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Fault Lines - Religion in the military - Comments

mattincinci's Avatar Comment 1 by mattincinci

boycott the military, do not allow anyone you know to join

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 05:28:00 UTC | #374440

russell_c_cook's Avatar Comment 2 by russell_c_cook

Was this documentary made by AlJazeera?

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 05:29:00 UTC | #374441

Roger Stanyard's Avatar Comment 3 by Roger Stanyard

This, in my book, is a big issue. The anecdotal evidence from the British military that has and is serving alongside the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan is that large elements of the US armed forces are riddled with religious fundamentalism and act accordingly. They see the two wars as "religious" wars against evil non-believers and, at worse, part of a larger war leading to (and necessary for) the return of Christ.

If there are any British military personnel in this forum who can provide their experience of this, it would be much appreciated.

My understanding is that a disproportionate number of US military personnel come from the Bible Belt.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 05:37:00 UTC | #374443

paulifa1's Avatar Comment 4 by paulifa1

Well I'm not in the military, but I've talked to a friend who has served in Iraq as a sargeant. He doesn't like working with US soldiers, seems to be of the opinion he's more likely to end up dead when they are about! in fact his overall opinion summed up seems to be that the common US foot soldier struck him as being very polite to all, but on average of a much lower intelligence than the UK foot soldiers over there, and a fair percentage of them believed some seriously f**ked up batshit, (his words, not mine!) he went on to tell me that from some of them there was talk of helping bring on armageddon etc. and he'd often get asked if he knew jesus!

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 05:59:00 UTC | #374450

Hypnos7's Avatar Comment 5 by Hypnos7

My understanding is that a disproportinate number of US military personnel come from the Bible Belt.


This seems to be the case. The Bible Belt is also a poverty belt with low educational attainment. Unlike other parts of the US, there are not alternative industries like mining, ranching or farm labor to provide jobs to those without a college degree.

The military is all that's left.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 06:04:00 UTC | #374451

vampfan30's Avatar Comment 6 by vampfan30

comment # 391777 by Hypnos7...

As one from the South, I totally agree with your statement & go further to say that Christianity also seriously influences the decision to join the military...

God & Country is a phrase heard often down here.

V

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 06:12:00 UTC | #374454

JonLynnHarvey's Avatar Comment 7 by JonLynnHarvey

There's a long section on this in the documentary film "Constantine's Sword" which is quite good.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 07:40:00 UTC | #374461

John_T's Avatar Comment 8 by John_T

Michael Shermer, on his SkepticBlog posted last week, touched on this issue.

To go along with the picture in the video which says - "New Testament" on the barrel of a tank - Shermer reports - "an inscription in large red letters painted on the side of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that reads in Arabic script: “Jesus Killed Mohammed."

From Shermer's essay:

Shermer: None of this would matter were it not for the fact that soldiers are sworn into the military to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not the holy book of their religion. This is what it means to be a secular nation: not that the majority of its citizens are secular, but that its government favors no religion and, in fact, separates church and state. That is not a problem for most religious soldiers, but for evangelicals, by definition they are suppose to evangelize (or else they wouldn’t be evangelicals), and that means trying to convert those around them to evangelical Christianity. And those around them are either fellow soldiers or citizens of an occupied country. Enter the Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF), with 15,000 members in 80% of military bases, and growing 3% per annum. Sharlet quotes OCF director Lieutenant General Bruce L. Fister, who equated the “global war on terror” to “a spiritual battle of the highest magnitude.” The Muslims have their jihad and the Christians have their spiritual battle. Onward Christian Soldiers.


Entire essay is very interesting - link below:

http://skepticblog.org/2009/06/23/onward-christian-soldiers/

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 08:22:00 UTC | #374475

NumberCruncher's Avatar Comment 9 by NumberCruncher

I'm a Brit ex-serviceman. I worked with the US military several times when I was in the Army. After I retired, I spent the best part of two years in Iraq as a civilian security advisor for USAID. Anybody from Baghdad who remembers the SAFE Report or the KSI IDR: that's me. If I've jogged anybody's memory with those: hi guys, it's good you're here to read this.

Anyhoo...

Armies are generally a reflection of the society from which they are drawn and the US military clearly contains more active believers than the generally agnostic Brit Army. However: I have yet to come across one who has said to me that s/he regards the War on Terror as a Christian crusade against Muslims. Many see their duties tying in with a personal Christian responsibility to fight oppression, but beyond that: no. Christianity long ago ceased to be spread by the sword and, besides, I've found that Americans have this inbuilt revulsion for expansionism. Speaking in very broad terms, Americans believe passionately in democracy, fairness and the right to do what you do providing you don't hurt anyone. These attitudes are reinforced by the American military ethos which is actively promoted.

