Fort Bragg to Host Anti-Religion Band at Atheist Rock Beyond Belief

Love how they burn your synagogues…
       – Lyrics by
Aiden, Rock Beyond Belief lead-in act

The band Aiden has announced it will be playing the atheist festival “Rock Beyond Belief” at Fort Bragg in March 2012, as the lead-in act to Richard Dawkins, the main attraction at the “concert.”

Never heard of them?  You’re not the only one.  But first, take a look at what the band said in their announcement [emphasis added]:

Justin Griffith, the soldier in charge of setting this up has a very interesting story to tell. The United States military had no problems funding a christian based musical event, but when it was suggested that the large number of atheists and secular humanists who are enlisted, would like to have a function of their own choosing, the top leaders at Fort Bragg decided to pull the plug on the entire thing. Cutting the funding without any reason at all, that I can see, except that maybe christians in the Army are the only ones allowed to have fun

They fought the law and THEY WON.

Given that they attribute their information to the soldier hosting Rock Beyond Belief, Justin Griffith, its unlikely a call to correct their misinformation would go far.

For the record (again, and again), the US military did not fund a “Christian musical event” when it hosted Rock the Fort — Christian military congregations funded it.  “Top leaders at Fort Bragg” didn’t pull the plug on anything — Griffith did.  Nor did anyone “cut” any funding.

Finally, they fought nothing and won nothing.  Based on public information, it appears they did little more than a lot of complaining about the US military, even as Fort Bragg’s leadership remained magnanimous in the face of very public — and very personal — insults by Rock Beyond Belief supporters.  Griffith finally raised money to fund the event (as a result of the publicity over his decision to cancel) and finished the appropriate paperwork, as had always been required. The only victory was the one over paper cuts.

So, once again, the US military gets drug through the mud over its decision to allow an atheist festival to be held on military grounds — and it is the participants of the festival doing the dragging, not critics of it.  Graciousness is apparently a lost virtue.

As to the band itself:  One of the criticisms of the original effort to launch Rock Beyond Belief was its lack of “chart-makers.”  For the record, the “glam-goth” band Aiden did touch a chart a few times, including the Billboard 200 with three of their albums, though the last one was in 2009.  Their actual popularity is something else, though.  Their agency indicates they’ve finally crested into the “six figures” of album sales — for their album that’s six years old.  They still do covers in their albums, they just lost their lead guitarist, and they no longer have a label.  A few now-deleted reviews cite the sales of their latest release at as high as 800 and as low as 20 copies in the first week.

By contrast, the headlining act for Rock the Fort, Grammy-nominated Hawk Nelson, had already exceeded 500,000 album sales two years before they appeared at Fort Bragg.

While it seems Rock Beyond Belief ultimately failed to attract a mainstream musical group, they appear to have struck gold in ideology.  While not explicitly saying they are atheists, the self-described “rock/goth/punk” band has strong lyrics (language warning) on the topic of religion:

Christ died for sh–, and was a f—ing c–t

F— your God
F— your faith in the end
There’s no religion

When Griffith announced Aiden’s act, he included a YouTube link to what he called the “atheist anthem,” which includes such poetry as:

Love how they burn your synagogues
Love how they torch your holy books

Faith whether Christian, Muslim, Jew
Still you all distort the truth
The death of fiction will save us all

(In case you think they’re using a “literary device,” their video opens with shots of burning churches.  As a final touch of class, the video is filmed in a Veteran’s Cemetery.)

Note Griffith qualified the song by saying “They are in the right place.” and “Yeah.  Pretty much amazing”:

In late 2010 the organizers of Rock Beyond Belief were adamant there was “no need for divisive language” or negative criticism toward religion.  Griffith repeatedly pointed out the purpose of “Rock Beyond Belief” was not to be an “anti-” anything event.  In fact, then-SPC Griffith originally said

We are not holding an anti-religious event. We are not holding an anti-theist, or anti-Christian event either. We are simply putting on a day of secular entertainment…

We are simply proud of who we are, and we are celebrating in a way that we wish that the Rock the Fort organizers had chosen to do so [sic]. They didn’t. So what. We are taking the high road.

