A friend form the Atheist/Agnostic parent group we went to back when we lived in Washington recently posted this article on group's Facebook board. Colorado's Representative Jared Polis proposed legislation that would allow non-religious chaplains to serve the growing number of non-religious service members; the proposal was defeated 150 to 274.
Several of my friends shared their opinion on it, and while we agreed that indeed it was a step in the right
direction to even bring up a bill like that, it is disheartening
listening to the elected congressmen and –women explaining their
decision to vote against the bill. Atheists, secular humanists, or ethical culturists
would not be able to provide proper service as chaplains. They would
call fallen comrades “worm food”(Texas Rep. Mike Conaway) and upset the wounded or dying
soldiers; Louisiana's Rep. John Fleming went as far as calling the proposal "a mockery". Again, the same old prejudice. Again, the bias against a group
of people that is ever-growing (the number of non-religious soldiers in the military may be as high as 25%, according to the article), but sill screamed
down so often. I, myself, have faced prejudice and alienation by people
for my non-belief. On the other hand, I have experienced people coming
up to me with an open mind and sincere questions, which I always
that has been lacking for a long time and must be engrained in society
again is tolerance and acceptance. This is a country made of people from many
countries, with different traditions, different skin colors, different
customs, and also different faiths.
So why is it so scary for many people to wrap their heads around
non-believers? We are just another group in this big old melting pot.
There are good people among us, those who strive to be as good as they can, those that
only care for themselves, and bad ones, like in any
other group of people. I have met so many deeply caring people, doctors,
nurses, whole-hearted mothers who have raised amazing kids, teachers,
artists, you name it, just like in any other group.
have met others, too. But I have honestly never met someone cruel
enough to do what we are accused to by these congressmen. Yes, an
Atheist chaplain would probably not tell a soldier about heaven awaiting
him, but he would be just as fit to accompany
a soldier on his last path. He will be just as qualified to provide
solace and support to family members and comrades. A Hindu or Buddhist
chaplain probably do things different than a Christian chaplain, and so
would an Atheist one. There are so many ways of
providing chaplain services to those needing them, since there are
people of many believes in this world.
As a question back to the people who claim an Atheist chaplain cannot serve a Christian soldier: if your claim is true, how can a Christian chaplain serve a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Atheist soldier? In that case, a chaplain of about every (non-) faith has to be attached to a unit, in order to ensure that every solder is provided with proper service. Near impossible, I dare to claim. It is a fact that the number of non-religious people - and soldiers - including those that are not attached to any church or unsure about their believes, is increasing, and there should be chaplains available to serve them.
As some of you may know, I have been an Army wife. Back when we were engaged and Richard needed the leave pass from his commander, he sent him to see a chaplain for pre-marital councelling. I was confused that this councelling would not include me, but found out shortly after why. Obviously, the chaplain briefed my husband that he should be assured that he did not have to marry me, even if I was pregnant (which I was not), that it was ok to just "have a little" fun without having to get married right away. And when Richard insisted that he had his heart set on marrying me, he gave him this book. Well, it was in the trash before the weekend was over.I wonder how this Protestant chaplain served my Atheist husband. Thinking about it, I wonder how this particular chaplain would have served any soldier. Maybe this person was just a total failure in his job, but it was a somewhat memorable experience with a Christian chaplain. He did not take the time to listen to Richard, to get to know him and learn about his motivations; he did not include me at all, even though I was a major part of this impending marriage. And when he had the impression that he couldn't change Richard's mind - and heart - he just gave him a book, which could only serve as to light the grill.
What is your opinion of non-religious chaplains in the military? I'd love to hear your opinion!