12/03/2006                                                                                       View Comments

Atheist National Guard Officer Resigns Commission Over Remarks Made By Lt. Gen. Blum and Others

By Wayne Adkins

On July 18th, 2006 Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, lumped atheists and agnostics together with bigots and in a paraphrase of an old untrue negative stereotype declared that there are no atheists in foxholes. It is ironic that such a bigoted remark would come during his speech about diversity to the NAACP. The National Guard received a number of letters complaining about his remarks and several atheist organizations denounced them. But the Army, despite how it defines unlawful discrimination in its own regulations, has decided that the remarks were not discriminatory. I disagree.

Blum’s remarks are just the tip of the iceberg. Since troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years there have been numerous bigoted remarks made by military chaplains and other officers disparaging atheists and perpetuating the myth that there are no atheists in foxholes. Some have gone as far as claiming that atheists are lesser soldiers than their religious counterparts. Chaplain Scott McCammon said “You can know how to dig a foxhole, but unless you are spiritually fit, you won't have the courage to stick your head out of the hole”. Chaplain Eric Albertson said “commanders recognize that spiritually fit soldiers are better fighters, and can bring a spirit of determination to the mission that is courageous and heroic”. But complaints by atheist soldiers are ignored despite the fact that Army regulations prohibit such remarks.

Army Regulation 600-20, section 6-2, paragraph a says “The U.S. Army will provide EO and fair treatment for military personnel and family members without regard to race, color, gender, religion, national origin, and provide an environment free of unlawful discrimination and offensive behavior. They have failed miserably at providing an environment free of offensive behavior for atheists. The regulation defines several terms in these sections which make it clear that the public comments of Blum and others constitute “unlawful discrimination”. Disparaging terms are defined as “Terms used to degrade or connote negative statements pertaining to race, color, gender, national origin, or religion”. Claiming that there are no atheists in foxholes implies that they do not serve at all which is patently false or that they all really do believe something other than what they say. It implies that all atheists are liars and cowards. That fits the definition of making negative statements about an entire group of people based solely on their religious identification.

The first response given when atheists complain is that atheism isn’t an organized or acknowledged religion and therefore atheists are not covered by the regulation. But the regulation defines the term “religion” as “A personal set or institutionalized system of attitudes, moral or ethical beliefs and practices held with the strength of traditional views, characterized by ardor and faith, and generally evidenced through specific observances”. The regulation’s definition of religion includes “a personal set” of beliefs and does not require organization or outside acknowledgement. The regulation also defines prejudice as “a negative feeling or dislike based upon a faulty or inflexible generalization (that is, prejudging a person or group without knowledge or facts)”. Claiming that there are no atheists in foxholes is both a “faulty” and “inflexible generalization”.

On August 19th 2006 I submitted a formal Equal Opportunity (EO) complaint on NGB Form 333 to the Ohio National Guard state EO office. It was forwarded to the National Guard Bureau (NGB) EO office and they signed for it on August 22nd. They then sat on it for seven weeks. It was supposed to be forwarded to the Department of the Army Inspector General’s (DAIG) office because it named a general officer. But they sat on it until I called the DAIG office to find out the status of it. They told me they never received it. When they called the state EO office they found it had been sent to NGB EO a few days after I filed it. When they called the NGB EO office, they NGB EO had to contact the state and ask them to send another copy of it. They either lost it or tossed it. This is not how formal EO complaints are supposed to be handled in the military. Not at all.

Once it did reach the DAIG office they tried to dissuade me from going forward with the complaint by asking me to resubmit the complaint if I “still wanted to proceed with this”. They said it was not signed, did not state how I was harmed and did not suggest a remedy, all of which were untrue. I again sent them a copy of the complaint via snail mail to verify that it had been signed and did contain the information requested. They ultimately concluded that Lt. Gen. Blum’s remarks were not discriminatory. Apparently, they have never read Army Regulation 600-20. I had to learn all of this through numerous phone calls that I initiated because they never once initiated contact with me throughout this complaint process. I was even told that to obtain the document which answers the formal complaint I had to request it through the Freedom of Information Act. So it turns out that the problem which I had thought was limited to the unfortunate remarks of a few isolated bigots is really a systemic problem. It’s cultural. It’s institutional. The Army has not only failed at their stated goal of providing an environment free of offensive behavior, they have perpetuated it. They are nurturing it.

The Army uses taxpayer money to publish these bigoted remarks by Army officers in Army publications and Department of Defense websites. They use their Digital Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) to beam remarks from bigoted chaplains back to the US from the front and post them on the DVIDS website so other publications can pick them up.

Worst of all, when soldiers complain about disparaging remarks made about them on the basis of religion, when commissioned officers and supposed leaders call them liars, cowards and lesser soldiers simply because they lack a belief in the supernatural, the Army looks the other way and disregards its own regulations designed to prevent religious discrimination.

I can no longer be a part of an organization that denies my service in combat, ignores discrimination complaints by soldiers, violates its own regulations and protects bigots. This will serve as written notification that I am resigning my commission as an officer in the Ohio Army National Guard effective as soon as possible.

1st Lt. Wayne Adkins

XO, 196th MPAD

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's a sad comentary on this world. Athiests are now the "lesser humans" so it's all right to put down our disbiliefs and distcrimanate against us. It seems in this day and age you HAVE to have some kind of religious belief and to not have one means you are no longer human and fair game for what ever abuse. I love America, but sometimes I really wish I was Swiss.

Anonymous said...

So you just give up and let them win?

Freedom is something you assume, until someone comes along trying to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are fee.

Anonymous said...

-There are no atheists in foxholes.-

Which is not an argument against atheists, but an argument against foxholes!

Matt said...

Having been in the military, I can understand the frustration of the red tape. You have my support in this, however much that means to you. If the military and government treats you like a second-class citizen, then it is their loss. You have no reason to stay with such a hateful organization.

Dr. Tim Gorski said...

The problem here is that atheists are considered people with "no religion." In reality, they simply have "no god belief." That is, their religious beliefs do not include any that countenance god(s) as actual beings outside of the imagination.