He invited — and praised — a group who sings “F— your god” to an event that was not “anti-religious”?

Griffith repeated the “high road” claim at another point, specifically denying any attempt to denigrate religion:

Our festival was not going to attempt to ‘de-convert’ or ‘de-baptize’ anyone. Rather, we were going to raise awareness and tolerance of the non-religious segment of the military, while at the same time respecting other’s beliefs as private. We had no interest in telling our crowd that their current religious preference was wrong, incomplete, or in some way needing to be changed. [emphasis added]

Their emphatic and supportive choice of lead-in musical act — with its decidedly “anti-religion” “atheist anthem” that is “in the right place” for Rock Beyond Belief — contradicts those initial conciliatory tones over the past two years. 

This appears to be how military atheists will “celebrate” at the US military post of Fort Bragg (which caps off a week of atheist events on the East Coast).  Think the promised bouncy castles and face painting for the kids will be near the stage?

The bigger question might be whether the event risks undermining its open support by Fort Bragg.  For example, Michael Weinstein and his Military Religious Freedom Foundation, with which Griffith is associated, successfully lobbied against Franklin Graham’s presence at a military base because of his previously stated ideologies.

Think the Pentagon might have issues with US soldiers at Fort Bragg “thrashing” to a group singing about “burning synagogues?”

More to the point, atheists are claiming this is all about equality.  So, would religious groups be allowed to say similar things about other faiths as Aiden?

Turns out, that isn’t a hypothetical question.  As was noted once already, the leadership at Fort Bragg explicitly restricted the content of the “Rock the Fort” event to which the atheists so strongly reacted.  From the After Action Report on Rock the Fort:

The bands and speakers stayed within the parameters that we gave them as directed by LTG Helmick, “in other words keep it low key…share encouraging music and a gospel message with no statements that are critical of other religions.” [emphasis added]

As has been said before, atheists at Fort Bragg or anywhere else should be — and are — free to hold any event they want, so long as it is organized and run consistent with the rules, as every event must be.  (Even arguably “offensive” bands have played military venues with little fanfare.)

With regard to the event itself, the presence of any drama is directly attributable to the supporters and organizers themselves.  There doesn’t appear to have been a single major group or organization publicly opposing Rock Beyond Belief (as opposed to the treatment of Rock the Fort).  At every opportunity they’ve laid the martyr complex on thick, claiming persecution, struggle, and triumph over “them.”  (This was repeated in just the past few days, despite the fact the event has been approved without issue for nearly six months.)

The true “victim” has been the US Army, which has been demonized at almost every turn.  While the group “thanked” Fort Bragg leadership at one point, they have yet to apologize for (or even correct) their mischaracterization of the Army either before that moment or since, as Aiden’s recent announcement highlights.  In fact, the man who equated Fort Bragg leadership with racists and rapists is Michael Weinstein — one of the booked speakers.  He has not recanted.

The US Army values and protects the rights and freedoms of its servicemembers.  Organizers of Rock Beyond Belief would do well to more forcefully acknowledge and appreciate that.  All they have to do is follow the same rules as everyone else, as Fort Bragg itself recently emphasized:

The sponsors of Rock Beyond Belief are undertaking this event as a private organization and will be held to the same standards as all private organization events on the installation. [emphasis added]

Think Rock Beyond Belief will be able to conduct itself without making statements “critical of other religions?”  Jason Torpy of the MAAF has previously implied atheists need the freedom to denigrate.

Based on their history to date…  If they can go their 9 scheduled hours with Richard Dawkins, Michael Weinstein, Aiden and others not making statements critical of other religions, it will be…a miracle.


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  • So, I guess the Rock the Fort “concerts” don’t qualify as “concerts” either since those “concerts” also have speakers in addition to music. Oh … wait a minute … Rock Beyond Belief is being promoted as a festival, not a concert. “It’s” “only” “you” “who” “are” “calling” “it” “a” “concert” “so” “you” “can” “employ” “your” “suspicion” “raising” “use” “of” “unnecessary” “quotation” “marks.”

  • Burning synagogues?!? Wow…

    “They fought the law and THEY WON.”

    Got to make “the kids” think that their “sticking it to THE MAN”…”the kids” love that stuff, it’s so cool. However, there are very few kids in the Army.

