USAFA Cadets Share Paganism, Atheism

As noted by an official Air Force Academy news release, cadet members of the USAFA “Freethinkers” group invited the cadet pagan SPIRE group to meet and discuss their beliefs and experiences.

SPIRE members set aside time each week for the religiously diverse cadet population that includes Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, atheists, agnostics and others to discuss religion, spirituality and philosophy.

While the groups are for the benefit of cadets, like groups of other ideologies, they appear to be facilitated by staff or volunteers.  Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier leads the “earth-centered” SPIRE group, and former Air Force officer Jeff Lucas is a liaison for the freethinkers.

Ironically, the first comments on the article displayed the stereotypical reaction:

The fact that this activity occured at the USAF Academy where there has been so much hostility and intolerance by extremist Christians towards fellow cadets is important.

“The fact” is that religious diversity within the Air Force Academy, and the military as a whole, has been recognized and supported for some time.  However, unfounded accusations of impropriety or coercion by Christians in the military have garnered far more press — despite the fact they’ve been made without substantiation.

This meeting of atheists and pagans occurred at the same Academy at which a cadet recently claimed he had to “pretend” to be a Christian.  It was the same SPIRE association that a “religious freedom” group called a “gateway for fundamentalist Christians.”  Such melodramatic theatrics make for good headlines, but they rarely tell the entire story — and even more infrequently convey the truth.

For years the military has increased its efforts to publicize its support of religious freedom in its ranks not because it doesn’t already support religious freedom, but because so many seem to assume it doesn’t.  As already noted, Chaplains have sponsored “skeptic” groups, American Jewish troops publicly celebrated their faith even in Islamic countries, and Buddhists and pagans have garnered official worship space throughout the military.

Despite the rantings of conspiracy theorists, the US military generally does an admirable job of supporting the religious freedom of its troops.