Over the last three weeks I’ve been hammering home the importance of identifying as an atheist on your records. Most atheists in the military are still under the false impression that it’s not allowed. Most of us were told that “No Religious Preference” is all we can get. That hasn’t been true for at least a decade. But worse than that, “NO REL PREF” can lead to seriously fucked up consequences.
Sometime last month in reddit’s atheism comment section, I encountered a reluctant closeted atheist in the Navy. She took some harsh criticism from one of her peers for being scared. She was legitimately afraid, and that guy couldn’t relate.
I gave her some advice and showed her that she could actually do it online and nobody would have to know. But that’s not what happened. She went the direct ‘in person’ route – turning into the fear and dealing with it head on. Look what she posted last night on Reddit. This is beautiful:
Come out, come out wherever you are, indeed. You rock sodiumsilicoalumina!
ALL BRANCHES OF DoD: Click here to fix your own records in two minutes.NO-REL-PREF has got to go, brothers and sisters. The atheist community doesn’t understand it, civilian and – sadly – military alike. Please spread the following information. We really need massive visibility for this. I’m amazed at how rude and dismissive some of the comments were. But the problem is more rooted in misinformation or lack of familiarity with military culture. This is a huge deal, and here is why.
Here is the debate-ending argument against NO-REL-PREF:
For all of those who still don’t see why this is a big deal:
- Silence reinforces the culture of shame and fear.
- We are banned from meeting on posts.
- We are forced to take spiritual fitness tests (and mandatory remedial training).
- Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on converting you and your families to Christianity.
- Many chaplain-endorsing agencies have an official proselytizing policy: “We reserve the right to evangelize the un-churched.”
This list is not even close to exhausting the problems our community faces, yet it represents active discrimination on a massive scale. If nobody calls them on it, the situation festers. You can help at the local level. Stop turning the other cheek. We love the military. It’s our responsibility to make it better. It’s our duty to report violations of law and ethics. Identifying as an atheist and standing up for your rights simply makes the military a better military.
Please spread this far and wide, we’ve got to fix this misconception now.