General Marty Dempsey: There Are No Atheists in Foxholes
Almost exactly a year ago, US Army General Martin Dempsey was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — the top ranking uniformed member of the US military and primary military advisor to the President. Known for his humility and his penchant for singing, he was not as publicly known for his faith — something that appears to be showing now that he is retired.
Appearing at Duke University on September 8th, now-retired Gen Dempsey spoke of his experiences with morality, religion, and faith in the US military — including his agreement with the belief that “there are no atheists in foxholes” [emphasis added]:
“You know that thing about ‘there’s no atheist in a foxhole?’ It’s true,” Dempsey said.
“There was none of this, ‘oh my gosh you shouldn’t be praying in your uniform, let’s keep separation of church and state’ — you go into something like Baghdad, you’re going to say a prayer before, during and after.”
The timing was surely a coincidence, but General Dempsey’s statement about the importance of faith — including the nonsensical claim of church/state separation prohibiting military prayer — came just days after his alma mater at West Point appeared to rely on that very concept to restrict the ability of their football coach to pray with his team.
More importantly, it has been noted here many times that military leaders have frequently called on their troops to rely on their moral compass — without finishing the sentence and telling them upon what to base that moral compass, or where that moral compass is supposed to point.
General Dempsey finally finished the sentence, when he
said his Catholicism was important in defining his moral values as a leader in the military…
He stressed to the largely Catholic audience that organized religion is an important way to develop a moral compass.
While he wasn’t overtly religious while in uniform, General Dempsey didn’t aggressively avoid association with faith, either, as some have been wont to do. For example, in an era in which many people said all you had to do was “shoot straight” to be in the military, General Dempsey actually emphasized character over competence. He similarly preached on the need for “moral courage.” He didn’t shy from taking the stage with the Christian Duck Dynasty family, he actually used the words “Merry Christmas” (shocking, isn’t it?), and he even scolded people who didn’t know the words to “God Bless America” as he led them in song.
Interestingly, General Dempsey took his post immediately after the repeal of DADT, and then left his post immediately before the DoD lifted the ban on transgenders (but after Secretary of Defense Ash Carter had made known it was going to happen). Given the apparent importance of his faith, morality, and character — things that men of faith find at odds with the social push for sexual liberty — it would be interesting to know if that timing was (yet another) pure coincidence.