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-Atheists Want Chaplains Too?

by Dr. D ~ November 12th, 2011

Military Chaplains

                 (Image by expertinfantry via Flickr)

There are around 9,400 atheists and agnostics in the US military according to Department of Defense records. Now some of these ‘non-believers’ are pushing for ‘chaplains’ of their own.

Three major problems are standing in the way of atheists becoming military chaplains:

1. The requirement for at least 3 years of graduate ‘theological’ education.

     Atheists and agnostics do not have their own seminaries or schools of religion. Though one could well claim that some of the more liberal main-line seminaries might already be very close to providing an environment that encourages more unbelief than traditional faith.

2. A sponsoring ‘religious’ organization or church denomination.

     Chaplains must be endorsed or sponsored by a recognized religious organization. Atheists do not have any denominations nor are any of their organizations considered ‘religious.’ In fact, atheists mostly reject the idea that they should be classified as a ‘religion.’

3. Chaplain candidates must go Chaplain school where they are trained to do inter-faith and inter-religion ministry.

     It is really hard to see how atheists as chaplains would be able to give inter-faith ministry, conduct inter-faith services, and promote and support religion among members of the military.

Response: One of the major jobs of military chaplains is to provide religious encouragement and support for people of faith including those of different religions. For example, the chaplain might be an ordained Baptist minister but as a chaplain is suppose to help and lend support for Mormons in the military and provide an opportunity for them to get together for worship and study.

A Catholic chaplain may end up praying for a protestant and a Muslim with a Jew but it is very hard for me to see how an atheist would be able to give religious support for any kind of believer.

Some have pointed out that there are already ample secular support systems in place like counselors and psychologists in the military. Exactly what function would atheist chaplains serve that already isn’t being met in some other form and exactly how would atheists be able to support people of faith if they really did become chaplains after all?

One possible solution would be for the military chaplain service to devise a program of support for the 9,400 atheists and agnostics in the military. Atheists and agnostics could be given a more ‘official’ recognition as a group in the process rather than being  just individuals without a religion. It really isn’t necessary to have atheist chaplains to get that done.

Fact is, atheist organizations have been trying to get rid of military chaplains for years and now they want their own? In final analysis, this could be nothing more than another activist atheist attempt to do away with all chaplains if they don’t get their way.             *Top

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