Atheists Stretch for Something to be Offended By
During the Christmas season it is not unusual to hear the controversy over whether “Merry Christmas” is being intentionally censored or avoided. Regardless of your political or religious persuasion, there are some ridiculous examples of scornful “Merry Christmas” retorts to what may be sincere well wishes expressed in the “wrong” words of “Happy Holidays.” Some have rightly said that some Merry Christmas-ers are just looking for something to get twisted over.
Likewise, atheists now have their own manufactured cause célèbre.
The Global Assessment Tool (GAT) Soldier Fitness Tracker (SFT) is part of the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness initiative. It is designed to help Soldiers self-assess their Emotional, Social, Family, and Spiritual resiliency. Atheists have taken umbrage at the “Spiritual” section, claiming the Army is judging fitness to serve.
Atheist organizations are now stepping all over each other in their calls for the Army to pull the survey and its supporting training materials. The Freedom From Religion Foundation stole much of the thunder, though the Christian Post did an adequate job of debunking their claims in a fairly short article.
The assessment has a section titled “Spiritual Fitness” that questions soldiers on their personal support systems, motivation, and methods of dealing with stress, among other things…
Contrary to FFRF’s claims, the program does attempt to acknowledge and cater to the beliefs of secular soldiers. According to the training manual, spirituality and the human spirit is defined, for the program purposes, as “the essential core of the person.”…
Army chaplains trained last month to participate in the CSF’s spiritual fitness initiative say it is about protecting soldiers’ mental health in the event of a traumatic experience, not conversion.
That hasn’t stemmed the atheists’ righteous indignation, however.
In fact, Kathleen Johnson (1SG, US Army, Retired) works for American Atheists and is also a US Army government civilian. After learning of this “offensive” survey — which she was not required to take as a civilian — she said she used her official access to voluntarily take and publish aspects of the publicly inaccessible material.
The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, which Johnson founded and is now run by Jason Torpy, has posted large portions of the material associated with the survey. It, too, shows the bias and presumptive scorn the atheists have about the military and religion.
For example, according to the data posted on its site, the MAAF takes issue with a discussion on ‘water washing’ in the Army’s training material:
The Rituals section devotes two paragraphs on how washing with water, like in a shower, can be a useful cleansing ritual. This emphasis, the second largest section after flag folding, speaks directly to Christian baptism.
Note the hypersensitivity to Christianity despite the fact Christianity isn’t even the topic — in fact, the opposite could be true. Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Shintoism, to name a few religions, actually use water in a “cleansing ritual.” Christians are actually divided, with Catholics and some liturgical denominations viewing water as a “cleansing ritual,” while the rest of Christianity does not. Still, Torpy’s MAAF is so myopically focused on its offense at Christianity that it categorically assigns to all of Christianity a belief it doesn’t even universally hold — while other religions are ignored.
The MAAF also conveniently misses the fact that cleansing as a religious ritual was long preceded by cleansing as, well, a means of cleansing. Apparently atheists are happy to claim Christmas is actually appropriated from paganism, but they’ll pass on pointing out that water was used for cleaning long before religions used it ritually.
Not to be left out, there are grumblings Michael Weinstein’s MRFF may also be weighing in. It’s been almost exactly a year since Weinstein’s last lawsuit against the military was tossed out before even making it to trial. Perhaps another futile public relations prop cleverly disguised as a viable judicial case is in the making. Look for a press release on a Tuesday to Thursday, a slow news day, with buzzwords about handing Islamic extremists ‘propaganda’ and Christians ‘crusaders’ trying to take over the world.
The Truth of the Matter
The “scandal” over the Army’s SFT would be a tempest in a teapot — if it was a tempest at all. Instead, its an imagined (or contrived) offense. It is no different than someone accusing the Wal-Mart greeter of being anti-Christian because they said “Happy Holidays.”
The purpose of the survey is to assess meaning, connection, and purpose — period. Meaning, connection, and purpose are directly linked to the Army’s desire to support “resiliency” and mental health — which are directly linked to its fight against the increasing tide of suicide. Even apart from religion, the positives of someone feeling their life has meaning, a connection with others, and purpose are obvious on their face.
The US Army daily sends thousands of 18 to 20-somethings out in teams of varying sizes, armed with lethal equipment and authorized to use it. Those same men will eventually return to the United States and try to find “normal” again. If statistics are correct, an abnormally high percentage of them will take their own lives. The Army is fighting an uphill battle in stemming suicides, and helping Soldiers understand the value of their own lives — their meaning, purpose, and connection — is a reasonable, noble, and secular effort to that end.
The decision by atheists to manufacture offense over this assessment is opportunistic and selfish, and it detracts from the Army’s purpose: It is one tool in a kit designed to do what it can to save the lives of American Soldiers who have sacrificed so much already.