For me, giving briefings on the nature of Islamic terrorism, I was surprised at how difficult it was to get British officials to understand that the guy who blew himself up - he really did believe that he would wake up to find himself in Paradise with virgins, boys, slave markets, rivers of etc etc and that is why he wrapped his genitals in cotton wool. US officials, more accustomed to the concept of religious belief, would simpy accept it.

It is the Muslims who support radical Islam who are waging a war of religion and the rest of the world which is on the receiving end of it and has been since the 9th Century. In the Muslim world, everything is seen through the prism of religion and specifically the prism of Islam in a way that we in the secular West and particularly in Britain find very difficult to understand. Remember that when watching anything produced by al-Jazeera.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 08:30:00 UTC | #374477

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 10 by Stafford Gordon

Terrifying. Could this kind of thing drift into being State Funded Terrorism; indeed, given the majority mentality of the last American administration, could it be designed to do so? "Gott mit Uns" again?

The most frightening thing is that, as with all religious mind sets, it can't be reasoned with.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 08:52:00 UTC | #374483

HenryFord's Avatar Comment 11 by HenryFord

I'd like to echo NumberCruncher here (RAF, worked with spams on numerous occasions, have had many an opportunity to get drunk with them).

There seems to be a perception on this board that American military = dumbasfuck theotard. I can only say that my personal experience is very different to this. There is a slightly lower level in average intelligence between the US military and other countries - but I find that it is because more intelligent Americans have so many more options than in other countries. That isn't to say that what is left are a bunch of backward hicks. They are incredibly polite, proffesional individuals on the whole - and I've never once experienced any religious nonsense from any one I've talked to (at least, no more than could be expected from anywhere else).

One of the more interesting conversations I had with one was his confusion as to why he couldn't just be called American - why did he have to be labeled African-American.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 08:57:00 UTC | #374485

John_T's Avatar Comment 12 by John_T

NumberCruncher - #9 Comment

NumberCruncher: Remember that when watching anything produced by al-Jazeera.


Would you say this was an overly biased presentation, perhaps unfair or faulty?

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 09:05:00 UTC | #374486

aoratos philos's Avatar Comment 13 by aoratos philos

I'm not going to comments on the legitimacy of the video piece, but;
If I were an American General I would turn a blind eye or even try to encourage "religious brotherhood", within my ranks. It makes for a tight and cohesive fighting force.

Religious and therefore cultural identity equate to national identity, which all go hand in hand. It's a dangerous in-group mix for the world, but a useful one for military leaders.

My personal opinion is one in opposition to standing state armies and religion. I oppose these separately but recognise the immense danger when these two concepts are combined.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 09:19:00 UTC | #374489

astronomer24's Avatar Comment 14 by astronomer24

Children with bombs sounds just about right.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 09:28:00 UTC | #374492

MarshallEvans's Avatar Comment 15 by MarshallEvans

I can certainly attest to all this!! I can also say that if you are an Atheist (or any other non-christian) and want to join the military stay away from the Air Force, Marines, and Army (in that order). The Navy seems to have a better environment...

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 12:23:00 UTC | #374547

Melomel's Avatar Comment 16 by Melomel


The United States is a deeply religious country, over 90% believe in god and 80% believe in miracles.

That number is highly suspect, the writer chose the highest number from recent polls (and added "over"). It's somewhat tricky to nail down the specific numbers for anything other than a phrase specifically polled for (in this case, "religion: none" might or might not directly map to no belief in god), but here are the most recent data:

http://b27.cc.trincoll.edu/weblogs/AmericanReligionSurvey-ARIS/reports/ARIS_Report_2008.pdf

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 12:37:00 UTC | #374551

plastictowel's Avatar Comment 17 by plastictowel

In response to NumberCruncher



"Christianity long ago ceased to be spread by the sword"
How long are we talking here? You may want to re-inform Latin America of your take on history...

"I've found that Americans have this inbuilt revulsion for expansionism."
We have 770 military bases overseas. We have military men stationed in 820 different locations across 39 countries. Altogether, 84,488 military personnel are located in Europe, 154 in the former Soviet Union, 70,719 in East Asia and the Pacific, 7,850 in North Africa, the Near East, and South Asia, 2,727 are in sub-Saharan Africa with 2,043 in the Western Hemisphere excepting the United States itself. We spend as much on 'defense' (offense) as the entire world combined. We spend $651billion on our military. We have 1,454,515 members in our military, and 848,000 in reserves. You can not name a single region of the US we do not have some glaring presence in.
But no you're right, America is against expansion....


