Rabbi Supports Call for Atheist Chaplains

In reference to Capt Ryan Jean’s efforts to become an atheist lay/faith leader, Brad Hirschfield, a Rabbi and writer at the Washington Post‘s On Faith, explains “Why the military needs atheist chaplains:”

The U.S. military needs atheist chaplains. Why? Because members of the military have requested them, and the core value of the chaplaincy is to serve the needs of those serving our nation.

If it was that easy, every military base would have a Hooters restaurant as well.  Instead, the criteria for the chaplaincy is a bit more structured, and deservedly so.

Hirschfield also supports an idea currently dividing atheists themselves:  atheism should be treated as a religion.

[An atheist chaplaincy] would require atheists to place themselves on the same level as theists – something they often refuse to do…

Predictably, one commenter used the “bald is a hair color” analogy.  In another place, an atheist claimed that calling atheism a religion is like “not playing soccer” is a sport.

To build on that analogy, atheists asking for representation in the chaplaincy is like asking for a “not playing soccer” coach.

Atheists can’t even agree if they’re a religion deserving of religious support in the military.  Until that happens — or if, given there’s no atheist organization to synchronize beliefs — it is ridiculous to demand the US military grant recognition atheists don’t even want.

One comment

  • People of all traditions know that soldiers face death and the uncertainties of life in a unique way. When deployed, soldiers can’t seek the religious counsel of their choosing. Thus, the Army has taken responsibility for addressing this issue. Christians in the chaplaincy should welcome fellow soldiers eager to help address this need, including atheists and humanists. Atheism and humanism are distinct belief systems within American society. The Army Chaplaincy ought to welcome their participation if it takes its mission to all soldiers seriously.