Atheist Chaplains and Independent Ideology, or Lack Thereof

Christianity Today re-covered the prior discussion on “atheist Chaplains,” asking the same question others had previously:

All religious groups make absolutist claims of one kind or another. But how can a belief system — or is it a lack of belief system? — championed by figures like Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens support Christian soldiers in any meaningful sense? When considering chaplains who support Hitchens’s rather broad contention that “religion poisons everything,” how can such leaders “provide the means for others to observe their own faith”? If Christians are indeed suffering from a “God delusion,” as Dawkins has suggested, how can a chaplain who promotes Dawkins’s ideas offer belief-respecting encouragement to a Christian soldier?

The author acknowledges a similar accusation can be made against exclusive religions, but there is a positive response in the Christian faith and historical precedent (something Chaplains are already doing):

One might counter by suggesting that Christians themselves cannot meaningfully respect the beliefs of people of other faiths (or anti-faiths). But we can look to evidence to see that the reverse is true. Such charity stems from the biblical doctrine of the image of God, for starters…

By contrast, the author contends atheism is inherently a (negative) response to theism — it has no independent ideology or initiative.  (This presumes a modern understanding of atheism as the “New Atheism,” or “anti-theism.”  A dictionary-defined atheist would not necessarily fit the author’s contention.)  In his perspective, atheism’s entire premise is predicated on a response to religion; it has no independent foundation:

Atheism, after all, is a response to theism, built off the back of Christianity and other faiths. It is inherently negative, built to attack, by nature opposed to religious belief.

While that may seem harsh, it seems to be borne out by current events.  If you review the recent comments from atheists associated with “Rock Beyond Belief,” for example, they are almost entirely composed of negative reactions to religion (Christianity, in particular).  There’s no significant content that presents a positive discussion on “reason” independent of religion, for example.

Of course, that begs the question of what they’ll talk about for hours during their event this fall at Fort Bragg.