Bad Religion T-shirt got soldier ejected from Dining Facility

Bad Religion T-shirt got soldier ejected from Dining Facility August 16, 2011

Okay, so you might be able to see this one coming. But I think you should read SGT Daniel Kloberdanz full account of the story.

He’s not screaming for anybody’s head or making a huge ordeal about it. It just came up in a conversation he and I had about a band we both like. It’s worth sharing though, and I really like his take on it.

And most importantly, I like how unafraid he is to be a foxhole atheist. More of this, please.

It started with a common theme I see in my email box, a suggestion for a band. And in case you’re thrown off by my photoshopping ‘skills’, no he wasn’t ever attempting to wear a black shirt underneath his ACU’s.

It’s great to hear that they are actually allowing the show to happen.  It would be really cool if you could get Bad Religion to play, because they are really a good match for a show for the non religious.  Greg Graffin is the lead singer as well as a professor at UC Berkley, and he recently published a book entitled Anarchy Evolution- Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God.  He could also be a very good speaker for events, if he has any free time.  But keep up the good work, and I’ll continue to tell those that I know, that in order for people to recognize that we are legitimate, we have to raise our voices and drown out the arrogance that surrounds us.

That’s a pretty awesome explanation of Bad Religion / Greg Graffin’s contribution to the scene. Also, what an eloquent and passionate call to speak up about atheism in the military.

I explained that Greg was kind enough to attempt to make it work, but his schedule didn’t allow it. It seemed like a reasonable possibility for a while. I certainly consider them to be one of my favorite bands of all time. Perhaps for the second round of Rock Beyond Belief festivals at the other bases. We’ll see…

Bad, Bad Religion

Then SGT Kloberdanz (who of course, does not speak on behalf of the Army), shared a story revolving around his Bad Religion T-shirt.

That’s too bad they can’t be there, cause I would definitely haul my but from Ft. Carson out to Bragg just to see the play on Post.  They’re one the most prolific punk bands and in more ways a positive influence on young people today.  The things that your organization stand for reminds me of this incident that happened to me in Korea.  On the weekends, especially Sundays I chose to dress very casual.  I really have no use for suits.  My favorite Sunday shirt is my Bad Religion shirt, and it really is non-offensive considering that it is a band shirt.

I had worn it into the DFAC plenty of times and the only comments that it had received on those occasions were “Hey cool shirt man” and “Bad Religion rocks.”  But this one day I walk in there and get all the way to the serving line and this E-7, that was one of the new shift managers for the DFAC, stops me and says that I need to turn my shirt inside out, or leave.  Or that I could wear one of the lost and foud shirts that they had over it.

I looked at him and asked why, and he said that it was an offensive shirt.  I told him that it’s just a band shirt, and he said “Well don’t you think that it’s offensive to have that symbol crossed out? Don’t you think that that means no Christians? I’m a Christian and feel that’s what it means.”

He was trying to appeal to me on a theistic level, so I told him that I was an atheist and he went from dark brown to a pale grey, obviously I was some kind of evil in his eyes.  I was not going to debate him on the issue because as long as he feels offended he is in the right, and I was not going to change my shirt, turn it inside out, or wear someone left behind nastiness, so I left.

It turned out that all who watched this interaction ended up being more offended by him and his reaction to me, than they ever were by my shirt.  They just couldn’t understand how my Bad Religion shirt was so much more offensive than the ones that portrayed gang violence, antisemitism, sexism, and even violence towards women, that he absolutely dismissed and never once checked or call out.  It just shows, that in the eyes of the theistic, of all the terrible things that a person can be, being a good person and an atheist is the most evil.

I swear, that when I told him that I was an atheist, he looked just like someone that had went into combat shock.  He lost the ability to speak coherently, his skin color flushed and you could almost hear his heart beating out of his chest.  His only reaction to me was absolute fear, as if I was going to steal his life, and all I wanted was some turkey and gravy.

Turkey and gravy. Not babies, folks.

I’d like to thank SGT Kloberdanz for sharing this story. I absolutely want to see more foxhole atheists sharing their experiences, be it funny, cool, happy, or even depressing. This one had a little bit of everything, and we hope that he remains safe on his current tour in Iraq. Stay strong, my man.

