Pastor: Atheist military chaplains would be a good thing

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  • LittleDrummerMan ,
    Sept. 5, 2013 2:10 p.m.

    Atheist military chaplains? A chaplain provides spiritual and emotional support for service personnel, including the conduct of religious services at sea, on bases or in the field What would they say in their sermons? "Just go on out there guys. There's no one out there to look out for ya anyway." Yes. Very uplifting.

  • Hamath Omaha, NE
    Aug. 12, 2013 4:27 p.m.

    @ Tyler D

    There are MANY. Everyone makes thousands of assumptions to get to a particular philosophy of life.
    Figuring out what assumptions you make takes years and is an essential component of wisdom.

    I'll take some guesses at atheistic assumptions. I might be wrong.

    1) Atheist seem to assume that when people say they've talked with God or seen Christ that they are wrong. I suspect some atheists believe that "prophets" are intentional lying and that some believe that "prophets" are misguided and overexagerate what they experience or misinterpret it.

    2) You assume that those who believe in God or Gods are doing so with great levels of hubris and self-importance. I don't know if you believe this universally among all "believers"... I doubt you do. But perhaps among most of them. This is an assumption that you make. I have no clue if this is a prominent atheist belief or not.

    3) Atheists might assume that natural explanations for events previously explained in supernatural terms imply the events were not affected in supernatural ways.

    These are superficial assumptions. The root assumptions are essences of our views of life. All assumptions are based on some faith.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 8, 2013 9:21 a.m.

    @Hamath – “Atheism requires faith in certain assumptions”

    Would you mind sharing some of those assumptions with us? Specifically, what assumptions are implied in the following statements?

    I doubt the existence of Zeus, Poseidon, Isis and Baal.

    I see no good evidence for miracles, although I am open to the possibility that life on other planets exists and that the technology of an advanced enough civilization will appear to us as magic.

    I doubt the existence of a transcendent (objective) being who takes a personal interest in me (I would never presume this level of hubris and self-importance).

    I see no evidence for the supernatural, but I acknowledge the countless phenomenon throughout history that were once explained in supernatural terms for which we now have natural explanations. And I see zero evidence that this totally one directional trend will reverse in the future.

    Finally, please explain what assumptions a non-astrologer has with respect to astrology, or a non-alchemist has with respect to alchemy.

    @G L W8 – “your last few comments are sound, civil… I was delighted to read them!”

    Kind of you to say…

    Aug. 8, 2013 8:52 a.m.

    Tyler D, Skeptical Chymist, and Northern Lights: your last few comments are sound, civil, and in my opinion gets at the heart of what the DesNews wants on these posts, departing from much of the hype (including some of my own) we normally have seen. I was delighted to read them!

  • Hamath Omaha, NE
    Aug. 8, 2013 8:42 a.m.

    Actually I can see why it makes sense. Atheism requires faith in certain assumptions. Since faith is the essence of any religion, it makes some sense to say that atheism is a religion itself.

  • The Skeptical Chymist SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 6:36 p.m.

    @Northern Lights

    I'm very glad to hear this. It conflicts with information I've received from other sources, but you certainly sound like you know what you're talking about.

  • Northern Lights Arco, ID
    Aug. 7, 2013 4:57 p.m.

    Skeptical Chymist:

    There does exist within the Army non-religious counselors, with full privacy protection, AND an additional requirement to never keep any records. These counselors are certified professionals hired by the Army in order to encourage Soldiers to seek help with personal and emotional problems without fear of being reported on. These counselors are available regardless of a Soldier's religious or non-religious beliefs. This has been a fantastic program for the Army!

  • The Skeptical Chymist SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 2:43 p.m.

    @Tyler D

    You and I are in perfect agreement on this. A non-religious counselor, with full privacy protection, is exactly what is needed. Presently, there is nothing like this that exists, and it treats our non-religious soldiers as second-class citizens.

    The term "atheist chaplain" is pretty ridiculous, but the idea of non-religious counselors is a good one.

    Aug. 7, 2013 2:23 p.m.

    I have no quarrel with giving atheists and humanists a confidential counselor that could not post confidences on an army/government record. I just don't know where one can be found that would qualify under current regulations and legal muster. We just need to be careful that we don't get into a "church/state separation" fracas that ends up putting more limits on chaplains for soldiers who do have religious beliefs and affiliations. A need for a different term may also be necessary--even "humanist chaplain" carries the religious connotation that may turn some humanist/atheist soldiers off that would otherwise seek out a counselor.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 7, 2013 2:04 p.m.

    @The Skeptical Chymist – “Atheist soldiers are in need of sympathetic counseling just as much as religious soldiers.”

    True, but couldn’t this be solved with a simple administrative change? Why not have a few non-religious people work out of the Chaplaincy Office to provide the same counseling services (and enjoy all the privacy protections, etc.) as chaplains do?

    And hopefully this is all we’re talking about, but to get into this game of calling such a person an “Atheist Chaplain” is completely ridiculous, as many here have already pointed out.

    It’s like saying “before I make a decision, I need to consult my non-astrologer Astrologer.” It’s silly of course, but in this case I think the semantics matter and need to be gotten right.

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    Aug. 7, 2013 1:08 p.m.

    "Atheist chaplain" is about as logical a concept as "rectangular triangle."

  • The Skeptical Chymist SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 12:31 p.m.

    The reason why we need atheist (or better - humanist) chaplains is that there are atheists in the military, who need comfort, just as religious soldiers do. They can go to chaplains, who may or may not provide the sympathetic ear that is needed. They may refuse to provide a sympathetic ear, claiming that there is nothing they can do unless the soldier adopts their religion. Or they may denigrate the soldier's lack of belief. Atheist soldiers are in need of sympathetic counseling just as much as religious soldiers, and currently have no place to get it.

    True, they can go for psychological counseling, but that is placed on their record and is a badge of dishonor. It can come up again and hurt their chances of promotion, etc. They need a safe place where they can talk to someone, and they deserve it.

    Aug. 7, 2013 11:57 a.m.

    We're in an obvious problem with the change of language, especially over time. The First Amendment used the word "religion" in a different context, atheism not being a prevalent philosophy when it was written. True, there are many who view atheism as practiced currently as a "religion of no religion" because of the practices of some of its zealous adherents. But to classify it as a religion in terms of the First Amendment would, I believe, require an amendment redefining the terms involved.
    In my view, that would be a waste of time. If atheists are so sold on science and humanism for answers, why do they want a chaplain? That word itself carries religious connotations--so there's quite a bit of irony for them to even ask for one.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Aug. 7, 2013 9:13 a.m.

    I like Bill Maher’s quote on this – “saying atheism is a religion is like saying abstinence is a sex position.”

  • A Scientist Provo, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 8:20 a.m.

    "Why? Because allowing atheist chaplains recognizes atheism as a religion and would make atheists subject to the same legal restrictions they have gleefully placed on every other religion."

    Now that is in good faith!


  • Midvaliean MIDVALE, UT
    Aug. 7, 2013 6:56 a.m.

    This is silly. If I was a atheist chaplain, who is to say what faction of atheism I represent? It's the silliest semantics argument I've heard in recent days.