Saturday, April 30, 2011

Chaplains For Atheists--Huh?

Leave it to the New York Times to find an absolutely ridiculous concept and treat it as a legitimate news story. This time it's the ultra-serious issue of whether atheists and secular humanists should have their own military chaplains. Now stop that giggling immediately. Everybody needs a place to get together and not pray while being led by somebody who knows the right way not to pray.

There are atheists in foxholes after all. And they need non-religious leaders to teach them, well, what? I suppose they'll have hymns such as All, Or Nothing At All. They'll read from the writings of the great non-theologians such as Madalyn Murray O'Hair. They will reminisce about how O'Hair, her son and granddaughter were murdered by a member of her organization, American Atheists. Then they can rejoice in the sure and certain hope that she will not be resurrected to eternal life, or any other kind of life.

The chaplain will lead recitations of "ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if the bomb don't getcha, then the fallout must." Instead of a cross or a star of David, the chaplains will sport big Zeros. There's nothing more comforting to a soldier than learning that his sacrifice is meaningless and that as soon as he's dispatched by someone on the other side who actually does believe in a god, he will become part of the great earth mother and nothing else. "We're food for worms, and we're loving it."

The nascent atheist chaplains will first have to get over the hurdle of being approved by senior religious chaplains. You know, the guys who believe in a god or two. That won't be easy, since chaplains must minister to a faith group. How do you minister to a group that goes out of its way to have no faith? In addition, in a non-sectarian way, military chaplains must be able to minister to the religious needs of those of a different religion or denomination. That's hard enough for a Protestant chaplain comforting a Catholic soldier. What's an atheist chaplain going to say? "Don't worry about it, it's all over for you after you're dead anyway." I don't think that would calm my worries about facing impending mortal death.

I'm picturing the Catholic chaplain saying to the wounded and dying Protestant soldier "Fear not but be of good faith. For Jesus said 'I am with you always." The atheist chaplain would say "Fear not, and be of no faith. For you are about to exit this world entirely alone."

Jason Torpy, President of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (I didn't make that up) told the Times: "Humanist chaplains would do everything religious chaplains do, including counsel troops and help them follow their faith." I'm leaving that statement to our readers to explain to me. I'm just too simple-minded to follow that logic. Perhaps former Captain Torpy doesn't know that there is a diametric difference between secular humanists and Christian humanists.

The former group carries "man is the measure of all things" to its logical extreme--there is no God, and you can't have faith in something that doesn't exist. Christian humanists took that phrase to mean that man is the measure of all things on earth and can only be found wanting when measured against the Lord and Father of us all. Christian humanism played a major part in the development of the Protestant Reformation as well as subsequent reform within the Catholic Church itself. But one thing remained constant--a deep belief in the divinity of Christ.

After being approached by soldiers at Ft. Bragg to appoint an atheist lay leader for the members of Military Atheists and Secular Humanists (yes, MASH), one senior chaplain replied: "You're not a faith group, you're a lack-of-faith group." The chaplains had no objection to assisting in the formation of an atheist group and appointing a leader, but balked at the idea of going so far as to admit them to the Chaplain Corps. Atheists have problems too, and I applaud the chaplains' Christian charity. But if faith in God is not part of the solution, then it doesn't belong in the religious realm. They could simply attend the local state college. No God there, I assure you.

The Times spent a lot of ink on discussing how MASH leaders feel that religious chaplains give more comfort to believers than to atheists. Well, duh. "God loves you" is a lot more comforting than an atheist singing "somebody loves me, I wonder who." Atheists have chosen not to believe in God, so they'll have to make do with being comforted by others who share their non-belief. A traditional chaplain who tells an atheist soldier that everything will be better in the next world or in heaven is very likely to get into a lot of trouble.

The Times turned what could have been a decent discussion of how atheists and secular humanists in the military might gain strength from each other and turned it into a very unserious discussion and unintentionally funny article about atheist chaplains. Group therapy is for psychologists and other charlatans, not for chaplains.