The truth needs to come out, and so do all the closet atheists. We need to normalize our position, otherwise we don’t even have one. In the vein of the Richard Dawkins’ Atheist Out Campaign, I’d like to invite any of my foxhole atheist brothers and sisters to share their pictures and stories too. Please indicate how ‘out’ you are, and your preferred title (if this applies).

Tell your story.

Obligatory and relevant Bad Religion video included. “Along the Way” below the fold.


Now we grow as we show that the morals we must know
Will be shapen and mistaken by the falls along the way.
But forget, don’t regret, to find love and happiness
Unless you’re willing to be strong when they are gone along the way.

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  • Michael

    “Turkey and gravy. Not babies, folks.”

    But, but, but, they’re so *tasty* when marinated right! But seriously, this from a military that taught me to run to cadences including lines like “Stab the babies in the back… put em on a roasting rack… douse em down with bar-b-que… makes em soft and easy to chew” Granted this was the John Wayne School for Boys (a.k.a. Ft. Benning) in the 1980s, but still. I know, its one glorified REMF cook who was more than likely from BFE where they didnt have “nunna them thar godless commie athiests, just good church-goin folk.”

    The real crime is not just that hillbillies like that are still so common in the service, but that they are allowed to enforce their religious opinions on others.

    • I tend to agree with the people who replied to you about stereotyping religious people as ‘dumb’ or rednecks etc.

      Hillbilly-gate aside, I knew what you were getting at. I laughed. I’m pretty sure you were referring to the one in your own story, anyway. Sounds like that particular one was indeed a hillbilly.

  • Bill Daniels

    @michael…and then you just stereotyped every person that lives in rural areas with that last comment. You are no beyer than those you just criticized with those comments. I would have agreed with you if not for that. This world has all types from all walks of life. Being prior service, you should know this. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and belief, including those “hillbillies”!

  • Daniel Kloberdanz

    The NCO that I encountered that day was not some dumb religious hillbilly. I’m sure he was in some ways acting upon many of the honest foundations of the NCO Corps. From his demeanor, I could tell that he was another one of those men that was “Born Again”. Basically, when he came in the Army, he was a young Black American male, looking for a better life, and a personal identity, beyond that which he would find outside the Army. He like many others, do come from fairly religious backgrounds. When they come into the Army the have this religious epiphany and find Jesus somehow. Where, I don’t know, maybe in a cleaning closet somewhere, because I have been in for a while and still haven’t seen that fucker,I mean he’s way better than Waldo when it comes to hiding in plain sight.
    But anyway, back to my original train of thought, and that is, that that though this man held his beliefs above most things, there was one thing that he was not. He was not some dumbassed goomba hillbilly dipshit, serving his lord out to everybody on a silver platter. When he pulled me out he spoke to me with a general semblance of intellectual capacity, just merely blinded by religiosity. So was he entirely wrong, well that’s a grey area.
    By modern military standards when he, like any service member, fell that something is offensive, they are afforded the right to call it out. Something that is implicitly encourage throughout the ranks. And if he feels offended then he is, in effect, in the right. But, it can be seen as discriminatory, if he singles out that which he feels goes against his theistic beliefs solely, yet dismisses all else that is contrary to the Army Values. He has a right to say that a Bad Religion t-shirt offends him, but, his position fails when he is dismissive of all the other offensive material on clothing that was there at the same time.
    Though he was guided more by his zealotry, than the Army Values, does not make him a bad person. He is definitely no one that I would see eye to eye with, but I can be somewhat of a snarky asshole. So we as atheist must always keep in mind that it is easier to get the religious mind praying, than it is to get it to reason. In order for them to come to an understanding of us, they must first realize, that we are benign, and not devils in diguise.

    • Well said man. I hope you looked at all the comments on the Facebook page. Your writing impressed quite a few people.

      I dislike when people refer to religious people as stupid or inferior. I came from a ‘born again’ mindset. I’m not stupid now, and I wasn’t stupid then. Sure, many of my beliefs were unfounded, ridiculous, and really kind of dangerous (creationist!) But I was not retarded. Ridicule definitely has its place in the theological conversation, but I like the nuance you apply. I strive to do the same as well.

      Humor is a weapon. It takes the right kind of person to use it effectively, and you seem to be one of them. Other people INSTANTLY latched on to the ending of your story, it was sad and hilarious at the same time. Keep it up, buddy!