"Speaking in very broad terms, Americans believe passionately in democracy, fairness and the right to do what you do providing you don't hurt anyone. These attitudes are reinforced by the American military ethos which is actively promoted."

What kind of sick distortion of history is this? We supported Sadam from 80-88. We supporter Pinochet for two decades, and ensured his victory by aiding the coup against democratically elected Allende. We funded several decades of dictatorship in Nicaragua under the Somoza brotherood, and then aided the Contras against the peoples will. We overthrew the democratically elected leader Mossadegh in Iran, in favor of oil profits, and decades of dictator rule by the Shah. We supported dictators right after WWII in South Korea, Indonesia (and supported Suharto for several decades of genocide in East Timor and his own populace), Greece, and Turkey! We supported the dictator Musharif in Pakistan just recently. Just this morning one of our School of the Americas graduates led a coup against democratically elected Honduran President Zelaya, and we don't care to stop it. Batista in Cuba. Decade of 'dirty war' in Argentina, we installed the bathiist party in iraq at the overthrow of Quazim, we funded populace genocide in El Salvador under the Altacatl american trained regime...Alright, I am done, I could keep naming, and I could go all the way back to the 1700s but I think I have made my point.

"It is the Muslims who support radical Islam who are waging a war of religion and the rest of the world which is on the receiving end of it and has been since the 9th Century."

Let's add up the body count of the Western world and the Middle East. Any short walk through history will clearly put more blood on our hands. The Islamic world has not 'waged a war' with EVERYONE else. Are you familiar with Greenland, Iceland, South America, Russia, China, Japan, to name a few. They seem safe.
Our sanctions against Iraw from 90-99 led to the death of 500,000 children (that's excluding adults), and the war in Iraq over 1million bystanders. Let's see these radical islamist rival those numbers?

"In the Muslim world, everything is seen through the prism of religion and specifically the prism of Islam in a way that we in the secular West and particularly in Britain find very difficult to understand. Remember that when watching anything produced by al-Jazeera."

What is the Muslim World? It's not a nation. We could say the same about the 'Atheist world' or the 'Christian world.' Going to war with a single religion, and using populaces and nations as hostages, is a painfully myopic strategy. If you really think EVERY Muslim is identical in 'radicalness' you're a radical, and misinformed.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 14:16:00 UTC | #374565

Maddawg58's Avatar Comment 18 by Maddawg58

I am an Atheist and I have been in the military for 15 years. I was in the Marines for 8 and have been in the Army for 7, Iraq for two years. The military is a cross section of society, leaning toward the right. The military, like society, has it's fair share of idiots. But for the most part, members are of average or above average intelligence. People don't join the military because they have no other choice. Anyone on this board who has been in the military could tell you that. I enjoy the brotherhood, camaraderie, and shared struggle. Probably for genetic, environmental, or sociocultural reasons. Maybe I carry the MAOA-H gene or something, and the military was a legitimate outlet for my impulses. I had plenty of choices growing up. This seemed like the natural choice. People like me gravitate toward the military. Look at the human race as a whole. We all believe in evolution, right. Do you think that all the genetic traits for combat has been bred out of the human population since Obama has been in office. Anyway, most people nowadays join to pay off student loans or get money for college. That is a conscience decision, made by an individual who is weighing the reward vs the possible consequences. Not the sign of being stupid. Since the economy has collapsed I have had three pay raises. We are due for another 3.5% pay raise in Jan. I get free medical, dental, $500,000 dollar insurance policy, a housing allowance of $2800 a month, and a cost of living allowance. I made $98,000 dollars last year. I got my degree for free and will be attending graduate school for free when I retire with a life long pension at 38 years old. So who's the idiot?

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 15:04:00 UTC | #374574

LeeLeeOne's Avatar Comment 19 by LeeLeeOne

Purposefully utilizing public resources to further a private agenda is illegal in the Constitution of the United States further delineated and ratified in the United States of America Bill of Rights.

Purposefully utilizing public resources to further a religious agenda is illegal in the Constitution of the United States further delineated and ratified in the United States of America Bill of Rights.

Major General Cecil Richardson is directly and unquestionably ultimately responsible for this blatant breech.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 15:49:00 UTC | #374598

plastictowel's Avatar Comment 20 by plastictowel

Maddawg the level of societies ratio of military members varies across the world and history - therefore it's not some kind of balance in genetics. Sparta, 100% military. Iroquois 0%. Also the US tends to glorify military service more then many other countries. I can not drive 1 mile where I live without seeing some kind of "Join the *insert armed service here*" advertisement.

