When I joined the military almost 4 years ago and they asked me what religion I was so they could do the paperwork and make up my dog tags, I told them that I didn't have one. No religious preference was what they put on my paperwork and dog tags.
I was reading in forums online about atheists in the military. Apparently if you have no religious preference that means you default to whatever christian service they decide for your funeral (most likely protestant) if you are killed in the line of duty. To me this is unacceptable and rude to assume that someone with no religion would be okay with any religious funeral. It's rude to the fallen soldier, and to their family members and friends. It's kind of disgusting in my opinion.
A lot of atheist soldiers online have said that they had seen someone receive such funeral or memorial services for an 'out' atheist, and all because of the 'No Religious Preference". Does anyone else think this is wrong?
I've also been told of people who wanted 'Atheist' on their dog tags and were refused. Even though 'Atheist' is not a religion, there seems to be a higher chance of people respecting your wish of a secular memorial or funeral if you were to die in combat or in any other way in the line of duty. It makes me want to get it on my dog tags so there is no confusion as to my wishes.
I did a little digging and according to MAAF (Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers), they can't deny it to you. There is an actual code in the computer (code 75) that will list atheist under your religious preference, and you can get it on your dog tags.
How can they deny that you can't have that on your dog tags? It's an option in the computer system! I know people who have personally requested this also and have been told that it wasn't an approved religion in the regulations. They are either lying or ignorant. Either way, it's wrong.
I don't know if there are many soldiers here on TA, but if there is, I wanted to let you guys know what I now know.
I'm not a soldier, but I have seen tags as far back as 15 years ago that said Atheist. He said that he wanted to be clear about it. I thought that it was really cool because I identified as Agnostic and he might have been the first adult that was out to my knowledge.
I would say that you need to be clear. Most family members would be Christian unless you choose Hinduism or whatever other specific choice one may have. While it's not correct to define Atheism as a religion, for everyone else, it does address the question that is really being asked. I often say non-believer for example, but if pushed the answer is Atheist. In your shoes, I would definitely have tags that said atheist and have a sticker made that says "in foxholes" on the other side.
That had gone though my mind as well. I'll be dead, so "Oh well". However, funerals are for the living, not the dead. It's supposed to help bring closure. My family and friends know how I feel about religion and they would be sickened if I was given a christian ceremony. That's when you end up with a situation similar to the eulogy given by Pat Tillman's brother. Going to the funeral of someone you love, and having people say things that the survivors knew was against what the person believed is likely to cause emotional distress of some kind, I would think.
Not to mention, it's kind of the principal of the matter more than anything.