Concert at Army post in NC geared toward atheists
By TOM BREEN - ASSOCIATED PRESS
Added: Sun, 01 Apr 2012 21:26:00 UTC
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) - For the first time in history, the U.S. military hosted an event expressly for soldiers and others who don't believe in God, with a county fair-like gathering Saturday on the main parade ground at one of the world's largest Army posts.
The Rock Beyond Belief event at Fort Bragg, organized by soldiers here two years after an evangelical Christian event at the eastern North Carolina post, is the most visible sign so far of a growing desire by military personnel with atheist or other secular beliefs to get the same recognition as their religious counterparts.
The purpose was not to make the Army look bad, organizers said, but to show that atheists and other secular believers have a place in institutions like the military.
"I love the military," said Sgt. Justin Griffith, main organizer of the event and the military director of American Atheists. He added, "This is not meant to be a black eye."
Griffith said he and other non-religious soldiers are not permitted to hold atheist meetings at the post and have so far been rebuffed in their efforts to change that. They feel their beliefs marginalize them.
Organizers were hoping for a crowd of about 5,000. At least several hundred people gathered on the parade ground by midday Saturday. Rainy weather for most of the morning may have affected the turnout. Fort Bragg officials said they would provide a crowd estimate later.
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