Sunday, May 1, 2011

Atheists and Foxholes

Who does not know that old adage that there are no atheists in foxholes?  Well, old adages may be generally true but not always.  One soldier is suing the Army to prove the exception to this old rule.  You can watch his story here or you can read it here.  The Army is not a branch of any Christian church or any religion, for that matter, at least last I checked.  However, what is unique here is the idea that atheists want or deserve chaplains.  Now that is worth a few moments of pondering.

Atheism, in a broad sense, is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.

The term atheism originated from the Greek ἄθεος (atheos), meaning "without god", which was applied with a negative connotation to those thought to reject the gods worshipped by the larger society. With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to identify themselves as "atheist" appeared in the 18th century.

Atheists tend to be skeptical of supernatural claims, citing a lack of empirical evidence. Atheists have offered various rationales for not believing in any deity. These include the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, and the argument from nonbelief. Other arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to the social to the historical. Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies, there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.

In other words, atheism is not a religion of non-religious but a solitary stance, without doctrine or identifying kernels of belief or unbelief.  It is a religion of one, if it is a religion at all.  While it may seem lonely at times, those who are atheists can seek out other atheists for company.  Or they could join a church which does not require the belief in a god or in the God (Buddhism comes to mind).  The point is that religion is by nature communal.  Though there are some exceptions in which the solitary religious path or meditation forms a broad part of the exercise of that "faith," the very nature of religion is that it is a community to which one belongs, with rites of initiation and marks of belief which form the boundaries of that faith.  Some also have behavioral requirements.

If you want community, go to church.  If you do not want to believe (in anything), then, I am sorry, the best you are left with is yourself.  Unbelief does not require counsel.  In fact, it seems to be flourishing rather well left to its own individual devices.  Or, if you want to be together in your unbelief, go to Starbucks on Sunday morning.  Make fun of us believers (especially Christians, since it is rather in style).  Do whatever it is that atheists do.  But why do you need a chaplain to assist you?  Director of Entertainment, sure.  Master of Ceremonies, why not.  Food Director, of course.  Music director, well, atheists don't have any songs (see previous post on this blog).  But a chaplain.  Gimme a break.   Pullllleeeeezzzzzeeee.


rev_af_col said...

Someone posted on another blog before I did, "does this mean atheist will soon admit they are a religion?" or something to that effect.

Peter Reilly said...

Some Unitarian Universalists are atheists and work quite well in the church community. I don't know if there are UU atheists in the chaplain corps, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

Just another self-serving glory hound trying to masquerade his selfishness behind a civil right.
Even if the Army approved this I'm not sure it would mean that you would actually have to have an athiest chaplian, but that there would be a section in the Chaplaincy manual regarding Athiesm and whatever rites or lack thereof are involved so that any chaplain could perform said acts. For instance there used to be a section in the Chaplain handbook (No.165-13)that detailed the 'Religious requirements and Practices' of the church of Satan. That was back in 1978, in 13 years in the service I never met or heard of a Satanic church chaplain, but if there was a soldier who needed something in that odious manner the Army had their bases covered.

But truthfully... I always thought the company psychologist was the athiest's chaplain. And by the way, back in the day you had a choice on Sunday, go to church or stay in the barracks and have extra duty-no one got to sleep in. Maybe the Army athiests are jealous.

Jonathan said...

Knowing the military as I do, I am sure the military atheists will get a "non-spiritual material life counselor-advocate.".

After all, they got Wiccans, Buddhist, and every other type of "chaplain" designator. Why not something for the atheists? That's the way the military thinks.