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Pressure on atheists in the U.S. military

Posted: Mon Dec 21, 2015 10:20 pm
by old jupiter
Old man, new here, did a short Search first.

This might be something for one of the investigative journalists on the magazine staff to look at, if you have not. I have read that there is a somewhat wide but unevenly spread practice of U.S. military officers and non-coms to put a lot of pressure on and criticize the relatively few atheist members. It is said that being identified as atheist/agnostic can have negative effects on one's military career. This is apparently (though read on) not officially condoned, and in some cases the complaints of atheists have been addressed; the situation seems to vary a great deal from place to place. There is a military atheists' website, but it seems not to have a forum, and I couldn't find a way to put my questions to them.

A particular question I wanted to ask them, but will ask here, involves what is said to amount to a conspiracy theory authored by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh. It seems that a few years ago, Hersh wrote a long article asserting that much of the senior military leadership of the country hides a militant and activist pro-Christian bias that has substantial foreign politcy implications. Hersh claimed that many top officers are members of organizations including the Knights of Malta and Opus Dei. To the extent that any of this is true, if the senior officers share such philosophies and act on them, it might possibly explain the often-reported biases against lower-ranking atheists.

Hersh's evidence for his claims in this and some other recent articles is said even by his long-time fans to be uncharacteristically thin; many wonder if he has gone off the deep end. But it seems to me that a careful investigation into both Hersh's article and the claims of intense personal pressure against atheists much lower in the ranks (often special ops units, it seems) would be of considerable interest to the magazine. It certainly would be important to the country and the citizenry if something of this nature is real and is being covered up.

Re: Pressure on atheists in the U.S. military

Posted: Mon Jan 18, 2016 8:01 am
by TJrandom
I knew an atheist Air Force enlisted man back in the early 70s, and he indicated that he was `open` with being an atheist – not taking the bended knee when suggested, not bowing his head when a chaplain gave a prayer, and openly stating that he was an atheist whenever the topic arose. He seemed to be doing OK – making his promotions soon after completing the minimal time-in-grade that was standard at the time (reached E-4/Staff Sgt. at 3 years), and he didn`t describe any real pressure to conform. He didn`t get a pass on group participation events, but he didn`t make a big issue of it either.

Re: Pressure on atheists in the U.S. military

Posted: Mon Jan 18, 2016 10:35 am
by Gawdzilla Sama
I was in boot camp back in 1969. We were advised that we would have to pick a "divine service" and attend it once a week. There was no alternative.

Later that year I was told by two senior petty officers that the peace symbol was actually the Cross inverted and the arms broken downward to indicate Satan worship. My reply got me transferred out of their unit. I considered that a win.

Re: Pressure on atheists in the U.S. military

Posted: Thu Jan 28, 2016 3:58 am
by Bullfighter
From my experience in the military over the past decade, this is not the case. In fact, you could argue that the military has become largely secularized. When I was in boot camp, going to church or Mass was our only escape from our drill instructors on Sundays. After boot camp ended, the large majority of people quit attending Sunday services and lived happy godless lives.

Do our ceremonies still involve invocations from chaplains and do my promotion warrants state "in the year of our Lord"? Yes. Does declaring oneself an atheist make you a pariah? Absolutely not. They have approved Wiccan priests as chaplains, after all. In my opinion, the military is just a reflection of society at large but slower to adopt change because of the insular nature of our environment.

But as the saying goes in the military, your mileage may vary.

Re: Pressure on atheists in the U.S. military

Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2016 4:25 pm
by ahhell
I was in the Navy in the 90s as an open atheist. I said I was an atheist on my forms but my dog tags said, "no rel pref", which was false but not worth arguing about. There was no pressure in book camp to attend religious services, the opposite really, if you didn't go to church you had some time to catch up on the tasks that they didn't give you time for during the rest of the week. Most of my commands after that, it didn't matter at all, in fact, you'd catch more flack for being religious than an atheist, especially mormons and fundies.

We did have prayers broadcast at the end of the day while at sea, they were usually generic and addressed to God, sometimes God wasn't mentioned. I will always remember the prayer that our bombs fly straight, which is somewhat ironic if the guy was a christian.

I gather this varies a great deal depending on where you were stationed.

Re: Pressure on atheists in the U.S. military

Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2016 10:06 pm
by Matthew Ellard
I think that everyone here would agree that : The best position for all military services is to have the best men and women for their roles and the moment prejudicial behaviour resurfaces against atheists, gay boys, gay girls, religion or perceived races, then that simply removes potentially good service people from the services.

Re: Pressure on atheists in the U.S. military

Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2016 6:22 am
by Gord
ahhell wrote:... in book camp ....

:read: The times, they are a-changing....