How a non-theist Soldier fails mandatory Spirituality test

Ed Brayton’s popular ScienceBlog: Dispatches From the Culture Wars has been very nice to Rock Beyond Belief. Ed has posted about what we are trying to do with our festival, and has even graciously agreed to emcee the event. Since I broke the dreadful Soldier Fitness Tracker survey story last week, a lot of attention has been devoted to that topic all over the internet. Ed’s latest article about that story sparked some interesting commentary that made me realize that people didn’t understand how I failed the test.

So I’m explicitly detailing exactly how and why I answered the way I did..

How Justin Griffith answered the Soldier Fitness Tracker survey

I understand that some of you out there, atheists included would answer differently on these questions, but I’m aware of many that answer even ‘lower’ Spiritually. Just so you know, there were several pages of questions, all on a sliding scale of 1 to 5 (1=not like me at all, through 5=very much like me). Additionally, out of the pages and pages and pages of questions, only five were about Spirituality. Which is given equal weighting with “Family” “Social” and “Emotional” (the “Physical” aspect is implying that all soldiers exercise already, and this GAT/SFT nonsense is supplementing it holistically.)

Let me make this clear. I did not answer ‘all 1′.

In fact, let me show you exactly how and why I answered each question. (Emphasis mine)

1) I am a spiritual person.

This one is easy. 1 out of 5

2) My life has lasting meaning.

Here, I had a problem with the awkward construction of the question. What do they mean by ‘lasting’? As I said before, I thought about it, and answered logically and honestly. I thought about Abraham Lincoln, and how his life definitely had a ‘lasting’ meaning. But then I thought, “What is Abe’s father/mother’s name? Nobody remembers them…”

Then I looked at my own life, and decided that I’m not currently on par with historical figures (including celebrities, etc…basically even famous people.) HOWEVER, I did see that it was possible that my life could hypothetically become important and ‘lasting’ in this sense. But I doubted the likelihood, based on sheer statistics.

So I answered 2 out 5

3) I believe that in some way my life is closely connected to all humanity and all the world.

This one is again the victim of awkward sentence construction. Not to mention it reeks of theological woo. This sentence doesn’t make sense to me. How am I supposed to be “closely connected to all humanity”? Is that even possible? 6 Billion of my closest friends all live with me on Earth?

If I am closely connected to all humanity, then how do I reconcile the fact that is potentially my job to kill some of them? This is disturbing, illogical, and I want it to go away.

1 out of 5

4) The job I am doing in the military has lasting meaning.

Again, we are looking at the metaphysical implications of the word ‘lasting’ unless you mean that word as ‘historical’ (which is how I chose to take it. Because reality is well, real.) I’m not Patton, Yorke, Powell, Churchill…etc.

Is it possible that someday my military career will have LASTING historical impact? Yes. Is it likely? No.

2 out of 5

5) I believe there is a purpose for my life.

This one is better. Yes there is certainly a purpose for my life. There are a plurality of purposes, to include serving my country, being a husband (father in the next few weeks), standing up for what’s right… etc.

And even if we are talking about “I believe there is a purpose for life in general”, I still say yes. As I choose to understand the world, life (all forms of it) have at least this one purpose: to make more life. It is my responsibility as a human, as an earthling, as a conscious being to act in a way that is conducive towards more/better/longer life in all reasonable ways.

5 out of 5, and would have been 10 out of 5 if I could.

Okay. So, given that lengthy explanation of how I answered (which I think is a reasonable way to answer), how could I *not* be offended by this results screen:

You may click here at any time to connect with a counselor who is ready to assist you with a problem that requires immediate attention. Also, you may dial 1-800-XXX-XXXX to speak with someone immediately.

WTF, overSpiritual Fitness

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. Nevertheless, who you are and what you do matter. There are things to do to provide more meaning and purpose in your life. Improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal. Change is possible, and the relevant self-development training modules will be helpful. If you need further help, please do not hesitate to seek out help from the people you care about and trust – strong people always do. Be patient in your development as it will take time to improve in this area. Still, persistence is key and you will improve here if you make this area a priority.

Not to mention the lengthy remedial training I have been doing (hours of online spiritual fitness training not sure how ‘mandatory’ this training is, but it’s certainly possible)… And trust me that training is absolutely swimming in religion. This thing needs to go.

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About Justin Griffith
  • William

    Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. This is how cults recruit people, like Scientology. Ask you a question, however trivial seeming, and then use your answer to convince you that something is “wrong” with you. But it’s Okay, they’ll say, we can help you, just read this book and sign this check…

    I would laugh if it wasn’t the military doing it. What kind of things are you seeing in this “remedial” training?

  • Kristy

    This is an excellent explanation. Logical. Rational. Instead, perhaps, there is something wrong with a person that thinks they are a “special unique snowflake” in a world of soon to be 7 billion people.

  • kitty

    I agree with you.
    The U S Military, which is supposed to be all inclusive and secular, is wrong to have this assessment so worded. How utterly offensive and degrading.
    GOOD FOR YOU for exposing this. May the changes be forthcoming!

  • Marcus

    I failed it over a year ago and they haven’t done anything about it. There’s no other option for an atheist than failing it.

    • Justin

      Unfortunately, many units are doing something about Spiritual Fitness failures. There are some that have been forced to see Chaplains so they ‘don’t commit suicide on their 1SG’s watch’, and then have that chaplain tell them to get ‘born again in Christ’ to improve their spiritual fitness. There are many more, like SGT Dustin Chalker, 3 time purple heart recipient, who have been forced to not only do the online training (which is mandatory, despite CSF’s claims), but also sit through real-life classroom training. This whole thing is ugly man, and are you aware that your answers / failure is directly being used to justify the allocation of money and resources for more spiritual fitness initiatives? It’s disgusting, and it needs to stop.


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