I get Email… and on this day, so did every other person on the entire post.
And it didn’t even come from a Chaplain’s e-mail address, rather the command itself. Which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if it weren’t so overwhelmingly one-sided. This is the same post that denied me the opportunity to distribute Atheist cupcakes or host an Ask An Atheist Night event.
A bit of good news came of this though. I sent a letter replying to the command group about the inappropriate nature of endorsing a religion, and the past issues with being denied such an opportunity. I mentioned my desire to talk to them about this, and how I think we could avoid contacting FFRF, MRFF, AU, ACLU. I did mention that I was the Military Director for American Atheists, but that I was coming to them as a Soldier with an issue they needed to address.
They initially over-reacted and stopped all chaplain messages altogether (including ones with a brilliant Chaplain I’ll be writing about in the future who really does get it.) It turns out that the command had changed hands since I had attempted to get some atheist visibility, and the new command was more than willing.
So I withdrew my claims of favoritism for the current command, and accepted their promise to support all points of view equally. Unfortunately, by this time I was a ‘short-timer’ and had little chance to re-approach the command with my previous atheist-themed events. They also seemed intent on being vigilant and sensitive to what they send out going forward.
But there were other issues too.
I’m extremely proud that Mikey Weinstein at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation‘s efforts with the Air Force resulted in the AF banning all of these types of messages coming from anywhere but a Chapel / Chaplain (and urged commanders not to ever endorse them). This really is the only sensible way that the armed forces can operate, as by definition most faiths really are mutually exclusive. That prohibits effective communication when adhering to the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.
“Think about it. What if a Satanist had seen the flyer?” I asked the command.
“In fact, there was one. And we can’t really argue with you there.” Was their response. I’m grateful for sanity!
There are logical implications too.
If you detect Satan, you are essentially detecting a supernatural entity. I didn’t attend the sermons, but I just have to assume he babbled about ‘reversing the polarity of your proton pack’ and ‘crossing streams to trap the ectoplasm’. Watch out for Slimer!
Liars for Jesus and how to detect them
The chaplain who sent this out, ‘Chaplain C.’ had a conversation with me a few days earlier. He had just met me, and I introduced myself as an atheist interested in attending ‘dinner with the chaplains’ and other opportunities that aren’t necessarily sectarian. It was pretty weird.
Justin Griffith: “I’m an atheist…blah blah blah”
Chaplain C.: “I used to be a Satanist, then I became an atheist for years…”
Justin Griffith: “Wait a second. So you were a Satanist, as in ‘magic spells’ and casting fireballs, summoning demons, etc.?”
Chaplain C. nodded… despite the fact that I knew most Satanists don’t really believe this stuff, I knew that Christians think they do.
Justin Griffith: “So you realized that +5 fire damage was all bullshit, and nothing ever happened when you cast death spells on people? And then you became an atheist?”
Chaplain C.: “Well, I realized all of the negative effects it started bringing.”
My bullshit detector couldn’t take anymore. So I politely ended the conversation and went home.
Note: I obfuscated some minor identifying details on the image at the top. This story had an overall positive outcome, so there is no need to drag names through the mud. Good job commanders, and the other Chaplain!