On the logic of military officials/leadership, it could be "open season" on attacking theists who don't belong to any recognized religion and whose ideas of god(s) - the flying spaghetti monster, for example - do not square with those of military chaplains.

MORE IMPORTANT QUESTION OF A PRACTICAL NATURE: WHAT CAN BE DONE NOW TO EXERT SOME PRESSURE OR TAKE SOME **ACTION** SO THAT THIS MAN'S PRINCIPLED SACRIFICE OF HIS JOB DOES NOT GO UNNOTICED AND IN VAIN??

Dave said...

It's time for us to have a FSM chaplin in a pirate suit!

Shannon said...

Dave, that would be wonderful. Could you image the benedictions? How cool.

Vixentrox said...

Was the same in the Air Force. I suspect all branches force that religion shit on thier members.

Anonymous said...

“Pat Tillman was an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror. His family is in the thoughts and prayers of President and Mrs. Bush,” Taylor Gross, a spokesman for the White House, said in a statement.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4815441/

I hope everyone is aware (including the US military) that Pat Tillman was also an atheist.

Rico B. said...

Is there anyway you could provide support to "Pat Tillman" being an atheist? I ask out of curiosity, as this is the first time I have heard him referred to as an atheist.

USAF1 said...

“commanders recognize that spiritually fit soldiers are better fighters, and can bring a spirit of determination to the mission that is courageous and heroic”.

Religion is used as an incentive for entering military service, as well, as a way to get loyalty to a cause.

For the Atheist, they have to find another incentive to motivate them to give their life, and a reason to devote their loyalty to a specific cause.

Politicians, and military recruiters, are going to leverage whatever they have to in order to get their quota of people in the service, and they will use whatever they can - even religion.

Military leaders, are not going to take those tools away from their recruiters and leadership, because it becomes detrimental to their job security. It's much easier, to listen to a few Atheists arguing about their rights, than a majority of religious people disavowing their loyalty.

Military leaders know religion is a factor for recruiting, and they sell the military as one that serves their religious "cause", to do otherwise would hurt their recruitment, because parents are willing to give up their children for a religious cause, because its part of their belief system.

The politician or military recruiter can not find "one" underlying incentive for the Atheist to join the military. The Atheist comes into the military because of their "own" internal incentive, and religion is not one of those incentives. In short, the Atheist has to come into the military for less benefit, seen by the military, and with a skeptical view of leadership, which can become a commander's nightmare. No, leader wants to be challenged on their decisions.

Until religion no longer becomes profitable, it will continue to be marketed for recruiting. I like to remind my leadership, that I am here for my country, and family, and "no" other reason. We have a common interest, however, they realize my religious affiliation is not a string that can be plucked to get a response from me.

.:webmaster:. said...

Pat Tillman: link

USAF1 said...

Rico B: "Is there anyway you could provide support to "Pat Tillman" being an atheist? I ask out of curiosity, as this is the first time I have heard him referred to as an atheist."

"Kauzlarich, now a battalion commanding officer at Fort Riley in Kansas, further suggested the Tillman family's unhappiness with the findings of past investigations might be because of the absence of a Christian faith in their lives.

In an interview with ESPN.com, Kauzlarich said: "When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more — that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don't know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough."
http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/story?id=2212545&page=2

Dr. Tim Gorski said...

>> Religion is used as an incentive for entering military service, as well, as a way to get loyalty to a cause. <<

Yes. So what? The military would undestandably like for this to be an easy process, which it would be if everyone had the same religious beliefs. Then they could just motivate everyone with the same carrot like the Islamofacsists and their 72 virgins.

But when it comes to atheists, not having any theology to appeal to, they have to figure out why the atheist is there. To serve their country is quite likely. But it could be other things.

>> "Kauzlarich, now a battalion commanding officer at Fort Riley in Kansas, further suggested the Tillman family's unhappiness with the findings of past investigations might be because of the absence of a Christian faith in their lives. <<

Well, duh! Yes the Tillman family is not going to be mollified by some cockamamie "Well, God must have wanted it to happen that way." HAD Tillman been shot by Taliban enemy I don;t think the family would be so upset since that's the enemy we're fighting over there. But when they found out their son was killed by other Americans in an *accident* then OBVIOUSLY they're not going to be happy with that. Why would even Christians be OK with that?

But, again, the bigger question in the case of the National Guard commander resigning is: WHAT is the best course of action to capitalize on this man's sacrifice to get some change for the better?

USAF1 said...

Dr. Tim Gorski: "But, again, the bigger question in the case of the National Guard commander resigning is: WHAT is the best course of action to capitalize on this man's sacrifice to get some change for the better?"

I only explain the reason, we are in the current situation. But, lets toy with this. Are we talking of what can we do about Tillman's fratricide, to prevent future incidents. Or, are we talking about how we can leverage his death for some type of gain?

www.churchoffreethought.org said...

>> In an interview with ESPN.com, Kauzlarich said: "When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more — that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don't know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough." <<

And he thinks it is EASY to "get your head around" all the god-nonsense????????? No, it is *tougher* to try to make sense of theists' claims about an afterlife.

www.churchoffreethought.org said...

usaf1 wrote >> I only explain the reason, we are in the current situation. But, lets toy with this. Are we talking of what can we do about Tillman's fratricide, to prevent future incidents. Or, are we talking about how we can leverage his death for some type of gain? <<

No, I was referring to the Atheist National Guard Officer who resigned - it would be good if his principled act did not pass unnoticed and did not result in any kind of change in the military.

As for Tillman, yes, it would be good if there were lessons learned in that accident to prevent future accidents. And, yes, too, Tillman's being an atheist should be ballyhooed to help educated Americans generally that we atheists care about the same things they do, including the security of our nation.

And just to refer to the commander who droned about how believers don't care about death etc as much - how come believers are always running to doctors and hospitals when they get sick, then? Does THAT make sense when all it does is put off their eternal heavenly bliss - ???? They should WELCOME DEATH and do all they can to put themselves in harm's way (for Jesus, of course) if they REALLY believe what they claim to believe!

www.churchoffreethought.org said...

