As much I loath Fox News, they pose an interesting question; Should there be atheist "chaplins" in the military? A recent push back from atheist soldiers has led to this debate. In the recent news army Captain Ryan Jean was berated by a army chaplin for not having faith. Some of the many articles about it can be found here and here.


Ryan is a member of ATOM (Atheists of [Fort] Meade) which refers to the base in Fort Meade, Maryland where he lives. Cpt. Ryan and members of ATOM and other atheist groups feel that


 ...ATOM and groups like it would get access to on-base religious facilities. Jean would become what the Army calls a “distinctive faith group leader” — a volunteer lay religious leader who, according to regulations, “may provide ministry on an exception to policy basis when military chaplains are not available to meet the faith group coverage requirements of soldiers and their families.”


Fox news, as it usually does it not characterizing the debate in the correct context because, as the video below shows, they are saying atheists want a "chaplin" whereas, at least from what I understand, is that they want some sort of person of leadership or counsel that they can turn to. 

So my question is this;  Being that atheists do not have a specific doctrine, do you think there is a need for such representation in the military?  Of course atheists should be afforded the rights and protections that all groups and religions get in the armed services, but do they need a specific leader or "chaplin" like figure to represent them as well? 


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This is a tricky subject I have read several stories about Atheist in the military and the may problems they face. I have read time and again about abuse and mistreatment by chaplains superior officers and other soldiers ranging from verbal attacks to being singled out and forced to do extra work because thy will not participate in a christian event. Point is Atheist have it bad in the military now as for adding  Atheist chaplain's how would that work as we are not a religion and have no priest or structure like a church I guess they could provide a licensed counselor of some sort who is an Atheist to help deal with some of these issues but short of that I am out of ideas. They do need to provide all the same rights to Atheist to gather and form groups and not be persecuted for there beliefs a task the military has failed at to this point.   

A counselor is pretty much the secular equivalent to a religious confidant/guide.

Yeah the story on Fox makes the point that chaplains are by definition religious and I don't really disagree with that. I really feel they should set up some thing for Atheist specifically and separate from the chaplains and I do not know if that currently exist I know they have counselors and therapist but I think they need a few to specifically fill that role for Atheist and the persecution of Atheist by some is a separate issue.   

I believe creating an atheist "chaplain" would by all means classify atheism as a religion, which it is not.  I believe the correct course of action would be for the US military to simply not involve itself in the day to day operations of belief groups within the military.  Recognize that all belief systems exist, afford them the protections and rights they deserve, and leave it alone.  The reason why these groups exist at all is so our soldiers have an outlet to speak their minds and find meaning in what they do through whatever they believe in.  This country was founded so we ALL could be free from religious persecution, a separation of church and state.  Our founding fathers would be disgusted if they saw what was taking place in this country today!

Agreed Stephen, but what about creating like an atheist elder or someone atheists can turn to for guidance. That is was ATOM is asking for. I think even they would say having a chaplin is not what they want.

That guidance should come from many, not a single person.  I agree that there may need to be a "group leader" in order to organize but one person's thoughts should not be the guiding light for all.  What ATOM needs to ask for is recognition as a group.  When our atheist soldiers need someone to turn to, they should have many options not just one.

I think non-religious mentors would be a good addition, people to whom soldiers could turn in the same way the religious have, without the religion. Is there not anything like this in the US military already? I ask out of ignorance. Either an atheist advisor could just be that in a separate way, or redefine the definition of chaplaincy just so this priest can shut up.

But notice how they all became FOX Lemmings from the priest's derailed argument. Come to think of it, he says, "...being paid as a Chaplain, then our country is saying we are not willing standing up for what we believe to be a very good thing for our soldiers, that is the development of spirituality." Since when did our country say this, 'except on FOX News'? If anything, you and I (those in the US) are paying people's salaries to be 'spiritual developers' in the secular military. And they represent over 130 beliefs?? Oh but they're all supportive of 'spirituality' at least, yuhknow? 'Multiculturalism' is fine until god leaves I guess. This should never have been allowed as an organized branch of the military, IMO.

Why can't they volunteer if they're wanting to be there for no other reason at all than for a pretentiously religious sense? The least barely fair thing to do is let a non-religious person be paid for the same thing, as a counselor.

And the priest's book title, "God Wants You Happy".... That is freaking hilarious, in an insane sense.

Actually at one time I thought there was a higher percentage of military members who considered themselves atheist/agnostic  than in the civilian world. I remember my dog tags were imprinted with nondenominational. I don't think atheist was an option.   :^ )


The idea of a chaplain is ridiculous in my view. If your having a hard time talk with a fellow atheist friend. Or even go to the commander and voice your concerns. It might not be a bad idea to have a pocket recorder on your person so you can replay the CO's comments.....    :^ )


I completely agree with you Ed.  By attempting to designate a military atheist chaplain/elder/counselor is basically signifying that atheism/agonism/humanism is a "religious" group that should be recognized.  I have never served in the military but my father has and I know that there are psychiatrists and counselors that are already employed by the military.  As Ed also pointed out, a soldier has friends and/or CO's to speak with if they are troubled.  ATOM should be pushing more for the protection and rights of those who are nondenominational instead of trying to get a chaplain to represent our movement.  We must remember that we are not an organized religion and thus should not be structured as one.  Plus, our soldiers have more important things to worry about like the religious extremists both here and abroad who have put them in this situation to begin with :)


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