Congress Moves To Block Atheist Chaplains

220px-American_Civil_War_ChaplainFor many years, there has been controversy over the funding of military chaplains and the preferences given certain faiths.  The problem is that as much 23 percent of our military list no religious association or preference. While many simply have no religious association with a particular faith, some are agnostics, some are atheists, and some are generally humanists.  It would seem logical to have some chaplains who can relate to those groups. However, members of Congress are irate and insist that chaplains must believe in a deity to be funded. They warm that humanist or secularist chaplains would be traumatizing dying soldiers about being “worm food” and dying without hope.


The firestorm was triggered by an amendment introduced by Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act:

The Secretary of Defense shall provide for the appointment, as officers in the Chaplain Corps of the Armed Forces, of persons who are certified or ordained by non-theistic organizations and institutions, such as humanist, ethical culturalist, or atheist.

Presumably, the military could order such appointments on its own authority but members are moving to bar any funding for such appointments.

For many years, the military and Congress has insisted that these chaplains serve a critical function for even those who are not of their faith as counselors for military personnel. It is hard to see why a humanist or atheist chaplain would not be able to serve the same function. Moreover, chaplains are there for spiritual and emotional support. A common misconception of agnostics and humanists is that they are not “spiritual.” These sailors and soldiers and airmen and Marines simply believe in a different source for spiritual strength that may come from being human or nature or other sources. They are moral human beings who have the same conflicts and concerns that other personnel have in combat or serving abroad. Countries like the Netherlands and Belgium supply humanist chaplains for this reason. Moreover, many “faiths” are dramatically different with some rejecting any deity while others embracing multiple deities. If the military is going to fund ministries in the military, it is hard to see how it can ignore the beliefs of such a sizable portion of the military ranks.

Rep. John Fleming, R-La insists that “the idea of an atheist chaplain . . . is an oxymoron — it’s self-contradictory — what you’re really doing is now saying that we’re going to replace true chaplains with non-chaplain chaplains.” However, it is not a nonchaplain chaplain if you view their job as assisting in spiritual and moral concerns for the military personnel. Otherwise, you are telling many in that quarter of non-affiliated personnel that they need to see a priest or a rabbi discuss such questions.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., who is also an Air Force chaplain, admits that he has had to counsel atheists and that “so many times people in our world today just need someone to listen.” The question is why a humanist chaplain cannot perform that same function. Many personnel are reluctant to see a psychologist and psychiatrist because of the stigma. Moreover, they are not having any more of a psychological problem as religious members are in seeking counseling from priests or rabbis. They merely want to speak with some about their moral issues who is not trained to ultimately refer to the commandments or direction of a deity.

We have discussed the international attacks on atheists and agnostics in recent years (here and here and here). That intolerance was evident in the comments of some members seeking to bar humanists from the chaplaincy. Consider the comments of GOP Rep. Mike Conaway. Conaway express disbelief that the prospect and added:

“They don’t believe in anything. I can’t imagine an atheist accompanying a notification team as they go into some family’s home to let them have the worst news of their life and this guy says, ‘You know, that’s it — your son’s just worms, I mean, worm food.'”

Obviously, agnostics, atheists, secularists and humanists believe in something, just not what Conaway believes in. As for a notification team, the only reason a humanist chaplain would be on the team would be if the dead soldier was a humanist. As a general rule, the military would not send an Islamic cleric to a Jewish home or a Catholic priest to a Muslim home for the same reason. If there were no other available chaplains, all of these chaplains are trained to offer care and support without proselytizing in such circumstances.

Yet, the scene of a heartless humanist taunting dying soldiers was repeatedly raised by members:

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.). “The last thing in the world we would want to see was a young soldier who may be dying and they’re at a field hospital and the chaplain is standing over that person saying to them, ‘If you die here, there is no hope for you in the future.’”

Of course, a minister or priest could tell someone from another faith that they are going to Hell for not embracing the true God. I doubt that would ever happen because such a person would be a monster. Yet, these members believe that a humanist or atheist is capable of such abuse. Conversely, if the dying soldier is an atheist, Fleming would guarantee that his last moments is spent with someone who rejects his very philosophy or beliefs. It does not appear to be viewed as equally traumatic to have someone using those final moments to assure an atheist that he will be soon in paradise in heaven with an almighty being.

Moreover, many soldiers and sailors do not have to be told that they will go to a heavenly paradise if they die for their country. They believe that they are doing the moral thing for their country. Conaway obviously does not like such views but he seems unwilling to allow brave men and women access to a ministry that speaks to their beliefs. They need to go to someone who believes that they will ascent to heaven or assume an angelic state after death.

220px-Corporal_Patrick_TillmanNotably, Pat Tillman, the NFL player who famously quit his lucrative position to serve in the Army after 9/11 was an atheist. Members of Congress fell over each other to proclaim his heroism and sacrifice. However, they would deny him access to a spiritual counselor in dealing with the extreme moral questions that present themselves in combat. His family did not view him as “worm food” simply because he does not believe in angels or almighty beings. He was a hero who led a moral life based on his own beliefs.

