Tag Archives: Atheists in Foxholes

Canadian Reserve Army Chaplain Claims There Are No Atheists in Foxholes

Canadian Reserve Army Chaplain Claims There Are No Atheists in Foxholes
By Hemant Mehta

Donald MacGillivray (below), a reserve army chaplain in Canada, made a ridiculous comment in an opinion piece for the Cape Breton Post:

War is about life and death and because it is so, it raises questions about meaning. All people search for meaning, as it is part of what it is to be human.

That old expression: “There are no atheists in foxholes,” I think really rings true because these big life questions are pondered perhaps a bit more by those involved in war.

Of course, there are plenty of atheists in foxholes. There are organizations dedicated to atheists in foxholes. There are intelligent atheists who think very deeply about the “big life questions” precisely because they serve in the military. It’s not just ignorance on MacGillivray’s part; it’s slander.

And while we’re on the topic of ignoring atheists, the American military still doesn’t allow Humanists to become chaplains and Emma Green at the Atlantic explores why that reality is so absurd:

[Army major Ray] Bradley thinks specificity is important, though; not all non-theistic religions belief systems are created equal. “When you say you’re a humanist, it’s your life system, belief system; it’s what drives you,” he said. “Being a humanist means as much to an individual as being a Christian or a Muslim.”

But he’s not convinced that atheists need their own chaplain. “I would fully agree that an atheist chaplain is an oxymoron,” he said. A-[theism] is antithetical to the idea of chaplaincy.”

[Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty executive director Ron] Crews agreed. “I would question how an atheist chaplain could fulfill his duties,” he said. “The motto [of the Army chaplaincy] is ‘for God and country’ — how could an atheist fulfill that motto if by definition he does not believe in God?”

On the other hand, atheists also have counseling needs, and may be alienated by theistic language — this was one of the reasons why the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers was founded, said Jason Torpy, the president. With the rejection of Jason Heap’s application for the chaplaincy, “the Navy seems to be going on-record as ‘God-only,’” he added. “If that’s the case, it calls into question the whole institution.”

While atheists don’t need religious guidance, many would be served well by access to non-religious counselors who understand their mindset.

As MAAF has repeatedly made clear, evangelical Christians make up 18% of the military and 63% of the chaplaincy:

Meanwhile, of all non-Christian groups, atheists and agnostics are the largest minority, yet the other faith groups still have their own chaplains:

I’m convinced the only reason atheists don’t have chaplains right now is because that anti-atheist mindset — that there are no atheists in foxholes or that it would be un-American or unnecessary to provide atheists with chaplains — is still in full force. This should be a no-brainer.

In a time when politicians are already under fire for not providing enough help and support for our troops, this is just another way we’re falling short — and one of the easiest to fix.

Pentagon Attempts to Force Religion on Soldiers in “Spiritual Responsibility” Training

Thanks (Re: Mandatory “Spiritual Responsibility” Training Materials)
From the Military Religious Freedom Foundation

I am one of the 60+ officers who was instructed I must attend chapel in order to be a morally fit officer. I was shocked by this blatant religion injection. It was a chilling revelation that-behind the curtain-the powers that be expect religious conformity. I instantly experienced a sinking feeling of dismay, because I was been told to worship (or pretend to) against my convictions or risk my career being cut off.

When I sent the e-mail to Mikey, it was not the least I could do… It was the most. I’m an active duty officer, in a highly visible position. My career relies heavily on the good will and “networking” of my fellow officers. My rights to express myself publicly are meaningless in the reality of officer career progression. So many people can put the breaks on my career, at a whim; especially for challenging their religious faction’s hold over this niche of the government.

Within minutes, Mikey e-mailed me back, talked to me personally, and inspired me to write more about my experiences. Most importantly, he backed up his words with swift action.

Within 72 hours, his legal team sent a demand letter to the Pentagon, and the press was notified. In less than a week’s time, the offending document was removed from the curriculum.

The outpouring of support from all over the country was breathtaking. It was so comforting to know there are people like me who want to serve without supplicance, fight without fanaticism, and defend the constitution not a particular version of a particular deity. Thanks to the galvanizing motivation of Mikey Weinstein, and his indomitable spirit, service members like me can be heard. Courage is a universal trait among us. But no matter how brave you are, it’s good to know Mikey, and MRFF, has your back. Keep fighting the good fight!

(USAF Officer’s name, rank, AFSC, unit and installation withheld)