Please Help a Future Military Chaplain
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10-11-2015, 07:19 AM
Please Help a Future Military Chaplain
Hello,

For those who I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet, I am an currently working towards a career as a protestant military chaplain. One of the responsibilities of a chaplain is to ensure that a service members religious freedoms are protected. That includes atheists. What I am asking of the wonderful people on this forum is:

1. How are atheist being persecuted and judged? How have you been personally treated because of your beliefs?
2. If you have ever served in the military or have had interactions with a military chaplain, how would you describe your experience? What were the good and the bad?
3. What advice do you have for a future chaplain to ensure that the beliefs of an atheist are protected in the military?

I like to think I have thick skin and can take a lot of flack so please don't hold anything back. I want to hear all the horror stories to ensure I do not make the same mistakes and to know what to look for. Thank you.
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10-11-2015, 07:42 AM
RE: Please Help a Future Military Chaplain
Best bet -- if you meet an atheist - talk sports, have a beer, play a game of pool -- whatever.

Don't bother talking about religion. If they were interested, they'd be religious.......

(or they'd go vent on an internet forum)....

.......................................

The difference between prayer and masturbation - is when a guy is through masturbating - he has something to show for his efforts.
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10-11-2015, 08:16 AM
RE: Please Help a Future Military Chaplain
To your first question, I'd say I don't personally receive much flack or disdain for my nonreligious views. When I discuss issues affecting the population, I make it a point to use studies and personal experience to assert my positions (politics, religion, etc).

I haven't served in the military, so I'm no help on the second question.

As for fair treatment, I'd say having an open mind toward differing perspectives would be a key to successful support and building rapport. Also, reminding the religious that religious freedom is a two way street, not specifically favoring one position or another. Communication and the sharing of ideas should be paramount to any form of open discussion.
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10-11-2015, 08:30 AM
RE: Please Help a Future Military Chaplain
The biggest judgment that I hear levied at atheists, over and over and over again, is that we have no sense of morality and are therefore not trustworthy. Some Christians also tend to get extremely angry if, after they evangelize to you, you still reject Christianity--many treat you as if you are rejecting them, personally, or as if there is a character flaw in you, so you ought to be ostracized.

In terms of diminished civil rights--a form of persecution, perhaps--as of 2014 there were seven states--more than 10% of the total--where atheists are legally prohibited from holding public office. These laws aren't enforced at present, but as long as they remain on the books, they can be. Atheists also run into problems on juries, as some believers cannot wrap their head around the idea that an atheist's promise to tell the truth can be as binding as a believer's oath on the Bible.

If you browse this section, you can find story after story of atheists being disowned by their families for their non belief, as well as multiple marriages where the spouse threatens divorce for the other's atheism--or requires as a condition of continuing in the marriage that the atheist not reveal his/her beliefs to the kids or other relatives.

I think it's better if you don't try to call the difficulties atheists face "persecution" because then you are basically setting a debate point of a sort; it's better just to understand that often being an atheist comes with significant social challenges that must be overcome. If the atheist is "out," then the challenges are mostly from the outside as noted above, from friends, family, and coworkers. If the atheist is "closeted," the challenges come from the costs of presenting a false self to the world.

My father was a Christian prison chaplain (not military, of course, very different job0 who was never willing to step out of his Christian box, and as such, I think he probably did more bad than good to the prisoners under his care. (He would disagree.) Of the ex cons who converted and went through the halfway house we ran when I was a kid, close to 100% didn't stick with Christianity and only about 20-30% managed to stay out of legal trouble. That's more a sign of human nature than of Christianity's strengths or weaknesses, but I think it also signifies a problem with my father's approach.

I'm glad you are here to get some insights, and I hope you are able to deal with atheists who need help from you in a compassionate and effective way.
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10-11-2015, 08:34 AM
RE: Please Help a Future Military Chaplain
Don't bring religion into any discussion with an atheist - it is not helpful and will alienate or even anger many of them.
Whatever you are trying to help them with, your religion is of little or no use to them.

