Air Force atheist makes a new friend at the dog tag machine

Air Force atheist makes a new friend at the dog tag machine November 8, 2011

My friend over in the Air Force, Daniel Rawlings, is an ex-Mormon and out of the closet atheist. He drove hours to make it to many of our awesome MASH Fort Bragg meetings.

He has now been reassigned much further away to Travis Air Force Base, in California. Such is the transient nature of military life. But take a look at some awesome that he shared with us:

Air Force Atheist dog tags, Dan Rawlings

I am in currently in processing into my new squadron here at Travis AFB, one of the steps is a new issue of “Dog Tags” for my squadron.

The guy at the tag machine asks me what my religious preference is,

I say “Atheist”….

He pauses a minute and asks, “Do you mean ‘No Religious Preference?'”

I respond “No I mean Atheist”… he thinks about this for a second, and programs it into the machine. 

Then he tells me “Good for you, so am I”. 

I love it when I grow a backbone, and make an unknown friend in the process.


I had quite an ordeal getting atheist dogtags myself, but they did actually make it onto wikipedia, so WHOOHOO!

I love it when people share these types of stories with me. If you’ve got one, hit me up. I can remove personally identifying information if necessary.

A facebook group of vocal foxhole atheists would really like to see yours. They are making a gallery, so post!

"Here I'd thought my friend had gone off the deep end. I am very much ..."

Dawkins is Worse than ISIS But ..."
"Go "back" to FB?You're talking about alternate futures."

Dawkins is Worse than ISIS But ..."
"JT is trolling today too. Was there a behind the scenes note to play knifey-spooney?"

Dawkins is Worse than ISIS But ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Super Like! That is freak’n awesome!

  • Matt

    Hey, tell him to get in touch with SacFAN (Sacramento Freethinkers, Atheists, and Non-believers). He can find them on Facebook or Meetup. There’s quite a few vets and active duty people FROM Travis AFB that are in the group that I can put him in contact with. If you wish, feel free to share my email with him, or his with me. I used to be heavily involved with that group, and they’re quite active (well over 600 members). It’s only a short drive from Travis. Conversely, I can e-introduce him to a few of the atheists I know there.


    USN 2000-2008


    • I’ll make sure he sees this. He’s very active, and that’s wonderful news.

      • Matt

        Hey I just saw that he got in touch with the group through FB and Meetup. Thanks for passing it along! You’re a credit to your uniform.

  • doug

    I joined the Australian air force in 1974 and was asked my religion.

    I said “No religion” and they said that was not allowed.

    They said I had to name a religion so I said ” Coward ” summed up my religious beliefs.

    They put CofE on my dogtags 🙂

    I am glad things are starting to change !

  • Stormageddon

    I served the first 2 years of my term with “Hedonist” on my dog tags as my religion. I figured it was as honest as I could have been.

  • Kit Hope

    I confess that when I went to Saudi Arabia for the first Gulf War, my dog tags said RC because I figured the Saudis hate atheists more than Christians. A Jewish AF officer told me his dog tags said RC, too. Oh, well. It’s some comfort that I wasn’t protecting myself from my own people but from other religious whackos.

  • hoverfrog

    Why is religious preference on the dog tags anyway?

    • Steve

      If you die, chaplains know which rituals (if any) to perform. If it says “No Preference” they’ll usually just have a generic prayer.

      I’m curious if they pray for atheists…

  • Kaintukee Bob


    So that when you are killed in the line of duty your corpse can be dragged back to the lines and they can send an appropriate priest to preside over the body.

    It’s a holdover from WWII and earlier, where turnover was insanely high and casualties were also very high – it was designed especially for religions (such as Catholicism) which required a religious figure to preside over a dead or dying man as quickly as possible in order for the fallen to reach heaven.

    Basically, when the cavalry shows up, clears the enemy off of the battlefield, and starts sorting friendly casualties, the religion on dog tags lets you sort them nicely.

    I may be wrong, but that’s how I (a civilian) understand it.

  • Paul Weaver

    When I first joined in 1988, “No-Rel-Pref” was the only option I was given. A couple years later, while working a detail pushing folks out for deployment exercises, I managed to sneak some time on the dog tag machine, and made myself a couple sets that said “Atheist” – after being prodded by one of the few great Chaplains I’ve encountered, who thought I should be honest, and offered to intervene on my behalf if I caught any flak.

    When I came back in after a break in service, in ’94, I had them put “Atheist” on my tags, and I’ve had it ever since. A couple idiots have questioned it when checking my tags prior to a jump, but nobody really hassled me much. Someone did question whether I wanted it on my tags before going to Iraq and A-stan, saying if I were captured it might cause trouble for me – I replied that I would already be getting my head cut off with a rusty knife no matter what, how much worse could they make it? Stupid argument …

    • Reginald Selkirk

      Technically, if they cut your head off it doesn’t matter if the knife was rusty. Tetanus will not be one of your problems.

      • Steve

        A rusty knife is probably not very sharp, so it takes longer and is thus more painful

    • Dan Rawlings

      Paul Weaver – Do you still have a set? I would love to add them to the collection on MASH.

  • fastlane

    Good for him. I spent almost a year stationed at Travis (my dad was Air Farce), and it was one of the worst bases we were ever stationed. Although, I’d probably like it now, since my tastes in entertainment have changed significantly.

  • Nick Johnson


  • Aaron

    Awesome as all get out. Hey, since you’re pretty much local now, keep an eye out for the Agnostic and Atheist Student Association at UC Davis. They hold events and meetings year round, even during the summer. You can find them on FB. There are a handful of MAAF members involved, including me.