He Shouldn’t Have to Say ‘So Help Me God’ At His Graduation Today

***Update***: Jason Torpy of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers tells me that the situation has been resolved and Bise will receive both a secular written form and take a secular oath. More information on “So Help Me God” oath issues can be found here.

The American Humanist Association responds:

Air Force officials have agreed to administer a secular oath and to allow a revision of the written oath the Officer Trainee was required to sign to remove the “so help me God” reference. Maj. Stewart L. Rountree has written attorneys for the American Humanist Association and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers that the entire graduating class will be informed of the option to take a secular oath and apologized for the error. “Our previous legal advisors were mistaken in advising us that it was required,” Maj. Roundtree wrote. “Our current legal advisors made me aware and we will ensure it reaches all corners of our program.”

Today, Jonathan Bise will become an officer in the United States Air Force. However, he’s been told he will have to say an oath with the phrase “so help me God” in order to graduate — no substitutions allowed. As a non-religious person, the government can’t make anyone take a pledge like that, and the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center is trying to put a stop to it before it’s too late:

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Christian Show Host: Atheist Chaplains Would Just Tell Wounded Soldiers To Kill Themselves

Atheist groups have been pushing hard lately for the military to accept Humanist chaplains. So far, they’ve said no.

Congress joined them, but in addition to saying no, House members offered their reasons — and those reasons were complete bullshit:

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Navy Employee Told He Can’t Get Married in a Government Chapel Because He’s Not a Christian

Ensign Sean A. Cruz is an active-duty officer who graduated last year from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. He likes the place so much that he asked for permission to get married there. To be precise, he would like to tie the knot in the Naval Academy’s Main Chapel:

The Chapel’s wedding coordinator, Claire MacCallum, asked Cruz to submit an application, and eight weeks after he did, she turned him down. The reason? Cruz, his name notwithstanding, is not a Christian. He had told MacCallum that he had chosen Jason Torpy to do the ceremony; Torpy is the president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and a registered Humanist celebrant in Maryland (as well as an occasional contributor to this site). Cruz is also a MAAF member and a Humanist, so the request makes a lot of sense.

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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:

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:

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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:

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.

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