>> No, I was referring to the Atheist National Guard Officer who resigned - it would be good if his principled act did not pass unnoticed and did not result in any kind of change in the military. <<

I mean to say that it would be good if his principled act did not pass unnoticed and DID result in some positive change in the military with respect to the treatment of atheists.

Anonymous said...

According to the local newpaper report here in the Bay Area where Pat Tillman was from, during the memorial service where all sorts of stuffed-shirts had been pontificating about Tillman’s sacred sacrifice, Pat’s brother, who was feeling pretty raunchy after a few drinks, got up and said something like, “Pat didn’t believe in God. He’s not in heaven. He’s fuckin’ dead.” A censored version was also reported on the TV news.

This item brings up a number of interesting issues. First and foremost, the apparent need for the military to enforce belief in God. Obviously the military believes that lack of belief in God is subversive to its ends. In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond documents how empires have been using religion to justify conquest for millenia. It stands to reason. You can get some guys to risk their life for spoils. Ancient armies ran on that fuel. But when the spoils are all gone, or when it becomes politically incorrect to claim personal spoils (as opposed to political spoils such as the division of the world after WWII), how do you keep the guys interested? That’s when you have to start associating conquest with God’s glory and the associated heavenly reward. That idea got really big in the modern era. (Yet, despite the supposed holy objective, even in the Crusades the main incentive for the real power players was spoils. Read the history.) These days, with the mercenary army needing all the help it can get (the spoils, redefined as re-enlistment bonus, GI bill, etc., still not enough to attract any but the most unemployable high school drop-out), you can be sure the generals aren’t going to let an incentive like believing you are on a mission from God (with its heavenly reward should you die in combat) fall by the wayside without a fight.

The expression “no atheists in foxholes” simply gives away the embarrassing prejudice of the coiner of the expression. The only way that expression makes sense is if you associate belief in God with an afterlife. What about all the Chinese who have gone to war? Chinese have never believed in God or an afterlife. Jews have never believed in an afterlife. Hindus have millions of gods, but they don’t believe in an afterlife. Buddhists don’t either. Most WWII Japanese soldiers in WWII were Buddhist. Even German Nazis poo-pooed Christians and their childish beliefs. Chinese, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Nazis have all had plenty of foxhole experience. Whoever says there are no atheists in foxholes has his head up his ass.

One last comment. It takes a lot of guts to resign from a career after putting a lot of planning, hope, and effort into it. You walk the honor and courage that the military just talks.

twincats said...

There are a lot of people in places of power with their heads up their asses. I live in an area crawling with them.

Atheists are the new commies, it seems, which is sad for the name-callers in this era of instantly available information. It just makes you look stupid when you could get the true information with a few clicks of a mouse.

USAF1 said...

Anonymous: "These days, with the mercenary army needing all the help it can get (the spoils, redefined as re-enlistment bonus, GI bill, etc.,..."

A mercenary, is anyone "1. working or acting merely for money or other reward; venal."

I'd suggest that most "all" people work for some type of reward, therefore, that doesn't seem significant. Actually, there are "some" philosophies that suggest all of humanity does what is in its best interest, and therefore, "everyone" is equal in the process of seeking benefit, some just choose their benefit in one form rather than another.

Now, as far are the other definitions that are associated to mercenary; "2. hired to serve in a foreign army, guerrilla organization, etc.
–noun 3. a professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army." I don't see a U.S. citizen protecting their "own" country, to be one that is serving a "foriegn" nation or guerilla outfit.

The term "mercenary", is also, a negative term used to denegrate those who proudly serve their country, guerilla is considered by many to be along the same lines as "assasine", a person paid to kill others, without a conscience/regret.

Now, was "Pat Tillman" a mercenary?

Anonymous: "...still not enough to attract any but the most unemployable high school drop-out), you can be sure the generals aren’t going to let an incentive like believing you are on a mission from God (with its heavenly reward should you die in combat) fall by the wayside without a fight."

Now, along with your denegrating military members, you spray them with the term "the most unemployable high school drop-out".

Enlisted Force:
- 99.9 percent of the enlisted force have at least a high school education.

Officer Force:
- 100% have degrees, it's required for a commission in the armed forces.

And, within 8 years of employment as an officer, one reaches the "field grade" rank.

- 85.4 percent of field grade officers have advanced degrees

http://ask.afpc.randolph.af.mil/pubaffairs/servicedemographics.asp?prods3=2303&prods2=313&prods1=79

Where else do you find a company, where the employees after 8 years hold advanced graduate degrees? Perhaps, at a "university"... right.

I agree with most of your post, I just don't see where you can leap from history, to some point, where the military is nothing but a bunch of uneducated, malicious/mercenary types who had no hope in life, and thus, had to join the military, because ditch digging didn't pay enough. Is that what you think Pat Tillman was doing in the military? He was just willing to get his "spoils" of war, because he just wasn't making it on the outside?

Anonymous: "One last comment. It takes a lot of guts to resign from a career after putting a lot of planning, hope, and effort into it."

This would be you praising someone who left the Army because they had a conflict of interest, and felt their rights were being infringed upon. Yet, this person was probably someone with more than a high-school dropout, and didn't join for the mercenary "spoils".

Anonymous: "You walk the honor and courage that the military just talks."

So, what... you seem to be able to separate the entire military from Pat Tillman, and this soldier who resigned their commission? Doesn't work, wouldn't the 1stLt and Pat Tillman both be considered mercenaries, as you stated, and also so un-educated that they had no where else to turn?

After making the statement, you step in and suggest that the rest (all), of the military, who don't walk away because some idiot general who speaks like an ignorant bigot, are cowards and don't hold the courage to stand up for their right?

I'd ask if you had ever served in the military, but that would make you un-educated and a derelict mercenary, right... so, the odds of you slandering an entire profession, that you were ever a part of, is slim to none.

One last commet. Most change comes from within, and that includes organizations, groups, lobbies, etc.

And, here is a comment that my leadership has "mandated" I review... and "teach" to my fellow Airman...

"American Generalship: Character Is Everything: The Art of Command, Edgar F. Puryear Jr. attributes a quotation to Gen Bill Creech: “The primary job of a leader is to grow other leaders.”