In the end, the question is whether we are willing to support our troops regardless of their beliefs and to give them the support that they deserve in the field. Soldiers like Tillman are dying as Americans, not as Christians, Jews or Muslims. They are moral beings who are prepared to give the final sacrifice for what this country represents. That patriotism is not grounded in the narrow mean-spirited views of these members but a pluralistic society of tolerance and free exercise and free speech. For these brave men and women, the message could be seen as either adopt a faith or die in silence. When a Tillman is dying in a hospital, I would like to think that we can honor his service by supplying a chaplain who shares his general beliefs. My guess is that those final moments will not be discussing “worm food” but a life lived well and a sacrifice that honors and inspires us all.

76 thoughts on “Congress Moves To Block Atheist Chaplains

  1. You have to hand it to the tactics of the Democrats; they certainly know how to draw out and expose the fundy-loonies.

    The desperately sad problem with the US political system however is the rabid obcessive-compulsive base of fellow fundamentalists is more organised and more mobilised to keep control. Look at the organised action to make voting harder, gun “rights”, anti-abortion law-making and district and state gerrymander.

    The founding fathers thought everyone would be motivated to vote, but that’s not true. The energetic minority of loonies has the floor.

    Your “democratic” system is a failure. Time for a massive rethink before the local Christian Taliban take over.

  2. There is an unstated position here. It has to do with being moral. A vast number of theists subscribe to the theory that it takes god-belief to be moral. Atheists cannot be moral. Understanding that this is in the back of their mind during these descriptions of strawman atheist chaplains explains a lot.

    There are those among them who would pursue wealth with no regard for morality without their god-belief. (Many often do even with professed god-belief. (This is explained by saying they were hypocrites and thus not True Christians(TM).) They project this attitude on the strawmen they build.

    Tillman is a great counterexample.

  3. Dying soldier is dying.

    Atheist chaplain arrives.
    AC: Hi. How was your day?
    DS: Oh I have sinned so much in my life, G*d will never forgive me. I’ll be dammed to hellfire for all eternity.
    AC: Nah! There is no G*d or H*ll. Don’t worry.
    DS: Yaaaa! Now I can die happy
    .

    Dying soldier is dying.

    Theist chaplain arrives.
    TC: Your time is running out. Do you renounce the D*vil and all of his works?
    DS: I don’t think this is a good time to be making additional enemies.
    TC: Confess your sins! Cleanse your soul before you meet your maker!
    DS: I have sinned so much! I don’t have time to list them all. I’m sinking fast.
    TC: You’re sc**wed then.

  4. Professor, I find you to be one of the most balanced intellects that I read or hear. On this issue, however, I believe that possibly for subjective reasons you are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

    I am not an Athiest, so I admittedly don’t see the “attack” on athiests that is so often cited on this blog. I recognize that it does exist, but I don’t believe it is even a strong minority that give that much thought to athiests that they have the will to criticize them. I think there is more eye rolling than criticizing, which you will agree is a right of theists and the same response often by athiests to people with active Spiritual lives. Considering that the political foundation of this country, and this human experience of several thousand years, is overwhelmingly based on theistic belief, I find it more than a bit curious for athiests to be critical of the vast majority of people living their belief and tradition. Trying to make this country a god-free zone is futile and obstructive to the will and belief of, once again, the overwhelming majority.

    To the point of this article and this response, I think that the solution to this is most analogous to your previous position of letting churches keep the word Marriage, as we create a Civil Union tool to allow for the legal rights of people who want to share their legal writes.

    Chaplains are people who care for and administer Chapels, which are places of worship. Humanists wouldn’t say that they worship humans. Certainly athiests are not trying to worship the unseen and unproven. So, if what you describe in your post are Counselors, not Chaplains, then advocate for funding for Counselors. It seems odd, unless it is personally motivated, that you seek to distort something that is a foundational part of our human history and national history because there are minority of military personnel who would rather not speak to someone with an admitted Spiritual purpose.

  5. There are many good reasons for having atheist “chaplains”. These are but two among many good ones:

    (1) When soldiers get “counseling” from psychiatrists, it gets noted on their record, but NOT if the “counseling” was by a chaplain. Why should only the religious be allowed to dodge a black mark on their records? Are only the religious be allowed to talk with someone without it affecting their career, able to avoid it being used against them?

    (2) When the religious attend “church”, they are exempt from physical labour and other forms of work while doing so. But ahteists and others who do not partake in religious time wasting are punished with forced labour – they must continue working, while others are lazing around. And many times, this is not “work”, it is harassment and punishment for not joining a cult.

    Why is there a double standard? Why are certain privileges granted only to the religious? Either nobody gets these privileges, or everyone does.

    But that’s what this is about, isn’t it? The religious WANT double standards, they WANT “superior” officers to be able to punish with impunity and discriminate against those who don’t belong to popular cults.

  6. James Madison:

    “Look thro’ the armies & navies of the world, and say whether in the appointment of their ministers of religion, the spiritual interest of the flocks or the temporal interest of the Shepherds, be most in view: whether here, as elsewhere the political care of religion is not a nominal more than a real aid.”

  7. Non-chaplain chaplains is a term that I won’t forget too soon! All we are talking about is labels. If the non-chaplain chaplain can give aid or comfort to any soldier or marine or airmen, how in heck does it hurt anyone??

  8. Joseph Piazza,

    Thank you for renewing my gratitude that we have a Constitution, which prohibits the theist majority from enforcing the erroneous belief that, “…the political foundation of this country, and this human experience of several thousand years, is overwhelmingly based on theistic belief…”

    Christians tell us that the political foundation of this country is overwhelmingly based on Christian belief.

