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?

Happy Holidays Assholes


I went shopping at Target this weekend and had an interesting encounter with a cashier. Now, before you think that I’m complaining, actually the cashier was on my side. In addition to the gifts I bought, I decided to get some cards. I usually get some nondescript cards that cover any winter holiday that one might celebrate. But I have a couple of obnoxiously religious in-laws that always send me cards that are almost religious tracts.

This time I decided to get some cards that have a very large “Happy Holidays” greeting on them. These cards will go specifically to a couple of relatives and especially to a neighbor that kept sending us horribly paranoid anti-Obama emails before the election. Even after we asked to be taken off his email list and after we had retaliated back with anti-Palin emails.

Target had a huge selection of Happy Holidays cards for me to select from and I decided on the largest, most obnoxiously Happy Holidays cards I could find. The cashier rang up my items and grinned when she saw the large, obnoxious Happy Holidays cards. “For someone special?” she asked.

“Oh, definitely.” I replied. We both laughed. My opening salvo in the War on Christmas.

So Happy Holidays, assholes.

Update:

Looks like a Utah senator, Chris Buttars, wants to mandate that store clerks say”Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”.

Sen. Chris Buttars wants Utah’s Legislature to declare its opposition to the “war on Christmas.”

The West Jordan Republican is sponsoring a resolution encouraging retailers to embrace Christmas in their promotions rather than the generic “holidays.”

“It would encourage the use of ‘Merry Christmas,'” Buttars said of the non-binding statement that is still being drafted. “I’m sick of the Christmas wars — we’re a Christian nation and ought to use the word.”

Several fellow lawmakers he wouldn’t yet name support his effort, added Buttars, who has a long history of championing the socially conservative agenda of the Utah Eagle Forum.

In 2005, right-wing pundit Bill O’Reilly took on the same fight, characterizing the so-called war on Christmas as part of a secular progressive agenda that would open the door to legalized drugs, abortion-on-demand and same-sex marriage.

One advertising executive thinks the Buttars message crosses the line.

“I’m kind of flabbergasted that there is even such a proposal,” said Dave Newbold, president of Salt Lake City-based Richter7 Advertising and Public Relations.

“We may be primarily Christian but that doesn’t mean that you force your language or beliefs on anybody,” Newbold added. “We live in a multicultural area and it’s right and proper to be sensitive to the various cultures.”

What a prick. Doesn’t he have other, more important things to do as a state senator than to worry about what greeting store clerks give to their customers?

Billboard Censorship

The City of Rancho Cucamonga pressured General Outdoor Advertising to remove the above billboard after complaints from “concerned” assholes. Stuart Bechman from Atheists United in Los Angeles is calling for an apology from the City of Rancho Cucamonga for violating the constitutional rights of General Outdoor Advertising and its customers.

“This is a serious overstep by the city over the boundaries of the First Amendment,” stated Stuart Bechman, President, Atheists United. “It’s hard to imagine a more innocuous statement of non-belief. But even this was too much for political leaders who are clearly in the pockets of some religious leaders to suppress any expression of views that diverge from the orthodox line.”

“City leaders have demonstrated their clear bias towards protecting and providing special privileges to their favored religious beliefs, in clear violation of the California and United States Constitutions. I would like to think that few Christians are so insecure in their faith as to support this action.”

Atheists United and other civil-rights organizations expect an apology to all freethinkers from the city and an admission of error on their part; and if they refuse, for the California Attorney General’s office to open an investigation on the illegal actions taken by the city.

Hemant Mehta is also posting about this story. According to some of the comments, FRFF and Atheists United may be suing the City of Rancho Cucamonga. I hope they do. The city needs a severe spanking.

It is time that we educate them. They’ll keep doing it as long as we let them get away with it.

I don’t think that AU and FFRF should ask for an apology, they should sue immediately and not settle. At the very least, the Rancho Cucamonga City Administrators should pay for restoring the sign, pay for the days that it was down, pay for the AU and FFRF’s legal fees and then issue an apology.

