Reason, Religion, and Atheism for the Armed Forces

 
JohnTheAtheist
 
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JohnTheAtheist
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31 March 2013 03:19
 

Project Reason,

As a US Marine, I know what it’s like to be an enlisted service member. I am a prime example of a young person that joins the military directly out of high school and, as you might well assume, I renounced religion while in the service. The project that I would like to propose is a simple one:

Advocate reasonable thought and objective analysis of personal beliefs among members of the armed services.

What is the idea?
Many young enlisted service members, like me, are straight out of high school and are living “on their own” for the very first time in their lives. They are self-sufficient, and are required to rely upon themselves and not their parents. As most religious belief is instilled by the parent into the child, it seems reasonable enough to me that personal beliefs can be honestly objectified when the parent is no longer involved. Atheism, as the only logical response to facts and reality, would be much more prominent if young people would objectively analyze the beliefs instilled in them by their parents. The problem is simply that the parents, in many young lives, are always around to prevent this objective analysis. I propose that we advocate objective analysis of personal beliefs to members of the armed services because they are trained to think for themselves and, when regarding the beliefs instilled in them by parents, will not have their parents around to impede the analysis of their parentally guided beliefs.

Benefit?
This project may initially be vilified as preying on the vulnerable, however I do not see it that way. If young service members are encouraged to do something as simple as thinking, what harm can come? In reality. the only cause to be had is benefit. The members of our armed services will become more objective and analytical, which is a necessary trait for quick combat decisions, and not regress from academic thought to a state of intellectual stagnation (as is so often the case with emancipated youth). Atheism will be achieved by many more young people and, as society continues to evolve, reason will become a more highly valued outlook than faith. We will see many more “atheists in foxholes” and religious belief will reach higher levels of declination.

Hopefully this is simply understood for you readers, and you might have some thoughts on what can be done to make this dream a reality.
Thanks,
:John

 
robbrownsyd
 
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robbrownsyd
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31 March 2013 08:34
 

Wow! But why stop at the military? I think a program like this should be instituted in all schools.

 
SkepticX
 
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SkepticX
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31 March 2013 14:51
 
 
 
LadyJane
 
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LadyJane
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31 March 2013 21:35
 

Hopefully with religious membership happily on the decline so too will be the need for foxholes.

 
 
Dennis Campbell
 
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Dennis Campbell
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31 March 2013 23:07
 
LadyJane - 31 March 2013 07:35 PM

Hopefully with religious membership happily on the decline so too will be the need for foxholes.

Don’t count on it.  It is not religion that drives war so much as sought or protected social and economic power.

 
 
LadyJane
 
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LadyJane
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31 March 2013 23:34
 
Dennis Campbell - 31 March 2013 09:07 PM
LadyJane - 31 March 2013 07:35 PM

Hopefully with religious membership happily on the decline so too will be the need for foxholes.

Don’t count on it.  It is not religion that drives war so much as sought or protected social and economic power.

Very true.  Is it not those with the social and economic power that use religion to send the soldiers into war?  Usually under false pretenses.

 
 
bardoXV
 
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bardoXV
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31 March 2013 23:42
 
LadyJane - 31 March 2013 09:34 PM

Very true.  Is it not those with the social and economic power that use religion to send the soldiers into war?  Usually under false pretenses.

Religion is sometimes the excuse, by those who do not really adhere to that religion, but not the real reason.

 
 
Dennis Campbell
 
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Dennis Campbell
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31 March 2013 23:55
 
bardoXV - 31 March 2013 09:42 PM
LadyJane - 31 March 2013 09:34 PM

Very true.  Is it not those with the social and economic power that use religion to send the soldiers into war?  Usually under false pretenses.

Religion is sometimes the excuse, by those who do not really adhere to that religion, but not the real reason.

Agree, people are adept at using whatever ideology is handy for crowd control to rationalize power/resource seeking.  Theism has just been most useful for hundreds of years, but it is by no means necessary.