    Please read the First Amendment, and then search the Constitution for the word, “God.”

    We need to enforce that aspect of the Constitution because righteous folks keep insisting that this country is based on a belief in Sky Daddy, and that he rules. Meaning that they rule, since they made him up.
    Just having a Constitution isn’t sufficient.

  9. So whatever happened to that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” language in the First Amendment?

  10. Having ‘walked’ on both sides of the street I find this whole brouhaha both sad and disgusting. Trust me, when a hurting non believing person is in need of comfort, hearing nonsense that everything happens for a reason is sadistic.

    The mere notion that a person in pain and in desperate need of comfort can only receive it from a religious propagandist is both barbaric and counter productive.

    As usual the protesters are coming from ignorance, fear and always needing to find evil and an enemy. When in reality, most non-believers I know, only take issue with religion when it ‘s proponents get in their face and/or want to pass laws etc. based on their prejudices.

  11. Humanists want a military chaplain to call their own
    Kimberly Winston
    Jul 22, 2013
    http://www.religionnews.com/2013/07/22/humanists-want-a-military-chaplain-to-call-their-own/

    Excerpt:
    “The military includes atheists, humanists and people with nontheistic perspectives and the military currently has no way to service them,” said Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, a group supporting Heap.

    Asked why there are no nonbelievers in the chaplaincy, Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Department of Defense spokesman, responded by email: “The department does not endorse religion or any one religion or religious organization, and provides to the maximum extent possible for the free exercise of religion by all members of the military services who choose to do so.”

    According to current government figures, the U.S. military has 1.4 million active duty servicemen and women in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. About 2,800 active duty chaplains serve them; the vast majority of them Christian.

    There are an estimated 13,000 active duty servicemen and women that identify as atheists or agnostics — more than the number of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus combined — all of which have their own chaplains. Add to that a significant number — more than 276,000 — who say they have “no religious preference.”

    The ranks of the nonreligious are likely to grow. Last year’s study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found one-third of Americans under 30 — those most likely to enter the military — have no religious affiliation.

    Heap and his supporters say the push for a military Humanist chaplain goes beyond the desire for recognition. They note that when soldiers seek mental health counseling it is noted in their record and reported up the chain of command. But consultations with chaplains are confidential, making them a safe place to discuss the problems soldiers routinely face — loneliness, fear, anxiety and other personal issues.

    Heap is not the only candidate for the first Humanist chaplain in the military. There are three more, two of whom are already serving as military chaplains with endorsements from Christian groups. They asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing their endorsements, and therefore their jobs. That fear is real. An Army chaplain who sought to change his endorsement from Pentecostal to Wiccan — another unapproved group — in 2007 lost his position.

  12. For those of you wanting to demonize my point about avoiding redefining accepted and common terms, as well as national military traditions, it appears that you are also changing the meaning of the Establishment Clause.

    Stomp on the ground, insult me, accuse me of being whatever you feel I need to be to avoid this truth, but the signers of the Constitution who overwhelming believed in a Creator did not mean, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” to be a country that did not recognize that there is a Creator.

    Just because you want it to read a different way, doesn’t mean that the original intent can be rewritten. Advocate your point. It is your beautiful right. But don’t distort history, and be responsible enough not to accuse me of insensitivity when you want to read into something I right when such sentiment and reality is not there.

  13. To digress slightly: Over the House rostrum it should read “In Representatives We Trust” and not “In Myth We Trust”.

    Not only would it be more accurate (bearing in mind the arbitrariness that we trust our elected officials, because that’s how the system works), but it would also be constitutional, unlike the former.

  14. “They warm that humanist or secularist chaplains would be traumatizing dying soldiers about being “worm food” and dying without hope.”

    Naturally I believe that this is another tempest in a teapot dreamed up by someone who believes that their version of a Deity and Its’ powers should be enshrined in our national activity. The quote above resonates with me because I am of a religion that generally does not believe in life after death. We believe in making the best of this life we have. Would a Jewish Chaplain then be inappropriate in this Congressman’s minds since such a Chaplain could not assure a dying soldier of life everlasting. The mindset that fears this life and fears death itself so much seems sad and pathetic to me, but whatever floats ones boat is fine, just keep it in your own vessel.

  15. And nearly six-in-10 voters say they would vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress if they had such an option on their ballot ­ another all-time high.

    They can elect to replace them all. It is called ‘Revolution’

  16. The fact that the 1st Amendment was intended to create a secular form of government and create a separation of church and state is based in solid history and that intent is manifest in the writings of both Madison and Jefferson. Belief in a God is an individual choice, not a mandate from government. The government cannot infringe on your beliefs although they can limit your practice. Religion has no place in government for the purposes of setting policy.

  17. The body will die being worm food. That is the truth. The soul will get an equal reward of what they gave. The military does not give a good. Why then get a good reward? Military therefore must end. That is wise. Wisdom is not found in weapons of war.