    I used to go for that “against THE MAN” and “question authority” and “counter-culture” stuff…but then i turned 16.

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  • WOW, I had never heard of Aiden before but surely thank you for bringing their message out into the light. After careful review I see that you have totally missed the point of their message in the video you so thoughfully presented here. Certainly they are not advocating the burning of churches and if you would have the whole content of the lyrics available instead of just a few chosen lines, anyone could see that. Thanks again for turning me on to a new band that I likely would have missed if it was not for this article. Will have to look into all the acts being shown at the “Rock Beyond Belief” event.

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  • Haha … and now some idiot at Fox News, who actually links JD’s little blog here, has this headline out: “Church-Burning Video Used to Promote Atheist Event at Ft. Bragg.” Guess he didn’t actually read all the lyrics either, but then it is Fox News, so that’s expected.

  • I was into Aiden back in 2005, enough to get a tattoo of one of their albums (‘Nightmare Anatomy’). I still enjoy their old material, but growing up, as you do, I found I drifted away from them and their message. I do think the past couple of albums have got harsher with their lyrical content, but it definitely needs taking with a pinch of salt. People are far too sensitive, it’s obvious wiL Francis and co are not going to go off on a church burning spree! Rationality people…

  • They are by no means celebrating the burning of churches. They are not shoving athiesm down anyone’s throat. They are allowed to say what they believe. They are making a stand against intolerance. Wil recently made a speech at a show, he read an article saying that people’s homes were being burned down because of their beliefs, in the name of the attackers religion. Do you understand how disgusting that is? Or that you are a bad person, and are going to spend eternity in flames because you fall in love with someone that has the same genitals as you. That is what Aiden is against…the violence and intolerance that is brought on by religion.

  • @Chris Rodda
    You might say “haha.” Fort Bragg said they’ve started a review of the event as a result.

  • This article was spot on. Military athiest claim they are above religion, when in fact they pursecute any conviction contrary to their own. This is just the beginning. Imagine this event 100 years from now.

  • @JD
    No, JD, they said they’ve started a review of some of the performers, not the event itself, and, unlike you and Fox News, a review of ALL of the lyrics and what the Aiden song is actually about will show that it is not what you misleadingly imply it’s about.

  • @Chris Rodda
    It’s hard to be misleading about “Christ died for sh–, and was a f—ing c–t.”

  • Yeah, JD, switch to using the lyrics from a completely different song than the one that Fox picked up on from your little blog here. Oh, and by the way, I have video from Rock the Fort showing very clearly that that was an “anti-religion” event. You think you’re good at spinning crap? Wait’ll you see me spin some crap!

  • You heard it here first. The MRFF’s Chris Rodda admits she spins crap.

  • LOL, JD! I didn’t admit anything of the kind. I’m going to be writing a “spun” post about the video I have to show how easy it is to spin crap to concoct a ridiculous argument the way you do, which will end with me saying I was just doing it to show ho easy it is to spin crap.

  • [Redacted] you, you [redacted]ing christians always find something to whine about,like little babies not getting candy, its a free [redacted]ing world and if someone wants to write lyrics like that or say stuff like that they are free to do as they please so [redacted] you you [redacted]ing [redacted]s ! Aiden is the best band in the world,

    [Edited by admin]

  • Quite apart from the free speech issue, I’m a bit disappointed in the lyrics of the tunes proposed for the scheduled Atheist performance. They knock the bottom out of any meaningful protest against Christian hegemony and sound like a bunch of moronic religion haters. This is not the way to make a point. This performance will set atheism back 50 years at the military installation level. I was looking for a little more intelligent approach to a protest performance in which solid musical and lyrical debate would show the questionable antics of Dominion Christian activity in the armed forces. This proposed atheist concert will not accomplish anything but a deserved thumbs down. Atheists need reason, good will, respectful discourse and factual objection to religion and not a full frontal attack using scurrilous descriptions and obscenities. Count me out of this one.

