21 May 2012
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, AK
Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley spoke with Airmen today at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, AK. During the question and answer period, an Airman asked a question to the Secretary regarding rights for Airmen who are atheist, agnostic, humanist, or freethinking.
Here is the question that was asked:
I support & follow ALL Air Force regulations protecting an Airman’s religious freedom. However, I believe our Air Force does an inadequate job of protecting Airmen who are NOT religious.
For example, Airmen are routinely required to attend various military functions where public non-sectarian prayer is part of the program.
What will you do to ensure our Air Force respects Airmen like me who are atheist, agnostic, humanist, or freethinkers and don’t want to hear, or participate in public prayer? Current rules seem to imply, if I don’t like it, then don’t listen, and I find that offensive.
The Secretary provided his response and instead of pledging support for atheist, agnostic, humanist, and freethinking Airmen, he referenced the U.S. Constitution and freedom of religion; then proceeded to pledge his support of chaplains and their role in supporting Airmen of faith.
In his response, he did not acknowledge the rights of atheist, agnostic, humanist, or freethinkers to not have religion forced upon them at official Air Force functions. In fact, he never uttered the words atheist, agnostic, humanist, or freethinking.
The long standing problem has been, as outlined in the Airman’s question, that Airmen are often required to attend various military functions and prayer is often a part of the event. For example, change of command, award and graduation ceremonies are often mandatory attendance for Airmen. At these events, there is often a non-sectarian public prayer, which ignores the beliefs of the atheist, agnostic, humanist, and freethinkers in the audience. It is not uncommon; especially at a change of command ceremony, to have Airmen standing at attention or parade rest as a chaplain asks the audience, “Let us pray” and proceeds to speak, assumingly, for all those in the audience who ARE religious. Can you imagine having to listen to this when it goes against the very core of your personal beliefs? This is exactly the point this Airman was making.
Why are our U.S. Airmen being forced to attend mandatory Air Force functions where public prayer is a part of the event? Airmen are not required to attend church. So why are Airmen required to attend military functions where they are forced to listen to public prayer? To please the Airmen who believe in gods while disregarding those Airmen who don’t? Apparently that is exactly the current policy in the U.S. Air Force. At least that is the only conclusion one can make based on no regulations specifically protecting the atheist, agnostic, humanist, freethinker Airmen minority. Is there respect for Airmen who are not religious? That’s for you to decide. If you want to make the Air Force a more friendly and respectful place for America’s atheist, agnostic, humanist, and freethinking Airmen. See below for ways to help.
So, you may be asking yourself, why did this Airman bother to ask such a question. I asked it because I believe in my Air Force and all that it stands for. Secretary Donley is in a position to speak for all Airmen. I wanted to know what his (and the Air Force) position was on protecting atheist, agnostic, humanist, or freethinking Airmen. I believe in freedom of religion and all the Air Force regulations that support those who choose to believe in gods. I also support and defend the U.S. Constitution, which allows me to choose to believe or not believe in just about anything I want. When people, governments, or corporations respect the beliefs of some, but not all, something must be done to change that. The apparent Air Force indifference and disrespect for Airmen who are not religious, and full support for those who are, makes me wonder what “I will never leave an Airman behind” really means.
What can you do to support civil rights and the separation of church and state for America’s atheist, agnostic, humanist, and freethinking Airmen? Here is a list of some, but certainly not all, of the organizations that can help.
Join and support Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers
Join and support Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Join and support Freedom from Religion Foundation
Join and support American Atheists
Join and support Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Get involved with your local atheist, agnostic, humanist, or freethinking group.
Michael B. Donley
Secretary of the Air Force
1670 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330-1670
Leon E. Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
Disclaimer: This article in no way represents the official position of the U.S. Air Force or the Department of Defense.
Humanists of Utah
By Craig Wilkinson, M.D.
E. Haldeman-Julius was born in Philadelphia in 1889 and died in 1951. He owned a publishing company which published more than 2,200 “Little Blue Books.” The topics of these books included history, philosophy, sex, home economics, poetry, and free thought works by Paine, Ingersoll, and Voltaire, among others. He was not afraid of controversy and one series of books was entitled Appeal to Reason Series. There goal was to bring education to the masses. He was the first to use the postal service to distribute his fifteen cent paper back “Little Blue Books”.
