I have been very curious lately about the reasons atheists join up for military service. I don't mean to paint with a wide brush, but by and large, most atheists I have met are life loving people and the thought of senseless death bothers them. Yet, the very nature of military service is that you may have to kill.

I joined the US Coast Guard in 1986, mainly to feed my family. I had no lofty goals, no sense of patriotism other than being a citizen. Regan's economic plan hit the blue color workers hard, so I enlisted and spent my 26th birthday in boot camp. The Coast Guard is well known as a life saving service, so it fit in very well with my own personal views.

I'd like to hear other service members reasons for joining up.


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there destroying the myth of religion one extremist at a time... lol

i joined cause i was 20 and had no future plan. plus.. i got to blow stuff up and see the world.

one other thing. Just because people are Atheists doesn't mean that they are pacifists.

1st LAR A.Co
I didn't lose my faith until after I joined. The two main reasons I enlisted in the Marines was to pay for college and fulfill a wanderlust I've always had. The college will be almost complete paid for, however I see myself maintaining a transient life, lol.
I joined the army to escape my hometown. I knew that if I stayed there I'd be stuck forever. So I enlisted into medical, mostly because I wanted to help people. I love my job, I work in a medical lab. It was by far the best decision I have ever made. Without it I doubt that I would have the opportunities that the Army has given me.
Interesting question. As far as I could tell, it was a multitude of reasons just like our theist counterparts. Is there some reason why you would think that the reason would be different? We live in the same culture under the same flag.
To really get an accurate overall picture, one should ask that question to all military personnel, not just atheists.
I joined for 2 reasons, (1) couldn't find work, (2) would have been drafted before long. Reason one was basically due to reason two. (1968)
I found out that I was going to be laid off and was looking for a steady paycheck. Plus, my life had grown stagnant and I felt that depending on the AFSC I was assigned, I may be able to see the world and possibly do some good.
I was at a military function in France once, and got into a conversation with a drunk French army officer. He told me that Europe resented the US like a younger brother resents his older brother and that, even though we're often in awkward positions, it's our job to lead the First World. I was pretty taken aback by that, especially coming from the mouth of a French officer.

But he's right. It's not much of a stretch to claim, like Ayn Rand did, that the US is the most "truly moral country on the planet." She didn't mean our actions, by any means. I believe she meant our founding documents and principles, our sanctification of individual rights and liberties, and our reliance upon meritocracy as the driving force behind our economy. Yeah, our government (and not to mention our economy!) makes big blunders sometimes. Sometimes too often for comfort... but our principles are worth fighting for.

When an atheist joins the military, he/she does so with understanding that life ends when your brain waves stop. No paradise, nothing. Our sacrifices are made all the more noble given our unbelief.

Oh... and we're also fighting the most vile, extreme religious bigots on the planet...
Why did I join? Well, I've always been attracted to the military. Thought it was cool. In high school we didn't have JROTC. In fact, this was in the 1970's and Nam was ending. So I joined the Civil Air Patrol. I loved it. I was with people who like flying and the military. Of course, there were those who thought I'd lost my mind. Like, I even cut my hair. Oh my...
Well, I joined in the 80's. Regan was president, the Cold War was going on and I had actually traveled through most of East Europe vis-à-vis behind the Iron Curtain. I'd seen things and met people who wished they'd been born in the US. I understood what we had here, and the freedoms and liberties. I also realized that someone centuries before had come to the US for a better life. That was my ancestors.
I received my degree in History and had studied the USSR. In fact that is how I ended up over there on a trip because I could use it for language credits.
When I enlisted I did so because I believed in our way of life, our form of government and so on.
Now, I’m a different person. No, I didn’t become a atheist, I already was one. In fact from age 6 or 7. What I believed in was our liberties.
Sadly, that has changed. I see our liberties slowly being taken away mainly due to “National Security.” And what really chaps my ass is that the constitution of the USSR actually had more liberties and freedoms then the US constitution does. But, due to “NATIONAL SECURITY” the government of the USSR “restricted” these liberties and freedoms.
That’s a lesson those who read this should take away from here. In fact, to me, and this is just me, I see the bible pounding right wing nut jobs being those who are leading the charge in taking these liberties and freedoms away.
But I joined because it was something I wanted to do. I wanted to be a soldier. Crazy, right?
I joined for a lot of reasons. Nationalistic fervor wasn't one of them, nor any surfeit of patriotism, although I did come from a family with a great deal of military service behind it. But they weren't why I joined, either.

I needed a job. I needed skills. After enduring a very ugly economy and brutal job market in the early 80s, I didn't trust being able to pay back college loans. I also wanted to see the world.

So I joined up.

I didn't get to see the world.

I hardly used my AF training after my time was up.

But I had a lot of fun, and I met some amazing people.

I don't regret it.
Lots of reasons. The main thing is that most 18 year olds aren't thinking about much, maybe some college money. Chances are it probably wasn't well thought-through. It's unlikely that people join up to murder and subjugate foreigners.

I joined simply because it's an honest living with benefits and a it sets a person up for the future, in or out of the military. The Balkans conflict was going on when I joined, but that was no major conflict, and I never ended up there. Those that joined up after 9-11 might have more patriotic reasons for joining.

The interesting thing to ask is whether an older atheist might encourage a younger person to join. We only have one life to live, but that doesn't mean there aren't higher causes. It's at least an outside chance the the military might actually support and defend the Constitution and citizenry of the US or others. Service members have done great things in the past, and I'm hopeful they will in the future. It's also not unreasonable to value the hard work and training of the military.

Then there is the more difficult questions. What are the boundaries? How does one recognize when the bad outweighs the good? When it is time to walk?

I joined early on during the war in Afghanistan. I was watching the news in the morning while getting ready for work. There was a story about a young Lance Corporal who was one of the first casualties. Also featured in the story was his wife and 3 year old daughter. I sat across the table from my wife and 2 year old son. I realized that there was no difference between the Marine and me. I was suddenly grateful to be living in the greatest country in the world and moreover, I realized I was in debt to all those who came before me, and made this country what it is. The best way to honor the brave men and women that gave their lives in the defense of America, was to serve.
I lived outside the US for about 15 years and have traveled quiet a bit.

As an American citizen I felt a degree of civic debt that I had to pay back. My country was at war, for better or for worse, for all the rights and liberties that I enjoy (and for those I have seen denied overseas) I owed them at least my service.

Oh yeah, that and to blow stuff up and shoot guns.




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