  • It is also vital that Christians understand that one rock band’s controversial lyrics do not, of course, represent the majority of moderate Christians, non-Christians or Atheist persons. As a former volunteer and board member for MRFF, I fought alongside Mikey Weinstein to keep Christian Dominionism from infecting the US Armed Forces. Rock the Fort is one such infection and created a massive, all encompassing and unconstitutional proselytizing effort in the military.

    Rock Beyond Belief is intended to make a level playing field in the great American tradition of free debate. The use of undesirable and graphic language does not pre-empt the original and admirable goal which is to bolster religious freedom for all faiths and non-beliefs in our armed forces.

    It is also easy to understand one band’s frustration at having been scorned, omitted, made second class citizens and, as with so many multitudes of fellow human beings who are targeted by these fundamentalist/dominion Christian religious fanatics (as they were in Rock the Fort), consigned to burn eternally in hell and, thus, their desire to return the favor.

    I’m hoping the rock band will make a bold but gentlemanly presentation.

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  • Well, JD, it seems that the Fox News story was just all wrong (big surprise), and Justin already posted about it on his blog (Including the transcript of exactly what he said to Starnes, which he recorded), so I won’t be needing to do my fake spinning of the video I have of Rock the Fort. (I’m actually kind of disappointed because, being a person who loves satire, it would have been a fun piece to write.)

    I will still of course be writing about the video from Rock the Fort, however, since the Rock the Fort speaker actually did say that religion isn’t any good, and the point I’m going to make is that if what he said was allowed, similar statements from the Rock Beyond Belief speakers will also have to be allowed, even if they’re made for different reasons.

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  • I think that this ridiculous…. What ever happened to freedom of speech and speaking your mind? All people nowadays do is judge based on appearance and a couple cuss words in their songs…BIG DEAL. Get over it. Everyone should be able to speak their mind. Oh and buy the way they don’t have TONS of fans but the ones they do have are dedicated. And you guys are picking there lyrics piece by piece. I just think its pathetic. We are all humans with feelings and your attacking them so that doesn’t make you any better…
    Oh and by the way they are some of the nicest down to earth people that I have ever met. So stop attacking your not going to help the situation.

  • @Ashley

    First, LtGen Boykin was not allowed to speak his mind based on past statements. Shouldn’t you show your sympathy towards him? Or are some people more equal than others?

    Second, there is no “freedom of speech” and “speaking your own mind” in the military. Your statement shows how clueless you are. It is the most discriminatory and unconstitutional institution in the country, however, the discrimination and unconstitutionality are equal for all…or are some people more equal than others?

    Third, your “kumbaya” statements about attacking others and their feelings are comical considering that their purpose is to attack others and their feelings…or are some people more equal than others?

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  • @Richard Nice to hear some moderate voices from atheists, the question is then, why is the Guru of the New-Atheist-Movement Mr. Richard Dawkins present at this event, and according to the organiser, Mr. Dawkins is so eager to be with them so that he pays the flight ticket himself? As a Christian who also know the Nazi- and Stalinistic terror I dislike the way how Richard Dawkins and his disciplines are promoting their new faith. I am ready to enter a civil dialogue with a rational and civilized atheists, but when a song containing “loving the burning churches and synagogues” is used by an event attended by the Atheist Guru Dawkins, there is something seriously wrong with the Atheism today. I think the New Atheists are anti-liberal and totalitarian.

  • Yes, because Richard DAwkins writing a book or two is EXACTLY like the Nazis or Stalin. What a [redacted]ing moron you are.

    Edited by Admin.

  • @Donalbain

    Teresa’s point is that the “New Atheists” seem to want to use State power to suppress religious freedoms just like the Nazis and the Communists did. Dawkins once suggested that the State shouldn’t allow parents to “indoctrinate” their children into any religion…very revealing.

    Her point is easy to understand but still too complicated for you apparently.

    PS – The use of the “F” word means that you REALLY mean business…eheh…

  • @ Andrew B.

    The use of the “F” word is what so-called Christians use all the time in their hate mails to MRFF to show that THEY really mean business. (Making it quite ironic for JD to be objecting to a band because of its use of swear words in some of its songs.)

  • @Chris Rodda

    objecting to a band because of its use of swear words…

    That statement is false (in more ways than one), but you don’t have a great track record of figuring out why people do things. Given your paid position in the MRFF, that’s ironic.

