Humanists In The Foxhole

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 27 2014 @ 11:22am

Adelle M. Banks reports that the military will now allow serving members to identify as humanists:

More than two years after first making his request, Army Maj. Ray Bradley can now be known as exactly what he is: a humanist in the U.S. military.

“I’m able to self-identity the belief system that governs my life, and I’ve never been able to do that before,” said Bradley, who is stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and works on supporting readiness of the Army Reserve’s medical staff. Lt. Col. Sunset R. Belinsky, an Army spokeswoman, said Tuesday (April 22) that the “preference code for humanist” became effective April 12 for all members of the Army. …

The change comes against a backdrop of persistent claims from atheists and other nonbelievers that the military is dominated by a Christian culture that is often hostile to unbelief. In recent years, activists from the broad spectrum of freethinking organizations have demanded equal treatment as the tradition-bound military grapples with the growth of the spiritual-but-not-religious population.

Jason Torpy explains the importance of the decision:

For many atheists in the military, identifying as a humanist is a positive expression of their values. The unintended consequence of religion vs. non-religion debate results in only two options: belief in a god (usually the Christian one) or belief in nothing. Humanists believe in many things—reason, compassion, empathy, and service for others, as exemplified by Humanist Society Celebrants or charitable organizations like Foundation Beyond Belief.

In addition, recognizing “Humanist” as an answer to the religious preference question is a step toward recognizing humanist chaplains in the military. Religious service members have long enjoyed the benefit of talking privately with a chaplain, and humanists should be afforded the same access to a leader who is training in counseling and understanding of humanist and non-religious viewpoints. Many major religious and non-religious leaders are in full support of a humanist chaplain in the military, even when the House of Representatives rejected the idea.

Our previous coverage of humanist chaplains is here and here.