  18. Mike,

    I watched an excellent documentary on PBS last night called “The Buddha”. It was about the historical Buddha, his life and teachings. One of the highlights (and the conclusion) was Buddha’s death and how he used it as a teaching moment for his disciples. They wailed about how would they get along without their teacher. Buddha told them that death was simply part of life, the unknown, and that the unknown was nothing to fear. He told them that they were not without their teacher, for the Buddha existed in all of them and that they should seek the Buddha nature within themselves. He invited them to participate in his death not with sorrow, but with a smile, for the Buddha nature is in all living things. Enlightenment is a temple you build within your own heart. He said this world is full of suffering because we make it so and that we could live in a world full of Buddhas if everyone could learn to shed the misplaced desires that drive suffering. This includes the desire for immortality. Everything that has a beginning has an end. Everything is transitory. That is the nature of things. Much of the hand-wringing I see in the Christian community, particularly the Fundamentalists, is rooted in the desire to be immortal and the consequent fear of death. They could be so much happier if they gave up this desire and accepted the reality of things.

    This is in part why I’m not a religious person, but a large part of my syncretic philosophy is based in Buddhism.

    It does not require faith to show you a path to both personal happiness and a better world. Reasoning is sufficient. There is no need for anything other than objective proofs.

  19. Gene,
    Well put. I watched it last night, also.
    It matters not to me whether Siddartha, or Buddha, actually said, or did, all those things.
    The philosophy attributed to him is filled with wisdom.

    The photography was damned nice, too.

  20. Bob K.,

    Oh yeah. It was beautifully put together visually and I thought the writing was superb. It was one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a long time on any subject.

  21. BTW, I’d rather be worm food than embalmed. Actually, I want my ashes scattered upwind of my hometown during a strong wind storm — last chance to get into the faces of some folks one more time

  22. ifn atheist or agnostic wants to talk about things, they need to go to the door marked “counseling services” rather that the door marked “Chaplain”. duh

  23. Oh yeah, I think it was Richard Dawkins who said something along the lines that unless you believe every religion is true, then you are an atheist to some extent.

  24. The military allows agnostics, atheists, Wiccans, and humanists to serve in their ranks. The men and women who are not affiliated with the “preferred” religions should be afforded the same services and privileges as those who are. I would say this is about equal rights for all those who serve our country in the military.

  25. “The House approved a Republican proposal Tuesday night that would forbid the Pentagon from deploying non-religious chaplains.

    The amendment, attached to the fiscal 2014 defense spending bill, passed 253 to 173, The Hill reports.

    Louisiana Republican John Fleming sponsored the legislation to keep out what he and otehr lawmakers called atheist chaplains.

    “By definition, chaplains minister to the spiritual needs of our men and women in the armed services, a vital function that an individual without any inclination towards spirituality would not be able to perform,” he said during debate on the proposal, according to The Hill.

    Republicans who supported the amendment said people who don’t believe in God don’t want spiritual counseling. Some Republicans accused Democrats of wanting to install non-religious chaplains as part of an attempt to remove God from public life.

    “My constituents back in Oklahoma are shaking their heads,” said GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine, according to The Hill.

    “The secular left is so invested in ripping God from everything, that I must stand here with my friend Dr. Fleming to prohibit Obama’s Department of Defense from establishing an oxymoron — atheist chaplains,” Bridenstine added. “Why does the secular left insist on ruining the integrity of the chaplaincy to serve their agenda of institutionalized godlessness?”

    Democrats said atheist or “humanistic” chaplains are necessary for non-religious military personnel who want counseling.

    “Over 20 percent of the members of our military identify as non-believers, and while of course their needs should be catered to by members of the chaplaincy from diverse faiths, it is only fair to have their humanism or outlook represented,” said Colorado Democrat Jared Polis”. newsmax

  26. I don’t get this post at all.

    I am an atheist, or at least a strong agnostic, and I don’t see the need for “atheist chaplains”. As someone stated up-thread, the very term is an oxymoron.

    There are people for non-theists to turn to when they need counseling for personal problems, or when they need help finding answers to moral or “spiritual” questions. They are called “counselors”, and they are generally readily available in both civilian and military life.

    Having religious chaplains in the military is just one of those little concessions we have to make to a majority society that still believes in sky fairies and disbelieves evolution and human-caused global warming.

    We have to “go along to get along” until the human race grows up.

    If, indeed, it ever does.

  27. Well, we’re a Christian nation after all! Aren’t we? In Oklahoma they think so … or at least their representative does. I bet most folks don’t care if you asked them.

    Like Bugs Bunny says, “What a bunch of Moroons.”

  28. “The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever. … Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.” John Leland, “A Chronicle of His Time in Virginia,” The Writings of the Later Elder John Leland, published in 1845.

    http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/people/john-leland.html

  29. mespo727272 1, July 24, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    William Berry:

    You can be spiritual without being religious.

    orolee 1, July 24, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    “You can be spiritual without being religious.”

    It may even be easier.

    __________

    Yep.

  30. “You can be spiritual without being religious.”

    No question— that is, at least as the term is used today.

    I scare-quoted because I have personal reservations about the usage.

    After all, in the Greek pneuma simply meant “breath”, or “breath of life” (with certain metaphorical extensions, no doubt). The confused reading of Christianity, with its idea of the soul, might be responsible for the “ghost-in-the-machine”, mind-body dualism that has proved to be one of the most enduring conundrums in the history of philosophy.

    All depends on what one means by “spiritual”.

  31. Evidently there are a great many persons in the US Congress that have problems with their reading comprehension skills:

    Amendment 1
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

  32. OED defines spiritual as:

    spiritual /ˈspɪrɪtʃʊəl, -tjʊəl/

    adjective

    1: relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things:I’m responsible for his spiritual welfare
    having a relationship based on a profound level of mental or emotional communion:he never forgot his spiritual father
    (of a person) not concerned with material values or pursuits.

