Atheists aren’t just looking for a platform in the military — they’re looking for a pulpit. In one of the more bizarre storylines from the Defense debate, a handful of House Democrats have been working to establish a chapter of non-believing chaplains in the ranks. So far, two representatives — Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) — have introduced measures to create “non-theist” chaplains, only to see them flame out in committee. Groups like the Secular Coalition, who helped hatch this crazy idea, argue that nonbelievers suffer the same fear and pain that affects every service member.
But isn’t that why the military has psychologists? And, as Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who is a reserve Air Force chaplain, pointed out, nothing is stopping atheists from visiting the chaplains who are already available. In fact, Collins said he’s counseled several non-believers over the years. “What I have found so many times [is that] people in our world today just need someone to listen,” he said.
The fact that Congress is even debating the idea of creating non-faith faith leaders is a sign of how absurd this debate about religious liberty has become. By definition, a chaplain’s duties are to offer prayer, spiritual counseling, and religious instruction. If that doesn’t disqualify a non-believer, I’m not sure what would! Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), one of the many members flabbergasted that Congress is wasting its time on this, told Fox News, “When it comes to the idea of an atheist chaplain, which is an oxymoron — it’s self-contradictory — what you’re really doing is now saying that we’re going to replace true chaplains with non-chaplain chaplains. It’s just total nonsense, the idea of having a chaplain who is an atheist.”
Atheist chaplains are like vegetarian carnivores. They don’t exist! In reality, what secularists are angling for is a position of greater influence. If the military were to expand the chaplaincy to atheists, it would give anti-Christian extremists like Mikey Weinstein an even greater opportunity to sanitize the military — this time, from inside the chaplain corps.
Fortunately, Congressman Fleming knows how the Left operates. As part of the floor debate on the Defense budget bill yesterday (watch his remarks here), Rep. Fleming attached language that would ensure that federal funds aren’t used to appoint chaplains who don’t have an endorsing agency. In other words, candidates for chaplaincy would have to be officially affiliated with a specific faith. His amendment, one of 100 the House considered in Tuesday’s mark-up, coasted through the vote thanks to 26 Democrats — who helped pad the 253-173 margin.
Interestingly enough, this debate happens to coincide with a new study about the drop in worldwide atheism. Researchers just released four decades of data on “Christianity in Its Global Context, 1970-2010” and found that the world is more religious now than it was last century. “If this trend continues,” the report suggests, “agnostics and atheists will be a smaller portion of the world’s population in 2020 than they were in 2010.” If atheism is declining, why should its influence increase? Good question — one that Congress should ponder before it panders to more extremists.
Atheist Chaplains? Seriously?
Without getting bogged down in the legislative details, I’d like to focus on the concept of a non-theistic “chaplain.”
Historically, a chaplain has always served as a minister of faith in an already-secular organization. And as ministers, chaplains have overseen sacraments, presided over services of worship, and provided support in matters of faith. These are all things inherent and exclusive to religious faiths, and therefore, to the purpose of the chaplaincy properly understood.
But what purpose does a non-theistic “chaplain” serve? According to supporters, “the point is to give atheists in the military someone who will pro-actively reach out to them and facilitate meetings.” But reach out to them for what? Meetings about what?
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