Army Major Wants Humanism as Religious Option

US Army Major Ray Bradley wants military records to be altered so he can express his religion as “humanist,” which is not currently an option.

[Bradley] can’t be designated as a humanist on his official records or dog tags, although he can be classified as an atheist.

The distinction may not seem like a large one to those unfamiliar with humanism, but the Fort Bragg-based officer says it’s the equivalent of being told that “Christian” is an acceptable designation, but not “Catholic.”

“Humanism is a philosophy that guides a person,” Bradley said. “It’s more than just a stamp of what you’re not.”

As to the confusion about whether atheists are humanists, or vice versa: 

“Atheism means just that: you don’t believe in God,” [Howard Katz, president of the Humanist Society] said. “You could have an axe murderer who’s an atheist. Humanists have ethics and a philosophy.”

Well, that cleared that right up, didn’t it?

Part of Bradley’s motivation is his apparent attempt to become a part of the Army’s chaplaincy system as a humanist “lay leader.”

The strange thing is Bradley goes out of his way to emphasize humanism is not a religion, yet eschews being associated with atheism; he also wants to be classified within the same system as a religion.  It’s a discombobulated mess.

By contrast, the military’s existing system is fairly simple, and it is supported by the atheists and humanists who simultaneously criticize it.

“Distinctive Faith Group Leaders” (DFGLs) and Chaplains, with regard to specific belief sets, are put in place to enable and facilitate the religious free exercise of faith groups.  The US Constitution protects the human liberty of religious freedom, preventing the government from restricting it.  While the military gets some leeway due to the criticality of its mission, it must still protect religious freedom when it does not hamper the mission.

As an example of the support given to even minority faiths, in the absence of a Jewish chaplain, a Jewish DFGL or “lay leader” is the resident go-to person for the resources, requirements, and support for members of that faith, to protect their religious rights.

However, the most public military atheists claim atheism is not a religion.  Above, Major Bradley says humanism is not a religion.  If they are not religions, they are not granted the protections given to religions.  Instead, they are nothing more than philosophical ideologies which the “adherents” are free to follow under the guidelines of every other non-religious philosophy that exists in the military.

Atheists like to say that atheism is a religion like “not playing soccer” is a sport.

Well, atheists and humanists asking for a chaplain or DFGL is like asking for a “not playing soccer” coach.

By their own admission, an atheist no more needs a “lay leader” within the chaplaincy than the local chess club or WoW club needs a DFGL.  They simply want the benefits of theism without being theist.

To use their own examples, appointing an atheist chaplain or DFGL under the chaplaincy would be like giving a bicycle…to a fish.

Atheists, humanists, idealists, modern artists — The military does not religiously discriminate against any of them.  In fact, contrary to melodramatic accusations, the US military routinely protects troops’ freedom to not believe in a god — and military chaplains, regardless of their faith, are already designated by regulation and policy to do so.  The US military already fulfills the role of protecting religious liberty the atheists/humanists claim they want.

They remain free to ask for more, of course, but its unlikely most people think demanding a Big Mac in the Burger King drive-thru puts one’s position in the best light.