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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pastafarianism in the Military

I'm kind of breaking one of my self-imposed rules of life, and talking about religion.  Normally I avoid it (well, sober anyway,) because one of my biggest pet peeves is people forcing theirs on you, and one of the 8 I'd Really Rather You Didn'ts specifically says that's one of them.

However over at Venganza.org (the official site for the Church of the FSM,)
Here’s a guest post by Justin Griffith.  Justin is well known for his fight against the idea that “there are no Atheists in Foxholes”.  He was recently profiled in the New York Times for his activism.
Justin goes on to talk about how he actually managed to get a Drill Sergeant to smile in basic when he tried to confiscate his Holy book and his struggle to get the Big Army to realize there are honest to goodness Atheists in the ranks.

I have run into similar situations.  My current paperwork simply says "No religious preference," however as many have noted, just about everybody assumes that's just the same as Christian non-denominational.  My dog tags tell a different tale however-

However this last June I went through Soldier Readiness Processing.  This is basically a day when they go through all your records and see how squared away it is in the event you get called up for active duty.  Part of that is making sure you've got all your stuff in order in case you buy the farm, including you have the correct religious preference listed so they know what to do with you.

So I go in to talk to the Chaplain, and he looks at my form, looks at his list of "approved" religions, and says "I don't see this on my list.  Is it some sort of joke?"
"No. I'm Pastafarian."
"Well this is a serious thing.  If you die we want to make sure we don't upset your family.  You have to be serious about this."
"I am serious."
"Well, it's not on my list."
"Fine, just leave it No Preference.  Close freakin' enough." (It had been a long day, and it was my last station.)

It still does tend to be an issue.  It overwhelmingly feels like the leadership can't wrap their heads around the idea that some people simply are not religious(or fictitious Drill Instructors...)  At the same time, if you are one of those people, you don't really seem to get equal treatment to those who are.  Throughout Basic those that regularly attend a religious service basically get a couple hours off every week to go to their chosen service.  In my experience those that didn't go got to have a barracks party (cleaning for you civies. Due to this, I usually would go to the Catholic service, just for the time off.)

Maybe more Atheist soldiers will step forward and claim Pastafarian for their religion and we can get the Army to actually recognize it as a "religion."  It could be the simplest way to finally get some form of (non)religious equality for not having a religion.  There's definitely the numbers...
Defense Department statistics show that about 9,400 of the nation’s 1.4 million active-duty military personnel identify themselves as atheists or agnostics, making them a larger subpopulation than Jews, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists in the military.
Speaking of all this, I'm hoping to be officially ordained in the Church of the FSM, but I'm tight for cash, and it's $46.  There is, however, a Tip Jar over on the left... maybe I can get commissioned as a Chaplain...


James said...

Despite the fact that most people will tell you that you can't have "Atheist" as your official religious preference on your records and on your dog tags, it is actually listed in the AR that covers this, which is AR 680-29 Section 1-68. "Atheist" is religious denomination code 75. You can take a look at it here. (Starts on page 40.)

I've consistently had HR soldiers hassle me about wanting "Atheist" put on my record and on my dog tags. They seemed to think that I was joking, and depending on their rank, they didn't take this so well. At some point, I finally found the AR that I linked to above and printed off the relevant part and showed it to whoever was updating my records the next go-round. I now have a couple sets of dog tags with "Atheist" on them that the Army gave me.

I dislike how chaplains are used in the same way that real therapists should be. Many chaplains are trained in different religions, but religion isn't an answer for everyone. I would hazard that it's even detrimental for people who may believe in "a god" or some sort of higher power, but don't subscribe to any of the mainstream religions wholesale. Telling someone to look for solace based on words from a book they've never really much cared for might can have the opposite affect.

I can understand why you're hesitant to discuss religion on a gun blog. Gun-toting atheists have to be a pretty small minority. But the treatment of atheists in the military and Big Army turning a blind eye to the way religion is sometimes pushed on soldiers is something people need to hear more about if it's ever going to get fixed.

Mr. Casey said...

When I was in The Corps in the late eighties, my initial dog tags listed me as Roman Catholic, that which my birth certificate stated. However come the first Sunday at Parris Island, the Senior Drill asked if there was anyone present who did not wish to go to services. I raised my hand and was identified by the Heavy immediately. He grinned a nasty grin, pointed a stubby finger at me and then the Quarterdeck, and growled, "0311 religion!"

For 13 weeks when everyone else went to see Chaplain Charlie do his puppet show, to eat pogey bait and nap in the air conditioning in the pews, I did mountain climbers, push-ups, crunches, side straddle hops and ran in place. I was that much stronger and meaner for it. I was given a wide berth by the more deeply religious recruits and treated with outright hostility by the recruit lay preachers.

To Sgt. Moberly, the Heavy, it was a game he enjoyed. At night when the lay preachers would mutter their invocations, Moberly would order me to sit on my bunk and stare out the darkened squadbay window.

When I got to AIT, I went to the four and got a new set of tags marked SECULAR HUMANIST. Equal Opportunity Killer, Godless Freak, whatever.

One of few in The Corps at the time I got grief at every command but I remembered Moberly's mutterings as I sweat and passed out and puked repeatedly under his harsh tutelage. No gods. No gods. No gods.

Tam said...

I cannot tell you how much it warmed my heart to see that the Army has been touched by his noodly appendage.

God bless Ame... er, you know what I mean.