Many people say, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” As a practical matter this obviously isn’t the case, but the Army’s new Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program (CSFP) implies it should.

The mandatory program measures soldier fitness in a variety of dimensions to help them cope with the rigors of combat. It’s spiritual dimension has a wealth of information for believers. However, it  implies that only believers need or can be helped in this dimension. In short, non-theists need not apply.

There’s nothing wrong with measuring and grading this dimension. It is critical to overcoming battlefield trauma. Whatever gets you through the terrors of war is great. But grading and providing solely religious-based feedback can demoralize non-believers and deprive them of helpful information in much the same way DADT chose to simply ignore the presence of gays. Non-theists are similarly marginalized.

Clean Toilets or Go to Chruch?
And, this ignoring of other than religious – more often than not non-Christian points of view – is larger than this program.

As a young airman in basic training during the 1970s everyone was offered two choices each Sunday – attend church or stay in the barracks and clean toilets.

Hmm…clean toilets or escape the tedium of 24×7 training for an hour singing and laughing with friends? Which shall I choose?

To the Air Force’s credit, the services were non-denominational and mentioned God only once or twice per service. There were two prayers, both of which were generic enough to interpret in any way,
including as a non-theist
statement. Services were comprised of signing vaguely religious, up
tempo, and “modern” songs. To escape cleaning toilets with a toothbrush
most atheists saw it as a good trade.

Nods to religion for the rest of my Air Force career were limited to my dog tags – which you could label as atheist, any religion, or not applicable. I entered “Granitellism” a faux belief that race car driver Andy Granitelli was God because he could pick up a
screwdriver covered in oil. It didn’t cause an eyebrow to flutter.

It seems there has been a steady movement backward since those days.

In addition to CSFP, the Air Force Academy has suffered a long-standing bias against all but Christians and despite several Pentagon attempts to change, it continues. Individual unit commanders
sometimes cross the same line and chaplains – which in my day did more
social work than God’s work – have upped the ante.

Service members sometimes refuse to attend nondenominational services conducted by Islamic chaplains or vice versa. The Navy has squabbled over building mosques on large bases. National cemeteries banned atheist
and multi-theist symbols on graves until recently because they
“offended” the religious.

Unreasonable Demands?
Generally speaking, non-thesists haven’t made unreasonable demands for accommodation just as gays haven’t. When services build chapels and
mosques there isn’t a clamor for an atheist house for contemplation.
Asking for a symbol on a veteran’s grave is hardly a big thing. But, the
CSFP goes a step beyond.

By refusing to include non-theists in CSFP the Army denies help to those service members, even though they remained atheists while in the foxholes…arm to arm with straight, gay, and minority soldiers.

The military is all about releasing some individuality to serve a greater purpose, a non-religious purpose. The Army used to call this, “An Army of One”. It degrades the contributions of non-believers because
they didn’t give up an individual right guaranteed by the Constitution,
and at least nominally by military training.

It’s simply wrong for the military to tout individual rights during training while denying those rights when the bullets fly.

After all, bullets don’t have an opinion about God.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Views: 69


You need to be a member of Atheist Nexus to add comments!

Join Atheist Nexus

Comment by Brian J Geisler on December 25, 2010 at 11:49am
Well put...I was at Ft. Sill training in 2000...buff the floor or take an unsupervised trip across base to go to church. At first I stayed back to build raport with the Drill Sergeants, but after a few weeks, well lets just say, "I found God"
Comment by Omnipotent Poobah on December 24, 2010 at 7:20pm


I agree. The world would be a better place if everyone, theist and non-theist alike did that.

I'm not sure I completely agree with your statment about the military, but perhaps I misunderstood it.

I don't see anything wrong with it from a secular or non-secular position. I did it, I'm proud of it, and on balance I think it was a good thing for me and my country. But, it isn't for everybody.

I always taught my daugther, who has recently become a Christian BTW, that you should make your own decisions based on the best information available. When she asked questions about the military, I answered them as honestly as possible and didn't try to overemphasize it as a pro or a con, but as both and she chose to opt for another alternative. When she asked questions about religion, I did the same. I'm proud of the fact that she chose her own mind in both cases and love her all the more for it.

If I misinterpreted what you said, my apologies.

Comment by Earther on December 24, 2010 at 2:15pm
What can we do to support ourselves as atheist americans?  Well, we can support mental and physical health benefits and we can support equal civil rights for all people.  I wouldn't send your kids to the armed services if you can help it.  If the enemy comes to your door then you may want to defend yourself.  Keep a job and earn money for your care.  These are things we can do.  Support your fellow atheists as well.  Being a social network of like minded individuals is important.  I think it helps our mental outlook of life as we know it. 

© 2019   Atheist Nexus. All rights reserved. Admin: The Nexus Group.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service