NY Times Covers Foxhole Atheist Justin Griffith’s Activism

The New York Times ran a high-visibility story on the foxhole atheist activist projects that I’ve spearheaded in the last 6 months.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — In the military, there are more than 3,000 chaplains who minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of active duty troops, regardless of their faiths. The vast majority are Christians, a few are Jews or Muslims, one is a Buddhist. A Hindu, possibly even a Wiccan may join their ranks soon.

But an atheist?

Strange as it sounds, groups representing atheists and secular humanists are pushing for the appointment of one of their own to the chaplaincy, hoping to give voice to what they say is a large — and largely underground — population of nonbelievers in the military.

Joining the chaplain corps is part of a broader campaign by atheists to win official acceptance in the military. Such recognition would make it easier for them to raise money and meet on military bases. It would help ensure that chaplains, religious or atheist, would distribute their literature, advertise their events and advocate for them with commanders.

The article goes on, going into some detail about the Military Atheists and Secular Humanists initiative, and touches on Rock Beyond Belief. There is even a section about that ghastly mandatory Spiritual Fitness testing and training. Litigation is pending, and  I am now being represented by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Overall, I enjoyed the article, and I’m grateful for the amazing visibility it provides us. The reporter, Jim Dao was obviously very dedicated to journalistic integrity, and I found it very hard to read him during his visit. At one point, I asked him his religious preference, and he said “I’m not going to answer that. It will color the way you answer my questions.” I kept prodding and poking, even tried to figure out what kind of music he liked. Stone walled poker face.

I have to admit, that I was very impressed.

Bruised Ego Tripping At the Gates of Hell

When I first read this story, I saw this quote near the end:

A high school dropout raised near Dallas, Sergeant Griffith, 28, was a passionate Christian and creationist until his teens. Now his dog tags list his religious preference as atheist, and he is pushing to create MASH chapters on as many bases as possible.

NO FAIR…I dropped out of college too!

(Sorry, Dad)

I fired off a ‘nasty-gram’  asking why that phrase was used. Mr. Dao replied to my concerns:

” Justin

First off apologies if you read it that way. It truly wasn’t meant to denigrate. If anything it underscores that you’ve gone from rebellious teenager to focused adult.”
Used with permission

You should definitely read the full article. I left out all of the best bits!

***Update: This was on the front page. Wow.***

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About Justin Griffith
  • Zachary

    Awesome. Things are coming together!!!

  • Mari

    LOVE IT!!! It really was a great article. And reading many of the comments…I loved seeing all the non-theist military members that “got” why an athiest/agnostic/humanist chaplain is needed in the military structure, esp. the one that commented that it is not just about direct support for members, but also about shaping overall policy. I also like the idea of aligning with the unitarians, but only as a foot in the door, as non-theist really need to eventually stand on their own feet. We are all so proud of you, Justin, and everyone in MASH that is working so hard! The more I talk to people on base about what is going on at Bragg, the more people are coming out, not necessarily as a non-thiest, but as people who are tired of Christianity being shoved down their throats in the military!
    The times….they are a’changin’

  • Kristy

    Justin – your writing skills are far beyond that of many college degree holders I know – Rock on man!

  • http://larianlequella.com Larian LeQuella

    I’m sure you’ve covered this before, but would you be so kind as to point me at your deconversion story? I am always interested in hearing about those since I myself have no experience in that (always having been atheist). I am always looking for ways to reach those who are shut off from reality, and I find it difficult to relate to them most of the time.


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