 
 
LadyJane
 
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LadyJane
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01 April 2013 00:07
 
bardoXV - 31 March 2013 09:42 PM
LadyJane - 31 March 2013 09:34 PM

Very true.  Is it not those with the social and economic power that use religion to send the soldiers into war?  Usually under false pretenses.

Religion is sometimes the excuse, by those who do not really adhere to that religion, but not the real reason.

Exactly.  The real reason is hidden behind the religion.

 
 
ChaosRules
 
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ChaosRules
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01 April 2013 11:12
 

Hello John. Nice first post. Skeptic X already linked to a group which no doubt has the same interests as you.

Your idea may work but it will take a long time to implement. As in other facets of society, religion (especially Christianity) is engrained within the fabric of the armed forces and it is a tenacious foe indeed. I have since retired but I spent 22 years in the Canadian Army (artillery) both Regular and Reserve. Based on what I have read about religion in the US armed forces, the Canadian military does not have as much institutionalized religion, but it is still ubiquitous. I used to chafe as a commander in the field when we had to have “chaplain hour” so the guys could goof off for that hour. Maybe a few soldiers would actually be deeply religious bt we all had to stand down for field services. Not every day but at least once every field exercise.

Anyway, the idea of providing training in critical thinking to young soldiers once they are away from their families and old communities is a good one. Perhaps it could not be overtly against religion but could include religion and the perils of dogmatic thinking as part of the overall schedule.

 
JohnTheAtheist
 
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JohnTheAtheist
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06 April 2013 16:34
 

Thanks for all the replies.

For those that have not served, allow me to give you a little information about being a young serviceman.

The first things that are taught to young Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in Boot Camp are:
- Endurance
- Group Mentality
- Instant obedience to orders
These “virtues” are absolutely necessary for a combat ready force. The most necessary, and yet the most individually detrimental, is Instant obedience to orders. What would happen in combat if the Sergeant told the three Privates to fire on the position to the east, but instead they fired northwest? The enemy force would overtake the combat unit from the east. Obedience to orders is key in the combat scenario. However, what about when there are no orders to be followed, or when it is blatantly obvious to the three Privates that they can maintain security to the east while also firing to the north, assisting their brothers-in-arms? This is where critical thinking is necessary.

Unfortunately for the armed forces, critical thinking is not taught until a given serviceman pursues higher level Professional Military Education (PME). PME resident schools are available, but they are few and far between. I, personally, was able to attend the Corporal’s Course on Camp Pendleton about a year ago, and it certainly changed my life for the better. The reason is simply that the students were not taught instant obedience, but critical thinking. The difference between PME school graduates and non-PME Marines is blatantly obvious and abundant in the Armed Forces. It is an absolute shame that more servicemen are not sent to these schools to be pushed into the critical thinking and reasoning mindset - instead they maintain, by default, instant obedience without question.

Also, unfortunately, instant obedience without question is the same problem we have with religious belief. It is obvious that, if only religious people would objectively analyze their own beliefs, they would give them up. But, because the military stressed instant obedience without question so much, young servicemen and women continue to abstain from questioning anything on a professional or personal level. This is abhorrent to me, as I believe that rationalization and critical thinking are some of the highest virtues.

Therefore:

What I recommend is a movement to encourage the military to incite critical thought in young servicemen and women from the very beginning. Teach the value of instant obedience to orders, yes, but also teach when there is time for critical analysis of orders. Also, encourage critical analysis among all service members for the sake of avoiding such grotesque issues that we so frequently see on the news. Marines murdering innocent villagers in Afghanistan would not happen if one Marine in the unit would critically analyze the order he was given and duly object to that order.

Furthermore, if critical thinking was to be taught more heavily then young service members would, in all likelihood, objectively analyze their own personal beliefs on their own without any outside biases from dogmatic parents.

Thoughts?