Fort Bragg approves on-post atheist festival, Rock Beyond Belief

On March 31st, 2012, Fort Bragg will be hosting Rock Beyond Belief with the full support it was promised. This just might be the turning point in the foxhole atheist community’s struggle for acceptance, tolerance and respect. It’s an amazing time to be a non-believer in the U.S. Military on the cusp of a major break-through.

March 31st 2012 is Rock Beyond Belief's official date!

The public is invited, free of charge, to see this revolution begin to bear fruit. Our key-note speaker, Richard Dawkins regularly draws crowds in the thousands, especially in the so-called Bible Belt. On the rare occasions where his lectures and speeches are free, he sells out the capacity even faster than usual. None of this will be a problem for us, as our venue – the Fort Bragg Main Post Parade Field is home to the annual 4th of July celebration, with tens of thousands of attendees. The rest of our equally solid lineup may fluctuate slightly, and details will emerge in the next week or so.

Weather permitting, the Fort Bragg’s prestigious Golden Knights parachute team have been requested for an epic jump. I can’t say much more at this point, but some atheists may just be falling out of the freaking sky (with parachutes).

A talented singer and foxhole atheist volunteered for the honor of singing the National Anthem. Let us know if you are interested!

Child care is being worked out, and a ‘kiddie land’ will be available with bounce houses and face painting. Vendors are going to be hawking godless books, stickers, t-shirts and of course food and drinks. No word yet on ‘ceremonial beer‘, I’ll get back to you on that! And you can bet on a large presence from just about every large secular organization.

A mystery-celebrity is vowing to throw an unforgettable warm-up party a few days beforehand. (Sorry, can’t talk about fight club.)

Hate the game not the changer.

While the fate of seemingly much easier projects still remain unclear, I’m extremely happy to present this news to the world. This is a huge step in the right direction. So much has changed since we began this journey. There is a palpable momentum building, and it’s good to finally have a tangible success in our movement.

Colonel Sicinski, Fort Bragg’s Garrison Commander has now approved the event in full, and we’re extremely grateful to him for this opportunity. Many will remember the tumultuous nature of the lengthy approval process, as evidenced by visible scars on this website. But this is one opportunity to sheath the sword rather than fall on it. Over the next few days, I will be drastically changing much of the contents of static pages like the “about” page, as well as the side-bar widgets to reflect the new situation at Fort Bragg.

I will continue to bring you news of the positive developments on the ground at Fort Bragg. I’ll also continue to update you about the rest of the struggles facing the military’s secular community. The local group of military/civilian atheists is still banned from even meeting on post by Army regulations until we navigate the increasingly difficult approval process from the Chaplaincy. Now that Marines, Sailors, and Airmen are also beginning to take those mandatory Spiritual Fitness tests (and associated hours of remedial training) – it’s clear that we still have quite a lot of work to do.

If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make change.

Obviously it is possible to affect change. Relentless determination and genuine optimism allowed us to fearlessly step into the national foray like this. Only your continued interest and support can ensure that we do not lose this momentum. Please help us spread the word, and please come out and see us!

Though we can’t raise any funds at the event, we are going to be setting up a canned-food drive for the homeless. Many homeless people are Vietnam War era military veterans, often struggling with decades of what is now known as PTSD. Please bring in what you can. More details to come in the next few months.

Take a look at all of the organizations and names attached to the sidebar on the right. Each one of them went to bat for us in various ways. If you’re not already a member of a local, or national organization, you should consider joining one (or more!). I was once skeptical of the concept, but I promise you it can be one of the most rewarding things you could possibly do.

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About Justin Griffith
  • http://www.rationalskepticism.org Paul Weaver

    Congratulations, SGT Griffith, and thanks for your perseverance!

    • Don Miller

      110% agree. I’ll drive up from Alabama, thrilled to support freedom of thought and speech. Non-military don’t always know the pressures one goes through when standing up for one’s minority opinion. I salute you, Sgt. Griffith. — Don Miller, Maj, USAF(ret)

  • Jared Sigley

    This is great news. I ETS in January and will be moving back to the East Coast so I am looking forward to be able to attend this.

  • Kit Hope

    Looking forward to it. Anybody want to carpool from Washington, DC?

  • Rebecca “Zeek” Essenpreis

    Excellent news! I’m emailing my deployed husband in Afghanistan to share the good news and begin making plans to attend in March.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rockbeyondbelief/members/justin/ Justin Griffith

      AWESOME!

  • Grimwyrd

    Great news, and very well done!

  • Brad Hoover

    I have been following your blog for a month, and what you had to endure to get your event treated equally has baffled, and engraged me at times. Religion and the CF is not nearly as closely tied as it seems to be in the US. I am glad your event has finally been given “equal” status. As of right now, I plan on making the 14 hour drive down to support the event. I am a member of the Canadian Army, based out of Kingston Ontario and I will happily drive down to support you, and all other Atheists in the US Armed Forces.

  • Eric Amundrud

    Bring it on! I need a ride from St. Petersburg, Florida. Any takers? I will help with gas at least and other expenses, if possible. Please contact me at eric_amundrud@yahoo.com

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/SamWiseGingy?feature=mhee Sam Wise Gingy

    I can’t wait. Perhaps Seattle Atheists will get a booth.

  • http://yawningdogblog.wordpress.com/ Kate

    Fantastic news! Congratulations on all your hard work!

  • Sean O’Doherty

    Congratulations, well done!

