Jason Torpy Praises, Criticizes Military’s Support for Atheists

Despite Chris Rodda’s claim that highlighting the US military’s support for all of its troops — including atheists — is somehow bad, Jason Torpy of the one-man Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers recently praised Fort Bragg for doing just that:

Ft Bragg chaplains showed openness to nontheists in allowing the [Niose] event at Watters Family Life Center on Ft Bragg. This is a positive step forward, showing openness from the chaplaincy and community-building by the local humanist community.

While it undermines the MRFF narrative that the US military is a coercive Christian complex, it remains true that the military supports all of its servicemembers, without regard to religious belief, to the extent the mission and resources allow.

Unfortunately, Torpy went beyond that topic and attempted to make unrelated connections:

Soldiers have been denied the opportunity to simply identify officially as humanist. In addition, requests to volunteer as an Army DFGL (lay leader) have been obstructed for over a year …

The first statement is patently untrue.  The US military does not prevent anyone from identifying themselves as anything (with the notable exception of banned hate groups).  What Torpy meant was identifying their religion as “humanism” within their official records.  He’s probably referring to some previously discussed stories:

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.

This philosophy started a heated debate among atheists about whether atheists/humanists should be categorized as a religion.  If “the atheists” (an undefinable “group” in itself) can’t agree among themselves about their self-identity, how can the US government be expected to treat them uniformly?

The DFGL discussion has already been covered.  More relevant is Torpy’s phrasing:  To say they are “obstructed” insinuates atheists are entitled to representation within the chaplaincy — but they’re not.  They have asked for a “faith leader” to be recognized within the parameters of the chaplaincy, and, to this point, they’ve been denied.

That’s ultimately little different than the chess club making the same request.  They may have strong ideological views; they may want to gather and fellowship together; they may want access to chaplaincy-based resources.  But they all get the same answer:

The U.S. Army Chaplaincy provides religious support to America’s Army while assisting commanders in ensuring the right of free exercise of religion for all Soldiers. In short, we nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the fallen.

If a group doesn’t fit the purpose of the military chaplaincy, it doesn’t mean they’re the object of discrimination.  It just means there are other avenues for them to get access to what they want.

In fact, there isn’t anything to which a “religious” person has access via the chaplaincy that an atheist can’t get equitably outside of it (should they choose to go outside of it; nothing says an atheist can’t seek support within the chaplaincy).  Why, then, do military atheists want to insert themselves into a religiously-based system?