Atheists Lobbying for Their Own Military Chaplains

By:  Dave Bohon
07/29/2013
       
Atheists Lobbying for Their Own Military Chaplains

Atheists have been lobbying Congress to have their own military chaplains — something chaplains who have served in the armed forces say doesn't make sense.

Believe it or not, a campaign is gaining steam to introduce atheist chaplains into the ranks of the military's spiritual counselors. Last month Democrats in Congress sponsored an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have allowed for godless chaplains, but, thankfully, it went nowhere. Now, reported Fox News, more level-headed legislators have introduced another amendment that would require chaplains to be aligned with a faith tradition — such as Christianity or Judaism.

“When it comes to the idea of an atheist chaplain, which is an oxymoron — it's self-contradictory — what you're really doing is saying that we're going to replace true chaplains with non-chaplain chaplains,” said the new amendment's sponsor, Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) “It's just total nonsense, the idea of having a chaplain who is an atheist.”

But Jason Torpy of the Military Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers “claims that 23 percent of those in the military ranks assert no religious preference,” reported Fox News. “And he argues chaplains are not providing enough 'positive outreach and support' in the way 'they do for all of those beliefs that aren't their own.'”

Some have suggested that the atheists call their military personal advisers something other than chaplains, to keep from confusing them with those who provide truly spiritual counsel. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who is also an Air Force chaplain, told Fox News that he has personally dealt with atheists in his capacity as a chaplain, and in his opinion, his role in those cases boiled down to simply offering a sympathetic ear. “What I have found is so many times people in our world today just need someone to listen,” he told Fox. He said, however, that atheist soldiers don't need to have their own chaplains, and those lobbying for such a position “need to come at it differently.... I think there's plenty of opportunities for them to talk.”

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