New Jersey Rep. Rob Andrews introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow humanists and other non-believers to join the chaplain corps. Andrews reasoning is that there are many military personnel who are agnostics and atheists. A traditional chaplain is not going to comfort them as well as one who shares their beliefs. That sounds like common sense, but we are talking about Congress.
Unfortunately, this concept of compassion is way over the head of some Congressmembers who voted down the amendment. Texas Rep. Mike Conaway thinks that an atheist chaplain is going to be in the face of a grieving family.
“They don’t believe anything. I can’t imagine an atheist accompanying a notification team as they go into some family’s home to let them have the worst news of their life and this guy says, ‘You know, that’s it — your son’s just worms, I mean, worm food.’”
Conway must think that atheist thinkers, like Richard Dawkins, are the only choices for an atheist chaplain. Demeanor has something to play in that too. Dawkins is no more a candidate for being an atheist chaplain than Glenn Beck being a traditional chaplain. Conaway is having a problem connecting the dots of common sense, but he is not alone.
Here’s Louisiana Rep. John Fleming who imagines a dying soldier being comforted by an atheist chaplain with a “Son, you’re going to die so get over it” attitude.
“This I think would make a mockery of the chaplaincy. The last thing in the world we would want to see was a young soldier who may be dying and they’re at a field hospital and the chaplain is standing over that person saying to them, ‘If you die here, there is no hope for you in the future.’”
There are soldiers dying and facing personal problems of all beliefs, religious and not religious. Every one of them deserves the equal right to comfort, but the all-knowing Congress has determined that an atheist is a heartless, uncaring trash of life that doesn’t deserve the attention that God-fearing soldiers get. It doesn’t matter if it’s an atheist soldier, like Pat Tillman, dying for his country. That soldier doesn’t need someone who understands his belief system when a Catholic or Protestant chaplain is available to give him the proper Christian rites, whether he wants it or not.
When that atheist is a hero like Tillman, who gave up a lucrative NFL career for his country, that blows up the notion that atheists don’t believe in anything. The country could use more of that integrity, especially in places like Congress. Instead, we have a Congress that honors its military, except for those who believe differently.