No Wonder There Are So Many Atheists and Agnostics in the Military

MRFF has a lawsuit in the works covering this incident that I blogged about a couple of months ago. I did not know the presentation was as bad as it was, so I focused only on the humiliating materials for women. In March 2008, a presentation entitled “A New Approach to Suicide Prevention: Developing Purpose-Driven Airmen” was shown to over 1000 US Air Force service members and emailed to over 5000 others. Chris Rodda describes how she was sent a copy of the presentation. The presenter was our old friend Lt. Gen Bishop. And finally, here is a copy of the presentation kept at the MRFF.

Here at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), we get countless complaints about religiously based mental health and counseling programs, which, over the past few years, have been systematically replacing proven psychological and medical approaches to a multitude of issues faced by military personnel. I’ve seen so many truly insane, not to mention blatantly unconstitutional, ways that the military is playing with the mental well being of our troops since I began working for MRFF that I really didn’t think it was possible for me to be surprised by anything anymore. Then I was sent a PowerPoint presentation by an airman at RAF Lakenheath, the largest U.S. Air Force base in England. On the MRFF scale of classifying by various expletives the egregiousness level of things that are reported to us — “holy crap,” “holy shit,” and “holy f…” — this one, promoting creationism as a means of preventing suicide among our military personnel, was definitely a “holy f…

Instead of using effective medical techniques and therapy to prevent suicide, now it seems that the US Air Force wants its airmen to “embrace the purpose-driven life”and creationism in addition to the chastity and purity material for females. Here is a slide from the presentation:

The conclusion in the slide appears to be wrong. Isn’t II the correct option, after all it shows that you don’t need to love God to love man and the self. What the hell is the bizarre fixation on Karl Marx and Charles Darwin? And how will this solve anyone’s depression? If anything, having to view such illogical thinking would tend to drive one to suicide. And isn’t humanism simply caring for other humans? And aren’t there religious humanists as well? What is wrong with these people? This presentation is all about identifying and denigrating “The Other”. In this case “The Other” are those military members who are not religious.

Another example of the lack of reasoning skills is slide 3.

I’m not sure who developed these slides, but it seems they are completely unable to think logically. It looks like he is trying to say that the increase in spirituality is directly correlated with the increase in suicides. You know, I think he is onto something.

And one of the more outrageous slides tries to imply that Pat Tillman was a “man of faith”.

Pat Tillman was an Army Ranger killed by “friendly fire” in 2004. He was an outspoken atheist. This slide reminds me of a really strange encounter at a charity event I supported last summer. The event was called “42 Events in 42 Days” and was in Pat Tillman’s honor. I thought that I would meet some more non-religious in my local area. But most of the people were fundamentalist Christians and seemed totally unaware that Pat Tillman was a very outspoken atheist. What’s going on here? Are fundy Christians so insecure in their faith that the very thought of an atheist who gave his life in the service of his country gives them the vapours? So insecure so they pretend that he was a Christian?

All of this dishonesty seems to be driving service members away from the more conservative Christian denominations. The December 2004 Population Bulletin – America’s Military Population, Vol. 59, No.4 which analyzes the US Armed Forces regarding race, religion, ethnicity, civilian background, education, etc. A copy of the report is located at the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers.

Religious affiliation or the lack of it is addressed on page 25 of the bulletin. According to the bulletin, the percentage of service members identifying themselves as nonreligious is larger than in the civilian population, even taking into account the younger average age of service members. In the civilian population, younger people are significantly more nonreligious than older people.

We do know the civilian American population has been moving away from the traditional Christian religions and toward other religious groups or eschewing any religious affiliation.34 This latter trend is particularly pronounced among young adults, exactly the age groups most likely to enter the military. In general, the armed forces show lower religious affiliation than the civilian population, even among civilians ages 20 to 39 (see Table 5). A larger share of military than civilians reported they are Christians but are not Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox or Protestant, or do not specify a denomination.

This report shows the higher number of the nonreligious in the services, but also the higher number of non-denominational Christians in the military. A lot of non-denominational churches are heavily evangelical. The large number of non-denominational chaplains who have entered the service in the last 15 years may account for the increased friction between the nonreligious service members and the evangelical Christians that have made the news in the last few years.

And who would blame the soldier or airmen for choosing atheism when they see these “spokesmen for Christ” as gibbering madmen when these presentations are given?