all human life has absolute/inherent value…including your own.

    • Michael W Busch

      It is not necessary to be religious to believe that human lives have inherent value.

      Also: religion can make it harder to have a positive outlook on life. e.g. a religion centered around the “you are entirely worthless and only have value as long as you believe in this religion” line is not helping.

      • joey

        “It is not necessary to be religious to believe that human lives have inherent value.”

        Note that I said “inherent” value, not “subjective” value. So on the contrary, believing that human life has inherent value IS a religious belief, and thus makes you religious.

        If you don’t believe your own life has value, then do you still have it? If no, then it can’t be inherent value.

        • Michael W Busch

          believing that human life has inherent value IS a religious belief, and thus makes you religious.

          Wrong. Believing human lives have inherent value is a belief that can be held independent of a belief that any supernatural entities exist or not.

          If you don’t believe your own life has value, then do you still have it?

          Yes.

          • joey

            So I would still have INHERENT value even if I don’t believe I do? Prove it to me. Can you see this value with your eyes, or feel it your hands, or somehow detect it experimentally in a laboratory? Where is your evidence that I have this inherent value.

            • Michael W Busch

              The evidence is all of human history. Groups of people that don’t recognize the value of human lives do not do well. That the value of individual human lives is an emergent property of what is good for human societies doesn’t make it any less inherent.

              • joey

                So if you think inherent human value exists, does that mean you think suicide is inherently wrong?

                • Michael W Busch

                  Suicide is a very bad thing, but we must never blame anyone for attempting suicide or for suicidal ideation – that does not help.

                  Instead, the blame goes to a culture which stigmatizes mental disorders (discouraging people from seeking help if they need it), glorifies the possession of lethal weapons (which increases risk of suicide for obvious reasons), does not have an adequate social support system (adding one set of situational triggers), and discriminates horribly against far too many people (adding another).

                  Also: in a few restricted situations, a person ending their own life (or someone else taking if for them) is the least-bad available option. The boundaries of those situations are very carefully defined – such as the conditions for voluntary euthanasia of a legally-competent terminally-ill patient – and they do not fit into the usual definition of suicide.

                  And since you appear to be trying to play games with false dichotomies, I am not inclined to reply to you further.

                • joey

                  I would have quit once you admitted the belief in inherent human value.

    • wombat

      Religion can also work against that. Thoughts like ‘I’m unworthy’, ‘I’m a sinner’, and ‘I can never be good enough for God’ are all accepted Christian doctrine, and these thoughts can feel damning. ‘I’m never going to heaven because I sin so much, I hate my life here, why not just get it over with’ is not an unthinkable position.

  • Gary Rooney

    Marines are not soldiers. Marines are Marines. FYI

    • DavidMHart

      On a technicality, yes, in the same way that tomatoes are not vegetables. But for colloquial purposes, I don’t think it unreasonable to consider marines to a specialized type of soldier.

  • YesDavisIsMyFirstName

    Yeah, I think I’m in agreement with some of the commenters here. Losing faith could be a significant risk, or at least increase the risk of suicide during the time that faith is lost. Most people do not want to change themselves in any way especially their entire foundational worldview if that happens to be religion. I think it is good to have a handbook outlining such a potential risk. Most people who lose their faith often find themselves among a hostile crowd, a crowd which used to be their core community.

    I know when I de-converted, I was at a complete feeling of loss and fear because I felt so alone. It took a while to find a community that would accept and support me. I would say that including it in a section co-labeled “guidance and moral compass” isn’t particularly helpful. And I agree that “testing spirituality” to determine fitness is completely unjustified, but ignoring a factor in human experience that could contribute to a risk of suicide is also faulty.

    Of course I don’t want to ignore the fact that Christianity is often the source of that risk considering they consistently and loudly indoctrinate all of their constituents that life without faith is “hopeless and meaningless”…

  • David Wood

    I’m a former US Marine…1988-1996. Religion was never even talked about very much at the places I was stationed. Most of the other Marines I knew “said” they were religious, but never overtly so and I never saw evangelizing. I wonder if they got this recommendation for that manual from a trained professional?

  • Myrmidon

    I’m a Marine, currently active duty. I’m also an atheist, and an outspoken one at that.

    1) As mentioned by Gary, Marines are not soldiers. Army -> Soldiers, Marine Corps -> Marines. Perhaps a petty point, but we are a prideful bunch.

    2) This isn’t as big a deal as you might think. The Corps also thinks that any Marine who is single and below the pay grade of a SSgt is a greater risk than a married Marine SNCO. Every time we have extended liberty (i.e. more than 48 hours off) we have to fill out paperwork identifying our “excessive risk factors”, which gives you a higher risk factor for being under 25 years of age, unmarried, and low in pay grade. We all know they are a bunch of silly generalizations. Who cares?