  • @JD
    I’ll tell you what is ironic. After reading JD’s post about Chris Rodda’s paid position at MRFF being ironic I remembered a few years back when Campus Crusade for Christ Military Mission filmed a documentary at the USAF Academy. In it Cadets were depicted as bright eyed young Christian novitiates and told that they would soon become “government paid missionaries for Christ.”

    I didn’t buy into it then figuring that sooner or later these young men and women would see that being a government paid missionary for Christ would conflict with their constitutional oath. Apparently I was at least partially wrong.

    J.D calls his on-line Christian Fighter Pilot publication a “mission.” Although that description seems to be missing from the site lately or I just don’t know how to find it again.

    So we do, in fact, have a government paid missionary for Christ in the person Of JD.

  • @teresa
    Hi Teresa. Sorry for the lag in communication. Hope you are still tuned in.

    I am not an Atheist but rather, a hopeful Agnostic who actually would like there to be a God. As of now, I don’t know if there is a God and events around the world do not support a God being in charge.

    I am sure there are Atheists who are not very nice but taken in aggregate the religious seem to hold the record for discord, violence, hegemony and oppression. Actually it’s not all religios folks but those elements of Dominion Christianity, Islam and a couple of other caustic belief systems that seem to want to dominate.

    The hallmark of the not so nice religious folks are the doctrines that call for intensive, if not outright coercive proselytizing. On the other hand many Atheists consider the religious to be missing a few screws and really really dumb. In a sense like Zombie Lemmings.

    As for me, the Universe is too big, containing too many wondrous things and certainly too mysterious to have just come into being. The question “how did we get here” can be answered in conventional scientific terms but the real questions is WHY are we here. I’m still working on that and religion has not provided the kind of satisfied asnwers I need.

    So as we quibble about a concert hoping for a decision that puts things in our favor we still dont have answers to the most important questions. “Is there a God, and where the hell is he when you need him!”

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  • Wow! Such hate is here! Not keen about tit for tat on either side. And being the lowest totem on the religious pole as a Pagan according to all of the military religions. it is too bad that bashing appears to be the order of the day on both sides of the fence. Secular music to me unfortunately is not screaming and howling but I am an old fart who only spent 23 years in the Army. The Eagles and James Taylor never used the f word….they didn’t have to. And of course with this much hoopla, it is likely that truckloads of Evangelicals with “Jesus Saves” tee shirts may over-run the Athiests at the concert. I’ll wait for the YouTube video on that one. For people who claim not to believe in deity Athiests sure do spend a lot of time talking about it. I have yet to see someone mention the great humanists or discuss their contributions, now that may be enlightening. So deity must matter to them in some manner. I do find it funny as I don’t believe in the devil so we don’t waste energy talking about it all the time. It is easy to hate and bash, I have not seen one posting on either side that says why can’t we just agree to not hate. So you’re all different, so what. Get over it. Love is so much more fun in the end. So I have advised my Pagan buddies to stay away from all the negative energy. I have voiced my personal distain for the who’s [redacted] is bigger contest between the Rock the Fort and Rock beyond Belief. I have a Constitutional right to voice my opinion as well. But I do recall in Korea having a young soldier mutter about all the radical Korean students demonstrating outside the main gait, hating we Americans and how they should not be allowed to do so. I told him we gave them the right through freedom of expression good or bad to do their thing. The same is true here. So I suppose if the Athiests want to show the Pagan community how offensive to others they can be, they are free to do so and we have so few freedoms in the military that they should do their best. But I have the right to not care about them or listen to them. We Pagans call that stuff energy suckers and free will gives you a choice to get sucked in or get out. I’ve never seen so much venom over an issue. But I bet all us military folks would kill the enemy together in a heartbeat because we are all green (no pun intended) Oh, and Heathen is a 501c3 Pagan Religion so it is interesting that the young buck Sgt listed 139 of them on the website the military director for the hoth I know found it strange to list Pagans on an Athiest site. So with them, I am sure you at least have some mead when you are putting out your negative energy. Yum. Ya’all have fun now hating each other! :) Blessed Be!

    Edited by Admin.