You can't change something, unless you are in the game. I'm still playing the game, the question becomes, what do those who quit do, now that they are no longer playing? I can still lead, and change people, through education, that would not be possible, if I resigned/quit.

Vixentrox said...

Some people are complete idiots when they open thier mouths about the military. Unemployable drop-outs? What decade are you living in you damn retard? Hell, militay folks do a lot of things that most fucking civilians can't qualify for, not the other way around. When was the last time you were a supervisor for a 1.2 Billion Top Secret nuclear war-planning mainframe in your mid 20s? When? You have no damn clue about what it takes to be successful in the military or to even get into basic. Many high school drop outs cant even get in the military and certainly almost impossible to get in the Air Force without a diploma.

Anonymous said...

Lieutenant:

You quote regulations defining religion as:

“A personal set or institutionalized system of attitudes, moral or ethical beliefs and practices held with the strength of traditional views, characterized by ardor and faith, and generally evidenced through specific observances”.

Very well.
You then go on to say: "The regulation’s definition (...)does not require organization or outside acknowledgement."

It seems to us that you willingly overlook some important terms in the regulations' text that contradict your narrow interpretation which focuses only on the personal.

But the terms "traditional" and "specific observances" are not written in for no reason. They extend the scope of the definition far beyond the personal and do include organisation and outside acknowledgement.

Tradition cannot exist without a community adhering to a tradition over a longer time span. A community demands outside acknowledgement. The Pennsylvania Dutch shun anyone going against tradition and the importance of that is well put in the "Tradition"-song from 'Fiddler on the roof," to give just two examples.

Atheism has its own tradition and observances; it is not a personal choice to proclaim whatever one likes, but only a choice to join the ranks of a pre-existing community.

As such, it can be evaluated from the outside. And the evaluation may well be that you do not belong in those ranks, so please step out.

Your definition of atheism makes it very easy for yourself and others. Too easy, too personal, too much "freedom is whatever i like." This will not do.

But let us take a kinder view and ask: maybe you mean agnosticism, the simple belief that "I wouldn't know or cannot know"? That is a very respectable position and a brave one as well, acknowledging one's unknowing or even ignorance.

Now this his can be done on a strictly personal level. But it is a far cry from atheism and it is definitely not a religion but a truly honest distancing oneself from all religions. Respect,courage and personal choice are part and parcel of it; but it leaves one standing all alone, a-religious, and therefore not protected by the regulation as you quoted it.

VHJM van Neerven,
managing editor,
VNC-Communication Consultancy

USAF1 said...

van Neerven: "Atheism has its own tradition and observances; it is not a personal choice to proclaim whatever one likes, but only a choice to join the ranks of a pre-existing community."

However, Christians, can make a personal choice and proclaim to be a myriad of different denominations, and splinter as much as they want, create their "own" traditions and observances, but there just "can't" be shades of Atheists, who have particular types of belief..., that's an ignorant or closed-minded statement.

You can't tell me what I believe, as well as you can't pick out one "Christian" in a pew on any given Sunday and know their particular views on a myriad of theological topics.

What are some of these Atheist traditions or observances? And, what makes an Atheist any different than an Agnostic, in terms of having a belief or tradition if you are so easily able to label "all" atheists as having some particular tradition or observance? Agnostics have a community of "I don't know", isn't that a tradition or observance?

In your statement, you are stating that all shades of belief exist in some type of organization, and the individual can only choose from those choices.

Has it occurred to you that there are many "Atheists", because the religious have "labeled" them as such? They use the term, to describe those that don't agree with their belief, and as a derogative term.

Atheism in my "belief", is an attribute much like how the belief of the "trinity" in the Christian tradition is used. It isn't the "core", facet that defines my belief system. Yet, its enough for a bigot to pull out and try to beat me with, because that facet contradicts "their" core belief, e.g. god. In other words, without god, a Christian has no belief, with my non-belief in their god, I still have a belief system.

It's a matter of one group suggesting that they hold "dominance", and everyone else must "recognize" their "absolute" universal truth as a "fact". It's a statement that if one doesn't recognize that core facet, that they are not part of the "in-crowd", and should feel ashamed that they are not part of the "real" belief system.

It doesn't matter what one holds as a belief, if they don't agree with that "core" tenant, then they are considered an "out-sider", and that is not beneficial in a corps of people who are entrusted to protect each other’s lives during combat. So, the military will have to choose, at some point which is most beneficial; the need to push a religious agenda and appeal to recruiters' needs, or build a cohesive unity of soldiers/airmen/sailors/marines so that they can engage a common goal without prejudice.

There are obviously two conflicting objectives, and "that", is why policy is written vaguely, as it gives leaders the ability to maneuver; when recruiting is down, they appeal to those in society by providing them a religious benefit, when the numbers are high and recruiting is doing well, they try and find a means to close the gap of difference.

Unfortunately, generals, by and far are political figures, and thus, appeal to the popular base, whatever that is. Some of them more ignorantly, than others.

And, by the way, the military doesn't recognize Atheism as a "tradition" or "observation", as then it would be considered a religious belief system. The term Air Force and other military members have to provide for their "religious preference", when they enter the military is they are not protestant or catholic, etc., is "no religious preference".

I suppose my "tradition" and "observation" is "religious", according to that "tag", I just have no preference - that's bullshit. It's arrogant, and it speaks volumes about the leadership and their insensitivity to those who don't hold a "religious" view, it says "other", and one might as well be wearing a "yellow star" to signify their religious ambiguity.

The military "requires" military members, to provide their religious preference, and the closest they can get, is an "agnostic" term like "no religious preference", e.g., I can't know a god, or which god is right, because I believe I am just not capable. Yet, that allows everyone else to run around believing they are, and there is this merry agreement, that some people can know god, and others… well, they’re just lost and incompetent, however, there is hope for them.

Atheism towards a supernatural god was on this planet long before, the supernatural religions showed up on the scene. If the “theist” can’t accept that, then they need to get an education. If the theist, as well, can’t see that all of humanity shouldn’t be measured against their arrogant and presumptuous belief system, then they are ignorant. If the theist feels compelled to denigrate those of alternative views, either ignorantly/intelligently, then they are bigots.