“Why Men Believe,” is taken from his book, The Outline of Bunk circa 1929, page 24. In this essay he reviews what he feels was the essential history of religion. Men originally believed in religion because “they did not know better.” There was no scientific explanation of life. The fantastic dogmas of religion, though puzzling to them, could not be questioned by the stupid masses of men. There was in the first place, the activity of superstitious curiosity and wonder, in the absence of science, trying to explain somehow the mystery of the universe. These explanations would be of the sort that we find in religion: a queer patchwork of supernatural imaginings, myths and marvels. The element of ignorant wonder would sufficiently account for religion. In a word, once his mind got busy, man would awkwardly try to figure out what life meant. And untrained, unguided reflections would result in a religious mess. Religions would produce confusion, and, not least, would evolve into a scheme of power (with rival cults and deities) to be intolerantly maintained.
As for the masses, they were influenced by fear and hope–and susceptible in the first place, through their ignorance. Today hope and fear, while not so intense, still have their part in support of religion. A personal, sentimental hope also induces many to believe, or try to believe, in the promises of religion concerning a future life. Man egotistically rebels against the thought of dying. They surrender a great deal of knowledge and pleasure that is certain for the sake of an extremely dubious, shadowy reward and a hope of living in heaven with their departed loved ones. A belief in religion is only possible, with any degree of satisfying faith, to the simplest type of mind, and even then there is a doubt that is irrepressible, a doubt that is repeatedly awakened by the spectacle of death.
From another viewpoint, to some people, an acceptance of religion is the easiest escape from the wearying necessity of thought. Here is a man who is not equal to reasoning himself to a realistic view of life. Nor is he strong enough to bear what is to him the burden of skepticism. He wants comforting illusion. And without making any intellectual difficulties for himself, without really thinking much about the question, he leans upon a simple, vague, but pleasant faith in religion. Its unpleasant doctrines he forgets and its more attractive promises he choose to believe as a desirous and uncritical act of faith. Perhaps he is not zealous in religious devotion. He is not strong on doctrine; he is not interested in discussion. He has not so much been saved or converted as he has rid himself, in what seems to him the easiest way, of a troublesome problem.
I think E. Haldeman-Julius was as accurate in 1929 as he is in 2008. Faith is really intellectual laziness. Take for example, evolution. When asked how life began, to answer “God did it,” is a cop out. The true story of life was discovered by Charles Darwin. It took him an entire lifetime of study and work. Many other dedicated scientists spent many years of hard work in the trenches, digging fossils and interpreting them, studying the molecules of life including the molecule of heredity that is DNA to find the truth. It was evolution by natural selection on a background of inheritable characteristics and random mutations that, over millions of years, in slow small steps created life on this planet as we know it today.
The religious mindset is characterized by intellectual laziness. On the other hand, it isn’t easy to be a skeptic. Trying to find the truth is a rigorous intellectual exercise. The intellectually honest person must face the truth even when it hurts. The skeptic has a difficult, often thankless, and sometimes painful job. He has the job of bringing reason, knowledge, facts, and most importantly, intellectual honesty to the discussion of the great questions and problems that face mankind. What other choice do we have? Rational thinking based on knowledge and facts must trump a hope or belief without knowledge, “faith.” Vice a versa is just too scary to think about.
SALT LAKE CITY – Twenty one thousand Thursday and an estimated forty thousand Friday – that’s how many people have attended the public viewing of LDS cult leader President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Friday, the long lines began forming in the morning and by early evening were encircling the LDS Conference Center.
LDS Church cult officials vowed to keep the doors open late to accommodate all the people.
Now, many of those at the viewing are children.
Several parents we talked to said it was important to bring their kids because President Hinckley is the only Prophet the children have known. It’s interesting and downright sick that people believe Hinckley is a prophet considering he was selected by men of the church. How can mortal men determine who is a “prophet” and who isn’t? The answer is simple, because Hinckley was no prophet and the LDS/Mormon “religion” is not a religion at all. Its a cult.
But the viewing experience also taught the children lessons about life and death and faith.
Friday was the last day to see President Hinckley lying in repose at the conference center in the Hall of the Prophets.
Saturday, a private viewing has been scheduled for the Hinckley family.
Then, at 11:00 am, a funeral service will be held, also at the conference center.
Many dignitaries are expected to attend, including Health Secretary Michael O. Leavitt and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. It is surprising that Romney, a believer and follower of the cult, would rather attend the funeral of the cult leader than campaign in the critical weekend before Super Tuesday.
How sad, very, very sad.