I agree Hemant. It’s time we stop taking shit from these assholes.

There Probably Isn’t

The Atheist Bus campaign in London by the Atheist Campaign, Richard Dawkins, and the British Humanist Association seems to really tick off the Rev. Evan Cockshaw. He created a website, There Probably Is, supposedly to explore both sides of the issue. The site is filled with pretty lame stories (emotional appeals) by fellow Christians trying to explain why they are Christians. There are no dissenting opionions offered on the Reverend’s site. So much for dissenting views.

PZ Myers wrote a scathing post about Rev. Cockshaw’s site, thereby causing the Rev to make an appearence in the comments. What a whiny crybaby. Apparently, Cockshaw filled the search flags for his site with tags for atheists and agnostics. Then he became pissed when atheists found his website and decided to play. You’d think that Cockshaw would have expected this, especially if he was censoring inputs to his site.

Then the Rev attemps to censor PZ by trying to get Seed magazine to pull PZ’s post. Seed told Cockshaw to take a hike. HehHehHeh.

And you just know it had to happen, now there is a site, There Probably Isn’t. Way to go! And there are pages and pages of stories to read. Looks like there will be plenty of reading for the holidays.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Atheist?

Who’s afraid of the big bad atheists? Apparently both Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan. They are running against each other for the US Senate.It looks like the two are trying to out Jesus each other. Never mind the prohibition in the Constitution about there not being a religious test for public office. It sure seems that there is an unofficial religious test for any elected office in North Carolina.

The election for the US Senate in North Carolina has degenerated into a mudslinging fest with atheists and other non-believers stuck in the middle. All of this uproar because Kay Hagan dared to attend a fundraiser held where “Gasp” there might be an atheist or two attending.

Dole’s campaign started the whole mess by sending out this press release. Check out the posts at Friendly Atheist and Pharyngula for more details.

On September 15th, Kay Hagan is heading to Boston, Massachusetts to attend a fundraiser for her Senate campaign. What may surprise mainstream North Carolinians is that the fundraiser will be in the home of leading anti religion activists Wendy Kaminer and her lawyer husband Woody Kaplan — who is an advisor to the “Godless Americans Political Action Committee.”

Well golly-gee, she plans to meet with someone who isn’t a Christian. Burn her! Call in this woman, we need a God warrior.

Well, the press release and flyers were not enough for Liddy Dole, so her campaign had to get down and ugly with the following ad.

Here is the long version of the ad on YouTube by the NRSC.

And if this was not enough, the Dole campaign decided to send out these little flyers. Well, after all of this, Kay Hagan decided to go on the offensive, and boy did she get offensive. Here are her statements declaring that of course she believes in God and would never intentionally associate with those who do not.

Democratic Senate candidate Kay Hagan angrily demanded Wednesday that U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole stop airing a new ad that questions Hagan’s ties to an atheist political group, calling the spot a slanderous and pathetic attempt to maintain political power.

“I am absolutely outraged. How could she go this low?” Hagan said, calling the ad “despicable.”

Hagan’s attorneys sent a cease-and-desist order to Dole’s campaign, saying the “libelous” ad should come down within 24 hours. The order promised legal action if the ad stays on the air.

Wow, instead of a gentle correction stating that she is not an atheist, but a Christian, we get this massive overreaction by Hagan. Of course she’s not one of those mean, evil, filthy atheists. And of course her minister has to chime in as well.

The Huffington Post has a good summary of the ads over here. Here is Hagan’s first ad.

Now, Dole has responded with another obnoxious ad.

Yet another anti-atheist disaster at CNN.Yeah let’s not include an atheist on the panel that discusses atheists.

WTF? “Folks like this?” “That’s how you convert them?” Donna Brazile is a bigoted ignoramus.

An excellent response by the Atheist Community of Austin’s Non-Prophets Radio hosts. Way to go guys.

This year’s election run up has been the most amazing that I’ve seen. The people who claim that they are so “Christian” are showing their true ugliness. They are wrapping themselves in a cloak of piety and patriotism, all to hide their inner bigotry, ambition, and greed. This confirms my suspicions that the most outwardly pious and patriotic are in fact the least.

