Home / News / New study shows atheists as a significant population in the military, yet the military leaves no room for them to declare humanism or atheism
New study shows atheists as a significant population in the military, yet the military leaves no room for them to declare humanism or atheism

New study shows atheists as a significant population in the military, yet the military leaves no room for them to declare humanism or atheism

A new study by the Department of Defense shows that atheists and humanists make up a significant group in the military.  These records also that the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) show support for a religious preference and chaplains in all branches of the military, as well as find that atheists outnumber other non-Christians in the military.

Over 0.5% of the military self-identified as atheist.  While this may seem low, the atheist religious preference was ahead of all responses except Christian or undetermined groups (No Pref & Unknown).

Allegedly, the Air Force stated that they do not know which organizations endorse chaplains, but because of the study, the Air Force promised to reform the endorsing of chaplains.

However, no one has made an effort to reach out to atheists and humanists in the military and top-level chaplains in the military declined any formal outreach to the MAAF.  Humanists still have no opportunity to state their religious preference, other than to mark “No Religious Preference” and some individuals are denied the right to identify as a humanist.

Major Ray Bradley was shocked when he heard that humanism is not an approved religious choice, but atheism is.

“When I joined the Army 26 years ago, “No Religious Preference” was the only choice available to an atheist like me.  Recently I discovered that “Atheist” was now a choice for religious preference and I thought it would be a simple matter to have “Humanist” added to the list as well.  As my unit’s Chaplain encouragingly told me, “religious preference is a personal choice after all.”  Imagine my surprise when the Chief of Chaplains denied my request stating that Humanism is not an approved religion.  And atheism is?  It’s sad to think that, even today, one can be sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States while their rights under that very document are denied.”

According to the MAAF, there are 88 religious choices listed as options in the list, with 73 Christian denominations listed as options.  The other 15 options are non-Christian religions with atheism in the #15 position, but the list does not breakdown the various atheistic groups.  Despite diversity, Christians fill 97% of the chaplain billets, as well as enjoy special privileges, while other groups do not. Other groups, such as Wiccans and Hindus, have also approached the MAAF to assist them in getting recognized and receiving their own chaplains.

There are military personnel, families, patients, and inmates who need support for their overall well-being, be that from a spiritual or naturalistic perspective. People, military or civilian, theistic or nontheistic, struggle with questions of ultimate concern about life, death, tragedy, meaning, and other areas.

Along with officers unable to choose humanism as their religious choice, some humanist lay applications have been pushed aside for at least year, despite support for humanist chaplains and lay leaders.

Regardless of the large number of atheists and humanists in the military, they receive no chaplain support or attention in chaplain training.

According to the American Humanist Association, this new study should show the growing need for humanist chaplains in the military.

For more on the study, the MAAF posted the full study on their website.

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
  • Deborah_B

    Timely article with Justin Griffith and Christopher Herr on tonight! They point out some interesting things in their interview.

    • Cool! I didn't think about him being on the show tonight when I wrote it.

  • Pingback: New study shows atheists as a significant population in the military, yet the … – God Discussion (blog) | InGodWeLust.com()

  • skater60

    Declare a religion in the military? Why?

  • skater60

    Waaah! I want my own chaplain! Waaa, waaa! Mommmmy! Bunch of pussies.

    • That's a rather mean thing to say when Xian extremists are the worst.

    • Peter

      A uninformed troll. Did you serve?

  • Peter

    Mikey Weinstein at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) details the chilling facts that Christian fundamentalists officers are now in senior commands and dominate the Chaplin Corps. Lt. General Boykin is the most notorious and has now joined the AFA. While still in the service he would give lectures at fundie churches promoting the idea Islam is evil and the real enemy and it is every Christian's duty to destroy it. All those scared young kids fighting real wars overseas are targets for these radical Christians whose first duty is converting them to Christ. Armageddon anyone?

    • That makes me rather glad my sons are rejects, not that I don't support you all, but I never exposed my sons to such religious extremism and I don't want them exposed as young adults. It's bad enough that they face potential death, but they don't need to be involved with a Xian "Jihad" and told dying for God is a good thing, because they will receive fictitious rewards in heaven that doesn't even exist.

      • Peter

        It's so bad Weinstein told an interviewer at AlterNet that the "Taliban has taken over the Pentagon." Boykin, as head of special forces had biblical passages embossed on the scopes of sniper teams. Same happening up here. What scares me, terrifies me actually, is these nut-jobs believe we are in the end times. If the Israeli/Iran thing happens will they nuke Mecca?

        • I think we are saying the same thing concerning our worries and fears. I'm glad to hear I am not alone.

          • Peter

            You're not alone, believe me. But, in the forces if your commanding officer, a fundie Christian, "suggests" you attend a lecture or meeting by a Christian officer or Chaplin it isn't a request. it's an order. If you saw your buddy blown apart you want succor and that is when they pounce. It happened to our troops in Afghanistan. I live closest to Canada's largest military base, Borden, and these guys are over the place. Scary.

            • I live next door to a military base that is next door to an Assembly of God college. Imagine the scariness of that?

        • godlessveteran

          The sniper scopes were manufactured by Trijcon, which inscribed those references as their standard business practice. Not saying they were right to do so….

    • godlessveteran

      That would be the Family Research Council, not the AFA. Boykin and FRC are a match made in hell due to their support of Uganda's exterminate-the-gays legislation.

  • Peter

    Sorry> The title was
    Creepy Tea Partiers Think They Own the Military–And Can Use It Against the Rest of Us!sorrry.

  • Juanita M. Moeller

    Maybe they are certain about things which will make them get out of focus so they try to intend that they are atheist. I don't know if it was a military strategy but it seems very likely to me.

  • colourmegone

    Atheists are the one minority in the US whose rights are guaranteed under the Constitution but who regularly suffer discrimination at the hands of people who continually cite the Constitution and rail about the rights of the individual.

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