Jesus, Camp Pendleton! 2nd foxhole atheist festival announced

My name is Paul Loebe and I am a Marine Sergeant. I am stationed at Camp Pendleton and I am an atheist. I’m working on this:

Camp Pendleton San Diego, CA | Rock Beyond Belief 2 2013

In the beginning

I spent a quarter century of my life heavily involved in church as a Bible-thumping believer. Then came the fateful day when I began to compare the teachings of the Bible alongside historical and scientific data and my path towards recognizing my cognitive dissonance began. Needless to say the mindless drivel that guides religious faith fell apart before my eyes and I was left feeling lost, alone, and without a sense of purpose in my life. Once the emotional drama within me faded and I began to look at the world without faith I saw it enshrined with a beauty that had been hidden by the blinders of “childlike faith”.

That was three years ago. In the last six months I discovered I am not alone. I had no knowledge of a secular community. I had no knowledge that fellow atheists existed around the world. I had no knowledge that you were all as convicted and passionate as I.

First contact

I first contacted Justin Griffith to express my adulation that 39% of my platoon consisted of non-believers or atheists. This astounding statistic surprised me to say the least. During that brief conversation I expressed an intense interest in continuing on with the momentum of the event that Justin had put on in Fort Bragg, NC. Perhaps it was the conviction in my voice or the manner in which I expressed no fear of repudiation in the fight for equality that I was about to embark upon but he fervently threw his support behind me.

Justin explained that the powerful Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) had actually stopped doing massive evangelical festivals on military bases in response to his atheist event. He seemed reluctant to ‘just do a festival’ for the sake of doing a festival. I was about to deliver him bad news: BGEA was not the only game in town.

Jesus Camp – Pendleton edition

I knew that Camp Pendleton had a very cozy relationship with a multitude of church organizations and that that was only the tip of the iceberg. As I researched more and more I became disturbed at just how many different units were directly involved with the Christian indoctrination aboard Camp Pendleton.

The largest organization in question is the Armor of Light. They are an offshoot of the Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. It took me quite a bit of digging to connect the dots between these organizations and their extremely close relationships with units aboard Camp Pendleton. Allow me to entertain you quickly with a brief history of this specific church.

–It was founded in 1965 by Chuck Smith and in 1968 quickly turned into a megachurch movement with their Pentecostal brand of fundamental evangelism.

Jesus Camp - Camp Pendleton–They have spawned over 1,000 churches and are very influential in the Southern California area…especially aboard Camp Pendleton.

–In 1980 the entire church stood by awaiting the world’s end with a candlelight vigil on new year’s eve because of a ‘revelation’ that Pastor Smith received from Jesus. Well, I’m guessing you can figure out how that turned out.

–CCCM is so extreme that the son of Chuck Smith was ‘disowned’ by his father’s church for being open, accepting, and loving to people outside of their rigid belief system when he opened a liberal church of his own just down the street from his father.

–The military outreach program is the Armor of Light. They are deeply embedded within individual units, sponsor family days, prayer days, concerts, and rallies all aboard base with the explicit permission of Camp Pendleton.

–US Government facilities and active-duty personnel are being utilized on a massive scale with alarming frequency.

We can do this the easy way…

To be quite honest with you I could care less what people choose to believe. I could care less how people choose to live their lives. I could care less who or what people worship as long as they allow me the same privileges afforded under the constitution. But sometimes we don’t always get what we want. And then there’s stubborn individuals like myself who refuse to take “no” for an answer. I froth at the mouth when I’m told my beliefs don’t rate equally.

I began corresponding with the Marine Corps Community Services in order to see exactly what I would need in order to get an event aboard Camp Pendleton that would serve the needs of the “godless”: the non-theists, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and freethinkers. I was met with trepidation and given no clear answer as to exactly what I would need to have a successful event.

Given limited resources and minimal assistance on precisely how to get an approved event put together I proceeded to get the funding required and got American Atheists on board. With the assistance of friends, a list was put together with potential talent. I continued to feed information to the base organizers and received little to no indication on whether or not I was moving ahead to properly get the event put together. Basically, I was being ignored. I’m guessing they didn’t take me seriously.

Or we can do this the hard way

After two weeks of this they finally did take notice! American Atheists submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on the activities that took place on base involving the Christian organizations and churches that put together concerts, family days, prayer breakfasts, food drives, and luncheons; many of them held during working hours.

