Just Worm Food

The toughest job in the military?

We’ve all seen it portrayed in fiction. Unfortunately, you or someone you know may have experienced it first hand. One of the hardest tasks any uniformed servicemember could ever perform: notifying the next of kin of a fallen comrade.  According to the U.S. Army, the “casualty notification team” will consist of  ”the Casualty Notification Officer and a Chaplain“. If the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 passes with an amendment introduced by New Jersey Representative Rob Andrews , an open atheist may just make up one-half of that team.

casualtynotification

The act, officially known as House Resolution 1960, contained an amendment authorizing Atheists and Humanists to become chaplains in all branches of the armed forces.  This seemingly benign amendment, as with most actions seeking to treat atheists as human beings, pissed off conservatives.

Perhaps the most egregious objection to the amendment was offered by Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas:

“I can’t imagine an atheist accompanying a notification team as they go into some family’s home to let them have the worst news of their life and this guy says, ‘You know, that’s it — your son’s just worms, I mean, worm food.’”  

Frankly, I find Mr. Conaway’s assertion insulting. Atheists hold many of the same values and beliefs religious people hold, we just don’t view it in the framework of a supernatural deity and an afterlife. Rather than making empty promises of an afterlife, I’d picture an atheist chaplain comforting the family with the notion that their loved one died serving something greater than themselves and saving the life of their brothers and sisters in arms.

saluteslide3

Thankfully, reason and sanity were restored by Adam Smith of Washington State:

“To say that an atheist or a humanist doesn’t believe anything is just ignorant”

You can watch a clip of the debate over the amendment here.

Unsurprisingly, the amendment failed to pass the House Armed Services Committee, which is dominated by a political party openly hostile to the rights of atheists.

 

The Resurrection

Fortunately, the calls and emails from freethinkers and their supporters from all over the country made an impact: The amendment will be reintroduced when the bill is debated before the entire house tomorrow.

TAKE ACTION!takeaction

The bill may be voted on tomorrow, but there’s still time to make an impact. Call or email your congressman and let them know that you support equal treatment for non-believers.

 

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About Casey Leavings
  • steve84

    It was a Christian officer who told the Tillman family that they couldn’t accept his death because they didn’t believe in an afterlife.

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20060728_worm_dirt/

  • Juniper Ann

    “I can’t imagine an atheist accompanying a notification team as they go into some family’s home to let them have the worst news of their life and this guy says, ‘You know, that’s it — your son’s just worms, I mean, worm food.’”

    This statement only makes sense if Mr. Conaway believes at least one of the following:

    A) Christian chaplains waltz into the homes of fallen Hindu soldiers and breezily inform the parents that they shouldn’t worry because their child is with Jesus. Naturally, atheists will behave the same.

    B) Christians don’t act like that, but atheists are nothing like Christians, possibly not even the same species, and don’t know what this alien concept of “emm-path-eeee” is.

    C) Neither Christians nor atheists are capable of empathizing with people with other beliefs, but the first is good and the second is bad because only Christians have feelings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KacyRay kacyray

    “To say that an atheist or a humanist doesn’t believe anything is just ignorant”

    Right on the money. That’s why I reject the designation “non-believer”. I believe just as strongly as theists do, I just believe different things. I like to turn it around and call them non-believers in fact… since they typically reject science and the efficacy of reason. As far as I’m concerned, that makes them non-believers.

    I can tell you … if they actually allowed Humanists and Atheists into the ranks of the Chaplaincy, I would be ecstatic.

    On the ship I’m on right now, just before taps each night, a Chaplain says an evening prayer (which is often preceded by a personal message which sometimes takes the form of a mini-sermon). What I would not give to be able to hear a skeptic come over the intercom one night and preach the good news that none of us were born condemned and that no one needs a savior.

  • Francisco Bacopa

    I have seen many people grieve the loss of a loved one. Belief in God and Heaven barely seems to make a difference. They suffer as we who believe they become worm food do. Sometimes they suffer more as suffer more than we do as their religious friends try to cheer them up with “he’s in a better place” and other platitudes. Such talk does not address grief. People grieve over loss of relationships, the loss of possible futures. Heaven cannot console this.

  • http://atheistpassivist.wordpress.com/ Kilian Hekhuis

    The YouTube link didn’t work for me, something about not being available “in your country”. This one works for me though: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tTIQ8pkGf0

  • http://www.facebook.com/KacyRay kacyray

    @4 –

    Sometimes they suffer more as suffer more than we do as their religious friends try to cheer them up with “he’s in a better place” and other platitudes. Such talk does not address grief. People grieve over loss of relationships, the loss of possible futures. Heaven cannot console this.

    You’re absolutely right. And I had personal experience that stamped the truth of that in my mind.

    In 2011 I had to bury both of my parents when they died together in a car crash while on vacation. My uncle, who has always been the “spiritual patriarch” of my exclusively fundamentalist family eulogized them just before I did. His entire eulogy consisted of reading biblical passages that were ostensibly intended to provide consolation, and he fought back tears the entire time reading it, as most of my family bawled their eyes out.

    Then it was my turn. All I did was go up there and tell their story, and what it was like being their only biological child. I shared memories of their lives, and special moments that we all had shared. I emphasized the best things they had done (adopting 4 handicapped children was at the top of the list) and I was very deliberate about not painting them out to be perfect saints in the process.

    The end result? By the time I sat down, people were actually *smiling and laughing*, with tears still in their eyes.. but they were tears of catharsis… and talking to each other about how fondly they remembered those stories and how fondly the memories would always be held.

    It was a sad day, but I’ll never forget my wife mentioning to me how palpable the change was in the atmosphere. Bottom line – all of the religious wishing and wailing and promises in the world can’t hold a candle to the peace and comfort of knowing that a life well-lived is plenty enough reward.

    As Carl Sagan liked to point out – we’re all fortunate just to have even been a part of this experience.


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