I don’t accept the terms of some absolute supernatural truth, that’s my belief, it’s the insecure theist dominant society, who feels compelled to label me atheist, because they do believe, and their belief is the absolute truth, and therefore, the entire universe is measured according to their “relative” position to that absolute truth.

To end, there are many formal belief systems that have an “atheist” by-product associated. For instance… Taoism, Confucianism, and Zen Buddhism. For a general to stand up, and make such an ignorant and emotionally charged statement, shows their need to appeal to emotion, because they lack the fortitude to be a leader by any other means than – popularity. When a leader resorts to engaging in popularity contests, to be measured as a leader – they are no longer a leader, they are a politician. And, the military can do much better than hiring politicians to positions where leaders are necessary to save lives. To suggest there are no “atheists” in foxholes, is to shun military personnel who serve for the common good, and are followers of Taoism, Confucianism, and Zen Buddhism, and “all” other belief systems that have an “atheist” component.

Anonymous said...

It is very unfortunate he resigned his post. No one said that getting atheism to be accepted and respected would be easy.Unfortunately there are many closet non believers who will never be heard and losing one who is vocal is a sad loss for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, just being vocal accomplishes nothing in this case. I first enlisted in 1985 and I can tell you nothing has changed since then. The Army simply doesn't care if atheists complain. But the Army does care if quality soldiers leave the Army or don't join at all.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, just being vocal accomplishes nothing in this case. I first enlisted in 1985 and I can tell you nothing has changed since then. The Army simply doesn't care if atheists complain. But the Army does care if quality soldiers leave the Army or don't join at all.

USAF1 said...

I've been in the military since 1985 myself, and I agree, just being vocal does nothing except label oneself as a problem child, and leadership finds a way to squelch noise - move them around to different units, promote them out of the command, etc., etc.

Providing education makes life tolerable for the units where leaders are actually educated, but a leader can only be as effective as their audience. Educating a group of 200 people, creates toleration for a while, but, when policy is not in place to effectively discipline those who discriminate, etc., then education is as far as it can go. Educating can be an effective internal change factor, if there become enough educated people in leadership positions.

The greatest change factor, in removing discrimination from the military comes from the external environment. There are those who work internally and externally, that would be the approach I take.

External changes come from society. Society "feeds" the military with its sons and daughters, society, in-turn elects politicians that can influence policy and law, society changes the culture of a nation.

Trying to change the military from the inside out is not how the military is structured. The military, can not question authority, its role is to prosecute orders without question, unless those orders are illegal. And, illegal or legal is defined by public/military law.

The point where the U.S. starts perceiving atheism as an acceptable world view, will become the time when advocating equal treatment will become approachable. In a nation with "faith" based programs, that provides food for families, it will be hard to sell. Everything, in society comes down to economics, and consequently, the basic level of the Maslow Pyramid.

Placing a family in a position, to choose between food, water, shelter, etc., or being more tolerant of alternate world views that can be perceived as threatening to their security, is not

The fact, that there is a choice today, with "faith" based programs, etc,. is a failure of the nation's political structure.

In short, the following has to happen.

--Prevent a federally endorsed program that gives financial "benefit" to a single religious world view. Sue, if it requires it.
--Thus, removal of an economic benefit for being religious.
--Then begin the education of an entire religious culture, regarding other world views.
--Elect politicians into office, once enough educated people can come together to agree that something is discriminatory.
--Hold Politicians that create public law/policy responsible to represent their constituency.
--Society will eventually start generating an entire new generation of people who become more knowledgeable, because they no longer have a "need" to be biased against an opposing view.
--Military recruiters will then be forced to accept this new generation.
--The military's culture will change, and will be forced to de-conflict the difference between its legal policies, and the society which feeds it.

Or, take a short cut, get a lobby and fight the Christian crusaders, who lobby heavily, then you can create laws and legislation without caring what the majority of society believes or thinks. Of course, this only works if the opposition doesn't show up to the polls.

If someone feels compelled to resign because they are trying to give a benefit to the military, they need to get involved with the process of change, and it will not be overnight, it will take years of lobbying and hard work. However, creating change from within the military by educating facilitates the process of change.

Well, tomorrow, I'll be having breakfast with;

Sen. John McCain (Arizona)
Sen. Susan Collins (Maine)
Sen. Thune (South Dakota)
Rep. Mark Kirk (Illinois)

Unfortunately, I don't get the legal opportunity to share my views publicly with them, nor would it do any good without external support.

Perhaps, the 1stLt will have the time now to legally challenge the federal programs that are supporting religious organizations, if his true intent was to make a change in society and the military which represents society. If he doesn't, then, his sacrifice was a personal decision to benefit him, not a benefit to the members of society or the military in general.

Anonymous said...

Dear USAF1
Thank you for your thought-provoking comments to my entry. I willl come back to it, but I require some time to give your writing a good read.
For now, I will say you make some good points and that I need to do some clarifying to keep the communication straight.
Until later,
VHJM van Neerven

USAF1 said...

Attempting internal change through legislation...

"Weinstein, who spent 10 years as an Air Force lawyer and worked in the Reagan White House, said he is now picking the best cases from "a veritable cornucopia of new plaintiffs and accusations."

Some evangelical groups and individuals "believe they have an illimitable right to push their biblical worldview in the military, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, up and down the chain of command," Weinstein said. "Our view is that you certainly have that right at certain times and places that are well established by the U.S. Constitution and our case law. . . . But you can't do it on the job when you're wearing the uniform during the workday."

Reports of aggressive evangelism at the Air Force Academy led the service to issue interim guidelines last year urging commanders to be "sensitive" about sharing their faith and called for a minute of silence or at most a "brief, non-sectarian" prayer at mandatory gatherings.

