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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Republican-Led House Approves Amendment Banning Non-Religious Military Chaplains

Last month, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) suggested an amendment (PDF) to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that would allow Humanist, ethical culturist, or atheist chaplains in the Army Chaplains Corps:

The Secretary of Defense shall provide for the appointment, as officers in the Chaplain Corps of the Armed Forces, of persons who are certified or ordained by non-theistic organizations and institutions, such as humanist, ethical culturalist, or atheist.

The amendment made so much sense that, of course, Republicans were quick to condemn it:




There’s some first class ignorance for you:

They don’t believe anything,” said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) “I can’t imagine an atheist accompanying a notification team as they go into some family’s home to let them have the worst news of their life and this guy says, ‘You know, that’s it — your son’s just worms, I mean, worm food.’”

“This I think would make a mockery of the chaplaincy,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.). “The last thing in the world we would want to see was a young soldier who may be dying and they’re at a field hospital and the chaplain is standing over that person saying to them, ‘If you die here, there is no hope for you in the future.’”

You can see the full debate on the issue in my previous post.

Needless to say, the amendment failed on a 43-18 vote.

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Why Can’t Jason Heap Become a Military Chaplain?

Jason Heap wants to become a chaplain in the U.S. Navy and he seems perfectly qualified to do so: He has two master’s degrees, passed his physicals, and completed the paperwork… but Kimberly Winston tells us that what he doesn’t have is the endorsement of a religious organization (***Edit***: I should say that he does have the endorsement of a religious group, just not one approved by the Navy):

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House Votes Down Amendment Allowing Non-religious Military Chaplains, but 150 Democrats Voted for It

Earlier this week, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) put forth an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow for non-religious military chaplains:

The Secretary of Defense shall provide for the appointment, as officers in the Chaplain Corps of the Armed Forces, of persons who are certified or ordained by non-theistic organizations and institutions, such as humanist, ethical culturalist, or atheist.

Republicans (and some Democrats) in the House Armed Services Committee voted against the amendment 43-18 so it didn’t leave the committee.

That didn’t mean the end of the legislation, though. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) tried to get the amendment through without the support of the Committee:

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Conservative Media Claim ‘Persecution’ of Christians in the Military, but Actual Soldiers Call Bullshit

Shocking news. I hope you’re sitting down.

Being a conservative and a Christian marks you for persecution in today’s military.

So claims FOX News Radio journalist Todd Starnes. So says Master Sergeant Nathan Sommers, a member of the U.S. Army Band. And so parrots Ret. Navy Commander John Bennett Wells, who is representing Sommers:

[Wells] said there is no doubt in his mind that the U.S. military is discriminating against Christians — and specifically his client. “There’s no question about it,” Wells told Fox News. “Because he is religious, because he feels that homosexual conduct is wrong for religious reasons, he is basically being persecuted.”

What got Sommers in hot water with his superiors? It wasn’t one thing in particular, but a string of behaviors, opinions, and utterances over time. For instance:

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