McCain & Palin Godwin Themselves

With their earlier support of and by racists, the low tactics the McCain/Palin ticket is stooping to does not have me surprised. At two events yesterday, both McCain and Palin did not dissuade their supporters from making racist and threatening speech. First, I’ll start with Sarah Palin. According to the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank:

You betcha. And the person dishing out the roughest stuff at the moment is Sarah Palin.

“I was reading my copy of the New York Times the other day,” she said.

“Booooo!” replied the crowd.

“I knew you guys would react that way, okay,” she continued. “So I was reading the New York Times and I was really interested to read about Barack’s friends from Chicago.”

It was time to revive the allegation, made over the weekend, that Obama “pals around” with terrorists, in this case Bill Ayers, late of the Weather Underground. Many independent observers say Palin’s allegations are a stretch; Obama served on a Chicago charitable board with Ayers, now an education professor, and has condemned his past activities.

“Now it turns out, one of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers,” Palin said.

“Boooo!” said the crowd.

“And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,'” she continued.

“Boooo!” the crowd repeated.

“Kill him!” proposed one man in the audience.

Also she continued on after this, without even trying to tell here audience that she did not want to go there.

Just like she did when speakers at her church said that terrorist attacks against Israelis were “God’s judgment” for Jews having the audacity not to embrace Christianity. Just like she did when a visiting witch doctor at her church lamented the fact that, as he claimed, Jews control the banking industry and that’s why Wall Street is so corrupt. Not a word from Sarah Palin when her supporters talk of killing Barack Obama. Not a word from Sarah Palin when her own church talks of the propriety of launching terrorist attacks against Jews in Israel.

Here is some more video of Sarah Palin’s successionist buddies:

And some more AIP buddies of Sarah Palin:

“I’ve admired Sarah from the first time I met her at the 2006 (AIP) convention,” which Palin also addressed, says Clark. “She impressed me so much. She’s Alaskan to the bone; she’s a damn good gal.

“As I was listening to her, I thought she sounds like what we’ve been saying for years. I thought to myself, ‘My God, she sounds just like Joe Vogler.'”

And John McCain also had his moment as well:

McCain was speaking today in New Mexico, doing his usual personal attack on Barack Obama, as the stock market plummeted (you can see the ticker next to McCain on the screen, an apt reminder of what McCain and his fellow Republicans represent), and McCain asked the crowd “who is Barack Obama?” Immediately you hear a supporter yell “terrorist.” McCain pauses, the audience laughs, and McCain continues on, not acknowledging, not chastising, not correcting. Oh, but McCain does say in the next sentence that he’s upset about all the “angry barrage of insults.” Is McCain losing his mind, or just a liar?

And here’s the video.

And of course John McCain is not without his own racist links as well.

Well, no. Obama was—he was asked about this in a debate in a primaries with Hillary Clinton sitting there; George Stephanopoulos of ABC asked him about it. He answered it. He pointed out that the despicable acts this guy committed were committed when, apparently, Barack Obama was eight years old. And, and I think Governor Palin here is making a strategic mistake. This guilt by association path is going to be trouble ultimately for the McCain campaign. You know, you can go back—I’ve written a book about McCain. I had a dozen researchers go through him. I didn’t even put this in the book. But John McCain sat on the board of a very right-wing organization. It was the U.S. Council for World Freedom. It was chaired by a guy named John Singlaub, who wound up involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. It was an ultraconservative right-wing group. The Anti-Defamation League, in 1981, when McCain was on the board, said this about this organization. It was affiliated with the World Anti-Communist League, the parent organization, which ADL said, “has increasingly become a gathering place, a forum, a point of contact for extremists, racists and Anti-Semites.” Now, that’s not John McCain. I don’t think he is that. But, but, you know, the problem is that a lot of people know John McCain’s record better than Governor Palin, and he does not want to play guilt by association or this thing could blow up in his face.

The republican candidates are getting uglier and uglier.