    2: relating to religion or religious belief:the country’s spiritual leader

    One can be definition one without being the second and vice versa. One need look no further than the absurdities of “Prosperity Theology” to see a religious practice bereft of spiritual values or to any one of a number of secular programs and organizations (such as People for Ethical Government) concerned with encouraging ethical behavior as having spiritual values absent a religious doctrine.

  33. The argument that chaplains must have a particular religious affiliation or believe in a deity to serve the armed forces of the USA is absurd on many levels. People who have truly studied American history, for example, will acknowledge that Thomas Paine has had a tremendous influence on the founding fathers of this nation and its great principles. In many ways, some of the best principles on which America was founded were originally articulated by Paine. The influence of Paine on the writings of Thomas Jefferson, for example, are profound.

    However, Paine was an athiest.

    Here are some good quotations to remember Thomas Paine by:

    “I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies another this right makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.”

    “It is always to be taken for granted, that those who oppose an equality of rights never mean the exclusion should take place on themselves.”

    “I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.”

  34. Gene,

    I missed that PBS show, though I knew it was on. I’m going to try to get it on my “on demand”. Up here in the country I don’t have a DVR, because the cable package is much more expensive than down South. As you may know Fritz Perls was heavily influenced by Buddhist and Zen teachings and utilized much of it in Gestalt Philosophy. I’ve always been very attracted to it myself, via Gestalt and other influences. I think it comes closest of all philosophical disciplines to what people need. You might say I’m a Zen, Deist Jew, though I know some call me other things. :)

  35. Mike Spindell July 24, 2013 at 3:47 pm


    As you may know Fritz Perls was heavily influenced by Buddhist and Zen teachings and utilized much of it in Gestalt Philosophy.

    ==================================
    Do you think that the Athiest Chaplains are more likely to discover that the basic nature of nomadism on our planet is wiser for civilization than the stand your ground philosophical approach is?

  36. Ralph,
    I agree with everything else you said. Thomas Paine was not an atheist. He was a deist.
    He believed that the Old and New Testaments were malarkey, and analyzed the Bible in “The Age of Reason.”
    But he did profess belief in a deity.

  37. Secular Humanism defines itself as a non-theistic religion, so I don’t see a problem with a secular humanist chaplain. However, just having an atheist chaplain who is not affiliated with any religion whatsoever does seem like an oxymoron. That is basically what we have already in the form of counselors, coaches, psychologists, etc.

    For more info about secular humanism being a religion, see the following link:
    http://www.americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_I

    I would recommend pushing for a secular humanist chaplain.

  38. Yes, Bob, thanks for that correction. Every now and then the myths that have been hammered into my head in school since my youth resurface from time to time. Like the famous quote from Theodore Roosevelt, wherein referred to Thomas Paine as a “filthy little atheist.” It’s always good to recheck these things, rather than assume they are so. What I should have said was that he rejected organized religions (which he must have envisioned as contrary to his concepts of freedom).

    By the way, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that Paine actualley coined the name “United States of America.”

  39. if they are embalmed…
    … all the beef they consumed in a lifetime that cheated the worms out of a happy meal. not to mention the chickens and pigs.
    the true worms are feasting off of the square holes full of st peters, that pass laws not knowing where the soul goes, or, if there is one.
    look at who is going to drink the water in the future.
    who’s getting pegged?
    where is the logic…
    … that people dred, is the fact is that the prophecies say that I will change a paper, and notto ashes…
    … like the congress is doing.

  40. Ralph,
    No consensus on who coined “United States of America.” All sorts of people are blamed for it.
    It’s OK with me if Paine did it.

  41. Personanongrata
    1, July 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Correct. The House voted today to keep on funding the NSA illegal spy program on Americans… Oaths of Office be damned to them.

  42. “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”-James Madison

  43. Clifford Geertz’s famous definition of religion excludes any mention of the sacred or higher power. It has no God. Since Christians proclaim the sanctity of human life, they provide humanism its holy cow — though the humanist don’t want it. Interestingly, Geertz’s definition lends credence to one particular poster’s claim that Western Civilization’s enshrinement of the Rule of Law may itself constitute a religion using Geertz’s definition.

    http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic152604.files/Week_4/Geertz_Religon_as_a_Cultural_System_.pdf

  44. wow!, i can’t believe that any of you fine caring people has not heard of the Noahide Laws signed into law back on March 26, 1991 by then sitting president George H.W. Bush. House Joint Resolution Public Law 102-14 Education Day U.S.A. or simply the Noahide Laws. which comes out of the jewish Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud). and as you read that many here has mentioned establishment clause;

    Amendment 1
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    While the text of the First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,” it means that no federal, state or local government official can infringe on your free-speech rights. and by these 7 laws of noah, not the real true Noah, but a forgery noah/noahide laws. Congress has put all the american people under the yoke of judaism.

    you see, if you break any one of these 7 laws, then it’s death by decapitation. oh yeah, folks, death by decapitation. so, so much for the constitution and any of the amendments. look it up, don’t take my word for it, which even after you people find the truth you’ll still reject what i’m telling you. so, no problem, at least now you’ll know. and if you want to cross cross reference, check out;

