Many more Atheists being forced to accept ‘NO-REL-PREF’

Many more Atheists being forced to accept ‘NO-REL-PREF’ December 12, 2011

This morning’s article about a Marine recruit who got NO-REL-PREF against her will got a bit of attention. Much of it was from people who had almost the exact same experience. I’ve seen hundreds of comments to that effect in the few posts I’ve made that dealt with this topic.

For instance, shortly after I shared the story, this happened on Facebook:

This is undeniably a very pervasive trend, and one that leads to disenfranchisement of our community. Not to mention an under representation, and a stamp of fear imprinted on all new recruits who feel that their atheism is something to be hidden at all costs.

But luckily, the Marine from this morning is going to attempt to be the exception to the trend.

She wrote me:

I’m very touched that you wrote back to me so quickly, and for your offer to help me get this fixed.  I don’t anticipate this getting ugly – the Marines I’ve been working with are all good men, and I sincerely believe they just don’t understand why the difference between No Rel Pref and Atheist means so much to me.

I won’t be scared, not with people like you who have my back.  I just wanted to know whether this is where I make my stand, or if I should wait until after boot camp.  In retrospect, I see that the answer is ‘of course now!’ but I just wanted a little bit of reassurance that I wasn’t making a mountain out of a molehill.  I have to go into my RS this week anyway, so I’ll see if I can pin down the recruiter I was working with on my package and get him to change the package.  If he won’t, I think the SSgt in charge of the RS will.  If for whatever reason he won’t, I’ll just work my way up the chain of command until someone fixes it, all the way to the Commandant if I have to.  I’ve got plenty of time, so I’m not worried.

You are absolutely not making a mountain out of a molehill. Seriously, all they have to do is reprint a few pieces of paper, and some minor data entry. And you tried to help them realize their mistake with exactly the right respectful, fun, but firm attitude. You will go far. Just keep the enthusiasm up!

When I first stuck out my neck, I slowly realized something. I looked around and there was no axe arcing down at it. Rather, I caught a glimpse of people who were doing the wrong thing quickly fleeing, and trying to erase evidence of their deeds. For instance, the Rock the Fort website is so thoroughly scrubbed now that the vast majority of it now seems to only reside on lawyers hard drives (they were prepared for these efforts).

You are joining the fresh crop of out and proud foxhole atheists, and every time I hear from one of you it makes me very happy.

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. Is it too early to say ‘the New foxhole atheists’?

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  • Wes

    I hear you. I’m a navy atheist with no religious pref on his dog tags. I will admit something stupid though…I don’t know where to get new dogtags…came in agnostic and became atheist during my first deployment. I would come out on the ship but I work for my CO and he went to Notre Dame so…not sure how that would go over.

  • The important part is not what’s on your dog tags but what is in the system. Look at the right side of your ORB/ERB it can only say NO REL PREF. There is no data code for Atheist to be entered by the Personnel clerk. That being said I had a new set made a few weeks ago at Fort Hood, even after spelling it out for them they managed to spell atheist wrong. I don’t know if this was out of spite or stupidity and I didn’t feel like arguing because to me it’s a non-issue, when I’m dead, I’m gone, I’m not going to know if they do Christian voodoo over my corpse.

    • kyleharris

      You are right that it is what is on your ERB that matters and not your dog tags, but I know for a fact that there is a data code for atheist. When I changed mine I stood behind my S1 while he made the change. There is a drop down list in the system in alphabetical order. I saw him change it and it was reflected on my ERB almost immediatly.

      • Schweinhundt

        Useful info; thanks. It would be great if someone could post screenshots of the available choices.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    The Navy has a code for atheist (75) for the NAVPERS 1070/602 Record of Emergency Data form.

    • Wes

      The bad thing for me is I have a job that relies on personal trust between me and my CO or whomever I am working for in…a more security way then some other jobs. I worry about them being able to accept me being an atheist and be able to accept me as credible.

      • Can you convince your CO that you are more trustworthy since you are not bound by the delusion of some imaginary friend in the sky?

        Not to make light of the situation, of course. Religious folk are often decidedly unable to accept “lack of belief in supernatural” as anything other than some other religion they cannot fathom. Especially when a CO is very religious, it seems a hard choice to make.

        Best results in your efforts! Thank you for serving!

  • PFC Atheist

    I just got out of Army Basic Training last summer, and when I went through the process of getting all my paperwork done, and having my dog tags printed, I had 0 issues with having Atheist put on there. I was actually kinda surprised when I asked if they could put Atheist on there, and the guy said sure, checked a box on a list, and I went on my merry way.

    I am glad that I did put atheist on my dog tags, as on more than one occasion my fellow trainees and I got into some fairly heated debates on the topic of religion, all stemming from one guy finding my tags on a table and reading them.

  • Scuba Steve

    When I first came in, I was an agnostic that liked to scare people. I told my recruiter that I was a Satanist Jedi. He gave me a funny look and I said, “Dude, I have no use for religion of any sort.” I expected to get NORELPREF because at the time, that was all that was available. When my dogtags were issued in boot camp, I was shocked to find out that I was a Christian. I changed to NORELPREF at my first command and a few years ago, I switched to Atheist. In the Navy our service records are electronic now and you can go make the change yourself on NSIPS. The two letter code for Atheist is “AZ”. There’s a drop down menu that’s really easy. Just point, click, and presto – you’re an atheist.