Evangelical groups complained about the Air Force guidelines and a similar Navy instruction, and House Republicans proposed legislation to guarantee that chaplains can always pray as they wish. In a compromise, that wording was dropped from a defense authorization bill, but a legislative report urged both the Air Force and the Navy to rescind their policies. Congress is expected to hold hearings on the issue next year."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/01/AR2006110103071.html

If the topic continues to be a hot issue, it will be national news. Most legal compromises occur, because the appropriate parties feel there is no longer a "need" to pursue the topic.

I can only hope I get an evangelical in my area, but... I feel they are quite aware of my position and thus, they understand the threat to their career.

LunarShadow said...

Of Course there are no Atheists in foxholes...... they are all out fighting the war while the Christians are in the foxholes praying they don't die :-p

Preston said...

The quote "there are no Atheists in foxholes" in its common religious usage does not aim to state that Atheists are not members of the military, or that they have not been in combat, or that they are afraid, etc. As always, the context has surely been misconstrued and manipulated over time, but I have always understood it differently, along with having it explained differently to me by (I assume) one of the more famous faces to say it.

The idea is that, in perilous situations, the more afraid soldiers (in this example) are for their life, the lower their chances of survival, the greater they hope for miracles, higher powers, "God", to be true, and the greater they begin to believe in a power outside of themselves.

That said, it is completely obvious that the military has a religion bias towards Christianity, away from Islam and Atheism, and one that only stands to increase (judging by the incentives being offered to new military chaplains). I also support the push, any push, to increase the acceptance of Atheism as a religion, and to recognize that discrimination against Atheists goes largely unrealized, and completely (nearly) unpunished and uncorrected.

I only mean to point out that the wider accepted meaning of the quote was different than the take of some on this blog. I'm sure with the constant bombardment that most vocal Atheists receive, it is easy to have a higher sensitivity to comments about Atheists (just as African-Americans who are heavily involved in civil rights have a hyper-sensitivity to any comments that can be remotely construed as racial).

I'm also sure there will be disagreements on what the same words mean to you, but with the reputation that Atheists have as "truth above all" individuals, I thought that it would be appreciated.

On a personal note, while many (and I include many in this blog) find offense in that particular quote, I actually feel that the quote, if anything, strengthens the position of Atheists. In highlighting that faith and a belief in God is closely tied to the power of emotion and fear over reason and intellect, it further ingrains the principle that a belief in a personal, literal God is inherently illogical and irrational, and can only be strengthened as those traits are overcome by blind emotion, fear, and the hope of a personal benefit if it is true (Heaven).

Jim Arvo said...

Somebody help me out here: the Preston above is not the same as "preston", who keeps posting remarks like "Being an atheist sucks" in this thread, right? If they are one in the same, then I am totally confused... The Preston above strikes me as incomparably more articulate.

.:webmaster:. said...

Yeah, Jim, that's odd.

If it continues, I'll do some sever log sleuthing.

J. C. Samuelson said...

Jim & Dave,

Whether they're the same, I can't say. However, I did notice that the Preston here has a blog link whereas the other one doesn't.

This one's not just more articulate, but put some thought into it before he wrote.

Preston said...

Just to clear things up after reading the other post, there seem to be two "Preston" users that comment in this forum. Jim-I can understand your confusion, and thank you for the compliment (and after reading the other's posts, I'll take any comments that distance my remarks from his).
I agree, though, with the words "being an Atheist sucks."
Because, well, being Agnostic or an Atheist in this current environment is so very hard, and often requires a great amount of time in defense of those beliefs...a defense that is usually futile, as it is triggered primarily by those that could never accept nor grasp the principles of those beliefs. In that sense, yes, it does "suck".

(On a side-note, you might run into a relatively high amount of "Preston's" in religious debates, as the name means "of the priest's estate", and commonly is given by priests to their sons.)

Jim Arvo said...

Thanks for speaking up, Preston. I was experiencing uncomfortably high levels of cognitive dissonance... Something didn't add up.

That's funny about the name "Preston". I had no idea.

I agree with you that continually being attacked by those who do not care to even understand what it is they attack does suck. But that seems to be the nature of religious indoctrination.

Preston said...

I don't always imagine that it is a religious fanatic that wants only to push his personal system of beliefs over to suffocate and dominate over any of one's own, but that there are genuinely people that look to understand, but cannot. To me, it is as if you would ask someone who is sure that the world was flat "What is the Earth's circumference?" It isn't a question they can answer, because in their minds it isn't applicable because of an underlining belief.

For faith and religion, in discussions that I have had, it is those that are undecided in their beliefs that can reason appropriately with the common arguments and ideas of agnosticism, while those that are devout in their faith in God cannot grasp (or at least not easily)the different method of thought that is pursued by Atheist/Agnostics, that which requires logic and reason, or at least experience, to determine the worth of any idea or theory.

With a mindset of "it is because it is written" that has dominated a person's mind for a lifetime, to ask that they reflect instead on a principle of "it is when you can prove that it is, and it isn't only when you know that it isn't" is unrealistic, in my opinion. Such a drastic change in underlining mindset after years of experience and comfort in their "knowledge" of their world and satisfaction in their beliefs surely does not seem possible in the span of a conversation.

As it has been told to me, for an atheist's point of view, it would be as if you had died, and upon death were met with the classic understanding of a Christian (so many versions, so lets be specific and say Catholic)afterlife, only to then find that the Bible, as originally compiled, was a true and honest account of the birth and life of Earth, and that it all differed greatly from the common descriptions of science today. How could that possibly be accepted? What mind could handle that fallout, being so sure and soundly satisfied with a particular and specific set of ideas and then having those ideas immediately rendered irrelevant?

Personally, I don't have an answer for those questions. I can only imagine an accountant living on a large, populous island, and never traveling beyond it in his youth, finally vacationing when he was 40. And then, on this vacation, he finds math that don't make sense to him. 3+3=10. 3x4=100. 4-3=15. 3/3=3 And then to know that it would this town, this country that was different, but that it was his town, his school, his life, that was wrong.

Do I think he would be able to adjust? Do I even think he could try? No. I don't. I don't think that something that was so deeply ingrained in his life and mind could be systematically changed, as he would look at those examples just as we are now: "Oh, 3 just means 5, and 4 just means 20, and to divide by the same number is the same as dividing by 1", adapting everything to coexist with what we knew previously. We could not easily reconcile though 3x4/3=1500, or that 10-3=6, and 6-3=10, while 3-6=3, without trying make rules for all those unique problems in terms of our current and only knowledge of math. It would take years to understand.