    • Gary Rooney

      Even if civilians don’t understand we know that Marines aren’t “soldiers”. lol

  • SJH

    What does science say about this?

    http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=177228

    I just did a search to see what has been studied on this and found this article. The article is way to long for me read the whole thing right now but it seems interesting. It looks like it might be a legitimate connection between atheism and increased suicide rates. Perhaps someone else can read it and let us know what they think.

    • Michael W Busch

      The bits from MRFF that Hemant quoted explain why the article you linked is flawed.

      Again: it is not being irreligious that is the relevant stressor. What is being seen is the effect of lacking a supportive community / leaving a previously-supportive one.

      • SJH

        So there is a relationship. Atheists generally lack a support community and therefor are more likely to commit suicide. So, if there is a questionnaire, it would be hard to quantify the question, do you have a support community? It might be easier to ask if you are atheist. Other groups might also lack a support community and I would recommend that any questionnaire would also ask if you are part of that group as well.

        • Michael W Busch

          There is a relationship, but it is not the relationship that the article claims that it is.

          • SJH

            The relationship doesn’t matter. The questionnaire does not serve the purpose of determining the reasons for suicide. It serves the purpose of identifying those that are more likely to commit suicide. Atheists are more likely, for whatever reason, and therefor it is a valid question.

            • Michael W Busch

              No, atheists are not more likely to commit suicide.

              People who are being discriminated against by the culture they are in are more likely to commit suicide – by singling out atheists you are harming both atheists and everyone else who isn’t an atheist but is still being discriminated against.

              For example, consider if you had someone who converted to Islam and was in a culture where Muslims were discriminated against – similar stressor, but everyone involved may be religious.

        • SJH

          Also, tangentially, I wonder if atheists are less likely to have a support community because of their world view.

          • Michael W Busch

            In many places at the current time, atheists are less likely to have a supportive community. But that’s not “because of their world view” – it’s because of cultures that discriminate against people who don’t espouse belief in the majority religion.

          • phantomreader42

            What about your cult’s eagerness to discriminate against, slander, libel, assault, threaten, rob, and murder atheists? Did you consider that factor?

  • Priscilla Troop

    And how do you correlate this to targeting atheists and make the false assertion that somehow it would identify atheists, put their name on a list and have a negative affect on them? Why are you assisting in attacking the military for simply trying to implement preventative measures and education and services for its members and their families who are at risk? How are you supporting the military at all?

    This has absolutely nothing to do with foxhole atheists other than a handful making this into something it isn’t so they can sell a story to get in the paper. I appreciate you supported MASH in the past but attacks like this are hurting the atheist community. Do even really care about this at all?

  • Guest

    I don’t know…surely there’s a distinction between atheists and people who have recently lost their faith? Like, some atheists are brought up in atheist households and never had faith to begin with. And it’s possible that losing faith is traumatic for some people. I agree there overlap between ‘atheists’ and ‘people who have lost their faith’ but the two things aren’t identical.

  • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

    Well, I don’t know about you, but if I were a smart, reasonably educated person in an organization which purely existed to carry out the military portion (i.e. the majority) of the murderous and insane foreign policy of the United States, then I would be tempted to commit suicide. Although nobody has proved that there’s causation involved, high intelligence, education, and atheism are correlated. So one could reasonably expect that atheists would have more temptation to kill themselves rather than stick with the military.

  • Dustin Adams

    I recently left the marine corps after 5 years of service. Being brought up in small town Iowa, I never even considered it an option to not be “christian”. I was exposed to many new and interesting people in the service. I had strayed from the christian lifestyle after a few years of not being drug to church frequently. But my “default” position was still to fall onto the christian belief. I got a roommate toward the end of my enlistment that really changed how I thought about religion. He never pushed me in a certain way; only asked the right questions and let me figure the answer out for myself.

    After gaining new beliefs, I was never in any way affected by religious discrimination of any sort. In fact, most of the people I knew were either athiest, doubters, or formerly religious but cant be bothered to find the time to go to church anymore types. I attained the rank of sergeant, so I guess I wouldn’t know if this line entry in a training document affects the higher enlisted or officer ranks.

    I have gone through the lower enlisted promotion process, and have seen the upper enlisted promotion process. There is no input for religious affiliation in the process whatsoever.

  • Andrew Houston

    There is a lot of religious orientation in the marine corps. I, an atheist marine, am very irritated by the fact that prayer is part of every ceremony (attendance is mandatory), “in the year of our lord” is on every promotion warrant, and things like a mass weekly email from the chaplain on my govt email talking about god and such.


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