For God and Country

James Parco LtCol, USAF Ret, has written a position paper, God and Country: Religious Fundamentalism in the U.S. Military, for the Center for Inquiry. This paper is an excellent summary of problems caused by overzealous Christian fundamentalist adherents in the US military. Here is the rather depressing summary at the end of the paper:

 The inappropriate behavior of fundamentalist Christian military leaders will not likely change on its own. Ample rules and regulations remain in place to appropriately separate the religious beliefs of military leaders from their official duties and responsibilities. Most lacking, however, is the social and political will to enforce the existing rules and hold military commanders accountable for breaches of conduct.

The cases outlined in this paper raise the fundamental question captured by the classic Latin dictum, quis custodiet ipsos custodes – who will guard the guards themselves? Based on the evidence presented herein, the status quo remains resilient. Military institutions have shown significant reticence to discipline any of their own who use the power of their official positions to run rampant through the senior ranks of the military simply because it is allowed to do so. After all, every system is perfectly designed to yield the behaviors observed.

The answer to this dictum is that the American people, both elected officials and ordinary citizens, are tasked with guarding the guards. As the previous pages make clear, there is a serious problem with religious endorsement in the U.S. Armed Forces which needs to be immediately addressed and changed. It is up to those with social and political power to demand this action. If this problem persists, members of the military will continue to face hostility and indoctrination, and the U.S. government will continue to experience public relations problems in future military missions. If it is addressed, the U.S. military could become a neutral and safe space for members of all religious backgrounds, and none at all, and the image of the America, as seen through its military forces abroad, could change from one of Christianity to one of a diverse people united for liberty and justice for all.

 Until some group with the political power to challenge the entrenched Christian fundamentalists in the military takes action, there will be not change. This problem will persist until either mainline Christians in the US Military get tired of being treated like non-Christians or the non-Christians become more numerous in the military. And this report also does not cover other troubling developments like the links between the more extreme Christian fundamentalists and religious and racial supremacists in and outside of the military.

The Power of Doubt or Messin with Fundies

In the past two months a couple of events have kept me laughing about the silliness of those who believe without really thinking about their beliefs. A religious coworker and a Jesus door to door sales lady have given me much amusement.

A few months ago I was working in an office where one coworker kept making religious references in almost every conversation. I didn’t say anything but he started assuming that I was a Christian that agreed with him. How presumptuous. After a week, it was time to end that assumption.

He started saying some creationist ideas about the Earth being only a few thousand years old. I said that I did not agree with that. The evidence shows a universe and Earth that are billions of years old. He then stated that he believed that every word in his bible was true. I asked him how he knew that it was true.

His reasons were that he believed the supernatural was true and that prophecies from the old testament foretold Jesus. The boss walked in at that moment and asked what we were discussing. I found out later from my boss that my coworker had been in trouble before for bothering people about religion. I replied that my coworker was trying to convince me that the supernatural existed. The boss laughed, letting me know that he was sympathetic to my point of view.

I replied to my coworker that the old testament prophecies were useless because the writers of the new testament had those writings available to them when they wrote the new testament. That was the simplest explaination. He said that he had never thought of it that way and would look this up. He never came back with another explaination.

For the next couple of weeks my coworker kept making these strange passive aggressive remarks about me going to hell when I died. I finally got tired of this one day, so it was time to teach this person a lesson, the parable of the abusive husband.

After he made his little remark, about burning in hell, I said that how could that possibly describe a loving god? That this was like a man being thought of as a good husband but he tells his wife that if she does not tell him that she loves him, then he would lock her up in the basement and torture her. How can this possibly be considered “loving”?

He made a little strangled sound, but made no reply. He never made those remarks about hell again. I thought the boss was going to high-five me.

Last Friday I was expecting a couple friends to come over. The doorbell rang and I answered it. There were two ladies in their 20s, dressed up and carrying their bibles like magic talismans. One woman started by saying “God is not responsible for natural disasters.” She then quoted something from John and from Timothy. Then she started with hinting that “dark forces” caused bad things. I guess she was talking about demons and the devil. Who knows? Perhaps like Voldemart, you can’t say it out loud?

I asked her if God created everthing. She answered in the affirmative, that yes he created everything. I asked the obvious “If he created everything, doesn’t he also create disasters as well?”

She replied somewhat uncertainly that she had never thought of it that way. I wanted to discuss this further, but she quickly stated that it looked like I was busy with my daughter and that they must be going and they must leave now. Hopefully they won’t come back. I shut the door and busted out laughing when I discovered that I had forgotten that I was wearing a set of fuzzy purple antennas that my daughter had put on me earlier.

Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero

I’m watching a very moving Frontline episode entitled Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero. This episode explores the emotions of the families of the victims and the survivors.

When I lost my daughter as an infant, I was handed a brochure about the stages of grief and how grief is resolved. I remember reading that about 75% of people resolve their grief by feeling that their is a god and there was a resolution for their loved one’s death. I recall that the rationalization was that God’s ways were mysterious or something along those lines. But 25% of people accepted that the universe is a chaotic place and shit happens, it’s no ones fault when these types of things happen. This was what I felt when I lost my daughter.

The images of the falling people shown are horrifying. The couple holding hands as they jump to their deaths is a haunting one. Did they know each other? Were they strangers? Were they comforted by each other as they faced a certain death?

Rabbi Herschfield discussed how it bothered him when survivors claimed that God saved them. “What about those who died, and died a horrible, painful death? Did God cause their deaths as well? It’s easy to say that God saved one, it’s the easy way out. It’s the easy way out for religion as well. But someone says that God saved them from death, then it’s hypocrisy to not say that God caused deaths as well. That is just not a god that I can worship.”

