Sunday, May 27, 2007

Connecting the Dots...

The following is a comment posted, on The Huffington Post, in response to my piece "Atheists in Foxholes:"

"I am and always have been an atheist, I am also a Staff Sergeant in the National Guard, currently in the process of retiring. Concerning the famous quote about "no atheists in foxholes", Sen McCain, who has the experience to know, once said that battlefield conversions don't mean much. Yelling "Jesus save my stupid ass" as bullets fly overhead isn't exactly High Church. When I was in Iraq, there were only 2 admitted atheists in my cavalry platoon, I was one of them.

While there is a subtle expectation in the military that everyone is a Christian, no one ever ostracized or penalized me for my views, and I was never shy about expressing them. I was invited to participate in unofficial bible study sessions, but no one gave me any grief when I respectfully declined. I got more hassle for being a Democrat. When I was looking for enlightened conversation, not on the subject of religion, the chaplain was my favorite companion. My Lieutenant did express some concern over my views: He asked several times "as an atheist, what if you get killed here?" My answer always was "I'll convert to Islam on the spot."

It does seem to be true in some places, like the Air Force Academy, that inappropriate religious pressure has been applied to some people. This needs to stop. However I am more concerned about inappropriate pressure to conform to conservative political ideology than religiosity. Armed Forces Network, in an attempt to be evenhanded, broadcasts a variety of cable news sources. In practice, this means an hour of CNN, an hour of MSNBC, an hour of CBS, followed by 15 hours of FOX News and talk shows.

At National Guard drills, I have seen senior NCOs "strongly encourage" troops to vote for conservative issues and candidates. This is not appropriate. It is true that military culture tends to attract people of a conservative social and political outlook. As long as this doesn't lead to favoritism, no problem. "

By: "Sgt. Mac"
May 27, 2007 01:20pm PM EDT