Rock Beyond Belief 3 Headed to Japan
The US Army facility at Camp Zama, Japan, recently hosted the 53rd annual “Bon Odori Festival:”
The festival is consistently the largest bilateral event of the year for U.S. Army Japan, this year attracting more than 30,000 visitors to the installation. This year’s Bon Odori featured live entertainment, games for children, a variety of ethnic foods, bilateral sports, and a fireworks show.
While that sounds benign enough, it turns out this was actually a huge religious celebration:
Bon season is a Buddhist holiday that honors the departed spirits of one’s ancestors. The tradition dates back more than 500 years.
Relying on the ever-accurate Wikipedia:
Bon Odori originates from the story of Maha Maudgalyayana (Mokuren), a disciple of the Buddha, who used his supernatural powers to look upon his deceased mother. He discovered she had fallen into the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and was suffering. Greatly disturbed, he went to the Buddha and asked how he could release his mother…The disciple, happy because of his mother’s release and grateful for his mother’s kindness, danced with joy. From this dance of joy comes Bon Odori or “Bon Dance”, a time in which ancestors and their sacrifices are remembered and appreciated.
Naturally, some military atheists will see this as a vast, unconstitutional government conspiracy to give preferential support to only one religious belief. As they have in other cases, they will no doubt demand “equal” treatment for their own event — including speeches by commanders, aircraft displays, and children’s games — to provide an atheist “counter” to this half-century of illegal proselytizing Buddhist influence on the US Army.
This may be the opportunity they were looking for — the chance to prove they’re more than simply an asterisk on Christianity. They can be an asterisk on Buddhism, too. Think we’ll ever see an independent — “freethinking?” — atheist event on a military base?
Actually, it seems atheists in North Carolina have already scheduled one without incident. That event, however, seems to be for the benefit and fellowship of freethinkers. Army Sgt Justin Griffith has stated the goal of Rock Beyond Belief isn’t the support of fellow atheists — it is to make Christian events radioactive. If he can end celebrations of the Christian faith associated with the US military, there will never be another “Rock Beyond Belief.”
While it may be a shock to a couple of atheists, the rest of the military — and the world, apparently — understands that expressions of religious faith are a part of human culture. American culture contains those same markers — and that culture is reflected in the troops who make up the US military.
Jews may look askance at a Buddhist Bon Odori; Christians may frown at an Eid; Muslims may roll their eyes at an Easter event. But members of each of those faiths in the US military value their own religious freedom, and respect — and defend — that of the others. You won’t see a Christian demanding the military host a counter-Eid during Ramadan, or a Muslim demanding the military allow him to erect a sign denigrating the Jewish faith during Hanukkah.
For the most part, atheists in the military are the same: They may smirk or shake their heads at some of the things they see their religious peers do, but that’s where it ends. They similarly respect the freedom of their fellow troops to adhere to and practice whatever religious beliefs they choose.
It is only a very small minority of atheists in the military — probably in the dozens or less — that is waging a vendetta to end the ability of their fellow religious troops to celebrate their faiths in the military environment.
To be more accurate, of course, their vendetta is against the Christian faith. Think they’ll actually say anything about the Bon Odori?