If the atheist brings it up, fine.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
[Image: flagstiny%206.gif]
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10-11-2015, 09:04 AM
RE: Please Help a Future Military Chaplain
I'm curious, as a chaplain what is it you expect to do for an atheist soldier? I've never served, but my father was in Vietnam, and the effects of fighting in that war are still very much with him every day. It molded him. Will you be involved in hospice programs with dying soldiers? Will you be counseling active duty soldiers or working with recruits? I'm sure there are a LOT of different jobs a chaplain can do in the military.

I liked what you said about it being one of your duties to protect the soldiers' religious freedoms, even atheists. To that effect, if it were me and I was dying in a military hospital or something, I'd consider it to be within my rights to have no prayers said over me as I'm dying or over my dead body. I'd consider it my right to have no religious insignia or paraphernalia displayed in close proximity to me. I guess I'd want someone to just treat me as a fellow human being. I also wouldn't want "extreme measures" taken to keep me alive in case of being comatose or non-responsive, so I'd want someone who would advocate for my right to die in peace. I'd also want my body donated to research unless it was in a state that wouldn't make that suitable, in which case, cremate me. And most importantly I wouldn't want my situation seen as an opportunity to "save a soul" or win a deathbed convert.
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10-11-2015, 09:35 AM (This post was last modified: 10-11-2015 09:41 AM by The Organic Chemist.)
RE: Please Help a Future Military Chaplain
(10-11-2015 07:19 AM)jason_delisle Wrote:  1. How are atheist being persecuted and judged? How have you been personally treated because of your beliefs?

As said before, if they bring it up, then it is fair game. However, in my experience, most religious folks bite off way more than they can chew and underestimate how much people in this way of thinking actually know about their religion. Most of us came to disbelief after careful thought and most importantly, study. It is fairy well documented that atheists are the most familiar with the christian religion.

Just a couple of resources

http://www.pewforum.org/2010/09/28/u-s-r...ge-survey/
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/uni...n-religion (although I personally don't think intelligence is it, I think it is knowledge)

In terms of the persecution, I wouldn't call it that. The offhand comments that some people make without realizing that I am an atheist annoy rather than offend. These are comments that a believer probably wouldn't notice. My wife, for example, is a believer who goes to church every Sunday. I have listened to the sermons from the head pastor many, many times and I eventually stopped listening to them because I grew tired of his incessant comments about how the people are broken, powerless, and whatnot. I also want to say that she does not go to a fundie church or anything. They are actually pretty liberal. The point is that she does not notice just how many times it is pointed out to her each week that she is a powerless, broken weakling and this is reinforced by the "bible studies" she does. I think that is bullshit. She isn't broken, she is beautiful. The congregants aren't broken either, they are beautiful. Repeatedly telling them they are broken and helpless is a lie straight from the bible and as the saying goes, "if you repeat a lie enough, people will believe it. " This is only one example, I could write a tome on it as I am sure many of us could. The comments (usually said without knowledge that I am an atheist) are what annoy me. I can't say for certain that I have ever lost out on a job or anything because I am an atheist. Shoot, I play on the softball team for my wife's church and they all know I am an atheist.

(10-11-2015 07:19 AM)jason_delisle Wrote:  2. If you have ever served in the military or have had interactions with a military chaplain, how would you describe your experience? What were the good and the bad?


I would suggest you talk to Goodwithoutgod or Yakherder. They would probably have a good perspective on this.

(10-11-2015 07:19 AM)jason_delisle Wrote:  3. What advice do you have for a future chaplain to ensure that the beliefs of an atheist are protected in the military?

I like to think I have thick skin and can take a lot of flack so please don't hold anything back. I want to hear all the horror stories to ensure I do not make the same mistakes and to know what to look for. Thank you.