"So who's the idiot?"
Did someone call you an idiot? Personally I think participating in internationally illegal, profit-motivated, contrived threat level, wars - that attempt to force economic and/or social policy through bullets and bombs, is well 'not rational' to say the least...

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 15:52:00 UTC | #374599

LeeLeeOne's Avatar Comment 21 by LeeLeeOne

#391900 Maddawg58:

Perhaps you are not an idiot, but just simply selfish.

You somehow have been able to lead a "double life", outright expressing your displeasure when purposefully exposed to attempted indoctrination towards "God's Soldiers" and the ilk.

Or perhaps, you did not voice your displeasure because you saw the benefits of not allowing your voice to be heard.

In other words, you kept your mouth shut, no matter what; you passively participated in or "went along with" indoctrination in the guise of avoiding being seen an atheist/agnostic/free-thinker/humanist and the like.

You did this to avoid "So who's the idiot?" type of fate.

So, tell me. Is it better to be mute for reward, or is it better to be vociferous for shunning? For the greater good or for the greater reward?

Maddawg58, in my eyes, you are no better than Cheney. And yes, that's an insult.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 16:06:00 UTC | #374602

Philster61's Avatar Comment 22 by Philster61

What absolute hypocrisy. "Soldiers of Christ". Theres a contradiction in terms. Didnt Jesus preach love for your enemies? Didnt he preach forgiveness? Not once do I see any resemblance to his teachings here.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 16:08:00 UTC | #374603

bentleyd's Avatar Comment 23 by bentleyd

I retired from the US Air Force 4 years ago, having served 20 years. Maybe things have changed drastically, but I don't recall anything like this in my experience. On a typical Sunday at the various Middle-East deployed locations, you'd see about as many people in the rec center or gym as you would in the base chapel. Since I'm from the South (Texas, Arkansas) I've seen greater religiosity among the civilian world than in the Air Force, which is a cross section of the whole USA.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 16:24:00 UTC | #374607

Hypnos7's Avatar Comment 24 by Hypnos7

It seems that we require data comparing the religiosity of the military with that of the civilian population, as well as data on the socioeconomic background of recruits.

I could not find anything on religiosity, but did find something on demographics:

http://www.heritage.org/research/nationalsecurity/cda05-08.cfm

US military recruits are more likely to have a high school degree and generally match the US distribution of income, but rural areas and The South are overrepresented.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 16:42:00 UTC | #374609

Maddawg58's Avatar Comment 25 by Maddawg58

Let's think about this. What alternative have we promoted for these young soldiers. 18 & 19 were the most turbulent ages for me. Young, impressionable, away from home, family, and support. When you deploy overseas they tell you. You will either find Jesus or the bottle. I found neither, but that is where I saw most of my "on the border" friends get swept up into fundamentalist christianity. The military, unfortunately, is a necessary evil in the world we live in. As much as I would like to live in a utopian society dressed in nothing but a loin cloth, the rest of the world prefers different. I have been very outspoken about my Humanism/Atheism and I am a member of MAAF and AHS.

I have shown many people the light, but I don't see the Richard Dawkin's Foundation or American Humanists sponsoring "Rallies for Rationalism" at military bases. Getting us Atheists and Freethinkers to rally for anything is like herding squirrels. We are so opinionated that we are not unified. I live in Hawaii, the Hawaii Humanist Website is down, they won't return any e-mails, and they haven't had a meeting since 2006. Where are these kids to turn? If we teach are youth to think rationally, they will grow up as I have to be rational leaders in the military. And then, just maybe, they will be more understanding of other religions and advise their civilian leaders to think rationally too. Instead these youngsters are gobbled up and seduced by the fundies at boot camp. If we really want to change this country we can't bury our heads in the sand and say "atheists boycott the military", that will just make it worse.

When I tell people that I am an atheist, people are very surprised because they know what type of soldier I am. They say they have never met one. Then I point of the out other atheists, agnostics, and free thinkers in the unit and they are taken back. This is because we were all in the same firefight, and we were the ones taking it to them. We have the most to lose. This gives the military fundies a different perspective, we are not all hippie/satanists with body piercings. We can kick @#$ with the rest of them.

