More Congressional Insensitivity to Atheists and More Ignorance

Anne here….

It just doesn’t stop. The stupidity rife through the ranks of our elected officials, I mean.

Despite the fact that nonreligious make up as much as a third of our young people, and the fact that the numbers of the nonreligious are growing, Congress just can’t get its collective head out of its collective ass long enough to realize that by saying the rude, insensitive things about nonreligious people, they aren’t making anything better.

Wednesday, New Jersey Democratic Rep. Rob Andrews offered an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that would allow humanists or members of ethical culture groups to join the chaplain corps. Andrews’ idea was to help members of the military who don’t believe in God, but want someone to talk to about things without having to seek a doctor or a psychotherapist – something that can kill a military career, or so I’m told.

Not surprisingly, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee objected vehemently. These idiots don’t think that non-religious people can offer something similar to spiritual counseling, much less be humanistic or ethical in their interactions with grieving families, dying soldiers, or nonreligious personnel dealing with angsty issues. In fact, these ignorant jackasses actually said that humanists and ethicists would offend dying soldiers or their families – never mind that those dying soldiers or their families might be just as offended by a Christian chaplain telling them they are in in the hands of a god they don’t believe in.

Atheists “don’t believe anything,” said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-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.'” This guy just makes me see red.

If someone is a humanist chaplain, that is not something he or she would say. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” comes to mind. Or, “Who can we call to be with you at this difficult time?” Or, “I feel the tragedy of your [son or daughter’s] loss. What can I do to help you through this difficult time?” Not “Oh, hey, your kid died. He’s worm food. See ya.” What a jackass to even think such a thing. And a humanist chaplain isn’t the only type of humanist who wouldn’t say that. Frankly, I can’t imagine anyone saying that to someone who is dying or who has just lost a loved one.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) wasn’t much better than his Texas colleague. “This I think would make a mockery of the chaplaincy,” he said. “The last thing in the world we would want to see was a young soldier who may be dying and they’re at a field hospital and the chaplain is standing over that person saying to them, ‘If you die here, there is no hope for you in the future.'”

The complete arrogance of thinking that any nonbeliever even wants his version of heaven after death just astounds me. This is the ultimate in self-absorbed idiocy.

But then there’s Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the committee, who called the jackasses out. He said that atheists and humanists do in fact have strong belief systems that they value just as much as Christians value theirs. And he pointed out that there are many atheists in the military, famously the late NFL star Pat Tillman, who died in friendly fire in Afghanistan.

“To say that an atheist or a humanist doesn’t believe anything is just ignorant,” said Smith. “The response to the gentleman’s amendment makes me feel all the more the necessity of it.”

Hear, Hear!

The amendment appeared to lack the votes needed to pass on the GOP-majority committee, but maybe that was just because the jackasses brayed louder than those who are sensitive to the needs of all servicemen, religious or not.

Here’s a little letter I penned in response to Rep. Conaway’s remarks. I faxed it to his office today.

Rep. Michael Conaway
11th District, Texas
2430 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Via Facsimile to (202) 225-1783

Dear Rep. Conaway:

I just saw a video of your remarks pertaining to humanist and ethicist chaplains in the military. I am disgusted and upset by them.

Your comments show absolutely no insight into the emotional needs of a person who is non-religious or is not affiliated with a particular religion. Your words were insensitive, arrogant, and dead wrong. They show a complete lack of empathy for anyone who might think about death and dying in a way other than your particular way.

People who do not believe in a god or who do not adhere to the practices of a formal, recognized religion do not refer to the dead as “worm food” when comforting grieving families or when comforting a dying person. In fact, I cannot imagine that anyone would do that.

According to the Pew Forum on Public Policy and Religion, as many as one-third of people under 30 do not adhere to any particular religion or are nonbelievers. These people are serving in the military right now. By denying them a chaplain who can talk to them about ethical or humanist practices without religion, you deny them access to emotional and ethical support other than through medical personnel. This is something provided to religious members of the military.

Your position is that of an ignorant jackass – you bray loudly about something you obviously know nothing about. Please educate yourself as to what atheism, humanism and ethicism is before you say that atheists, humanists and ethicists believe in “nothing.” “Nothing” could not be further from the truth.

I am not in your state, much less in your district, so I won’t have the pleasure of voting against you in the next election. Believe me, though, I will use every platform available to me to broadcast your rank stupidity and your crass insensitivity to the needs of nonreligious members of the military.

Anne Orsi

I wrote a similar one to Rep. Fleming. I may write the rest of the committee.

I may send Reps. Andrews and Smith flowers, though.


Got a legal question? Email me at I’m a lawyer, but there’s only a 2% chance I’m licensed in your state. Whether I answer your question or not, sending me an email or reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. I’m on Twitter as @aramink, and you can see my regular blog at, where I write book reviews, ruminate on Life, the Universe, and Everything, and occasionally – frequently – rant about Stuff.

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