This was a refreshing comment, I like that. From some of the stories I have heard, the compulsory prayer in some situations is not good. I forget where I heard/read this but someone in the military said that their sergeant was requiring their entire unit to have a christian prayer at certain times. Really wish I could remember where this came from but if it is true, this is unacceptable. I think that most atheists just want to be treated like everyone else and not looked down upon or proselytized to. We usually get that from our families already. We are people too and many, if not most of us have very good reasons not to believe in the supernatural. That shouldn't mean that we should be thought of less because we believe in what we can see and demonstrate.

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
- Paul Dirac
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10-11-2015, 10:46 AM (This post was last modified: 10-11-2015 10:56 AM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: Please Help a Future Military Chaplain
Why is the US government paying for chaplains ?
It is antithetical to patriotic American values, which separate religion from the state.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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10-11-2015, 11:00 AM
RE: Please Help a Future Military Chaplain
If you want to know what it is like for an atheist, get a t-shirt that reads "good without god" and wear it around town pretending to be a secular humanist for a week. You will likely get a spectrum of responses very typical of what we get. I don't feel persecuted as much as miss understood because most people don't realize that we are human and love our families and friends and also feel sadness, happiness and empathy just like everyone else does.
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10-11-2015, 11:15 AM
RE: Please Help a Future Military Chaplain
(10-11-2015 07:19 AM)jason_delisle Wrote:  Hello,

For those who I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet, I am an currently working towards a career as a protestant military chaplain. One of the responsibilities of a chaplain is to ensure that a service members religious freedoms are protected. That includes atheists. What I am asking of the wonderful people on this forum is:

1. How are atheist being persecuted and judged? How have you been personally treated because of your beliefs?
2. If you have ever served in the military or have had interactions with a military chaplain, how would you describe your experience? What were the good and the bad?
3. What advice do you have for a future chaplain to ensure that the beliefs of an atheist are protected in the military?

I like to think I have thick skin and can take a lot of flack so please don't hold anything back. I want to hear all the horror stories to ensure I do not make the same mistakes and to know what to look for. Thank you.

"1. How are atheist being persecuted and judged? How have you been personally treated because of your beliefs?"

The religious assume that morality originates from religion, and as a consequence, they assume that atheists have no morals.

I had to quit the job I had in retail when my boss and coworkers discovered I was an atheist (as did another woman who was also outed as an atheist at the same time). My hours were cut. My schedule was altered. Church sermons would be blared on the radio on Sunday mornings.

My mother said some very ignorant and hurtful things to me that I'd rather not dredge up.

My in-laws continue to treat us as if we are some sort vagrants. And they have become increasingly more hurtful to my wife as she has grown less and less religious.

"2. If you have ever served in the military or have had interactions with a military chaplain, how would you describe your experience? What were the good and the bad?"

Never been in the military, but I have had people try and use their religious beliefs to counsel me on troubling times. It is infuriating and belittling. As Chas points out, don't inject religion into a discussion or talk about god with an atheist. Odds are if they are an American atheist, they probably come from some sort of religious background and won't want to revisit the pains of their religious indoctrination.

"3. What advice do you have for a future chaplain to ensure that the beliefs of an atheist are protected in the military?"

What Chas said foremost.

I'd say that you should assume not only that they don't believe in god(s) as atheists, but that religion itself is a volatile subject to them that they may not want to discuss. And that you should expect that they may not want to discuss anything with you simply by you being a chaplain. I imagine there is a stigma about going to chaplains in the military (just like there is a stigma for any "man" to be open about their feelings or discuss them with counselors/therapists/etc), but the stigma would be doubly frustrating for the atheist who almost certainly feels some obligation to keep their atheism out of the limelight.

That is the thing about being an atheist in an overwhelmingly religious nation, especially one who's most religious-minded are conservative leaning (and I imagine the libertarian and conservative element of the military dominates), being open about being an atheist is a guarantee to be ostracized.

Being nice is something stupid people do to hedge their bets
-Rick
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