The very next day I was called into the office and stood tall while getting yelled at for over an hour. Assaulted with claims of improper political activity and jumping the chain of command I was ordered to cease all activity for the event. I was denied the very rights I was serving my country to defend! I immediately began filing paperwork to speak directly to the Commanding Officer and Justin Griffith and others in the foxhole atheist community got me in touch with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and its founder Mikey Weinstein.

Immediately after submitting my paperwork and becoming a MRFF  client, the illogical order to stop my attempts to celebrate with my peers who share my religious preference was rescinded. The Marine Corps has graciously accepted the offer to work with me on putting together the next Rock Beyond Belief.

However, some of the statements they are making are troubling. They might not allow it to happen and their reasons are alarmingly ludicrous and beyond my comprehension: from the fact that there are no atheist chaplains, to the ‘fact’ that there is no precedent for an event like this (untrue), and the illegality of not supporting my religious preference as they have supported the Christians which goes in direct violation of the Joint Ethics Regulation that guides all branches of the military. Justin tells me that he fought all of these battles too. His advice has essentially helped me sidestep a year’s worth of scrambling.

With the help of organizations like MRFF and AA, the freethinking community, liberal Christians, the organizations that stand for liberty, and the public at large I will not stop and will not rest until those of us; the skeptics, the freethinkers, the liberty hounds, the philosophers, the empiricists, those who claim “I don’t believe”, and those who claim “I don’t know” are afforded the same opportunities.

I need your help! I cannot do this alone. Spread the word. Come out to the free festival – civilians are welcome. More details will be forthcoming, but here are a few great reasons to make the trip:

Nate Phelps – Greta Christina – Dave Silverman – Michael Shermer

I’ll be bringing you frequent updates about the upcoming Rock Beyond Belief 2. I’ll See you at Camp Pendleton summer 2013.

-Paul Loebe

Disclaimer: Although I am an active duty Marine Sergeant I do not speak on behalf of the U.S. Marine Corps, the Department of Defense, or any affiliated branches.

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About Paul Loebe
  • Mike de Fleuriot

    I guess it takes more than one whack on the nose for the US Mil to understand the rules of the house.

  • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

    Awesomeness. A marine event is one they can’t blow off as easily, given the stature of Marines in american society.

  • julian

    Good luck.

    I hate every Marine I’ve ever met from Camp Pendleton but fuck it. If it’ll give me an opportunity to piss on the motto “God, Country, Corps” I will gladly find one of those assholes to stay with for this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbeberstein brentbeberstein

    this is awesome! I would love to bring my whole family! We will be there!

  • Praccuglia

    Very interesting , I used to be part of the Calvary chapel cult here in Miami . That’s we’re I became an #atheist.

    I will never forget when the “pastor” said 7 yes ago: if the rapture comes now the government will run solo! I stood up and that was the last day! I was already an atheist I just didn’t realize it at the time.

    Thank you very much for sharing

    Tweeter — Praccuglia

  • http://www.facebook.com/bluesyfish bluesyfish

    As the mother of a newly sworn in Marine with solid atheist beliefs, I am glad to find this blog and learn about your work. I have coached my son for years on being careful about revealing his atheism. I look forward to following your blog and reading all the other links and blogs of the work done by people with and ahead of you. My son will be at Camp Pendleton sometime in the next few months and I am quite relieved to find he’ll have others with whom he can share his opinions without fear of assault or punishment. Thank you so much for the work you are doing!

  • Lee

    Right on man. I’m excited to see that this is becoming an annual event. I’m really excited to see it stretch to other branches as well. Maybe next year the Navy or Air Force will take the reigns and it will continue to roll through every branch. Best of luck with everything.

  • gladiejaffe

    This is fantastic! Bringing constitutional guarantees to the brave Marines that directly protect them!! My sister and I would love to volunteer… Who shall we contact to work on this event?

  • Lady Godfrey

    This one I could logistically attend – I will be there if I can. Please try to get Tim Minchin to perform!

  • Dez

    Yay!! This will only be a couple hours from where I live. Count me in!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001598968069 sc_0371f7f781a8f9e74dab148e02e18da2

    I for one will be there and will help you in any way possible. As a former SSG US Army I am fighting my own fight as a civilian in King, NC. You can read about me here.

    You are not alone and we will draw the line taking a stand for our liberties as equal Americans.

    Steven Hewett

  • http://www.CampQuestWest.org David Diskin

    Hello! I’m from Camp Quest West here in California and we would love to be a part of this event — much like we were at the Reason Rally and regional events all over.

    Please contact me and let’s chat.

