One of the most ironic of oxymorons is “jumbo shrimp” – until now, that is. Retired Army Captain Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers wants the army to allow “atheist chaplains”. Recognition of these “chaplains” by the military would allow atheists access to meeting rooms and printed literature on army bases. It seems that chaplaincy will embolden atheists in the military who worry about being ostracized for their world views.
A pivotal point in the argument for military recognition of this oxymoron is the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. This program contains surveys which ask a soldier about his beliefs, principles or values in an attempt to determine what the soldier brings with him/her into battle to sustain him/her in times of stress. The atheists claim that the military offers religion as a source of strengthening these sustaining principles. Never mind that the Army offers other sustaining suggestions which include the tenants of the humanistic sciences of philosophy and psychology, along with the old standbys of exercise, diet and adequate sleep.
This writer hopes that the military chaplains will continue to identify religion and the leaders of such as persons “having faith” and atheists as persons “not having faith”. If a soldier chooses not to have faith one would hope that he would have the courage not to worry about what other people think.
Even in this age of “Me first” and an all volunteer American Army, the argument for an atheist chaplaincy sounds petulant, self-serving and whinny. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.
For us Christians in times of doubt, we remember these words, “Act as if you have faith and faith will be given unto you.” All atheists are invited to try it some time. In the mean time, many Christians and Jews will continue to do what they have always done in secret; they will pray for you.