“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?” - Epicurus

I recently enlisted in the Navy, and while at boot camp I was fortunate enough to run into several other atheists/nontheists.

However my first bunk mate was very religious. When he first saw that I brought, "The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality" he thought it was a joke.

I almost didn't bring this book to boot camp. I had heard stories about discrimination against atheists (mostly overblown, in my experience) in the military before, and didn't want to draw attention to myself. However, one of my friends convinced me to bring a book on atheism (because religious literature are the only books we're allowed to bring in) so I wouldn't go nuts not having anything to read (this is practically all I do besides drink coffee or tea).

So on Sundays, during our six hours of free time, a group of us would be sitting around. Some would polish their boots, others would study, I would read my little atheist book, and my bunk mate would read the bible.

Others got very curious about my atheist book. Many ended up being closeted nontheists. They'd ask to see it, and I'd always direct them to a page in the book that contained the above by Epicurus. To this day, I think it is the best statement of why one ought to be an atheist.

I didn't go to boot camp to convert people to atheism, but this ended up happening.

My bunk mate was annoyed by this and would begin reading passages from Revelations. Why Revelations? I have no clue. The passages he read were odd non-sequiturs that had some poetic "oomph" to them, but beyond this, offered nothing.

I tried to explain to him that the line from Epicurus I was showing others wasn't randomly selected, or merely aesthetically interesting, but logically valid.

This was unfortunately lost on him. Eventually he failed a prt (physical readiness test) and was sent back to another division. My new bunk mate was an atheist who I leant my little atheist book to. We became fairly close, and found other than atheism we also had a love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in common. We actually would sing songs from the musical episode while we shaved just to piss other guys off. Anyway, I'm rambling at this point.

I mostly wanted to write this to share how powerful this statement of Epicurus is and share some memories from boot camp. Hope you enjoyed.

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Comment by Jack Phillips on February 7, 2010 at 11:14pm
Thanks D, and yeah, I really had no intention of converting people but 1. they had sincere questions about atheism and 2. I was kind of pissed off that there was very christian group prayers led every night (never by our RDC's, and never forced though), so I wanted to share my views too.
Comment by The Letter D on February 7, 2010 at 10:35pm
Great story, Jack, and thanks for sharing! I think it's awesome that you're able to spread the "good news" around, and I also find it oddly fitting that your first roommate started reading Revelation. Sort of a, "Hi, here's something that makes good sense," "Blah blah blah, end of the world an' shit," thing. Or maybe it's not oddly fitting and just tickles my funny bone.
Comment by Jack Phillips on February 7, 2010 at 9:40pm
We actually called them bunks and racks interchangeably. If you called a "line" a "rope" though... you were in for a world of trouble. Also, we're not that touchy about gay sailor jokes. We make them as much as possible. When you have to take a shower with 80 other guys you either get creeped out or you sing Taylor Swift with each other til your RDC's start screaming at you.
Comment by Jack Phillips on February 7, 2010 at 9:11pm
I'm in the USN. What makes you think British?
Comment by Jack Phillips on February 7, 2010 at 7:57pm

It was great to bond with other atheists at such an awful place. Every night they had group prayers, and I don't care what they say - these were Christian prayers, not accepting of anyone else - and you would feel so excluded if you weren't in that group. It was so nice finding other atheists while going through something so rough.



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