Jewish Soldier Beaten after Complaining of Discrimination

This story posted today over at Military.com. A soldier was beaten unconscious after he complained about religious discrimination at Ft. Benning in Savannah, GA. According to the AP, Pvt. Michael Handman was beaten unconscious fter he complained of harassment by other soldiers and a sergeant.

Pvt. Michael Handman of Atlanta says another soldier punched him in the head and knocked him unconscious in an unprovoked attack Sept. 24. He was treated for a concussion.

Handman wrote to his parents before the attack that he was being discriminated against. He said one sergeant used an anti-Semitic slur and another ordered him to remove his yarmukle (YAH’-muh-kah) in a dining hall.

This is what happens when religious discrimination is allowed in the military services. If soldiers see that they can pick on and harass others, then some will do so. I see this environment as a lack of command authority by whoever is running the base and the basic training program. Letting soldiers pick on and beat another soldier is disgraceful. Those who attacked this private should be immediately dishonorably discharged. How can you run a military organization if service members are attacking each other? What is wrong with the leadership? It says in the article that a soldier is being questioned regarding the beating. Hopefully some action will be taken.

I’ve covered hate groups in the military before. Here are a few links:

New York Times – Hate Groups Infiltrating the Military
Southern Poverty Law Center – A Few Bad Men
NBC News – White-Power Groups Recruiting From Military
Air University – Terrorist and Insurgent Organizations – Domestic Groups

MRFF Files Another Lawsuit

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has filed another lawsuit against the Department of Defense and Secretary Gates alleging that the DoD has violated Spc. Dustin Chalker’s constitutional rights not to be coerced into religious services. Here are a few excerpts from the lawsuit:

The legal issue raised herein is whether the plaintiff, a member of the United States Army, may be required to attend military functions and/or formations that include sectarian Christian prayers.

Plaintiff Chalker has sought relief from mandatory attendance at the subject functions/formations through his chain of command and the equal opportunity process. Neither have yielded satisfactory results.

No soldier should be forced to attend religious ceremonies and have to pretend to worship in order to make promotions. If the Army wants to have services, then those should be optional and held before or after the non-religious ceremony. Why does the Army have to combine the two? There is no non-religious reason for them to do so.

I’ve covered most of these church/state violations in this blog before, but there are so many egregious violations listed in the lawsuit. Here are some of the worst examples of the overt Christian proselytization that Spc Chalker has run into as detailed in the complaint:

Mandatory Attendance at U.S.A.F. Base Commander’s Sectarian Call. During March, 2008, a program approved by Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop was presented at a commander’s call at RAF Lakenheath, England. This commander’s call was a mandatory function for an estimated 1,000 service members. The Powerpoint version presentation was emailed to an estimated 4,000-5,000 service members.

The “Spiritual Fitness” part of the presentation, given by Air Force Chaplain Capt. Christian Biscotti, was titled “A New Approach to Suicide Prevention: Developing Purpose-Driven Airmen.” This presentation is just one example of the recent
shift (since 2005) to basing suicide prevention programs on Christian teachings, the most often used being Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life”.

In some cases, including the Lakenheath presentation, creationism is also incorporated. One chart in the Lakenheath presentation, for example, presents “3 Levels of Purpose”. For Category I, the “Purpose” is “God Given”, the “Idealogy” is “Religious,” the “Motivation” is “The Love of God,” and the example of a person who had this ideology is George Washington. The Category II “Purpose” is “Man Given,” with “Philanthropy” as the ideology, “The Love of Man” as the motivation, with Karl Marx as the example. Category III is “Self Given” for purpose, “Humanism” for ideology, “The Love of Self” for motivation, and Charles Darwin as the example. The slide ends with Category I is the most beneficial, because if you love God (in a majority of world religions) , you’ll love man and yourself.”

Yeah, lets just assume all of the thousand members in attendance are evangelical Christians. I’m sure that about 25% of the audience are not even Christian at all. So much for respecting America’s religious plurality that is reflected in military life. Lt.Gen Bishop certainly does not show respect for the men and women who serve under him. He explicitly states that the non-religious service members are not as good as the evangelical Christian ones.

