MSNBC’s excellent coverage of the upcoming foxhole atheist festival

MSNBC’s excellent coverage of the upcoming foxhole atheist festival March 25, 2012

How has the massive atheist festival on a military base not broken through to network television news? The awesome stuff at Reason Rally probably had something to do with it. But that’s over now – so please help us get the word out – now!

Finally, MSNBC has some meaningful coverage:

After a sometimes painful 18 months of gestation, Sgt. Justin Griffith of Fort Bragg, N.C., exclaims, “My baby is about to be born!” His baby is Rock Beyond Belief, apparently the first major atheist event on a U.S. military base.

March 31st 2012 is Rock Beyond Belief's official date!Griffith, 29, who has served five years in the Army, including two deployments to Iraq, has been wrestling with the overwhelmingly Christian establishment in the Army since September 2010 to get to this point.

The March 31 event is Griffith’s answer to Rock the Fort — a day-long evangelical Christian concert and festival held at Fort Bragg on Sept. 25, 2010, put on by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, with the support and blessing of the military brass. It was the fourth in a series of events sponsored by the group on various U.S. bases dating to 2009.

Among the headliners for the all-day atheist festival on the base are scientist Richard Dawkins, the rock band Aiden and singer/songwriter Roy Zimmerman.

Griffith is most proud that the event has garnered the same material support from the military that it gave the evangelical Christian event. This week, he announced that he had secured a commitment for the U.S. Army Golden Knights — an elite skydiving team — to perform in the festival, despite the reluctance of some of the team’s Christian members.

“We asked for apples-to-apples treatment to the (Christian) event,” said Griffith. “We fought for it. I won. I think (Fort Bragg leadership) won too because they did the right thing.”

I’ve been incredibly busy these last two days in DC. I’m about to give a speech at the American Atheists convention, but first I have to write it (!)

Slight correction, I was deployed on the border of Iraq and Kuwait. It was technically a combat tour, but I’m not comfortable with saying “deployed to Iraq.” We had it easy on our side of the fence, but there is no shame in the role I played in the draw-down either. I can’t really talk about it, for obvious reasons. But I missed half of the months my daughter has been alive, and I did some next-level shit and operated at several pay-grades higher than many would expect. I’m not a war hero, but I guess now I sort of play one on MSNBC. Whoohooo!

Fort Bragg is probably more important than the Reason Rally

Anyway – I can’t stress enough how important it is to show up at Fort Bragg, NC for the Rock Beyond Belief festival. Reason Rally was great, it was poetic, it was important. In my opinion – maybe I’m too close to this thing – RBB is much more important. It is:

  • the first officially endorsed and approved meeting of atheists on any military base.
  • the first real gathering of atheists on a military base that the chaplaincy’s ban on us can’t touch.
  • accomplishing real world change.
  • historic, and it sets precedent. Every time they cross a line, they know atheists are going to demand equality.
  • sending a message to the proselytizers that I’m coming for them (message has been received by the way. There hasn’t been a massive evangelical festival since RBB started.)
  • setting the stage for a massive ‘coming out’ of the atheist closet for the military community. Slam that door on your way out, my brothers and sisters!
  • a rallying cry for us all to stop the culture of shame and fear.
  • changing the conversation. Hatred wont stop, but they will be forced to mutter under their breaths because they are starting to sound like the bigots from the KKK.
  • possibly a one of a kind event. Extremely unique setting you shouldn’t pass up. Civilians are totally welcome.
  • a moment of triumphant redemption for Westboro Baptist Church apostate, Nate Phelps.
  • We really are ‘fighting for your rights’, even if you don’t realize it. Rock Beyond Belief sets historical precedence and lots of things in the constitutional grey areas in the civilian world are directly influenced by the chaplaincy, spiritual fitness, etc. (And vice versa). Both civilian and military atheists need each-other’s support.

But all of that fails if we have a low attendance.

If nobody shows up, then the military will feel justified in their earlier ‘broom closet’ treatment of forcing us into a tiny movie theater. It will effectively set us back another decade.