  • Chuck Rairdan

    You guys are awesome! Keep up the great work. It’s way past time to turn the tide and ensure equal treatment for all faiths, including those who “just ain’t buying it”.

  • Bill Lloyd

    Justin, you’re a great voice not only for military non-believers, but for atheists everywhere. Thanks for everything you do. You’re a great example to follow.

  • Lucas

    there are A TON of punk and metal bands that would probably love to play this event. i would specifically look into the Maryland doom scene (Earthride, Shrinebuilder) and the Florida death metal scene (Deicide, Six Feet Under) because they are likely to live closer.

  • Old_Warhorse

    Congratulations! Since I’m on the opposite side of the country and won’t be able to attend, I hope you post links to buy tickets to be donated to the local USO, which is what I would like to do in support.

    • http://www.rationalskepticism.org Paul Weaver

      It’s a free event …

  • http://www.alysion.org Sue

    This is ab AMAZING breakthrough! I hope to see S. AZ non-believers on the move. Fort Huachuca and Davis Monthan Air Force Base look out!

  • karen

    Congratulations on this success!

  • Andrew

    Carpool from Wisconsin? This would mean so much to me. I thought I was alone.

  • Jane Minner

    I thank everyone who has been involved in achieving Colonel Sicinski’s approval for the Rock Beyond Belief concert. You are correct, Justin. This is an exciting time for all secular people in the USA. No longer do we have to hide our nonbelief for fear of reprisal as we have in the past. On a flight to Denver last year, I struck up a conversation with a Canadian concerning our struggle to maintain the separation of church/state. She commented that the Canadians are flummoxed by the whole need for a struggle to maintain this separation in the USA. That in Canada, separation of church/state is upheld by law; and therefore, no need for any struggle to maintain it. I pondered moving to Canada for awhile. Hope to see you at the concert! Jane

  • beerslayer

    Perhaps there’s hope for the good ol’ U. S. of A. after all!

    Well done, Mr. Griffith!

  • jn

    Great news for all freedom lovers it’s great to be alive in these moments.

  • Bob Lembke

    Just saw this in the NY Times. Very heartening to see this effort. Have previously heard of the effort of Col. Weinstein to combat the very agressive “Christian” athmosphere at the Air Force Academy. Also read of Muslim soldiers in physical danger in barracks. The freedom of expression effort is a welcome related issue.

    Bob Lembke

  • http://www.goddiscussion.com Deborah

    This is fantastic news, Justin. You’ve fought a great fight, and deserve tremendous success with Rock Beyond Belief. Congratulations!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rockbeyondbelief/members/justin/ Justin Griffith

      DEBORAH!!! We need to talk! Everything was so hectic when you were pulling 3 day shifts for us, and I was ‘traveling’… I never got the chance to properly thank you! You rock!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bob Hayden

    The brainwashing during the Korean War pales in comparison to that done by religion to children and continued by governments. Congratulations of trying to put a stop to all the nonsense.

  • Lacey Michelle Simon

    I asked about the beer myself first. no d

    Major stride forward though considering the other news I’ve read.

    I’m especially touched about the can food drive for the homeless, and the awarenessa about the PTSD. d

    Keep writing. d a.

  • Craig O’connor

    Congratulations! This is good news. Regardless of ones opinion of atheism, it is important that all beliefs, including the belief that life is material and subject to natural law, be allowed equal and open expression not only in our military but everywhere. It is a supreme symbol of the freedoms that are being attacked by religious fundamentalists abroad and at home. Weather it is 9/11 or shooting an abortion doctor in Kansas, religious intolerance is the opposite of what America stands for. As an atheist, I have felt the intolerance and the prejudice, and from what is occasionally in the news about the pro-Christian atmosphere in the armed forces, this can only be a good step in the right direction. Religious freedom means to right to participate in any organized or personal religion, as well as the right to not do so, free of harassment. if I lived anywhere close to ft. Bragg, I’d be there in a heartbeat.

  • Tim Brown

    Unbelievable achievement. Way to go!

    Best Wishes,
    Tim (ex-Marine Atheist)

  • Toryn

    Is the mystery celebrity Bill Maher? Please?! How awesome would that be?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rockbeyondbelief/members/justin/ Justin Griffith

      Nope. That would be pretty awesome though!

      • Matt G

        As long as he isn’t spewing anti-vaccine nonsense….

  • http://yashwata.info Roy Sablosky

    Compared to the speakers, the music looks weak. I’d bet that 90% of the following are atheists — why not ask some of them?

    Tori Amos, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Richard Buckner, Shawn Colvin, Sheryl Crow, Death Cab for Cutie, Liz Durrett, Grizzly Bear, Iron & Wine, Jimmy Eat World, Leo Kottke, the Dave Matthews Band, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, the National, Outkast, Passion Pit, R.E.M., School of Seven Bells, Spoon, Lucinda Williams… c’mon, help me out here…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rockbeyondbelief/members/justin/ Justin Griffith

      Tried to contact many of these. Of the ones that weren’t impossible to get a hold of, none were willing to come or were too expensive to book. The Flaming Lips, Bad Religion, a few others were willing but fell through for various reasons. Also, ummmm I’m trying the best I can (…?) I’m deployed, active duty, new father, and our team faces the same issues. Do you have any idea how hard this was to pull together in our off duty time? “Your face is weak” :)

  • R C Powell

    Well done! If I can get there I will do so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kreepygur1 Andrea Salazar

    Love it! I should be getting back from deployment around that time and would find it amazing to attend!

  • john bearden

    AIRBORNE!!!


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