  • @Happy Pagan

    Hi Happy,

    You hit pretty much everything on the head except the fact that one side of the religion issue, the non-religion types, are speaking in self defense. It is not the Atheist or Agnostic that is on the offensive. It is the Evangelical Christian who is sworn to convert or cast into the “lake of fire” all those who do not subsctibe to their take in Christianity.

    Hateful discrimination against Gays, misogyny against women, male domination, racial bigotry are all hallmarks of the Christian Dominionist.

    So when you read a strong letter of criticism against the elite Christians you can be sure it’s justified.

  • For they accused and tortured HIM, why do you think they would do anything less to you HIS people? It’s all been prophecised, and most (all will) has come true at this point in history. The only thing that remains, is the final battle and return of the KING. It’s time to chose a side…pretending that HE doesn’t exist isn’t an excuse for avoiding eternal separation. HE said that if you are luke warm, you are worse than if you were a sinner…It’s like trying to pretened State Police don’t exists, doing 120 in a 55 getting pulled over and saying “I didn’t think those laws were real, or that polie really existed”…let me know how that excuse works out for ya :P

  • @sarah
    Sarah you are hilarious. Atheism IS being shoved down our throats. Our Godless government is seeing to that, and Atheism (just like liberalism) only tolerates as long as you agree with them. Lastly, being homosexual doesn’t damn anyone to hell, it’s the rejection of Christ and his offer of salvation. And they call Christians narrow minded.

  • @Richard
    Richard, sounds like you know all about ‘Hateful discrimination’. The difference between you (and all the Christian bashers replying here) is your love for sin calls for you to re-define what sin is, while Christians merely point it out as sin. That’s the only difference. It’s a brave new world of degenerates. Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.

  • We should give the atheist there due, more people have been killed in war or buy their own governments due to atheistic philosophies, nazism and communism, in the last 80 years than all religious wars in history.

  • @jayhawk

    It’s actually the other way around. I have not yet witnessed significant Atheist proselytizing while Extremist Christianity is reaching epic proportions in both the military and civil sectors. It is an insidious and dangerous process as evangelical Christians push to fulfill their roles in “making” disciples and spread, by force if necessary, the gospel of Jesus Christ as outlined in the “Great Commission” Matthew 28:16-20.

    There have been a lot of reasons for discord and death throughout history and even if secular politics caused a little more death than religion, should religion have caused death at all?

    Also I do not have to “redefine sin.” Racial and Sexual discrimination in the name of God is a sin no matter how you slice it. It is also is the deadly pride which precedeth a fall.

    Christian Dominionism is the same brute force and mindless doctrine employed by Christian Nazi’s in W.W.II Germany. That Christisan Supremacy cost the lives of millions of Jews and other “undesireables.” So don’t talk to me or any other thinking person that Atheism is being shoved down your throat. It is the Christian who is the tyrant now.

  • Identify any the following horrors in which Atheists were participant perpetrators.

    1. 5 major Christian Crusades in which millions were slaughtered.

    2. 2 major medieval Catholic Papal inquisitions in which further millions were tortured and killed, including children.

    3. Numerous Russian Christian Pogroms against Jews in 19th and 20th Centuries where thousands of Jews were murdered by Christian gangs.

    4.The genocide of three million South and North America indigenous natives by Spanish Catholic Conquistadors.

    5. The decimation of two thirds of the Hawaiian population in the 1700’s by Presbyterian Missionaries and their fleet of syphillis ridden crews.

    6. The rape, murder and enslavement of 50,000 Caribbean natives by Christopher Columbus’ expeditions.

    Tell me which of the following were Atheists:

    1. David Koresh/ raped children, held others as prisioners in Waco Branch Davidian cult.

    2. Marshall Applewhite of the Heavens Gate Cult instructed entire cult to drink poison and join him in a UFO in space where Jesus was waiting for them.

    3. Rev. Jim Jones of the “Peoples Temple Cult” killed 1500 men women and children with poison Kool Ade.

    4. Rev. Sun Yung Moon, (THe Moonies) kept thousands of youg people in poverty in his cult while driving a Rolls Royce.)

    5. The hundreds of other Christisan cults that kept young people as prisoners.

    I can’t think of a single Atheist cult.