Please. Come out, and bring your family. Stay for the whole day. Foxhole atheists are out there fighting for your rights. Please, return the favor – March 31st at Fort Bragg, NC.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Mandy

    My family will be driving up from GA to show our support!

  • Justin Griffith

    Thanks for the support! Can you bring hundreds of your brothers and sisters?


  • ashleybone

    My wife and I are driving down from DC. Looking forward to it.

  • I hope you rock them to their foundations and leave them no reason to doubt our sincerity or growing numbers. The push has started, you should be justifiably proud.

  • I hope the attendance for RBB is high, because I want this to be just the first of MANY when my wife (US Army) and I get back to the states from Germany. Given the guests on the list I’m sure the turn out will be great! Thanks for fighting so hard for your fellow atheists in foxholes!

  • Len

    Wish I could be there. Good luck and have fun 🙂

  • Michael

    I’m coming and also several atheists from Charlotte atheists and agnostics. Is anyone filming this?

  • RW Ahrens

    What time does it start? Can I bring my dog?

    Dumb questions, for sure, but they may mean the difference between being there or not.

    I live in MD and would like to come down.

  • Jasmyn

    RW, it starts at noon. Sadly, no doggies. I want to bring mine too. After all, I’m almost positive that they’re atheists.

  • RW Ahrens

    Aw, shucks.

    Well, noon makes it a bit easier, as it’s a five or six hour drive from here, so I can start early and not miss much.

    I do have a neighbor that is a good friend of our dog (they like each other), so that isn’t an absolute requirement. It’s just that Orion loves to ride and loves crowds, especially crowds with kids, and as he is fairly well trained, he is a good citizen in meeting strangers. So we’ll miss him, and he’ll be mad at us for leaving him behind.

    But on the bright side, I can see Dawkins twice in two weeks!

    Orion’s name is Orion Tiberius Long, and he is on Facebook.

  • that_paul

    Sadly I won’t be able to make it because I am still getting over pneumonia. My voice is coming back, at least. Now I just sound like I confused fibreglass insulation with cotton candy. I have talked some of my comrades into going, though.

    Those folks that look like anarchists, yeah, they’ll probably be anarchists.

  • @That_Paul

    This is what an anarchist sounds like.


    People can tick more than one box, though. You should come out man.

  • that_paul

    It’s sort of funny. Because this is what I think an anarchist sounds like

    At least I didn’t FTFY.

    And now I’ll be listening to fun music all day.

  • Dallas

    My wife and I (USAF 1981-1985) are heading down from the DC area, coming in Friday afternoon. We attended the Reason Rally last weekend so this will be back-to-back weekends hanging out with a horde of godless heathens; we are excited (and a bit hopeful that there will be more sunshine and less rain this weekend).

    You have done a fantastic job of putting this together and it is already a success regardless of how many heathens show up; the nut jobs are on notice that they don’t have free run anymore. That in and of itself is a major accomplishment that you should be rightfully proud of.

    PS – You will be able to recognize me, I will be the one wearing the dogtags (cira 1982) that say “NONE” for religious preference. 😉

  • Deanna

    Just want to ask a favor at the Rock Beyond Belief event, since I didn’t think to bring it up for the Reason Rally. Please make sure that anyone with a microphone, representing RBB, does not use profanity of any kind during the event. RBB is promoting itself as family friendly, and Camp Quest will have a huge presence at the event. My family, along with others, were unhappy with how much profanity occurred at the Reason Rally. You can read it about at Reason Rally website. Regardless, let me ask you: if your child attended Camp Quest, would you want a camp counselor to sing Tim Minchin’s “F*ck the mother f*cker” song? Plus, would you want that same person to sing the song using a microphone/amps next to an elementary school while children are outside during recess? The language used by many speakers at the ReasonRally was inappropriate for the setting, the National Mall, where not only rally goers were listening but the thousands of people unaware that the rally was taking place.

  • Priscilla Parker

    @Deanne, there will be no profanity at RBB, it is prohibited. We hope you can make it our with your children and enjoy all the activities, especially Camp Quest.

  • Deanna

    Thank you, Priscilla.

  • John Smith

    I guess you would have fit comfortably in that theater after all. “A couple hundred” people attended–the theater the base suggested fit 700.