What can I do?
There are a lot of problems in the world, and you are in a good position to make the world a better place. There are several things you should do, including but not limited to the following:
- Join MAAF. Hopefully you have done this already, but many have not. Without a strong membership, MAAF is not relevant to military and political leaders, and we will not be able to make change.
- Donate to MAAF. Once again: Hopefully you have done this already, but many have not. Without a strong financial base, MAAF will simply cease to exist. If these things are important to you, please put your money into the cause. We should support important causes, and it should feel good to do so.
- Come out online first. MAAF is on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Start with us come out online to fellow military atheists. Then check the MAAF Network to come out to military atheists in your local area. You can get encouragement, support, and pointers from fellow MAAF members who have gone before you. Also consider reading a book about the topic such as Coming Out Atheist by Greta Christina. Next, go to your friends. If they can’t accept your atheism, then they are not real friends. It can be tough, but you are just being yourself so you have nothing to be ashamed of and every reason to express who you are. This need not be a great hassle, just speak your mind if the topic comes up, and if they ask your views, be honest. Ethics and honesty are qualities of atheists, and you can dispel their misconceptions of sad, evil, angry atheists. Then considering coming out at work (see the step below about updating your official records). The military, if you are still in, is very religious, but it would be less so if we all were open and honest. If you have any issues, seek MAAF and command support (see harassment FAQ below). Come out to your family. Hopefully they will be open, and they should be, but as an adult, you can advocate for your rights and at least let them know the intelligent, intellectually-honest, ethical, and caring son, daughter, or relative they have.
- Speak out publicly with an entry on the Atheists in Foxholes list. Provide a picture for the AIF list and on the MAAF Facebook page. This way you are showing the world the face of another atheist in a foxhole. It will be liberating for you and give encouragement to those who are still trying to come out of the closet. Also consider the Openly Secular campaign to ensure your military voice is heard.
- Change your official records in the military or as a veteran. (See ID tag and records FAQ for more information.) By coming out on your official records, you show the military that there are atheists in foxholes. Chaplains and military leaders try to suggest that the “No-Rel-Pref” demographic, which is nearly one-quarter of the military, are all Christians or Jews who just don’t have their records updated. Stand up and be counted. This will also help to ensure that military leaders and your family know what to do in the worst case. Ensuring your wishes are known can help you to have a god-free memorial and headstone should anything happen. UPDATE May 2014: Members like you have made Humanist an option for official records in the Army and Veterans Administration. Time to update if that is the option you prefer. Other branches of service hopefully soon to follow.
- Encourage others. Joining, donating, coming out, and all these activities are good for you and all of your atheist, humanist, and nontheistic friends. The more of us that stand out and act out, the faster we will achieve the equality and respect we seek.
- Lead in your area as a lay leader, point of contact, or local group organizer. Points of contact provide a beacon for others to come together. Organizing a local group provides visibility and community for others in the area. Being a lay leader allows you to work with chaplains to ensure advertising, resources, and command support are afforded to atheists and humanists as well. Contact MAAF for more information.
- Expand your network by joining a non-military national and local nontheist organization. Many great national organizations exist outside of the military context. It is great to plug in and show your support for them as well. You can find local communities and large conventions to meet others. Also find or start a local group. This may be on post or off post, but ensure that your local community sees a strong atheist or humanist group doing service and supporting one another.
- Be active locally and/or nationally. Do service projects. Write letters to the editor. Sign petitions. Approach your chain of command or government to resolve violations of separation of church and state. Increase the visibility and respect for humanists. Activism and service can really add meaning to your life and improve the lives of everyone around you. You can make a difference.