There was an interesting discussion on evil and its definition. Margot Adler defines evil as when you loose sight of others as people, they are as nothing to you. They are in the way of your goals.

There was general discussion that religion itself is responsible. Both the religious and the non-religious people interviewed recognized that religion can motivate both good and terrible things. Being absolutely sure that you are right and others are wrong can lead to terrible acts. Absolutism can blind someone to the consequences of their actions.

Curiosity, An Excellent First Episode

I’m sitting here finally getting a chance to do some blogging while watching Curiosity, a new show on The Science Channel. This episode is hosted by Steven Hawking pondering if there is a god while surrounded by headlines where he is declared a heretic and he states that god is a fairytale. You can see the faint hint of a smile as he observes the headlines.

The entire episode is devoted to dispelling the god of the gaps argument. I was amazed that there was such a frank and open discussion about the question “Is there a god?” I highly recommend it. I love the conclusion.

I haven’t been blogging much lately or this year. I sincerely hope to change this. There have been developments on my last story about being an atheist in the ultimate foxhole (Cheyenne Mountain), evangelical Christian chaplains and America’s nuclear forces. If you think this is an explosive combination, I will be posting about an even more disturbing story. This story about a few military chaplains will be waiting for others to complete some possible legal actions before I can post anything yet.

An Atheist in the Ultimate Foxhole

Many people like to proclaim rather ignorantly that there are no atheists in foxholes. Most of these people seem to have never done any type of military service. But occasionally you meet religious people, either active duty or former military, who subscribe to this strange notion that an atheist can’t exist in a stressful situation such as a foxhole. Even my spell checker on my Evo Android phone replaced foxholes with potholes while writing this post. I had to override and force it to put foxholes in the text. Heh Heh Heh.

I spent over four years stationed at Peterson AFB, near Colorado Springs, Colorado. Colorado Springs is the home to many conservative, evangelical organizations. I was stationed there in the mid to late 80’s. At that time, like now, their focus was to grow their organization and gain political power.

There were rumors passed around about previous incidents of these organizations using their power over their members stationed at Cheyenne Mountain and at various launch facilities. Apparently in the late seventies, there were several senior officers making comments about doing what god wanted rather than following their training and orders. These officers were quietly removed from their positions. With the current religiosity in the military, I’m not sure that this would happen now.

Mike Weinstein at MRFF has stated recently that 87 missile officers have complained that their commanding officer has made statements encouraging them to disobey their orders if they feel that god would want them to. This commanding officer should be courts martialled and removed from active duty. He is encouraging is officers to not follow their orders. This is extremely dangerous as we are talking about having our nation’s nuclear strike capability in the hands of a mega-church.

I spent much of my time at Cheyenne Mountain AFS, familiarly known as Cheyenne Mountain, or known simply as “The Mountain”. I was assigned in the Missile Warning section, where we monitored the world for incoming ballistic missiles. Cheyenne Mountain was built at the height of the cold war to provide shelter against a Soviet first strike, the ultimate foxhole against nuclear missiles.

The first time I walked through the tunnel and through the blast doors was a surreal experience. To my left was a huge stack of boxes of canned meals (before MREs), above me was the netting used to keep rocks from falling on people and equipment, and in front of me were several multistory buildings mounted on gigantic shocks. I went to my duty station which was a very small and cramped space, filled with computer equipment, completely different from the depiction shown in various television shows and movies.

Nowadays, Cheyenne Mountain has been retired from it’d missions of missile warning, space watch, and satellite tracking. I saw on a recent documentary that the facility has been turned into the alternate command center for NORAD/USNORTHCOM and some sort of secure computer facility.

General Herres was SPACECINC during most of the time I was stationed at Cheyenne Mountain. He was a great commander to work for. He was on the board for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation until his untimely death from brain cancer in 2008. Even though was a very religious man, he recognized the dangers of our nuclear capability falling in the hands of zealots. Seeing General Herres on the board encouraged me to support MRFF.

While I was stationed at Cheyenne Mountain, I had no problem as an “out in the open” non-believer. Everyone was strictly professional on the job. I think Gen. Herres had a lot to do with this. He made sure that everyone was taken care of and everyone had a chance to perform at their best. I sincerely hope that the current generation of missile warning and launch officers are as professional as we were before. The 87 officers who have made complaints about their over zealous commander have probably already tried to make official complaints or else it was made clear that doing so would be a career-killer. They are to be commended for trying to keep religious doctrines out of the silo.

Waiting Anxiously for the Rapture

My favorite scene in Six Feet Under. The earthquake should get the Kiwis any minute now. I will update this post periodically over the next day.

Update:
(23:05) Looks like nothing is happening in New Zealand.Wasn’t this where the whole rapture supposed to start? At 6:00PM local time? Here is a handy site to check for earthquakes. I have a few apps on my ipod, but so far not a peep. I feel so sorry for the deluded fools who got sucked in by this rich conman, Harold Camping. Who by the way has approximately $72 million dollars in the bank. A great site for info. Harold Camping’s face bookpage.

(23:40) What about the astronauts on the space station? I don’t think any earthquake is going to get them.
 
(12:10) l’m going to bed now it’s late. No Rapture yet. Damn, I guess we’re stuck with the Christians now.

(13:03 Saturday the 21st) No rapture yet. Perhaps its only the godly US republican Christians who are going to heaven. We have two hours to go until the East Coast gets hit. So far no unusual earthquake activity yet.

(14:54) Hey a live  streaming rapture party .

(16:05) I was talking to my sister in Louisiana, no rapture there. They were having a party and no sign of earthquakes.