LeeLeeOne I share your passion, I don't mind the insult. But I have chosen to participate. It is a better perspective on world events, kind of a find hand view. Don't blame me for Iraq, I didn't boil the egg, I'm just the one who has to suck it. People like me don't care who we are fighting, if we did we couldn't do this job. When the bullets start flying your convictions go out the window. It was the Republicans and the spineless Democrats that let Bush and Cheney start this illegal war. Blame the voters that put them in office. Non-beleivers make up 20% of the military. If atheist like me didn't join, there would be no rational thought on the front line. Then...things would be worse.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 17:18:00 UTC | #374614

plastictowel's Avatar Comment 26 by plastictowel

"But I have chosen to participate. It is a better perspective on world events, kind of a find hand view. Don't blame me for Iraq, I didn't boil the egg, I'm just the one who has to suck it. People like me don't care who we are fighting, if we did we couldn't do this job. When the bullets start flying your convictions go out the window. It was the Republicans and the spineless Democrats that let Bush and Cheney start this illegal war. Blame the voters that put them in office. Non-beleivers make up 20% of the military. If atheist like me didn't join, there would be no rational thought on the front line."

Well we can blame you as much as the voters. Why didn't you DECLINE to participate in that war? Killing innocent people in a internationally illegal crime is not exactly 'rational' or ethically justified...

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 17:21:00 UTC | #374615

John_T's Avatar Comment 27 by John_T

Hypnos7 - Comment #24

Hypnos7: It seems that we require data comparing the religiosity of the military with that of the civilian population..


Michael Shermer, in the SkepticBlog I posted above [#8], reports:

M. Shermer: That is more than a little unfortunate, because the military has actually lagged behind the general population in religiosity, with 20% of the roughly 1.4 million active-duty personnel telling the Department of Defense that they have “no religious preference,” which is higher than the 16.1% of the American public who tick the same box on similar surveys conducted by Gallup and others (although among active military only .5% — one half of one percent — call themselves “atheist” or “agnostic”, whereas around 8% of the general public does). The other 80% identify with evangelical or Pentecostal (22%), Catholic (19%), another 20% as “Christian” (incorporating other Christian sects), and assorted other religions, but next to no Jews (1/300) or Muslims (1/400).


Michael is also referencing this interesting piece by Jeff Sharlet:

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/05/0082488

As to some of the comments about personal experience - I may add, obviously without knowing all the details of the situation or personal experience (and I don't pretend I know at this time) - that it seems from the Sharlet story, Shermer's account and a bit from the Fault Lines video that this is a rather "new" movement, or more engaged as a movement at this time.

Sharlet, after briefly providing a background of fundamentalism in the military over the past decades offers these thoughts:

Sharlet: Today, fundamentalism, based as it is on a vigorous assertion of narrow and exclusive claims to truth, can no longer justify common cause with secularism. In its principal battle, the front lines are not in Iraq or Afghanistan but right here, where evangelical militants must wage spiritual war against their own countrymen. In a lecture for OCF titled “Fighting the War on Spiritual Terrorism,” Army Lieutenant Colonel Greg E. Metzgar explained that Christian soldiers must always consider themselves behind enemy lines, even within the ranks, because every unsaved member of the military is a potential agent of “spiritual terrorism.” Even secularists with the best intentions may be part of this fifth column, Air Force Brigadier General Donald C. Wurster told a 2007 assembly of chaplains, noting that “the unsaved have no realization of their unfortunate alliance with evil.”


[emphasis added]

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 17:22:00 UTC | #374616

Squigit's Avatar Comment 28 by Squigit

18. Comment #391900 by Maddawg58

Exactly why my husband joined! But, alas, I do miss the commissary...buying groceries in the civilian grocery stores has got me counting pennies!

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 17:32:00 UTC | #374617

Maddawg58's Avatar Comment 29 by Maddawg58

Plastictowel, being on the front lines is the only way to insure that innocent people are not being killed. I can say with some certainty that your blogs are not doing much to prevent anything. Having rational soldiers behind the trigger prevents unnecessary civilian causalities. As for combatants, not too much we can do for them. We are the ones that understand the culture, sympathize with the locals, and know that not all are bad. There are very clear distinctions between, Sunni, Shia, Kurd, SOI, Naq Shibani, Jaburi, JAM, JAMSG, etc. A christian fundie soldier thinks he is in a Holy War. I am right there with him explaining that the locals hate Al Qaeda just as much as we do, but they are scared. So that is why they are not telling us where they are. Not cause they are sympathizers. The world is a lot more complicated and I have chosen to participate. I don't have to speculate about anything or rely on FOX news or CNN to tell me what is going on.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 17:54:00 UTC | #374622

Maddawg58's Avatar Comment 30 by Maddawg58

....unless it is about the Michael Jackson stuff. I have chosen not to participate in that.

Sun, 28 Jun 2009 18:18:00 UTC | #374626