Atheists in the military need chaplains, too

10

This summer the House finally passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, catapulting military issues to the forefront of public debate.

Among these issues was the question of Humanist chaplains in the military. Currently nearly 30 percent of the military identifies as religiously unaffiliated or atheist/agnostic. Yet there is not a single atheist or Humanist chaplain to serve these brave men and women who make incredible sacrifices to protect our freedoms every day.

This week we look to the Senate to take up this pressing issue to vote on the National Defense Authorization Act.

On first glance, the issue of atheist or Humanist chaplains is a bit counterintuitive, perhaps even ironic. Why would nonreligious or atheist military service men and women need chaplains—clergy members whose very purpose is to provide spiritual counsel and conduct religious ceremonies—especially when secular counselors and psychiatrists are available?

Written By: Edwina Rogers
continue to source article at washingtonpost.com

10 COMMENTS

  1. A chaplain is one of the most immoral occupations. Their job is to convince people with PTSD to get back to the field and kill or torture someone. Atheists can obviously do this just as well as Christians.

  2. It seems to me the real issue here is the useless of the psychological and psychiatric services provided, and the stigma attached to using them. Apparently, running to your imaginary buddy in the sky for counsel (or his representative on earth, if the direct lines are jammed again) does not make you a wuss, but seeing someone with an actual qualification to help you does. And if things you reveal in a consultation with a mental health professional aren’t private, but may be disclosed to your superior, you’d have to be insane to see a psychiatrist.

  3. So if seeing a psychiatrist is a sign of weakness, there’ll be someone who will hide their qualifications and pose as a pseudo-priest?

    The question left begging is: what manner of person truly atheistic in their outlook has no problem with the above?

    • In reply to #6 by Timothy McNamara:

      So if seeing a psychiatrist is a sign of weakness, there’ll be someone who will hide their qualifications and pose as a pseudo-priest?

      The question left begging is: what manner of person truly atheistic in their outlook has no problem with the above?

      The claim is that “seeing a psychiatrist is a sign of weakness” is still strongly believed in the military culture which sadly seems credible to me. So if I’m an atheist and a soldier I may be perfectly fine with the idea of seeing a psychiatrist but I may still be afraid to do it because of my fear of the perception it will create in others.

      In the civilian world your employer has no rights to details of your medical history and even less so to mental health details but soldiers don’t have the same rights. If you see a therapist the issues can get reported back up the chain of command. When you talk to a chaplain you have more guarantee of privacy. BTW, I think that is ridiculous, it undermines the potential value of a therapist, but until it’s changed I can see the legitimacy of atheists demanding the same rights as theists.

      Also, the chaplain is an official position within the military org chart. There are certain issues (needing an emergency leave of absence) where I think the default assumption is you go to the chaplain to help you. I’m pretty sure chaplains even go into combat with the soldiers, at least I know they did up to WWII. They have military psychiatrists at hospitals but in the field there are, I would think, a number of things you may need a chaplain’s help for that have really nothing to do with religion.

  4. Chaplains enjoy protected communication with the troops that professional therapists do not. A visit to the local psychiatrist / behavioral therapist is entered in the medical record just as treatment for a broken bone would be. Either allow non-theist chaplains, or require documentation from them all.

  5. When I served I found chaplains to be a waste. Of my platoon maybe three people would go to see one. The military would do well to save money and get rid of them. That being said our chaplain was a nice fellow who never imposed his beliefs on anyone. I had a few beers with him on occasion and he knew I was an atheist and was cool with it. He just did not have any useful purpose.

Leave a Reply