    King James Version

    Revelation 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

    if this is not true, then why have them made into law of the land? and since daddy Bush (Shrub’s Daddy) every President has signed these laws into a proclamation, which is the same as an executive order, same thing. and you were worried about losing the 2nd amendment, hmmmmm? folks, these basturds has stolen your nation, has by passed the whole of the constitution, wake the hall up. waken from your deep deep slumber. wake others. don’t take my word for it, search these matters out…

    The penalty for violating any of these Noahide Laws is spelled out on page 1192 of the Encyclopedia Judaica, “… violation of any one of the seven laws subjects the Noahide to capital punishment by decapitation.” Wow, in other words, if one person steps forward to accuse a Gentile of violating any one of these seven laws, that testimony alone would be enough to decapitate the accused. A person could be put to death for the flimsy accusation of being cruel to animals,

    see Tractate, Sanhedrin, Chapter 57.a …. violation of any one of the seven laws subjects the Noahide to capital punishment by decapitation. … babylonian tal_mud, Tractate Sanhedrin 57a Also know they have already established all Freemason Noachite Courts throughout all lands. see also the Sanhedrin website, Noahide.

    “It is our duty to force all mankind to accept the seven Noahide laws, and if not—they will be killed.” (Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, Ma’ariv, October 6, 2004)

    The Seven Noachide laws are general commandments with many details. Transgressing any one of them is considered such a breach in the natural order that the offender incurs the death penalty. Apart from a few exceptions, the death sentence for a Ben Noach is Sayif, death by the sword / decapitation, the least painful of the four.

    Well for one thing, the Noahide Laws require all Gentiles (Yes, Gentiles) to be “righteous.” Being righteous is defined as not worshipping idols. And Jesus is declared in the Talmud to be an idol! In summary, under the Noahide Laws, all Christians who worship Jesus Christ are idolaters and will be duly punished by beheading!

  45. I see that many new posters are incapable of grasping the point. Either that, or they are dishonestly trying to avoid it.

    The issue is a double standard where those who have religion have benefits, privileges, rights, etc. that are being denied to atheists. This is NOT a philosophical issue about whether an “atheist chaplain” is a contradiction in terms.

    Either everyone is entitled to the “benefits of a chaplain”, including atheists, or no one is. Anything else is a violation of the first amendment, which means the US government is promoting religion.

  46. “The Seven Noachide laws are general commandments with many details. Transgressing any one of them is considered such a breach in the natural order that the offender incurs the death penalty.”

    You don’t know what you are talking about. Yes there are Noachide rules in the Torah, but they are merely a voluntary guide for Gentiles who wanted to practice as Jews without being converted. The rest of what you write is nonsense and gross misinterpretation.

  47. Oro,

    According to Geertz, a religion is “(1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.”

    It’s an interesting definition of religion. I also think it’s overly broad and can apply as an analytical framework to any social control system, but it so broad in fact as to violate the law of identity if applied literally. It has less value as a definition than as analytical tool. However, to draw an equivalence between the Rule of Law and a religion shows a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of the Rule of Law.

    Not only is the Rule of Law not a singular concept, it’s not the only basis for a legal system. There is, for example, the concept of Divine Right which puts the rulers above the law and was the social norm for many societies through out history. The Rule of Law itself is a slippery concept to define and not to be confused with the Rule by Law. The Rule of Law has two basic flavors; formalism and substantive. The formalist definition of the Rule of Law is closer to what the Founders created: it’s not about the “justness” of laws, but about procedure that must be followed to to have compliance with the law. Consider their focus on Due Process. Consider that Due Process was further explained by the 14th Amendment in the terms of Equal Protection (which is actually a restatement of values found in the non-binding Declaration of Independence – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”) Now contrast this to the substantive Rule of Law formulation where substantive rights are derived from the law. That definition is contrary to the natural law tradition which the Declaration and Constitution adopt in treating rights as inherent to the individual. In fact, that was one of the larger arguments surrounding the Bill of Rights and part and parcel of the reason the Bill of Rights contains the 9th Amendment. Some were afraid that by enumerating rights that others might seek to limit rights to only those enumerated (a righteous fear as it turns out, but I digress) instead of recognizing the larger concept of inherent rights that exist at the state of nature. Now contrast this with the notion of Rule by Law. This is a concept found in the Asian legal traditions, particularly the Chinese and Japanese, where royals and aristocrats were still above the law and law was viewed simply as form of social control (governance) over the masses.

    Now let’s revisit Geertz’s definition.

    (1) a system of symbols which acts to

    The law is more than a system of symbols although it does at times a form of symbolic logic and symbolism. The law provides a necessary social framework for defining what a society considers crimes and non-criminal wrong acts (torts) as well as a framework for punishing said crimes and resolving conflicts that arise under tort in addition to providing normative regulations (when properly designed and deployed) act to discourage conflicts. In the West, our legal tradition isn’t based on belief – although theocracy has been tried from time to time – but rather on reason. Modern jurisprudence has moved from a purely philosophical base in its conception (which is a commonality it shares with some but not all religious traditions) to adopt a more reasoned and scientific approach, ever edging toward technocracy and law as a form of applied sociology – social engineering if you will. But its base has been empirical from the start. Religion may be a social control system, but it is most certainly not based in empiricism, but rather belief. Buddhism being the exception in not requiring faith be a component of practice.