      • Chimerical Knave

        Not all religious people may be dirt-dumb hillbillies but they sure as hell aren’t as smart as me. If one can throw all logic and science out the window to cling onto this frail concept called faith then they have already proved to me that they are beneath me.

        In order for one to ignore the obvious facts that have been revealed to them in the modern world, it takes some lack of brain cells and a lot of work. They try so hard to throw science out the window.

        Am I arrogant? Perhaps. But, then again, I have good reasons to be.

        The difference between atheists shoving their logic and science down people’s throats compared to religious people doing the same is that I know what it would take to change my mind.

  • Daniel Kloberdanz

    I checked out the comments and was surprised to find how many other people claim that particular shirt to be their Sunday shirt as well. It is definitely one that tends to draw the ire of Christians, but I made one at Cafe Press that probably will too. I made it as a response to the death threats posted at the FoxNews Facebook page aimed at atheists. On the Front I put a nice photo of Gandhi with the quote “An ounce of practice is worth more than tonnes of preaching.” On the back I put the quote “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” with Mohandis Gandhi 1869-1948 underneath that. To us it is very non-offensive, but I guarantee, that Christians will find everything wrong with it. And I hope to be able to submit some more stories in the future, hopefully it will encourage others to do the same as well. Because it is only through the unity of voices, that you will make the ears of the masses ring.

    • Sold. Submit away! You’re golden man – you’ve got the right approach and tactics.

  • enke

    Wearing a crossed out symbol, band icon or not, is advertising intolerance towards the people around you who may feel affiliation toward what that symbol represents. Is the intent really to alienate people around you? To advertise a judgement that they are “wrong” or “bad” without even knowing them?

    Choosing to present symbology that communicates “You’re wrong and I oppose you and your beliefs” doesn’t strike me as the best way to develop an environment of tolerance and acceptance. Unless your goal IS to make the people around you feel alienated and project a message of intolerance. How quickly would someone get walked out for wearing a shirt with a crossed out rainbow that said “Bad Gays” or some such?

    Does it degenerate to the child’s argument of “Well some of them make me feel that way so I’m going to make as many of them feel that way as I can”?

    Personally I’d be annoyed with any Christian OR Atheist in a team working to push divides between the team members. Bad enough that some do without adding to it.

    • It’s a band. A punk rock band. A famous album cover. I think his goal was to say “I like this band, and it’s a huge part of my cultural identity. You wear your ‘thing’ on sunday, I’ll wear mine. We can still work together and eat turkey and gravy.”

      But you raise some valid points. Hence starting the post with “You could probably see this coming…” It’s complicated, and I see both sides.

      And if you think for one second that some one in the military would get kicked out of a DFAC for the no rainbow shirt – you are way off. He specifically addressed the notion of other types of symbols and perceived intolerance on shirts. Notice the fact that he did not argue with the one guy who felt offended. He just left. The telling part was how the person reacted to the news that he was an atheist. Oh, and the poignant closing line was classic.

  • Angela

    I just happened to find this site after reading an article on regarding the amount of money spent on religious contractors for the military.

    My husband and I were both in the army. I consider myself an agnostic, while my husband is jewish. We both experienced an incredible amount of discrimination to due our religious beliefs. We found out pretty quickly that Christianity is ingrained in the army way of life, and there were quite a few instances in which we were given no choice in participating in Christian prayer or attending Christian religious services, which we did, respectfully and quietly. When politely declining (one of the many) invitations from my platoon sergeant to attend a prayer breakfast, I was met with anger and hostility and a barrage of personal questions about my religious beliefs that didn’t let up the entire time I was stationed with said platoon sergeant. In basic training, ample time was allowed for trainees to attend Christian services, yet others were berated when they attempted to attend Buddhist services for instance. And of course, the non-believers were left scrubbing the barracks. I am a quiet, hard-working individual. I did well in the army, I had excellent PT scores, and followed orders well. I never discussed my religious beliefs unless someone brought it up first, and then I would explain my beliefs in a non-offensive way. I still consider myself a “closet agnostic.” My husband spent 10 years in and personally witnessed the brigade chaplain spend $40,000 on bibles. The money being spent on Evangelical contractors is ludicrous. The army should be focusing on improving the mental and physical well-being of soldiers and families.