  • shanti

    THANK YOU for all that you do. The least this government could do is honor, respect, and support all of the military men and women.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    It’s a lot closer than Fort Bragg :)

  • Robin

    Check in with Penn Jillette of Penn&Teller @pennjillette on Twitter. If plans can be made far enough in advance maybe he and/or Teller could make a video appearance or be there in person. I saw a picture of an “Atheist Christmas Tree” that was decorated with pictures of famous atheists, secularists and free thinkers. That led me to think of a nativity creche that substituted a Flying Spaghetti Monster for Baby Jesus. Anybody out there up to trying it out?

  • Pierce R. Butler

    “Armor of Light” – hmmm.

    Does their material feature an M-1 Abrams tank as drawn by Thomas Kincaide?

  • Justin Griffith
  • andrewcollins

    I’m a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, reside in BC, and am an active atheist, member of CFI Canada, Vancouver Skeptics etc:

    As a British Ex-Pat the hypocrisy of the USA regarding separation of church and state astounds me. Britain is far more secular yet has an established state religion, the Church of England, which has managed to exist in a secular society without imposing itself on the populace the way Christian sects do in the US.

    Unfortunately religion is a profitable moneymaking business in the US which spawns a huge number of odious shysters. I head one speak last Wednesday, calling himself Terry Riddle, an ex-Marine, young Earth creationist. His presentation was a mass of cherry-picking, fact distortion and outright lies. I found him one of the most odious people I have ever encountered. He is in fact Mike Riddle:

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/events/bio.aspx?speaker_id=46

    The guy was not even using his correct name!

  • Cheyla

    Absolutely awesome!!!

  • Rike

    Paul Loebe, you rock! You rock beyond belief! If at all possible, we will be there!

  • Ted Rodosovich

    OO_RAH!

    Some of the fiercest warriors in history were not Christians, not Evangelicals, not Fundies. Just go to godchecker.com and take a lookie at all the gods our form of primate has created over the millenia. I am a 70 yr old partial West Pointer (2 yrs.). I boxed corps_wide (Heavywt. Brigade Champ 1960-61) along with a chap named Frank Reasoner USMC. Played pro football in the U.S. & Canada (1965-66). Lifelong buddy with Clyde William (Bill) Muter USMC. Others. Have the greatest admiration for the Marines & SEALs.

    Check out my fave god, Bumba, of Africa. His creation of the universe is the way I react to the Fundy-Evangy Christians …

    ; 7 )

  • Dakota

    I’m here on pendleton now, but unfortunately I will not be in the area next summer. I think that this is just great though and will be passing the word to as many people and Marines as I can!!!

  • Larry

    I think this is great. Justin did a great job and I admire him for his tenacity and committment, but he is only one guy. The more people who pick up the baton the better. Acceptance will come for us and isn’t that the main thing we want?

    There is one problem though with what you wrote. Did you really mean to say we are all convicted? That’s certainly something I’m trying to avoid. Perhaps you meant “committed”? Or maybe you meant we stick to our “convictions”. Just please don’t make us “convicts”.

    Good luck!!!

  • charleskellogg

    Have you contacted the San Diego Coalition of Reason yet? It is a partnership of 15 secular organizations in the San Diego area. There may be a lot of resources available to you there. As a Navy veteran and atheist, I look forward to attending this next summer.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    Quick question from a foreigner, where is this? I wouldn’t mind a holiday in the states next year and it would be fun to take in something like this if possible.

  • charleskellogg

    Graham, Camp Pendleton is just north of San Diego, Ca. Lots of other great activites available in the area.

  • redpanda

    Let me guess, it was your idiot company Gunny (former drill instructor ofc) that flipped the fuck out on you when your CO informed him you had been talking directly to the base staff?

    I hated those guys so much. Complete inability to think outside the box and do anything other than yell at people when anything doesn’t automatically fall into line. A good friend of mine is a Major, and he has the exact same opinion of them.

  • Paul Loebe

    Thanks again for all the support! I’ll keep all of you informed of updates as much as I can.

    • Ted Rodosovich

      Amen, Brother! ’bout time …

  • Marlon

    julian says:

    May 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Good luck.

    I hate every Marine I’ve ever met from Camp Pendleton but fuck it. If it’ll give me an opportunity to piss on the motto “God, Country, Corps” I will gladly find one of those assholes to stay with for this.

    ________________________________________________________________

    Can you honestly say you hate Marines? Where can a Marine who doesnt believe in God go to train?