    (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by

    True, there is no question that both religion and law operate as social control mechanisms. However, they are distinctly different forms of social control. Religion (except when the basis of theocracy) operates as an internalized social control mechanism shaping norms/mores and values to the individual by socialization. The law operates as an external social control mechanism defined by codes and regulation and enforced externally by the mechanisms of government.

    (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and

    I think it is fair to say that (again with the exception of theocracy) that government and law – especially in a secular government – are not concerned with “the general order of existence” to much as the order of society which is a subset of existence confined to humans interacting in groups. It does not concern itself with “the general order” other than the natural law tradition does seek to define universal general truths as a basis of law.

    (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that

    The “clothing” aspect goes back to the issue of belief versus empiricism. Good law is based on reason and empirical fact, not an “aura of facutality”. Religion need only appear factual.

    (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.

    Uniqueness is not at issue with law. There are many ways to formulate a legal system, some more realistic than others.

    As you can see, Geertz’s definition works fine as an analytical framework, but it does not reveal all social control mechanisms to the equivalent of a religion.

  48. An act to prohibit “atheist Chaplains” is probably someone having a keen eye to spot an instigation of BS and block it. It sounds nothing more than some more atheist BS to stir up trouble or chip away more at the military and their opportunity to visit real Chaplains.

    What would be the point of going to an “atheist Chaplain”? That would be like taking your car to a service station that has been closed and abandoned for years.

  49. this is only to bury the “J” word, that’s all this is. and full of crap, crap i say, full to the brim. but love the intelligent arguments with big words and all. but yet i don’t got no formal learning, for us christian are simple folk.

  50. “The Seven Noachide laws are general commandments with many details. Transgressing any one of them is considered such a breach in the natural order that the offender incurs the death penalty.”

    You don’t know what you are talking about. Yes there are Noachide rules in the Torah, but they are merely a voluntary guide for Gentiles who wanted to practice as Jews without being converted. The rest of what you write is nonsense and gross misinterpretation.

    …. of course you would say this above, but you know full well i have it completely correct, the law is the law, and simple to prove. and it’s not from the Torah, but the Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud). and have ya ever heard of google? are the THOMAS, the Library of Congress? like i said, it’s plume easy to verified what i’m saying as truth. but just cause you say it ain’t so,doesn’t make it not so.

    The U.S. Congress officially recognized the Noahide Laws in legislation which was passed by both houses. Congress and the President of the United States, George Bush, indicated in Public Law 102-14, 102nd Congress, that the United States of America was founded upon the Seven Universal Laws of Noah, and that these Laws have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization. They also acknowledged that the Seven Laws of Noah are the foundation upon which civilization stands and that recent weakening of these principles threaten the fabric of civilized society, and that justified preoccupation in educating the Citizens of the United States of America and future generations is needed. For this purpose, this Public Law designated March 26, 1991 as Education Day, U.S.A. (From a web page titled “Articles Concerning The Seven Laws of Noah and Related Concepts”)

    Not surprisingly, the Lubavitchers—and many other Jewish groups—are big advocates of the Noahide Laws. They once actually got President George H.W. Bush (the senior Bush) and the U.S. Senate to pass a resolution praising both their beloved Rebbe, Menachem M. Schneerson, and the Noahide Laws. And what, do tell, do the Noahide Laws say?

    Americans who consider themselves Christian and who stand with Israel and the Mafia families which control her must at some time recognize that they cannot serve two masters. The Zionist infrastructure of propaganda in America, personified by groups such as the ADL, JDL, World Jewish Congress et al are, (if even only unofficially) arms of the same octopus of Zionist Marxism which Americans support with their tax dollars and now with the blood of their young men and women in the military. It is the same octopus which has been working diligently over the course of the last 3 decades to obliterate America’s moral foundations, and is the fountain from which all the poison which presently infects her society has flowed.

    One would think that such items which include Christ being depicted as a sorcerer and a mamzer (bastard child) who suffers in Hell by being boiled in excrement would arouse some suspicion among a rightly (and hopefully, genuinely) outraged Christianity. One would hope that religious sentiments depicting his mother Mary as a prostitute who mated with carpenters and Roman soldiers would spark some sense of curiosity to find out more. And finally, in the interest of learning all there was to know concerning religious extremism and how it has played itself out in the events surrounding 9/11, one would expect that the average Christian in America would like to understand better who is and who is not the real enemy, particularly when his hard-earned livelihood is sent to prop up a nation which has been billed as the only ally to Christian America in the Middle East. Sadly, this has not taken place, even when there are glaringly obvious reasons to do so.

  51. i guess any intelligent comment i make on here mysteriously get sent to the proverbial cornfield, hmmmm. i shant bother you folks anymore. it’s been fun, but short visit, chow.

  52. One issue here is that, while Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and others are recognized as religions, atheism, agnosticism, and humanism are not; they would be considered more philosophical than religious. That, I think, is one of the major hang-ups for a lot of people. To be a Chaplain you have to have a religion. Everyone has a philosophy; not everyone has a religion.

  53. notonoahidelaws,

    “What an eccentric performance!”
    -King Arthur (Graham Chapman) in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”

  54. C.A. Gibson wrote: “One issue here is that, while Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and others are recognized as religions, atheism, agnosticism, and humanism are not; they would be considered more philosophical than religious. That, I think, is one of the major hang-ups for a lot of people. To be a Chaplain you have to have a religion. Everyone has a philosophy; not everyone has a religion.”

