Foxhole atheists speak out against Congress on social media

This article is one of two on the issue. Read background on this issue including the MAAF position, arguments and additional resources. This article by Alexandra Meehan covers social media response. Also, the Secular Coalition Action Alert from 6/11 provides additional background.

On the MAAF Facebook page, MAAF posted the following comment and link: “Congress ignorantly denouncing atheists and avoiding the discussion about humanists, ethical culture, and others with nontheistic, naturalistic values who could really help troops.” See Original Post

The original article, Atheist Chaplains Would Call Fallen Soldiers ‘Worm Food,’ GOP Congressman Says‘ on HuffPo, was in response to New Jersey Democratic Representative Rob Andrews, who pushed the House Armed Services Committee to issue an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act to call for nontheistic chaplains.

Republicans strongly disagreed: “They don’t believe anything. I can’t imagine an atheist accompanying a notification team as they go into some family’s home to let them have the worst news of their life and this guy says, ‘You know, that’s it — your son’s just worms, I mean, worm food.‘” – Rep. Mike Conaway

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Although outnumbered, democrats such as Rep. Adam Smith rebutted: “To say that an atheist or a humanist doesn’t believe anything is just ignorant. The response to the gentleman’s amendment makes me feel all the more the necessity of it.”

Followers of the MAAF sites, many of them atheists in foxholes who would or would like to have benefitted such an amendment, had a lot to say on the subject:

“An atheist chaplain wouldn’t be too bad actually. It would be nice to talk to a chaplain who’s not shoving Jesus down my throat!” Said Francisco Arias. He received 14 “thumbs up” for his comment.

Eric Flanders agreed, stating: “As a military atheist in the flying portion of the Air Force (arguably the most proselytizing of any sector of service), I would love to have someone to talk to that didn’t push me to ask Jesus what to do…”

Others responded by playing the devil’s advocate: “So an atheist Chaplin would tell a dying service member he’s worm food? Just like a Christian Chaplain would tell a dying non-Christian service member that he’s going to hell?” Standing Austin received nine “thumbs up” from other readers.

Mark Leary argued a different point, while still agreeing: “My preference would be to get rid of chaplains altogether, but since that isn’t likely, then I support the idea of having a humanist or atheist chaplain option.”

Throughout the dozens upon dozens of comments, Pat Tillman was brought up many times. Beckraba Waller said: “Lt. Colonel (Kauzlarich, senior officer in Tillman’s unit) called Pat Tillman “Worm Dirt” because he wasn’t a Christian.”

Grief Beyond Belief, a community for grieving nontheists, also posted the article. Commenters provided some heartwarming stories. The first comment was from Sarah McDavitt Woods who said, “As a former professional hospital chaplain, I know for a fact that, in crisis and intense grief, NO ONE wants their beliefs challenged. NO ONE wants to rethink their belief system. A true professional understands and accepts that as a reality and provides comfort accordingly.” Chris Cronin expressed one of the most hurtful things often told to atheists by believers (and believing chaplains), ” I suppose this idiot would have no problem with a christian chaplain going to the home of an atheist family telling them that their lost son or daughter was in a better place. Lame!” Another commenter, Sean McWhirter expressed his hurt with just such an experience, “When my wife died this year, Sacramento PD chaplins office notified me. Even after I said I was an atheist, she still said my wife was in a better place.”

Overall, the responses seemed to be consistent in that users were outraged, disappointed and annoyed by the “ignorant tripe from our GOP congress people.” (Peter Kreishman) Although MAAF continues to educate and fight for our freedoms, Howard Grantham a MAAF member and Air National Guard Nurse said, and concluded all these thoughts best:

“The scales are tipping, folks, and if you are mad about this story then do something about it. Change your religious preference to “atheist” so they have to count you. Change your dog tags. Don’t lower your head during illegal invocations at military formations. Fight coercive proselytization among military personnel (you have the Constitution on your side, particularly the First Amendment and Article VI Section 3). Donate some cash to MAAF so they can fight and lobby on your behalf. You know this is going to be a better country when religious believers are put in their place: commit to help make it happen.”

Alexandra Meehan

 

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  • hairy_fedd

    It saddens me to think of the ignorance that is still prevalent in society, especially in the military where there is a chance to talk to and work with people with differing views and beliefs.

    I’ve been out of the Army for several years now, and have been thinking of trying to join the Navy to learn new skills to better my own career, as well as continue to serve my country in a meaningful manner. However, these kind of statements from our congresspeople give me a sense of futility.

    But on the flip side, it makes me want to rejoin as a way to give support to my military brothers and sisters who are atheists and freethinkers that may feel outcast or ostracized because they don’t share the beliefs of their fellows in arms.

    To all those service members that feel secluded; just remember there are others like you, both currently serving and who left for civilian life, who put more stock in humanity and what good we can do for our fellow people, than unbelievable stories that where passed down from centuries past. We are out there, we just have to be willing to face any adversity in letting our voices be heard.

    We have overcome the physical and mental obstacles put before us in Basic Training and Boot Camp, we can endure the challenges of being treated as equals as we proudly serve.