    I will go, folks live in Cardiff. I just love the atheism.

  • Marlon

    Paul Loebe please email me. ASAP

  • http://www.facebook.com/EDGECRUSHR michaelfedo

    <–Marine, atheist, and proud of it. Just because I don't put the uniform on any more, doesn't mean I won't dig in and help make this happen.

    I was at Pendleton from 2000 to 2003. I bit my tongue and went along with the embedded Christian culture there (seriously, there is zero representation of any other faith) and once-once!- at a Marine Corps Ball I had the audacity to snicker during one Captain's way-too-long story of him finding God (ok, it was bad timing but you should have heard this guy). It's everywhere in the Corps. And when you stop and actually let your brain housing group process the thought that we are supposed to have not just separation of church and state, but you're surrounded by all these upper-level SNCO's and lifers whose midlife crisis consisted of becoming evangelical Christians..it hits you hard.

    They are everywhere and are taking part of a culture that has become corrupted.

    So fuck 'em. As Chesty once said "They are in front of us, behind us, and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us 29:1. They can't get away from us now!"

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    @charleskellogg: Thanks, California eh? That just makes me wanna be there even more. Starting to save the pennies now.

  • truthspeaker

    Larry says:

    May 20, 2012 at 4:48 am

    There is one problem though with what you wrote. Did you really mean to say we are all convicted? That’s certainly something I’m trying to avoid. Perhaps you meant “committed”? Or maybe you meant we stick to our “convictions”.

    I can’t speak for the author, but using “convicted” in that way is part of fundamentalist/evangelical Christian jargon. Like any cult, they have their own vocabulary to differentiate themselves from outsiders.

  • twincats

    I am beside myself!! I read about this year’s RBB on Ed’s and PZ’s blogs and hads a sad I couldn’t get all the way out to Ft. Bragg.

    I live in the I.E. so Pendleton is totes doable and I am making my plans now!

  • JesusChrist

    My name is Jesus and I’m agnostic and who the fuck cares? Just ROCK. Being proud of not believing something is as retarded as believing in a fake man-fairy in the sky. Are you all little girls? Shut. the. fuck. up. And. ROCK.

  • Marlon

    Dear Jesus Christ,

    You don’t exist. And never will. I am not crazy.

    B/C We rule the land

    A/D We rule once again.

    -MM

  • Paul Loebe

    You’re right. Convicted was the wrong word to use. My bad. Like I said…former fundamentalist. It takes awhile to lose the lingo ;-P

    LOL

  • navinjohnson

    Navy veteran and atheist from Orlando, FL. My family and myself will be there! Is there a way to contribute to the event?

  • http://barryleonardmusic.com PaulSven

    I did a lot of audio /video work aboard Camp Pendleton – with the band program, the Wilcox range, 11 Area Fitness Center, etc. After the wars started up, my business dried up. I enjoyed my friends in the corps but religion was simply something that wasn’t discussed unless it was Christianity.

    I am so happy about the Rock Beyond Belief events. I live in SD and will be at the event. It would be great to get some of the SD news to cover it although San Diego is so damn conservative when it comes to religion.

    Rock on!

  • http://www.facebook.com/goddesscat catburns

    “I was denied the very rights I was serving my country to defend!”

    Nothing upset me more then this statement. It’s ludicrous! You have done a wonderful job! Stay strong, keep the unfaith! I will support in anyway I can!

  • http://www.facebook.com/zachary.c.sneddon Zach Sneddon

    It’s heartening to see the burgeoning of reason in an unreasonable world. Keep us posted.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deborah.abrams2 debbieabrams

    I’m an officer in the AF (formerly AD and now a reservist at March ARB) and will retire in a few years. As I get closer to retirement, I get more and more fed up with hiding my lack of belief in a god. This rally just got me off my tush and I posted the link on my Facebook page. I will be there, no question. Before I retire I want to be surrounded by other military members like me, at least once.

  • Paul Loebe

    Debbie,

    You are awesome! Stop hiding in fear. I am also on facebook. Please add me.

  • Ken

    Bravo, Paul! I live right up the road in Temecula and I’ll do anything I can to support this event – including attending it gleefully. And great kudos to you for helping to get it up and running. If I never saw one of those obnoxious NOTW decals again, it would still be too soon.

  • http://endlesscycleuniverse.com Doug Littrell

    Great work. Keep it up! This movement is beginning to take a deep hold in many and spreading.

  • AF Capt

    Keep up the great work!! I will be there if I can.


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