In language, like say English to Chinese, it is a similar problem where one letter or word cannot simply translate to another. I bring this up because that is the classic rebuttal..."People learn multiple languages all the time", and that I agree with.

But that is because language is not mutually exclusive, where as in the math instance, and in the Atheist/Christian instance, the ideas are mutually exclusive. As we know it, number A added to number A cannot be the number 6 and the number 10 at the same time. It is that which provides such an obstacle for understanding between Atheists/Agnostics and Christians/Islamisists/etc., in both directions, irregardless of intent or effort.

Maybe I should add a ramble rant alert to the top of this post...and my apologies to the threat for vectoring far off-topic.

dano said...

Preston,
There are a lot of people who were totally emerged into Christianity. People who had all of the classic symptoms of cult indoctrination, and they escaped.

Dave (Webmaster) is a perfect example. My guess is he would take a bullet before he would attempt to reconvert back into what brought him here to start this website.,

Most of the Christians who come to this site, and start preaching, are, like you stated somewhere, not even close to being as knowledgeable about their religion as most of the regulars here.

On the other hand, there have been those with superior verbal acuity, who have lurked here for weeks asserting over and over that nothing or no one could ever shake their faith in the bible, and Jesus.

After the most patient and best critical thinkers "here," dissect all of the assertions of these geniuses, beliefs that ultimately come down to just being based on faith, and the Bible, these really smart Christians usually fade away with a whimper, realizing that if they cant prove something to us unbelievers, with real verifiable, repeatable evidence, we ain't interested. We don't want faith, we want proof.

So you are right. We aren't about to give up what we think makes us strong, I.E., reason, reality, skepticism, and logic.......

......and we are perfectly content to let the best Christian Apologizers go back to where they came from, but we know something they don't.

We have seen small chinks in their armor, and are fairly confident that they will never be the same, for their sojourn into reason.
Dan

Dave8 said...

Preston: "On a personal note, while many (and I include many in this blog) find offense in that particular quote, I actually feel that the quote, if anything, strengthens the position of Atheists."

Being one who has been in a military relationship since birth, I'd have to suggest an alternative view on the proposition made about atheists in foxholes...

Preston: “The idea is that, in perilous situations, the more afraid soldiers (in this example) are for their life, the lower their chances of survival, the greater they hope for miracles, higher powers, "God", to be true, and the greater they begin to believe in a power outside of themselves.”

A personal expectation of mine when I listen to someone, is… that they communicate their intent through meaningful and lucid discourse… If a person doesn’t have the ability to communicate effectively, it begs the question on why a person would listen to them… If in fact, the proposition is supposed to convey the idea, as you presented Preston, then why doesn’t a speaker convey that idea, instead of just leaving it in the general and open for personal interpretation…

I can think of a few reasons that come to mind…

1-The speaker is ignorant, or not able to communicate effectively…

2-The speaker presents such a proposition in front of a myriad of listeners, to make an appeal to them whom would listen… The proposition is made in the general so that “all” people can place their own truth to the statement, giving the speaker the cover of being “truthful”, so that further discourse is seen as credible… A political statement, where there appears to be a truth or idea exchanged, but in reality, there is “no” underlying thought or idea conveyed… one would have to inquire of the speaker on their personal meaning of the proposition in order to get a solid understanding… and… in the venues I have seen the proposition used, no one “asks” for clarification… because it challenges the political authority of the one making the statement.

So, such a statement can be used to garner support and credibility, while even in the presence of many who take offense to the statement… and, of course, if one were to challenge the statement through legal means… it would almost be close to impossible to suggest the “exact” intent or meaning the speaker was trying to convey. The speaker can claim ignorance, or inability to communicate effectively… and if pressed to provide clarity, the speaker has the opportunity to fill in the gaps with a “benign” intent and meaning…

Suggesting that a listener has the opportunity to apply a decent and less abrasive meaning, does not elevate my respect or trust of the speaker… If a leader can’t effectively communicate in public, one only need to imagine how effectively they would communicate in combat where lives are at risk.

I’d suggest that the leaders in military ranks, who can’t effectively communicate be removed from position, but I’d also suggest that there are very few officers I have met that lack the ability to communicate effectively…

A proposition made like this one, typically isn’t made based on lack of ability, its from a lack of leadership ability… when a leader is seeking a common cause, to rally the soldiers, this is one of those patent statements made… thus, gaining the military leader the commitment of loyalty from a majority of people, while alienating a minority within their ranks…

The leader is suggesting that you can’t make everyone happy, so… the minority view, is acceptable collateral damage… Unfortunately, in combat, “every” person counts, each person has a responsibility to effectively make an operation a success… If a leader makes this typical statement to soldiers in combat, they have effectively endangered the lives of American troops by creating disunity…

Those who make such propositions, need not be in a position where effective communication is essential…

Preston said...

Dave:
I think I may have miscommunicated.
I did not intend to say that I held a different meaning for the comment in the context that it was given (as spoken by Lt. Gen. Blum on July 18th, 2006), but to say that, along with being factually incorrect in the honest meaning that atheists do not have the courage/will to fight in combat situations, it is also a misuse of the quote "their are no atheists in foxholes" as a declaration of fact, as opposed to it's original meaning, as a generalization based on a journalist's observation of human nature in dire situations during World War Two, scratching for help or solace in faith as they inched closer to their end.

The second issue that was brought up was
("Suggesting that a listener has the opportunity to apply a decent and less abrasive meaning, does not elevate my respect or trust of the speaker"),
in reference to my
("On a personal note, while many (and I include many in this blog) find offense in that particular quote, I actually feel that the quote, if anything, strengthens the position of Atheists.")