    This gets a little sticky, because many Christians do not consider Christianity to be a religion, but rather they define Christianity as a philosophy of life centered around the philosophy taught by Jesus Christ. They say that there are many religions within Christianity, such as Roman Catholicism, or the Anglican Church, etc.

    In regards to Secular Humanism, the original Humanist Manifesto made it clear that the goal of Secular Humanism was to supplant all other religions with their better religion based on a disbelief in God and a focus on humanity. In the SCOTUS case of Torcaso v. Watkins, Justice Hugo Black listed religions that do not teach the existence of God as being Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, and Secular Humanism.

    So it seems to me that there may be a way to have a non-theistic religious chaplain that would cater to atheists, secular humanists, etc. For what it’s worth, many atheists are very fervent in their disbelief in God. They have regular meetings and outline a dogma and action agenda just like members of theistic religions might do. Of course, there are other atheists who do none of these things.

    In regards to the First Amendment, the prohibition is not against religion, but against respecting AN ESTABLISHMENT of religion. Military chaplains might be part of a particular establishment of religion, but they are expected to be non-sectarian in their service to our military personnel. For example, a Lutheran Chaplain might be of service to those of many different faiths, whether Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or even Jewish, Muslim, Secular Humanist, Buddhist, or Atheist, if so requested.

  55. Gene —

    Thank you for your detailed response. I lack the capacity to comprehend all that you have written even though I appreciate your obvious effort in explaining the matter in a clear and simple matter. There are some things I agree with, first among them is Geertz’s formulation “has less value as a definition than as analytical tool.” I also agree that there doesn’t seem to be any clear outer limits in applying the formula. Finally, it lacks the sacred or divine — no God. I’m not sure that is fatal. Huston Smith — who I believe is closer in smarts to you than to me — considers Confucianism one of the world’s great religions, and it has no God.

    I appreciate your high regard for the Rule of Law, but I think you describe the ideal and I think I may have been referring to a debased form. I am a really lousy swimmer and avoid still water that is more than knee deep. I am not a philosopher or academic and dare not follow where you so easily tread. Sometimes I just viscerally sense that something is awry in certain folks’ veneration of the Rule of Law.

    Two examples —

    1. Illegal immigration. Yes, for decades we have had laws restricting immigration, and for decades official policy — as demonstrated by lack of enforcement — tolerated massive amounts of illegal immigration. The restrictions were just words on paper.

    Though the reasons for ignoring the statues may be superfluous, I believe they were (1) cost and difficulty of enforcement, and (2) the suppression of wages. Both the lower wages and avoided expenses of enforcement keep the costs of goods and services — outside of the unionized arena — low and help stoke consumerism. Now that unions are going the way of dinosaurs and there is more head to head competition with undocumented workers for jobs, illegal immigrants must suddenly be deported BECAUSE THE LAW SAYS SO. Seems to me like self-serving, hypocritical lip-service to rule of law. Farm yard bird poop, I say.

    2. Conquest of the America’s and the dispossession of the natives. I cannot do justice to this idea other than to say that I just finished reading Prof. Robert A. Williams, Jr.’s book The American Indian in Western Legal Thought: The Discourses of Conquest (1990). This book and his other works, and John Echohawk’s book In the Courts of the Conqueror: The Ten Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided (2010), are having a tremendous impact on my former high regard for the virtues of Western Civilization and its favorite tool for conquest — the rule of law (this may actually be rule by law, I dunno). Almost every turn of the page delivered another revelation of the odious development of the Doctrine of Discovery with the impact of a hammer blow to my chest.

    I think Western Legal Thought convincingly demonstrates that the precepts of natural law and rights are every bit as normative laden as any statement of positive law, and both were self-servingly crafted and employed to LEGALLY dispossess the natives of their lands, even though they were just words on paper. Again, I say, farm yard bird poop.

    I am emoting rather than thinking, but religions were created so that their creators could get what they want. I see the same with the law. And the veneration of either shares the same purpose — to serve its creators.

  56. Oro,

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with your emotional thinking. I find it to be a perfectly understandable reaction to realizing that the Rule of Law in this country has been replaced with the Rule by Law and is on track to steadily march past that and into Divine Right with the expanding unitary Executive. You may not have quantified it as such, but I think that is what your response reveals to me you are perceiving. The difference between the propositions “of” and “by” in these concepts is far greater than two letters. It’s a vast gulf. It’s the difference between “justice for all”/”equal protection” and “justice for some”/”some animals are more equal than others”. It attacks the fundamental notion of fairness. As Tony and I have discusses on several occasions, the sense of fairness is deeply ingrained in primates including normal functional humans with a conscience. That you “feel” your response to seeing something inherently unfair not to mention unjust rather than “intellectualize” your response is not surprising.

    It’s human.

  57. Gene —

    Thank you for helping with my course correction. I appreciate it. I don’t have enough time for these type of discussions. Nor much of an educational base from which to operate. My time is mostly spent on what is the issue, what are the facts (assuming I have the evidence), what is the applicable law, what good faith arguments can I make on behalf of the client — kind of a Joe Friday approach. Other than instances of statutory construction, I rarely need to know how a law came into effect or the philosophical basis for the creation of that law. I am thankful for the commentators on this post for the depth of their articles.

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