Atheists to Take up Ft. Bragg General’s Offer
A small but building group of atheists has decided to take LtGen Frank Helmick at his word, when in his defense of Rock the Fort at Fort Bragg he said he would
provide similar support to comparable events sponsored by similar non-Federal entities that address the needs of Soldiers on this Installation.
The group, apparently led by US Army Specialist Justin Griffith, are beginning coordination to hold an atheist “Freedom Festival” next year at Fort Bragg (complete with website):
Our goal is to organize and promote an event to be held at Ft. Bragg with the support of MWR, just like the “Rock the Fort” evangelical Christian event held on 9/25/10.
…Please join this group and help us plan an event for Skeptics, Free-Thinkers, Agnostics, Atheists, and those who just want to enjoy a day FREE from religion.
Good on’em. While the group may be ideologically at odds with most military members (a majority reportedly hold a religious faith), they are still permitted to seek support equivalent to what other ideologies receive. If they meet the requirements (including being a non-Federal entity addressing Soldiers’ needs) as Rock the Fort reportedly did, then they should absolutely expect the same support. (Ironically, the event would likely still be held under the auspices of the Chaplaincy.) Should the event succeed, it will counter the long-running canard that the military might prohibit a non-Christian event if such a group ever bothered to ask.
There may be some internal challenges to overcome. The organizers will likely have to tread carefully near what some have called the “new atheism,” which is more “anti-religion” than “pro-reason.” While the military would likely support a group espousing the latter, it may be averse to support the former, as it may be perceived as demeaning or denigrating religion.
Also, in the internet comments thus far, there remains an underlying current of antipathy toward Rock the Fort. While the atheist group is willing to have the military support their event, some are still unwilling to acknowledge the “right” of Christians to have theirs. By contrast, while some non-atheists may disagree with their ideology, they support the right of atheist Soldiers to gather in an equivalent “Freedom Festival” if they so choose. Some in the atheist group may be missing the point of true freedom.
Of course, one of the oft-repeated issues with Rock the Fort was its evangelical bent. That said, it will be interesting to see if the atheist event makes an intentional effort to avoid persuading others to their viewpoint. After all, if people join their cause (or are even just invited to do so), their “Freedom Festival” might be open to the same charge of “proselytizing” that religious events often receive.
Within the constraints of the mission, logistical limitations, and reason, the US military generally does an admirable job of supporting the spiritual (or aspiritual) needs of its members. Such protection of religious freedom is routinely a topic on this site, from the military’s support of religious events like Ramadan to military Chaplains starting “skeptic” groups.
After all the ‘bad press’ about religion and the military, some are surprised to learn the military is not only officially accommodating, it is also accommodating in practice. Perhaps someday people may realize the negative noise they hear often isn’t true.
“Religious freedom” is a firmly protected liberty in the military — for everyone, even those who are areligious.