There’s been some controversy lately about the idea of atheist chaplains in the military. I’ve made it clear that as a pacifist I don’t really think about the military that much. But we have one and it does contain atheists. That said, it’s discriminatory for the religious soldiers to have help coping with life and death issues while the atheists are left to die without comfort. Of course I’m going to not support the religious views of soldiers more than I would for anybody else. But I know that they’re there and they feel the need to have “spiritual leaders” while they’re away in the service. Fine. But what about the atheists?
The interesting thing about this debate is that it never addresses the issue of whether or not that there are atheist soldiers and how they should be treated. As mentioned in this story (which is not really a news piece but sadly presented as such by Yahoo!) certain conservative politicians are trying to argue against the idea of an atheist chaplain. They say that it’s an oxymoron by definition. Perhaps, but these politicians are ignoring the real issue. If you like then rename the position to “guidance counselor” or something. But the fact remains that these politicians are trying their usual old man tricks to make you think that they have a real argument but in fact are debating a non-point.
Incidentally, you’ll notice that this conveniently takes the attention away from the sexual discrimination and rape in the military that has been in the news lately. I’m not going to dwell on that issue today but I just thought I’d like to point that out.
A soldier in the military is a soldier in the military. Yes, we are sending them out to engage in activities that we shouldn’t be. But they’re there. If one soldier needs guidance with certain issues such as dealing with their conscience then that guidance should be available to all of them. It can certainly be done without all of that extra dogma attached. If anything all of this seems suspicious… what’s to prevent the chaplains from trying to convert the non-believers?
You know what? This only strengthens the argument in favor of atheism. We could turn this around and say that we’re not so weak-minded that we don’t need that kind of guidance. It only proves that we’re stronger-willed and because we don’t believe in an afterlife our survival instincts are stronger in the first place. I realize that I’m only speaking hypothetically. I don’t know what it’s like on the battlefield. But hey, if the politicians can make weak arguments based on half-baked ideals then why can’t I?