I did not mean to give my personal feelings on the original usage of the "foxhole" quote to insist that others could find a way to enjoy or respect a speaker who says it by attaching a different meaning to a quote(again, this is separate and inapplicable in regards to Lt. Gen. Blum because I feel that he misused the quote, as evident by it's context and his personal feelings). For the singular original meaning of the "foxhole" quote, I only meant to reflect my point of view on that singular meaning. I enjoy the quote for that reason, that there can be two views on the same observation, at opposite ends of the (opinion) spectrum, and each one supports an argument of their "side" over the other. It's brilliant...when it is used accurately, which is not as a declaration of fact on the number of soldiers in combat areas who claim "Atheist" as a religious preference.

I think the rest of your post, as I read it, states your feeling that the Lt. Gen. Blum (in this instance) is not fit for his rank or position. Personally, I feel that Lt. Gen. Blum is unfit for general command of troops, and as an officer who is, by rank, always in a position of systemic command, and one that cannot strip his personal beliefs from his duties, that he might better be suited (read: might only possibly be accommodated within any military branch of this nation) with the MOS of a military chaplain. So I would say that we agree.

Preston said...

The acronym "MOS" stands for "Military Occupational Specialty", which is, in essence, a job description and it's responsibilities within the US military.

Jim Arvo said...

Hi Preston,

I see your point about the "foxhole" quote. I've also long held that its "dual" meaning, or implication, is that religious beliefs often follow on the heels of duress. Clearly this is not a ringing endorsement of such beliefs, albeit this fact seems to be lost on most believers. Any decision made under duress is suspect, and if that's the best believers can offer, well... that says a lot.

However, I think we can all agree that the "foxhole" quote is normally intended as a barb; an assertion akin to "You just wait and see," or "You'll be sorry when you're in Hell," which also carry the implication that all non-believers will eventually experience a change of heart, in the "hereafter" if not before. So, I find that I have three distinct objections to the "foxhole" aphorism:

1) Taken literally, it's clearly not true, and it belittles the service of non-believers.

2) Taken metaphorically, there is a grain of truth to it, but only in that extreme duress can evoke irrational responses. In no way does it lend support to the world view of the believer.

3) Taken as a barb, it's an arrogant assertion that is roughly equivalent to "one day you will see that I'm right," which has about the same merit as repeating the phrase "Is too!" a dozen times while stomping one's feet in an alternating fashion.

This raises a practical question. What is an appropriate rejoinder to a believer who smugly asserts that "There are no atheists in foxholes"? Here are several off the top of my head (corresponding roughly to my three categories above), but none of them is pithy enough to be effective:

1') Would you mind explaining how you determined that?

2') But among those who have the luxury of thinking things through, there are many.

3') Maybe, but once they read the Bible, they'll be atheists again.

Can anyone come up with a better rejoinder?

Larry said...

Makes one wonder about all those evil atheists over in Iraq riding through and a IED blows the whole HumVee all to shreds and the atheists' brains are in mid-air and his/her brain particals are suddenly saying, "I believe in God, I believe in God", but it's too late, they are now standing in the flames of hell, according to Rev. Preston

So according to Prestons reasoning, there are no atheists in Hummers either.

I wonder why these brainwashed christians care one way or the other who believes the same nonsense as them?

If they can convence one other person to believe as they, then they will appear to not look so stupid.

Because Preston, you're completely stupid!!

Jim Arvo said...

Larry, I think you have misunderstood Preston's position. (And, by the way, this Preston is not the fundamentalist "preston" who has been spamming this site.) In any case, I don't think he deserves to be called "stupid". Far from it.

Preston said...

Jim:
I agree, but I'd go with:
1) Sounds like an argument against foxholes.

2) Faith from duress and emotional pressure? No atheists in foxholes...or suicide bombings.

3) Well done. Though you're still incorrect, at least there's evidence Atheists and foxholes both exist...which would represent a significant break from every other argument I've heard from you.

And thanks.

Larry: Also, thank you for the insight. It surely enlightened all of us, though I would ask that you keep your summary of my "reasoning" to yourself, before it is misunderstood as anywhere logically near what I meant.

-Reverend Preston

Jim Arvo said...

"Sounds like an argument against foxholes."

I like it! It's pithy, cute, and likely to evoke a moment of thought. Well done.

Preston said...

Haha, thanks Jim...I don't know who to defer credit to, but it's not mine...I sure I read it somewhere a while ago. But whoever it was, I agree, it's good.

Dave8 said...

Reverend Preston... It appears we agree, in that metaphorically the phrase can be construed to fit any context... and if a person understands the original context in which the phrase was evoked, then a more honest understanding can be understood... and perhaps, even appreciated, in that we are all human, each possibly seeking hope under duress...

Yet, as Jim pointed out... it appears there needs to be clarification, as the phrase has become as confused and corrupted as the bible, by the theoretical good intentions of those who present their information...

I hold that the responsibility of the one, even if they appreciate the comment in its original context, need to clarify their position, because of its oft ill-used context... especially, when addressing large groups of people, and in a political context...

We have plenty of modern day Paul's taking words, and twisting them to make their case... I take it personally, but perhaps that's something I need to work on...

Regarding Lt. Gen. Blum... I believe we agree for the most part. However, if I may add something, I may not have communicated well during my previous post...

Here are the possibilities that come to mind for his behavior. I see him, as lacking effective communication skills, possible dishonesty, ineptitude as a leader, one who is willing to exploit people in order to receive a gain, and one who may take pleasure in someone else’s' pain... Obviously, we likely differ in belief, as to whether our good general is fit for chaplaincy duty.

There is "no" leadership position this general is fit to serve, and there are, in theory, leaders in the chaplaincy.

There is much that could be stated, but let me add... you do justice to your point of view, and I admire the fact that you have the ability to communicate effectively. You appear to believe that your audience was valuable enough to take the time to make the investment of clarity... obviously; the general didn't hold the same opinion.

Preston said...

Dave:
On second thought, I agree with you that Lt. Gen. Blum would not be fit in any capacity as an officer. I reasoned it possible as a chaplain because he cannot disassociate his religious views from his leadership role, but taking into consideration the bigger picture and problem of his gross misuse of authority by making those statements in uniform, and the lack of judgment therein, a role as influential to young soliders as a military chaplain would be negligent.