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Atheist Chaplains, or Another Case of Christians Not Being the Ones Discriminated Against

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of AtheismI was having a conversation with someone the other day, and the topic turned to the types of things I discuss on this blog. I made a comment along the lines of, 'It's not as if Christians are a persecuted minority in this country', and the other person responded that 'No, they're a persecuted majority'. From my interactions, it seems that this is a relatively common perception. As an example, here's an article from Townhall Magazine, Persecution of Christians ... in America. Granted, there are examples of Christians being mistreated, but these mainly seem to be isolated cases. For another set of examples, look to the ACLU's ACLU Defense of Religious Practice and Expression. Those are mostly local school boards, city governments, or bureaucrats misunderstanding the law.

For an example of a group being discriminated against by not just local government, but the United States House of Representatives, consider the recent case of the ban on atheist chaplains in the military.

Currently, there are around 2800 chaplains in the military. These chaplains are all specifically for Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews (and maybe a few more religions, I'm not sure). However, there are no specifically secular chaplains, even though around 20% of those in the military have no particular religious affiliation, and around 1% are specifically atheist/agnostic. So, some atheist organizations were pushing to get a few secular chaplains to support the non-religious in the military. One congressional member tried to create the post in an amendment to the defense appropriations bill, but it was voted down. Not content with merely voting it down, the opponents came back with a separate amendment requiring chaplains to be associated with a specific religious institution - an attempt to effectively ban atheist and secular chaplains. And that amendment had no trouble passing - 253 to 173 (with only 2 Republicans voting against the amendment).

The guy who sponsored the amendment called atheist chaplains an oxymoron, insisting that chaplains are there to perform religious duties. But, in practice, the religious aspects of their post only constitute a small portion of it. As one of the commenters in the link below put it:

Military Chaplains do a lot more than hold church services and prayer meetings. They counsel guys that are going through a lot of hard stuff. Anyone who has served in the military knows this. If a soldier isn't a Christian, he may not feel comfortable talking to a Christian Chaplain about his issues, and there are a lot of guys out there committing suicide without having seen a Chaplain. Whatever we can do to prevent these needless deaths, even if you guys think it's "stupid" or an "oxymoron" is fine by me.

And I know some people might say those soldiers have the options of counselors and psychologists, but there's still a big stigma with those. More importantly, it goes down in the soldier's record if they see a psychologist, whereas a visit to a chaplain is off the record, making it more likely for a soldier to talk with them.

Don't get me wrong. Atheists don't have it terribly bad in the U.S. For one, it's not outwardly apparent, so even living in one of the reddest areas in a very red state, I've never felt the type of personal harassment that a victim of 'stop and frisk' would experience. But I'm also careful not to be very vocal about my atheism in the wrong crowds. Years ago when my daughter was younger, she made the mistake of simply telling another kid at daycamp that she didn't think you needed to believe in God to be a good person, and she ended up being teased by a bunch of other kids for the rest of the day. My main point is that I'm tired of the false narrative of Christians being the ones persecuted in this country.

More Info:

Other than the headline and opening paragraph, this is a pretty even handed article:

This issue has been covered extensively in verse by the Digital Cuttlefish, going back to before the above mentioned law was even proposed. Go check out some of his posts for more info:


Services of Chaplains are needed badly for those who return home after a long war against the "unknown enemy" from places like Afghanistan, Iraq. To become a Chaplain, you can earn a degree online from home. I have a website dedicated to Chaplaincy Degrees. I invite the readers to have a look at my website to get more information on how to become a Chaplain.

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