I wonder what would happen if he replaces the religious references with race references, explicitly saying that one race is better than another? I think that he would quickly be replaced and would have to retire in shame. Why is one form of bigotry permitted and the other is not? No form of bigotry should be allowed expression in any official presentation. Perhaps having a last name of Bishop is getting to the general’s head. He is confusing his position as a military leader with a religious leader. Christian supremacy is as bad a position as white supremacy.

Another slide titled “Contrasting Theories of Hope, Ultimate Theories Explaining Our Existence,” has two columns, the first titled “Chance,” and the second “Design,” comparing Charles Darwin, creationism, and religion are also part of a chart comparing the former Soviet Union to the United States, concluding that “Naturalism/Evolution/Atheism” leads to people being “in bondage” and having “no hope,” while theism leads to “People of Freedom” and “People of hope/destiny.” After several more slides like these, the presentation continues with a slide titled “Christian’s Message,” and a slide with an image of a man looking upwards with his hands outstretched and the caption “Please open up both of your hands to receive this powerful tool.”

Unbelievable, after denigrating about 20% of the audience (remember that the military has a larger atheist/agnostic population that in civilian life), he ends with overt proselytization. How would you feel to sit in that audience and be told that you are some sort of second class person? Then he ends his talk with the message that Christians are better people. What a load of utter bullshit. And evangelists wonder why the ratio of freethinkers is higher in the military. Have they ever given a thought to how they come across to non-Christians and other Christians?

As if this was bad enough, there is worse, especially for female military members. Look at some of the items used as training material in the Army’s Strong Bonds program:

“Every Woman, Every Day,” (365 Christian readings and sermons about “sexual purity”)

“Every Woman’s Battle,” (a book of Christian sermons, and Bible verses to “Discover God’s plan for sexual and emotional fulfillment.“)

“Every Woman’s Battle Promise Book,” (a “daily devotional” of Bible verses to support the reader in a quest for “sexual integrity“)

“The Thrill of the Chaste,” by Dawn Eden. The author is described on the back cover as “Jewish-born” and throughout the book as a “former agnostic Jew.” The book describes in detail how she led a highly promiscuous and drug abusing lifestyle until she had a “born again experience” and “realized for the first time … that [Jesus] as truly God’s son.” The book is filled (almost every page) with Bible verses and with the author proselytizing Christianity. Chaplain Johnson recommended the book multiple times during the training.

Holy Shit! I don’t see any listings for men to keep chaste. Why the double standard? It looks like they want to push this fundamentalist Christian garbage of submissive, virginal female soldiers. What a load of sexist bullshit. Why the fixation on sex? And why is being a virgin defined as “purity”? And what do they mean by “virginity”? Does the “pure Christian woman” have to have an intact hymen? Does having a busted cherry make a woman a second-class female, a slut, or a whore? I guess this explains the increase in anal sex among girls who take the”purity pledge.”

They seem to hate sex. Perhaps since they aren’t getting any, they don’t want the rest of us to have sex as well. They also seem to imply that non-Christian women are drug abusing sluts. Any why are the materials that are for women focused only about sex? Aren’t women capable of being more than virgins, baby-making machines or whores?

It seems that these repressed prigs are continuing the obsession with other’s private sex lives by controlling women in the service. As a female veteran Air Force officer, I’m highly offended by such actions. As an atheist, I’m also highly offended by the overt statements that I’m some sort of second-class human. And this is only a small sampling from the lawsuit.

There is so much in this lawsuit, and this is only the start. So far, MRFF has only put together 2 lawsuits. They have almost 10,000 complaints about religious discrimination in the services. Even if only a fraction of “tormentees” are willing to step forward, I foresee lawsuits for many years, until the DoD is willing to make drastic changes in how they approach the issue of religion in the services. What MRFF needs to do next is start filing lawsuits from other Christians who also have been treated like shit by these literalist fundamentalist Christians. Way to go MRFF!