20 comments:

Tehachapi Tom said...

Hawk
Madalyn Murray O'Hair should be spinning in her grave because one of her sons is a Christian Pastor.
I guess growing up with one of Satin's concubines showed him the error of her faith.
The whole concept of atheist priests is difficult to understand. But such warped logic fits well with the left thinking.
I will say you certainly find a lot of interesting points to ponder. Keep it up.

T-Rav said...

It's very simple, Hawk. In times of crisis, atheists might be swayed into thinking God might exist, and thus be open to all sorts of religious bigotry and backwardness. So they need atheist lay leaders to reassure them that within a short time of their death, all they'll be is a worm-eaten corpse...but free from bigotry and backwardness, not to mention everything else. See, it makes perfect sense if you don't think about it.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

Does this mean that Satanic Priests and Druid Priestesses get to be chaplains too?

Joel Farnham said...

How about the ones that follow the Norse gods? And the Aztecs?

LawHawkRFD said...

Tehachapi Tom: Well, at least atheist priests would conduct short masses. The logic of having support groups for military atheists (a rarity) makes sense to me. The logic of atheist chaplains escapes me entirely.

LawHawkRFD said...

T_Rav: Well said. It makes perfect sense if you don't think about it.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: There has already been some litigation over having Wiccan chaplains. Not yet resolved. But the government has to avoid defining "religion." Whatever I might think about Satanists and Wiccans, they at least have the trappings of religion, and might be entitled to chaplains. What makes no sense is to have preachers/ministers/priests/pastors/chaplains for people who subscribe to a [lack] of belief in a supreme being of any sort. "Religion" necessarily implies the belief in some sort of god at the minimum, and atheists don't accept that.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: I think the Aztecs might be properly entitled to a chaplain. Don't get mad at me, it's not up to me to determine if a religion is "valid" or not, only if it qualifies as a religion at all. As for the Norse gods, I'm all for it. I love Wagnerian opera, so their services already have music.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

Here is a conspiracy theory. This makes sense if the administration is going to bring back human sacrifice via the death panels from ObamaCare and they need the patina of a legit religion to "bless" it. ;-)

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: I'm trying to remember if that theory comes from the Gospel of Saint Marx, or Lenin's Epistle to the Muscovites. LOL

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, one of the upsides of a Norse religious service with Wagner music would be that you could play just as the helicopters are landing at base and everyone would get a morale boost. I know it'd get my heart pumping.

LawHawkRFD said...

T_Rav: Two great minds and all that. The Ride of the Valkyries is exactly what was running through my head when I wrote that.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

Neither. It is from the book of Van Jones. ;-)

BevfromNYC said...

What MASH really wants is their own appointed and dedicated secular "counselors", not chaplains. Psychologist who can cater to their unique belief system (or lack thereof). Because if you go to a chaplain with a crisis, that is understandable, but if you go to a "mental health professional" you could be compromising your career. Nobody wants a unstable soldier in the foxhole with them.
And sometimes in that time of extreme danger, an atheist soldier may have a crises of faithlessness and feel compelled to pray to all that is holy to help him through. An atheist counselor can reassure him/her that when faced with adversity, it is quite normal to want to pray to an invisible cloud being for comfort and strength. Science and Logic will understand and not judge.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: I shoulda known. LOL

LawHawkRFD said...

Bev: Yeah, what you said.

T-Rav said...

"Science and Logic will understand and not judge."

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Richard Dawkins.

LawHawkRFD said...

T_Rav: Junk science will not understand but will judge anyway.

Tennessee Jed said...

periodically, H., I find the need to express to you my gratitude for two things and will take that opportunity now:

1) Again, thanks for reading the Times so I don't have to.

2) Thanks for coming up with these little vignettes of insanity that I see nowhere else.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: I truly appreciate your comments. As long as I remember to read the Times with the same seriousness as Mad Magazine, it's bearable.

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